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'American Idol': Been There, Seen Them

This year, we've been promised we'll get better acquainted with more good auditioners during the early episodes of "American Idol," when judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell crisscross the country to discover their next group of Idolettes. That's so we'll feel more invested in them by the time they make it through to the competition finals.

Show host Ryan Seacrest tells us that in San Diego, 30 or so auditioners got through. So why, we wonder, were about half of the good ones we see on this season's third episode are people we already knew?

Like Carly Smithson, a.k.a. Carly Hennessy when she auditioned two years ago and was declared by Paula to be one of the best auditioners they'd ever seen.

Since then, Carly's gained a husband -- hence the name change -- who, in turn, has given her a few tattoos. Carly is famous for a Wall Street Journal story, "Pop Singer Fails to Strike a Chord Despite the Millions Spent by MCA," which singled her out as the perfect illustration of how a record label can spend more than $2 million promoting a teenage pop singer and her debut album, only to have sales flop spectacularly.

Michael Johns -- who according to Paula also goes by the name Michael Lee -- a good-looking Aussie, was signed by a couple of record labels.

Cute teen David Archuleta, he of the "vocal paralysis" back story, won the junior singing competition on CBS's "Star Search" back in February 2004.

Throw in Tetiana Ostapowych, Samantha Musa and Perrie Cataldo and that's pretty much it for the non-dreadful auditioners showcased during the "Idol" stop in San Diego.

Tetiana gets through to the next round even though Simon warns her she's not as good as she thinks she is, which appears to be another way of saying she doesn't have a record contract in her past, or a win on another TV competition series.

Perrie never would have made it through had the judges not been blinded by his back story -- single dad raising adorable son who lost his mom because, Perrie says ominously, she was "in the wrong place, at the wrong time with the wrong people."

Frankly, of the three, Samantha is the only one who is genuinely good, only she needs to drown her sister, who tags along begging to sit in Simon's lap because she's so obsessed with him, and then judges Samantha's performance fairly harshly even though the pros love it. Of what use is a sister like that?

Sadly, last night's bad auditioners are, well, sad. Particularly 11-time rejectee Blake Boshnack, whose mother, Leslie, says "Idol" has been the "main part of my whole life" since the first season.

Miraculously, the San Diego auditions are saved by Valerie Reyes, who, while waiting for her at-bat, snarks with Ryan about all those delusional talentless people who show up to audition and make complete fools of themselves.

She, on the other hand, is the new Mariah Carey. So much so, Valerie explains, that when people hear Mariah tunes coming from her general direction they ask her if she's playing Mariah on some electronic device, she replies happily, "No, that's me!"

Then Valerie auditions. Imagine if Mariah Carey took up yodeling. Simon says it is like someone left a Mariah CD out in the sun for a year and then tried to play it. "That was actually terrible," adds Randy.

Doing the post-audition confessional, Valerie suddenly realizes she is one of the people she mocks: "Oh my god, now I'm going to be on the rejects. Oh, that is so not cool."

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 23, 2008; 7:21 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: 'American Idol': Hail, the Virgin Queen


Samantha was really good last night. However, her sister gave me the creeps.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 23, 2008 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I still can't watch this show. I've approached it from several different angles and it just bothers me. I spent most of my adult life in the music business and from what I've seen, like him or not Simon is as close to a real A&R person as they have. Its an ugly business, that takes many years of hard work, talent and dedication. In many ways this show reduces that to a joke.......just look at what tries out. 99 and 9/10% would never get a look from a record company.
They've had a few successes but with all that s!%$#@!t hitting the fan something has to stick. Sorry I will never understand this show.

Posted by: Patpur | January 23, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Better show last night because they showed more winners and fewer losers.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 23, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The thing that's irritating about this show is the producers actually screen these people and choose them to audition for the judges. It's presented to look like everyone who shows up gets a chance but of course most do not get to audition. As long as they believe the audience is entertained by terrible auditions and the phony reactions of the judges to them, that's what we'll get. They also focus too much on the melodrama. If it's really a serious singing competition, they can easily find hundreds of great singers among the throngs who show up in each city. Most of the great singers don't get in because they don't stand out as potential TV characters.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 23, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"Its an ugly business, that takes many years of hard work, talent and dedication. In many ways this show reduces that to a joke...."

Ah, no, the singing business already is a joke. You left "an enormous helping of luck" out of your list of what it takes. I'm happy that AI condenses the process and creates megastars (Clarkson, for one) who would otherwise never be heard on the radio. Proves how totally arbitrary the 'traditional' process is.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | January 23, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

One of my voice students -- a 16-year-old guy, cute, with a gorgeous tenor voice -- auditioned in Charleston and Philadelphia. It would be interesting if the show would sometime show the auditions that take place before the ones we see on television. There are, as we know, many thousands who don't make it past the initial screening. My student was told in Philadelphia that they didn't think he was ready "yet." He is only 16, so perhaps he'll try again. But he and his mother said that it's really difficult to tell what they're looking for. They saw/heard some great singers who didn't get past the first screening. And there were others who did make it to the next round who they didn't think were as good. It is arbitrary to a certain extent, and it does indeed take a large helping of luck.

Posted by: abigail394 | January 23, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Every time I see it, I can't help thinking of all the famous singers who couldn't win Idol because they have distinctive voices, literally and figuratively: Neil Young, Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and on and on.

Posted by: Eric | January 23, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Ah...I wait all year for Idol and Lisa, and am finally happy. But wait a minute - it's getting to be too much ridiculousness. As previous poster said, there have to be many, many good singers who never get near the judges, and the pre-sorting criteria are strange, and the judges' criteria for letting people thru (or denying them) are strange...and the phony acts...and the cruelty of letting on some of the delusional...well, at least I'm not watching that lie-detector show!!

Posted by: Lanark | January 27, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

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