So, first of all, let’s talk about the proposed rules changes. This is a show in aching need of a shake-up, but will the stuff they’ve come up with really draw in new viewers? I think at this point they may be concerned with not losing viewers than with picking them up, because these are some pretty conservative-assed rules changes.
First of all, there’s Kara DioGuardi, author of “Rich Girl” and a modern-day Brill Building hack. So far, I like her okay – she seems to occupy the sadly vacant critical hole between realistic-but-mean Simon and gregarious dufus Randy. I do, however, hope that the rumors they’re going to ease out Paula are untrue; drunk Paula is pretty much the best thing about this show, and I certainly don’t want to see her replaced with this woman who has no apparent drug addictions or mental disorders.
Second, there were rumors that there would be less of a freakshow atmosphere in the selection rounds – no more William Hungs, in other words. That turned out to be bullshit, as was the word that they’d go easy on the pre-Hollywood audition stages. I don’t call four fucking hours in Phoenix and Kansas City easy going. (Simon, though, really seems to have had enough of the freakshow stuff – which, by the way, doesn’t happen unexpectedly. There are talent screeners who let those pieces of human wreckage through in hopes of a good piece of footage, but Simon’s frequent “Okay, this is getting tedious” comments indicate that he’s seen enough of it in eight years to last a lifetime.)
They’re cutting the results shows to a half an hour, which I think is a good decision, since no one ever watches anything but the last five minutes of the results shows anyway. And apparently, when they pare it down to a dozen, three of the winners will be picked by the judges instead of the audience, which I wildly approve of. It won’t prevent a repeat of the Mindy Doolittle debacle, but it will probably at least keep some of the really shitty fan favorites out.
I’ll avoid any discussion of the non-qualifiers, since no one ever will match that security guard from last year who sounded like he was trying to swallow a Pekingese. After a brief aside that I don’t really see why they disliked that creepy, hyper-enthusiastic 16-year-old in the pink cowboy hat (she wasn’t great, but she wasn’t substantially worse than some of the people who got on), I’ll just head straight to the qualifiers I can remember.
EMILY “SUICIDE GIRL” HUGHES. A cutesy-pie tattooed rocker-chick who refers to her body art as a way to ensure that she’ll “never be forced to sit in an office” (I think the verb she’s looking for is “allowed”), Emily has a decent voice but is basically fodder for the sad hipsters like me who are addicted to the show and want some non-boring eye candy. Her big backstory is that she’s in a band that she’s being forced to quit to pursue her Idol fantasy, just as if she won’t be able to rejoin them in two months after she gets booted.
J.B. “ROCKY II” AFHUA. Here’s your Tiger Beat contestant, a young ethnic kid with bland good looks and a weepy this-gig-will-turn-my-sad-life-around story. I didn’t think he was that great, but I liked his shirt. That’s probably not too much on which to base his chances.
ARIANNA “SUNSHINE AND PUPPY TAILS” ASFAR. Is it just me, or are they going for more and more young teenagers? Anyway, Arianna – who had a pretty decent voice in the 15 seconds we got to hear it – was one of those candidates you knew was going to get in because of their heart-warming backstory: she founded a charity that goes around making sad old people live again. God bless you, Arianna Asfar, may flights of angels sing you to your rest.
MICHAEL “CHUNKHEAD” SARVER. Everybody went all “garsh can you believe this hulking boob has such an angelic voice”, even though that description has fit roughly 50 million people who have previously appeared on this show. Michael talks about how being on AI will change his and his family’s life, but honestly, dude? You’re not that great, and you won’t make it past the dozens. You almost certainly will make more money at your high-paying union job as a wildcatter than you ever will from singing. Most of the contestants on this show work at Burger Kings, but you’ve already got a great job. Quit frontin’ and just admit you like to show off.
KATRINA “TRINI BIKINI” DARRELL. This coked-out bikini teen got lots of attention for wearing a thong to the audition, but really, it was a pretty smart move. There’s a million people in the early rounds with marginal voices like hers, so anything you can do to get attention increases your chances of making the cut. It won’t help her later on – she hasn’t got the chops – but as a way of getting the golden ticket, it was pretty ingenious. People are talking about her ‘confrontation’ with Kara (which I think Katrina got the best of – Kara just seemed petty), but I think the most fun part of her appearance was when she got Ryan Toothpaste to pretend he has any interest in the nearly naked bodies of female humans.
DEANNA “:(” BROWN. Blonde woman with incredibly thick southern accent, and, I thought, the best voice of anyone we were allowed to hear more than three seconds of. Her ‘hook’ was that she couldn’t bring any of her family or friends to the audition and was all alone, but the way they kept dwelling on it seemed almost cruel. She also inspired a bewildering pantomime from Ryan Toothpaste, which is just adding insult to injury.
CODY “RETURN OF THE CREATURE’S GHOST” SHELTON. This was an effeminate-looking white kid claiming to be from Detroit, but I’ll eat a dollar bill if he’s not from Farmington Heights or some other tony suburb. His voice was decent, and people will have fun playing the is-he-gay guessing game, but I’m mostly hoping he sticks around long enough for the producers to show one of the shitty horror movies he makes in his basement.
ALEX “DIVERTICULITIS” WAGNER-TRUGMAN. Smart, funny, self-aware geek teen who snuck in by charming the shit out of everybody. Alex is totally doomed.
SCOTT “BLIND HOUSE” MACINTYRE. Wow, a blind guy! I wonder if he’ll get on! The ringer of all ringers, Scott’s poised for a long run, if only because no one’s gonna want to give him the message that he’s off the show. That said, he was actually quite good – the best of the guys, with an impressively subtle voice. And his stay, however long or brief, will be worth it, because he inspired the always-astonishing Ryan Toothpaste to try and high-five him. Nicely done.