Bikini Girl, Katrina Darrell
Like the cockroaches after the apocalypse, American Idol is still here. And so, Idol fans and haters, the eighth season begins with some 16 hours of auditions from eight cities. Last night, we got two hours covering two days of auditions in Phoenix, Arizona–Archuleta-land, home of the gnome-like runner-up from Season Seven. In case you’ve forgotten what happened last season, Idol helpfully recaps the end of last season, when David Cook beat David Archuleta and thousands of little girls everywhere let out a scream that rung through the heavens.
Some scenes of Phoenix. Ryan Seacrest in front of a painting of the Grand Canyon–or is it? And Kara DioGuardi, our new judge! She’s produced for Christina, Kelly, Carrie, and Celine, but her biggest accomplishment to date is hiring a stylist. (In a press conference last week, DioGuardi admitted that her Peg Bundy-style big hair days haunt her.) Seriously, Kara’s the hottest judge on any Fox reality competition by a mile. Sorry So You Think You Can Dance‘s Mary Murphy, you’ve been replaced! Though Kara’s been a behind-the-scenes gal, she’s had far more hits than Paula, so we expect a number of auditioners will delve into the Kara DioGuardi songbook in an attempt to kiss ass. That might not be the best idea. I mean, no one ever won over Paula with a warbly rendition of “Straight Up.”
So how does this fourth wheel affect the judging process? Since Simon’s pretty much always going to say “No” to anyone not in a bikini, Kara’s the new tie-breaker between Randy and Paula. Two Yesses still get you to Hollywood. And speaking of bikini, that’s what the producers are banking on tonight, with a teaser before every commercial break for a micro swimsuit-clad Barbie who apparently gets into a spar with the female judges. D-rama! The other auditioner who is teased out through the bitter end is a cute blind guy, who will share his “inspirational story of courage” or his “courageous story about his journey” or whatever. The journey, I’m guessing, is the plane ride he took from Phoenix to LA. Or maybe he drove. Now, that‘s courage.
But first, we’ve got this year’s token rocker girl, Emily Wynn-Hughes. She’s another Carly (Season Seven), with tattooed arms and a penchant for singing Heart. But her hair looks like a sunset, and she comes out with a decent version of “Barracuda,” so she’s the first to get a ticket to Hollywood. The frontwoman will have to ditch her rock band, which is just about to go on European tour. The Idol anthem “Alone” plays in the background, reminding us–and more importantly Emily–that the path to stardom only has room for one.
A sweaty, insect-like creature named Michael Gurr butchers a Carrie Underwood song written by Judge Kara. He makes himself sick in the process and passes out in the hall. But not soon enough.
Things take a turn for the worse at the top of the second hour, with Eilijah Scarlett, the insanely deep-voiced cashier that’d put James Earl Jones to shame and scare me out of grocery shopping, announcing “I got confidence,” and then laughing like Satan (shudder); and very pink Lea Marie Golde, a crazy Judge Kara fan who sings Cascada’s “What Hurts the Most” with Autotone built right into her voice. Neither makes it through.
Next up is Stevie Wright, a plain-Jane 16-year-old named after Stevie Nicks. And suddenly I realize just what this show has been missing all these years–more Stevie Nicks. I can’t even remember anyone covering “Landslide” on this show, let alone her countless other, better singles. And how about the rest of Fleetwood Mac? Stevie W. makes it through, and I’m left sensing a Fleetwood Mac Songbook this season.
Bikini girl, a/k/a Katrina, is up next. She promises Seacrest that she’ll make out with him if she gets through to Hollywood, but he makes up any excuse he can (“It’s against the rules.” Right.) to get out of the inevitable discomfort of being forced to come into contact with a woman’s soft, supple lips. In the audition, Katrina disses Judge Kara and the two get into a bizarre sing-off. Now, I’m not averse to sing-offs. I once had the pleasure of being in the room for a sing-off between Patti LaBelle and Jennifer Hudson–best sing-off of my life. When it’s done right, a sing-off can be a powerful, scary, marvelous thing. Between Kara and Bikini Girl? Not so much. Remarkably, Kara turns into one of those auditioners who doesn’t know when to shut up. Bikini Girl makes it through, and even Kara admits she has a hot ass (after calling her a bitch). The fake-tanned piece of meat can keeps her promise and lays a wet one on Seacrest. But why are they playing Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” in the background? Ryan does not appear to like the taste of her cherry chapstick.
It’s finally the blind guy’s turn! Scott McEntire’s so cute! Not that he’d know. They show him playing the piano, and dancing with the silhouette of a woman. Idol thinks he’s Jesus, and little girls cry everywhere. Come on, people. What’s so inspirational about being a blind singer? It’s not like he’s deaf. That’d be something. Anyway, Scott sings “And So It Goes” and it’s not great but it’s not bad either. His even cuter friend who helps him walk around (is that his brother?) certainly scored him points. I hope Scott gets to take him along to the next round. Out in the hall, Seacrest forces Scott into a terribly awkward high-five, and then says “see you in Hollywood.” How insensitive.
All in all, 27 future C-list celebrities from Phoenix get a pass to the City of Angels. The jury is still out on Kara’s effectiveness, although I will say the stylist is working out, because Kara’s the hottest anyone’s ever looked on Idol, albeit a little B&T. (Honey, tone down the purple eye-shadow.) Where’s this guida from, anyway? Let’s see how she does in Kansas City.