Wednesday night's (February 9) episode wrapped up the audition portion of "American Idol X: Let's Just Let Everybody Win This Year," and producers couldn't resist walloping viewers with a doozy of a back story one last time. And no, I'm not talking about the girl who apparently farted in front of the judges. (Kudos for not actually showing us that footage, "Idol.")
To say James Durbin hasn't overcome obstacles is like saying there aren’t enough "Idol" audition episodes. The 21-year-old's estranged dad died of an overdose back when James was a sleep-deprived wee lad, and now he's living with Tourette Syndrome and Asperger's and a wife who compulsively covers their tiny apartment with inspirational Post-It notes. (That last thing might be the most difficult to deal with, honestly.) Oh, and he has a baby who crawls around diaperless, leaving a trail of tears and baby droppings in his poverty-stricken wake.
Forgive my colorful language, but if "Idol" is going to romanticize tragedy with Seacrest's purring voice-overs and dramatic rack-focus camera moves, I'll do the same with my recap, thank you very much.
At this point, I'm not even going to discuss this dude's voice (which is high-pitched and high-volumed) because the judges knew they were letting this guy through regardless of whether he sounded like Josh Groban or William Hung.
In fact, nearly every Golden Ticket recipient featured on Wednesday night's episode came equipped with his or her "Lifetime Original Movie" pitch. (Cue Katy Perry's "This isn't a Lifetime movie, sweetheart" clip from last year, please.)
Thankfully, a few of their voices stood out from the pack.
My favorite of the night, and perhaps of the season so far (which means she'll either get cut in Hollywood or make it to the finals and get swallowed up on stage by nerves) was Emily Anne Reed. With her tatted-up appearance and squeaky old-school voice, the comparisons to season eight's resident oddball Megan Joy (and season nine beauty Lacey Brown) are inevitable. But Emily also plays the guitar, as evidenced by her gleeful post-audition "Honey Babe Blues," which suggests to me that she might have better musical instincts than the jazzy vocalists who have crashed and burned before her. (I suppose I shouldn't make a "burn" reference, seeing that Emily Anne's house burned down a week before her audition, but then again, Kelly Clarkson's apartment went up in flames pre-"Idol," too. Maybe it's a good luck charm.)
I also dug the jazzy notes in car accident survivor Stefano Langone's "I
Heard Hurrrrd It Through the Grapevine." His audition package was cut just like an Olympic human interest story: slow motion shots of weight-lifting, close-ups of eyeballs, stock footage of ambulances, teary interviews with family members. If the dude ends up getting cut in Hollywood, he might want to try out on the men's gymnastics team because NBC could save a lot of money by simply re-airing this piece of video. He gets bonus points for his cute mom, who adorably shouted "[He's going to] the top," instead of "Hollywood" in his post-audition clip. Mama Langone doesn't know the "Idol" rules — proof that she's not a stage mom. Or maybe she's throwing us off on purpose? I've got my eye on you, Mama Langone!
Birthday girl (and super-confident) Julie Zorrilla grew up in the Columbian rain forest until she was eight, when her parents escaped the guerrilla regime that was tormenting them. (If that's not the plot of a future Oscar-winning foreign language film, I don't know what is.) These days, Zorrilla is busy using Betty Draper as a style icon. That fierce dress! Those sparkly shoes! Now if only I had the same enthusiasm for her voice. The judges flipped over her oversexed "Summertime," but there was something off-putting about hearing Gershwin's classic cooed like it was "Let's Get It On." Maybe Jennifer Lopez agrees with me, since she predicted that she might win, which is the automatic kiss of death for an "Idol" contestant. That's like chirping about no traffic during a road trip. She's been cursed.
Lastly, Clint Jun (Bug) Gamboa suffered the biggest tragedy of all: he has original songs featured in Tommy Wiseau's infamous "The Room," largely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. Clint's Coke-bottle glasses and job as a karaoke host instantly endeared him to me. (Although, let's be honest, the guy was already in my good graces having been involved in "The Room.") Gamboa's got a Bruno Mars vibe, so he rocked the hook of "Billionaire." It worked on the judges but not for me. I just heard a less-good Bruno. Still, I'm hopeful we’ll get to see some more of this likeable singer, if only for more opportunities to say "Oh, hi Clint" and throw plastic spoons at our televisions.
What did you think of Wednesday's audition finale? Do you enjoy how "Idol" has exhausted all stateside chemically imbalanced weirdos for their audition episodes, so they're now seeking out Ukranian mail order brides? Does Drew Beaumier rent out his homemade Autobot outfit and where do I sign up? Did anyone else do a spit-take when Steven Tyler said, with all sincerity, that Stefano survived his accident to fulfill his destiny of going to Hollywood? And were you as surprised as I was to find out that San Francisco seagulls are Vote For The Worst fans? Leave a comment below, and for more "Idol" insanity, follow me on Twitter @jambajim.