It was Los Angeles' turn to strut its stuff in front of Randy, Simon, Kara and Paula's Seat Filler on Tuesday night's "American Idol," and as expected, a lot of out of work actors showed up to get some primetime shine from Fox. (Shockingly, Lindsay Lohan stayed home.)
The fame-whoring from the army of untalented made for frustrating lows throughout Tuesday's broadcast, but luckily there were a handful of auditions that made me sit up in my seat and start brainstorming ways to bedazzle names with terrible puns on giant poster-board.
Mary Powers (future sign will have black roses on it with the caption "Flowers For Powers") was my fave of the entire season so far. I have a thing for the rough-and-tumble rocker chicks that sound like they sucked down three packs of Virginia Slims before their audition. (The visible ink helps, too.) Powers wasn't all piss and vinegar, though. There was a warm vulnerability to her aching "Love is a Battlefield" that suggests she could do great things on the "Idol" stage.
M-Pow just needs to figure out her personal style first. Her getup reeked of "Oh Dear, I Just Caught Mom In The Attic Reliving Her Glory Days From 1984." Love may be a battlefield, Mary, but so is high-definition television. And I haven't seen a sadder display of pleather halter tops and raccoon eye makeup since I bumped into a gaggle of Glamberts in the MTV lobby last November. (You know who you are, ladies.)
I also dug Andrew Garcia's "Idol" debut. (His sign will read "Andy Is Sweeter Than Candy!") He turned Maroon 5's nasal "Sunday Morning" into an effortless, soulful croon. It's a bummer that it was likely his back story (and not his vocal chops) that secured him screen time. Andrew's life reads like an "Idol" producer's checklist: His parents used to be gang bangers before escaping Compton and morphing into a cuddly (and weepy) support system. Now Andrew is a well-adjusted young man with a funky-haired wife and an impossibly adorable baby boy. The only thing that would complete this fairytale is an "Idol" trophy. (For people who missed the eighth season, "Idol" gives an actual trophy now.)
Andrew's talent outshined his human interest story angle (a rare feat on "Idol"), but I can't say the same for show closer Chris Golightly (future sign: "Golightly Goes Big"), a survivor of the foster care system who was filmed walking along train tracks like some sort of 1890s vagrant. (I'm shocked producers didn't ask him to curl up on a stranger's doorstep in a giant bassinet.) Golightly's "Stand By Me" featured some wonderful runs and closed-eyes emoting, but Kara showed her hand by saying, "You’re the kind of kid with just enough talent and just enough of a story." Sigh.
I wasn't the only one who noticed Kara's revealing admission. Katy Perry — one of the guest judges in Los Angeles and possibly my new favorite person on the planet — rolled her eyes and sassed, "This is not a Lifetime movie, sweetheart." Game. Set. Match!
Behold the "Idol" audition show conundrum, summed up in two seconds by a visiting pop tartlet. Producers want the audience to fall in love with new singers but don't trust that viewers have the brainpower or the musical know-how to root for people based on their actual talent. Instead, we get "My grandmother is in jail for stealing food for my handicapped dog. And for my next trick I will attempt to sing the Pretenders' 'I'll Stand By You.'"
"Don't ever put somebody through because you feel bad," argued Katy. "Well, there goes half the golden tickets these fools handed out during pity parties," replied every single "Idol" viewer.
The two other golden tickets (or at least the ones we saw) each went to forgettable youth pastors. The only thing I remember about personal assistant/minister/Joss Stone fan Tasha Layton is that she looked like she could be Mishavonna Henson's older sister. And the thing I took away from fellow worship leader Jim Ranger's audition is that, according to guest judge Avril Lavigne, you can't be married with children and have a music career. (You don't exist, Bono. Or Thom Yorke. And you go to hell, members of Foo Fighters.) Ranger's audition also featured a hokey original song that made "No Boundaries" sound like Akinyele's "Put It In Your Mouth." No thanks.
And then there were the freak shows. I'm resistant to give these people a Google result for their names, so I'll speak in code. Sweaty Meat Loaf Boy (not to be confused with Sweaty Kung Fu Boy) started the night on a depressing note. I think "Idol" producers should stick to this rule: If a contestant is incapable of looking at the camera for more than two seconds at a time, he or she probably suffers from Asperger's Disorder and you should not put them on TV.
Singers with delusions of grandeur are fair game, though, so I relished the show's treatment of The Glambert Name-Dropper, who bragged about getting words of encouragement from Adam Lambert before making a complete ass of himself with a "Cult of Personality" that was so odd, it sounded like the "Glee" guidance counselor and Shakira recorded a duet underwater. (Kudos to Lambert for remaining positive and not laughing in his face — that's more self-control than Lavigne could muster.)
Surely there were more worthy auditions to feature. (The show handed out 23 Golden Tickets in total. And don't call me Shirley.) Even seeing the tryout of Ashley Ferl, the "crying girl" from season seven, would have been more interesting than rehearsed "here's my phone number" bits and Sick Jagger's strange leather t-shirt.
"Idol" did good Tuesday by adding Katy Perry to the panel. (Seriously, Simon Fuller: Forget Tommy Mottola. Hire Katy to replace Simon. Now.) And we at least got two major talents to whet our appetites. (I'll be flabbergasted if Andrew Garcia and/or Mary Powers don't make it to the Top 24.) Last week's drab offerings may have been lukewarm, but Tuesday night's "Idol" was definitely — to steal some inspiration from episode savior Katy Perry — a hot and cold affair.
What did you think, "Idol" fans? Was Los Angeles a gas or a bust? Did you spot Adam Lambert's pal Cassidy Haley spliced in amongst the Lambert wannabe montage? Did you giggle every time the judges said "You're going to Hollywood!" since they were basically in Hollywood already? And when did Kara decide that her job was to cuddle up to the random guest judges instead of paying attention to the contestants? Leave a comment below! And for more "Idol"-related silliness, follow me on Twitter @jambajim!