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Posted at 1:00 AM ET, 02/10/2011

'American Idol' San Francisco auditions: We watch so you don't have to (video)

By Lisa de Moraes

The judges arrive in San Francisco for their last round of city auditions. (Fox)

"American Idol" opens documentary style. A pretty blond runs her hand through her hair as she walks briskly away from the auditions in San Francisco.

"I thought I had it! I thought I was going to be famous!" she sobs.

"How am I going to go home and tell my mom I didn't make it?" she wails as a hand-held camera follows her.

"Do you have a message for the judges?" a producer asks her.

"Just because somebody farts - let 'em finish singing, OKAY!" she snaps, and storms off.

It's a docu-fart joke. An "Idol" first!

Adam Lambert auditioned in San Francisco and he was one of the "most electric performers we've ever had on the show," host Ryan Seacrest reminds us.

Of course, Lambert did not win that season - Kris Allen did. Remember him? Me neither.

Petite Ukranian Inessa Lee gets set up for a fall with her introduction:

She's come to San Francisco "to get famous - to be a star."

She has "a lot of music videos right now - I just did some shower scenes and all kinds of things," she explains perkily, dressed in a bubble-gum pink track suit. Musically, she says she's "a blend of Shakira and early Madonna," plus she's "an amazing choreographer."

In terms of her appearance, "I'm Katy Perry. I can be anything you want."

"Of course I will get it," she says of the American Idol title. "I'm a winner."

Pride - and too eager to please - goeth before a fall in the "Idol" code of morals.

"Good grief, you're so cute and precious," judge Steven Tyler says. But, sadly, her pitch is all over the place. Inessa begins to talk back, putting on her Pouty Face and talking like Betty Boop. We're guessing that's worked for her in the past. Judge Jennifer Lopez mistakes it for "young spirit."

A couple days ago, former "Idol" judge Simon Cowell said he had not watched this season of "Idol" - except for a three-minute clip, from which he could pronounce all the judges sweet and that they'd turned the show into a sort of singing version of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Who the heck does he think he is?

"In this next hour, our stop brings some incredible performances and delivers the best talent from the road, plus some of the most emotional moments of the season ... and one contestant with a story that will bring you to tears," Seabiscuit promises, if we'll just sit through a commercial break.

Emotional moments like some guy showing us gag-inducing scars up his arms and saying, "My life took a turn for the worse."

Or how about the young woman who says, "I had to decide to rebuild a better life," as she views the rubble of what had been her home before it burned down.

Or the guy who informs us, "It was a drug overdose. I was 9."

Okay, maybe Simon's right.

The local seagulls did not get the memo about refraining from pooping on "American Idol" auditioners. We hear this brings good luck.

Anyway, three wannabe Idolettes with thin voices manage to wow the judges, apparently on looks, mostly, and seagull-poop luck.

Stephano Lengana, accident survivor, is another thin voice. He's the one with the impressive scars. He was in a car accident in 2009.

But he's graded on The Back Story Curve, which means he's in.

"You're definitely here for a reason," JLo emotes.

"And you survived that accident for a reason and I'm about to tell you why," Tyler adds. "You're going to Hollywood!"

It's God's will. "Idol" is just the vessel.

Day 2 of San Francisco auditions sees Jennifer Lopez showing up in one of her least affected get-ups since joining the show at the start of this season. It's refreshing.

Clint Jun "June Bug in da House" Gamboa is a DJ from Long Beach/Strong Beach. He's got the patter, anyway. And he sings about being a billionaire. If Simon were here, the word "swagger" would come up. In his outfit and big glasses, the visual is reminiscent of Elton John, but they're not looking too closely. The judges are impressed with Clint. We will have forgotten him by the time Hollywood Week starts -- Thursday night.

San Francisco is riddled with weirdsmobiles, Voiceover Seabiscuit reminds us. Time for three weaklings to be gutted. Throw 'em overboard and forget about it.

Like Drew Beaumier: Transformer Guy. He's created a costume for himself; it's a Ford that turns into a robot, then back into a car for his song. Sadly, as a car he looks, and sounds, like a 1970's Pinto. This is not swagger.

"How many gallons per mile?" Tyler snarks. Transformer Guy stalks off without answering.

"I don't want to be a car for the rest of my life," he complains outside the audition room.

One bevy of unnamed hot babes bound for Hollywood later, Julie Zorrilla celebrates her 20th birthday auditioning for "American Idol." But first, this pretty girl from Colombia and her parents talk about hard times there while we see news photos.

"The war was very hard for me. I remember too much horror in my heart," her father says emotionally.

She sings an okay version of "Summertime" -- unless you remember Fantasia's riveting "Summertime" performance a few "Idol" seasons back, in which case you're gonna think Zorrilla sounds pretty lame.

"Nice shoes!" JLo says of Zorrilla's sparkly heels.

"I rarely say that!" JLo informs her.

Tyler likes Zorrillo's shoes too. He likes everything about her.

Randy says he hasn't gotten so excited about "Summertime" since Fantasia "blew it way out of the box." He should not have invited the comparison. Everyone takes a beat to contemplate Fantasia's vastly superior rendition. But then they look at Zorrilla. She's smokin' and with a great back story. She's so in.

"Unequivocally yes!" Tyler gushes.

"Sparkly shoes yes," adds JLo.

"Two hundred bazillion percent yes," says Randy, refusing to be out-done by polysyllabic words like "unequivocally."

"Wow, even the bow in the back is slammin'!" Tyler says as Zorrillo leaves the room. The "American Idol" Decency police thumb through their manual to see if they have a policy on lecherous "bow" references.

Hey, it's Lambs to the Slaughter Time on "American Idol"!

Rocker dude Dave Combs has the hair, but sings a fairly tone-deaf version of a Beatles tune - and without a proper back story. This is deeply offensive to Tyler, who is wearing a Beatles T-shirt.

"I thought you were going to represent!" Tyler snaps. "You were so off the melody it was like you were on another planet."

Also pushing Tyler's buttons: Rick Deschamp:

"Dude, did you hit your head on the way in here?" Tyler quips.

Sabrina Corbett shows up dressed as a sexy cop. "You ought to be arrested for that voice," Tyler tells her. "Do you have handcuffs?"

"Oh God, please be good," Tyler prays when Emily Ann Reed, from Arlington, Va., shows up. Just last week, Emily's place burned down while she was at work. It's a great back story and delivered just in time for the auditions. She must be here for a reason!

She does a great retro version of the old tune, "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me." She's another of those jazzy singers they like to send through but who, sadly, never win the competition. Tyler, surprisingly, says "no" to giving her a shot at Hollywood Week. Randy says "yes" and JLo decides to give her "one more chance." Then Tyler notices her guitar on the floor and asks Emily to do another number. She's even better. Tyler's sold. Ditto JLo.

"The Voice we've been waiting for - after the break," Seabiscuit promises, as the show draws to a close.

Oh, "Idol" you are so good, bringing us James Durbin. Talk about a three hankie finish. A guy diagnosed with Tourette's and Asberger's, and with a great back story.

"I didn't really get to see him much or get to know him," Durbin says of his musician dad, tearing up.

"People say that I get my musical talent from my dad, but I'll never know. There was a drug overdose. I was 9."

Now James has Heidi, and they have a little boy, only James has no job and sometimes not even enough money for diapers.

James gives an emotional performance and one calculated to show off his range. He's definitely got range. And lots of tears.

"You go away when you sing," JLo emotes. "You sing from ... the need to feel and make others feel," she says as he spouts.

"That was over the top, it was so good," raves Tyler.

Randy's a goner, too: "I like you, man. Wow! What a range and that's full voice -- not falsetto!"

And as the San Francisco auditions draw to a close, let us take a moment to contemplate the duplicity of "American Idol" producers who, at the start of the show, lead us to believe we are going to be treated to audition footage of Farting Chick but who sign off one hour later having not, in fact, shown us any of her audition footage.

Recap: San Francisco auditions:

More on this story:

'American Idol': Season 10, episode 6 (Los Angeles auditions)

'American Idol': Season 10, episode 5 (Austin auditions)

'American Idol': Season 10, episode 4

'American Idol': Season 10, episode 3

'American Idol' 10th season premiere continues in New Orleans

By Lisa de Moraes  | February 10, 2011; 1:00 AM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 'Idol' preview: San Francisco auditions kick off with "controversial" cold open
Next: Conan tells Fortune: NBC like an 'Indiana Jones' Nazi [Updated]


Why is WAPO making mountain out of sow's ear!

Why is there a silk purse coming out of that mole hill?

Posted by: Hazmat77 | February 10, 2011 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Gaaaaahgghh! Hate the predictable sob stories that producers try digging up to make performers hard luck, appealing to old woman's sympathy "backstory.

My take is they can sing or they can't. I don't care if they sing for a dead friend or because their dog has flatulence or they have some medical syndrome.

I just cut younger contestants slack for being not as polished as someone 10 years older, add for looks and stage presence...and if I hate the genre of music and the singing style they do, none of that matters.

I was pretty impressed with James Durbin. Power and range! Last season, the performers I thought really belonged in the Finals as genuine singing talents with power and range were Crystal Bowersox, Siobhan Magnus, Aaron Kelly, and Katie Stevens. All had power and range. And the last 3 were teens that by all probability will get a lot better.
Durbin is only 21 and is someone who until Idol only sang part-time, grew up poor like so many other standouts on Idol.
The guy miffed some notes. So what. Overall, that audition blew me away.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | February 10, 2011 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Fart joke was dumb, and that poor girl is never going to live that down. Cruel, Nigel, cruel.

Last guy was great. Overall though not really impressed with the rest of the folks they showed going through. I'm glad auditions are over, I think they go on too long. They should combine the cities into fewer 2-hour episodes and extend Hollywood Week instead.

Of the folks they've featured going through so far, there are some exceptionally talented singers. Here's hoping they make the cut.

Posted by: Duodenum | February 10, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Simon is so right, this years first guest judge will be Ty Pennington...

Posted by: ozpunk | February 10, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"Lambert did not win that season - Kris Allen did. Remember him? Me neither."
Listen to the radio. As to the rest of the show...better than last week in LA by a mile...but still I didn't hear the talent of some other places. And the good voices with the personality frailties won't make it through Hollywood...they'll self destruct or get eaten by the hungry ones with talent. Judges still lack Simon's imposed discipline even thought they're getting better.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | February 10, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

So glad you're back Lisa!

Posted by: seaduck2001 | February 10, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The NY Times has a great article on Steven Tyler and American Idol. It's really thoughtful and interesting and it doesn't have the tedious snarkiness of a certain column.

Posted by: declaire | February 10, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Hi Lisa - watched the show last night - your recap is spot on! Tonight is the start of Hollywood night - excellent!

Posted by: MILWI | February 10, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Ha ha! "Remember him? Me neither." That was pretty hilarious.

Posted by: mommysalami | February 10, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"It's God's will. "Idol" is just the vessel."

Single greatest line you've ever written.

Posted by: mcoghlan | February 10, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

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