This year, 'American Idol' is filling the lower half of its screen with the hashtag #ThisIsReal. It's unclear what that's supposed to mean. Yes, this is a reality show, but we knew that already. To me, it seems like it should be a slight at 'The Voice'. Where that NBC show isn't real at all (every single "unknown" on that show is actually pulled from a database of "undiscovered talent" of people who are nearly in the industry and everybody knows is good already), 'Idol' sets itself apart from that show by giving us the good with the bad and actual unknowns who come obscurity to chase their dreams.
So why is the show getting so far away from that? Why has the audition round become nothing but video packages that introduce us to contestants we may not see in a week? All that makes complete sense once we've moved on to the actual competition rounds, but these auditions are about the unknowns. About people introducing themselves for the first time with their voice. About being real, not pre-packaged.
This show just isn't real anymore.
Speaking of, even the judges little interstitials are falling into the 'Duck Dynasty' realm of scripted reality. Check out this little gem from Keith Urban regarding Detroit:
"Detroit has a rich musical history, but it's rich right now in incredible struggle."
Yeah, I'm sure he just fired off that bit of poetry to Harry in passing.
Anyway, on to the auditions.
The Three Best Audtions:
Keri Lynn Roche
Oh man. This was the tatted up alt-goddess who led off the show as the most beautiful woman in a room that also contained Jennifer Lopez. Singing was really secondary the moment she arrived onscreen; the main concern was whether or not she was going to break the Molly DeWolf Swenson Scale based on sheer beauty alone.
She did sing, though, and she was something beyond what we usually see from these "artists" who rely on an acoustic guitar and the weird belief people have that anybody with an acoustic guitar is automatically a great singer. Keri Lynn actually is a great singer, and she proved it by improving when the guitar hit the deck.
It will be nice to hear more from her, but I really can't wait to see more of her.
This was the 26-year-old with four kids for some reason, who you just knew was going to be great the second he walked in. We got to hear him sing for a minute which was quite nice, but mostly we got a long video package of how he has a lot of kids and how he runs around after them and how he's now know as "The Family Man". That's what this show is now: naming people on their video package.
So he must've been really good to include him in this lot given how he was presented, and that's exactly what he was. A real big soul voice just flowed out of him with minimal effort. Plus he's so likable and charismatic. Must be how he gets those kids to listen to him.
David Oliver Willis
This is the guy who made it as far as Vegas last year and came back for a second shot after opening a coffee shop with his wife - that old cliche.
His was easily the best performance on the show. It wasn't because of this singing though: This guy could absolutely play the Hell out of his acoustic guitar. Pete Townshend stuff on the six-string. His voice isn't the best, but combined with the guitar it worked so well that it seemed like there was a full band in there making the song "Close" actually bearable to listen to - that's a crazy feat right there.
The One Bad Audition:
That's right, a show that once made up 75% of its watchability in its first month off of super-entertaining follies of auditions is now nothing but good singer after good singer with only short clips of the bad in between. There are things that make 'Idol' unique, and that's one of them. Why anybody thought removing all the embarassment and ridicule from the show was a good idea is beyond me, but here we are.
Rakita and Karlita Gulledge
These were the completely humorless twins who talked in a creepy unison that made them seem like they were about to use mind control on the judges like little kids from a B-Movie. They sang 'Listen' by Beyonce, at least that's what they claimed. What actually happened was something of a bizarre shouting match between the two where they traded off stanzas of the song and really just screamed they lyrics at each other, one after the other until the judges finally had to ring the bell and stop the fight to take mercy on both the girls' larynx and the home viewers' ear drums.
That Other Audition:
While we only got one legitimately bad audition, we did get a delightful little fake audition from Harry Connick, Jr. who went through every 'Idol' audition trope from hitting on the judges (Keith, in this case) to making bad jokes (I can't carry a piano!) to singing wildly out of tune.
It was a funny bit for sure, but also you have to wonder if devout 'Idol' denier Connick wasn't letting a little mocking framerustration out with his decision to go down this road to judgedom.
Thankfully he did, because he's just about all that's saving these audition rounds. Speaking of which...
The Best of Harry:
"That was such a confident performance and I figured out why. You're Superman, aren't you?"
"When I'm not on the Greyhound, I occassionally fly coach on Delta." - Harry, telling JLo how the other half lives.
"It's tough to reject somebody going to beauty school because they have scissors and stuff like that."
"When is that gonna happen for you?" - After praising Keith's advice that somebody should keep writing songs and eventually they'll find one that fits their vocals perfectly.
"You sing out of tune. That's like Singing 101."
"I broke into Ryan's hotel room and stole like 6 or 8-hundred dollars of hair care products."