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'American Idol': Miami Sound Machine

Okay, we're adjusting to the idea of a lineup of "American Idol" competitors who've had professional singing experience. But an ex-boyfriend of Britney Spears?

Once upon a time, if you covered "Idol" you did a lot of Googling to find out if contestants had police records or porn pasts. These days, you do a lot of Googling to uncover what recording contracts they had, what other TV singing competitions they've won, etc.

Because, it turns out, while there are about 300 million people in this country -- and apparently "Idol" also will take singers from Venezuela, such as Ghaleb Emachah, who was sent through to Hollywood during last night's Miami auditions show -- only a handful are good enough singers, so they keep getting recycled.

We're not even counting auditioner Shannon McGough a.k.a. Meat Girl -- she works at her parents' meat market -- who, according to some agency's Web site, has done commercials. Who hasn't?

"Idol" saved us the effort with Julie Dubela who, the show freely admitted, had been a finalist on "American Juniors," an early botched spinoff attempt by "Idol" producers involving precocious moppet singers.

"It was like four years ago; I was like 12 years old," Julie tells Ryan Seacrest, who was the host of that show as well and who, while Julie was taking him back, looked like he was trying hard to forget. We see video of her from back when; she was a precocious little brunette. Now, she looks like something straight out of a "Legally Blonde" sequel.

"I think it prepared me a lot . . . Music is my life. This is my dream. I don't believe in mediocrity," she tells Ryan.

She flounces into the audition room, making sure judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell know she was in the top 20 on "American Juniors," like that's her ticket to Hollywood and the audition is mere formality.

Simon says he just loves hearing children sing. That sails over Julie's head; she checks to see where the camera is.

She performs a Janis Joplin tune. Imagine Janis Joplin performed by a cheerleader at a beauty pageant.

"Have you ever been called precocious?" Simon asks.

"What does that mean?" she asks, pouts, puts her hands on her hips, checks the camera out of the corner of her eye.

Simon explains it means she was overrehearsed, overdramatic and "not great." He advises her to go to Hollywood and become an actress. Paula and Randy agree.

"I'm just acting like myself right now," Julie says, indignantly, checking for the camera again.

"Let's assume now you are not on camera, so we can stop all the play-acting -- no, it's not on," Simon says as she checks the camera again.

She leaves.

"Overindulged," Simon snickers at Randy and Paula.

Outside, Julie has more to say:

"They're being pointless 'cause they kept saying I was acting, " she complains, following the camera with her eyes. "I'm not acting but the worst thing: I was asked to sing at a Red Sox game and I gave it all up to come here," she says, tears welling up precociously, which is hard to do.

"Yeah, he told me I'm too precocious. I'm like really bummed, They didn't give me a chance like at all. . . . You know what? Shut up! I'm 16 years old, sorry, but I'm not acting." Julie turns to the camera. "Don't audition for 'American Idol' -- don't watch the show," she vamps, and smiles.

Cut to 12-year-old Julie singing her precocious little heart out on "American Juniors."

Syesha Mercado mentions she's a "singer" and "actress." On her Web site, you can see some ads she's done, for an adult beverage and for KFC; she also was a contestant on ABC's competition series "The One: Making a Music Star." In fairness, only about 3 million viewers watched that show's debut, which, The Washington Post's John Maynard wrote at the time, represented "the smallest audience ever for a series premiere" among the original three broadcast networks. The next three episodes were seen by even fewer people, after which ABC put the show out of its misery. A winner was never announced, so it's almost like Syesha never competed. Anyway, she's through to Hollywood on "Idol."

Robbie the Rocker, we're told, used to be a boy-bander. Turns out Robbie, a.k.a. Robbie Carrico, was a member of a few bands, starting with Boyz-N-Girlz United, which, according to some fanzine sites, toured with Britney at the turn of the millennium; one has a snap of the two identifying him as her "boyfriend" -- whatev.

Fortunately, the Miami auditions served up some fresh faces, too. Most notably, Suzanne Toon, another pretty single mom with a lovely voice looking to give her daughter a brighter future.

And pretend-sisters Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott were two breaths of fresh air. The 20-year-old best friends nearly smothered Ryan, Randy and Simon in their ample bosoms with hugs and kisses when they made it through to Hollywood after giving two of the most effervescent, confident audition performances "Idol" has ever seen.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  January 31, 2008; 8:08 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Next: 'American Idol' Auditions: Acts of Charity

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