"American Idol" made a fatal flaw Tuesday night during its Denver audition show. No, not by inviting back Victoria Beckham as a guest judge. (The Poshbot-2000 was actually pretty engaging this episode. She must have been rewired since the premiere.) "Idol" producers erred by reminding viewers of Daughtry's classic Denver audition right at the top of the show. Nothing in the remaining 59 minutes of "Idol" would come close to that star-making moment.
And if you just uttered the words "Bikini Boy," I kindly ask that you close this Internet window and never read one of my recaps again. Honestly, it's not worth your time because I don't speak the language on Planet Idiot.
Throughout the episode, Seacrest kept shouting at viewers in voice-overs touting Denver as one of the most promising cities yet. But the proof wasn't in the pudding we saw. Instead we had Nicci Nix, a girl who travelled all the way from Florence, Italy, to audition for "American Idol." (What, did she miss the auditions for "Italian Idol"? I'm totally flying to Greenland for their "Idol." Screw this America crap.) Despite sharing a speaking voice with Michel'le, Nicci sang with an ever-so-slightly less squeaky tone, and such an achievement is the kind of star quality Simon Cowell rewards. It's no longer about pitch. Spread the word.
At least Simon was vocal in his distaste for Casey James, the dude who survived a motorcycle accident but was no match for Kara DioGuardi's creepy casting-couch catcalls. His voice was barely audible, his charisma non-existent, but once he let down his flowing blond locks and took off his shirt (at Kara's distasteful request), it was clear that DioGuardi's Eye Candy was headed to Hollywood. Say what you will about season eight's Bikini Girl, she entered the audition room half naked. She didn't end up that way after Simon Cowell leered at her. Just sayin'.
The big takeaway from the Denver episode was that I need to have a kid in my life before I try out for the show this summer. Nearly every audition featured an adorable baby or a precocious tyke, doing bad bits for the camera and being man-handled by the Poshbot-2000. (Can you blame Posh for wanting an 8-year-old on her lap? Everyone knows you always want to be photographed with a larger person so that you appear skinny.)
The night's first audition was Mark Labriola, who claimed people tell him he looks like Jack Black. (It doesn't count if the person saying that is named Scott MacIntyre, Mark.) As soon as we saw Mark's adorable baby (named Ian!!!), I no longer cared about his convoluted "my mom kidnapped me" backstory or the fact that he greeted the judges with "chellow," or his decent yet out-of-breath take on Squeeze's "Tempted." It was all about the baby. Ian Labriola might have unseated Andrew Garcia's son as the cutest spawn of an "Idol" contestant in season nine. (This argument can be resolved in only one way: cage fight to the death. Prepare your children, Mark and Andrew.)
Kimberly Kerbow also brought her kid to the audition, but she had an excuse. She's a single parent! Babysitters are expensive, guys. It was obvious that Kimberly has dragged her daughter to several reality-show castings, though, given that the cherub knew her way around a TV set and almost said, "My mom will be 'America's Next Top Model,' " TWICE!
For her audition, Kimberly sang Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am," which features lyrics about buying your man Rogaine. An odd, time-wasting argument between Simon and the judges followed, but even more awkward was Kimberly's never-explained wig. I'm going to assume Kimberly's hairpiece was not for medical reason, since this show has a tendency to fetishize disease and illness like no other. It's also possible that Kimberly once saw a prostitute protecting her anonymity on the "Sally Jessy Raphael" show and said, "Now there's a look I can get behind!"
Danelle Hayes left her child at home but brought a lot of emotional baggage to the judges' room. She's tired of hosting karaoke parties and singing covers at corporate events, so she's looking to "Idol" to change all that. (I don't have the heart to tell Danelle that Kris Allen has totally performed at corporate gigs since being crowned the Idol.)
Danelle's take on Melissa Etheridge's "I'm the Only One" showed promise. (She needs to find a happy middle ground between SHOUTING REALLY LOUDLY and cooing really softly, especially if she's going to go from one extreme to the other in the same measure!) I wasn't a huge fan of her fashion sense either. The black bandana, the weird flattened lampshade earrings ... If Danelle (who I will forever now call Dilana because she sounded just like the "Rock Star: Supernova" contestant) makes it to the top 24, the "Idol" stylists will be busy this season.
The style and vocal coaches have their work cut out with Tori Kelly, the girl who chose John Mayer's "Gravity" even though her voice lacked any of it. The 16-year-old (who, like Benjamin Button, looked much older) was called a "human orange" by Simon thanks to her long orange sundress (and perhaps her skin's sun-kissed hue?), but Cowell's most cutting words were reserved for her singing abilities. When Poshbot-2000 praised Tori's look, an out-voted Simon snapped, "Voice is the important part." (Clearly this episode was taped long before Taylor Swift's Grammy performance.)
Insanely enough, even "16-year-old" Tori had a kid with her at her audition! Family friend Hope Starr drew offensive doodles of each judge and wanted to present them. Oh, no. Does this mean Fox is going to bring back "American Juniors" this summer?
The night's best audition was also one of the few kid-free ones, unless you include the contestant herself. Sixteen-year-old Haeley Vaughn sang "Last Name" by Carrie Underwood so well that her aspirations of being "the "first black pop-country ... mainstream singer" didn't seem as far fetched as when her segment began. (Although I think Darius Rucker might disagree with that "first" assessment.)
Seeing a "bubbly" black teenager talk passionately about country music was compelling enough. But "Idol" felt the need to pile on the tragedy. So, our first impression of Haeley was "miracle baby born a preemie only to have her dad die when she was 10 years old," instead of, "Holy crap, did we just meet the African-American Carrie Underwood?!" Here's proof that it's not always best to have screen time early on in the "Idol" season.
As much as I dug Haeley, the real star of the episode was Poshbot-2000. The Spice Girl exploded out of her shell and finally looked totally comfortable on the panel, an impressive feat considering that for half the episode her hair was pulled back so tight, I was concerned that if her samurai ponytail came loose, the beret on the side of her head would take off like a rocket and impale an aspiring singer.
I cheered when Poshbot told Washington D.C. football jock Austin Paul that his cocky (and Tiny Tim-esque) "Bigger Than My Body" made her " a bit itchy." I swooned when, in the midst of Simon making fun of Mario Galvan's nervous laughter, Poshbot squeezed in the words, "You have very white teeth as well!" out of nowhere (how Paula of her!) And I just about fell off my couch when she mentioned the lyrics "zig-a-zig-ah" as a response to Simon praising the "meaningful" lyrics of Girls Aloud songs.
But what did you think of Denver's audition episode? Did you like the new personality chip added to the Poshbot-2000? How long did you withstand the annoying Kenny "Male Mary J. Blige" Everett before crying "Uncle" and fast forwarding past him? And how stoked are you that Wednesday night will be the final audition episode of season nine? Leave a comment below. I also encourage you to follow me on Twitter @jambajim for much shorter takes on pop culture and "Idol."