American Idol: Season 11, Episode 1 – “The best note you hit was when you grabbed my @ss.”

American Idol: Season 11, Episode 1 – “The best note you hit was when you grabbed my @ss.”

It’s that time of year again – American Idol Season 11 is upon us.  Randy is back, Jennifer is back, Steven is back, Ryan is back, and I am back.  Well, I hope I’m back.  I’ll warn you all now, faithful readers – I’m traveling a LOT for work right now.  It’s going to be tough for me to keep up the commentary in real time (this recap of the premiere is almost a week late, for example.)  Nevertheless, I’ll endeavor to do my best to bring you the snarky and insightful commentary you’ve come to expect from me.  Just be patient – it may come a little slower than you would like.


Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in.  The Idol premier came to us from Savannah, GA this year.  (When asked about how this stop was treating him, Steven quipped – “Savannah’s treatin’ me great – but I didn’t know you knew her…”) The theme of the show was all about the young kids who grew up watching Idol and are now old enough to audition.  Thanks for making me feel old. 


David Leathers Jr. (or  “Mr. Steal-Your-Girl”) was up first.  My first thought was – this kid is seventeen?  He looked like he was twelve.  In the first of many flashbacks to their contestants’ earlier years, we found out that David was evidently in a competition a few years ago with Scotty McCreary.  Small world, or at least it looks that way when you have millions of audition stories to choose from.  Let me say this about “Mr. Steal-Your-Girl”, he may have a voice that sounds vaguely like a chipmunk, but the kid can sing.  I wonder if he’ll still be able to sing like that when he hits puberty?


Next up was Gabby Carrubba.  Not only was she a singer, she’s also a world champion tap dancer.  She may be the ultimate Idol fan (perhaps the Cochran of the bunch?)  Coming into the audition, she went right over to Nigel to give him a hug.  Nice way to work the room, and work the producer.  Not only that – she had a great voice, making Steven pull out his “ooh – that’s good” face.  Gabby did herself proud – she was cute, she was likable, she’s a fan, and she had a good voice.   


Time for our first montage – this one of some of the better singers.  If I had tons of time, I would run them all down for you – but I don’t.  Let’s wait and see if any of them show up again in Hollywood.  Then I’ll care.  One piece of advice – if you are going to show a montage of people singing different songs, having an instrumental track playing in the background of the montage is not the best idea.  It’s just distracting.


Our next singer was Jessica Whitely.  Let me just say this – if the show was based on talking voice, this girl would not have stood a chance.  She just sounded a bit off.  But it’s not a speaking competition; it’s a singing competition.  Unfortunately, she didn’t sing any better than she spoke.  She sounded like a Muppet being put through a 1950’s clothes wringer.  She didn’t make it, but did promise (threaten?) to come back and audition again in Texas.


After painful Muppet lady, we were treated to the bizzaro Ryan Seacrest – Shaun Kraismon.   This guy was freakishly like Ryan.  He had the look, he had the delivery, and he had the confidence.  What he didn’t have was a good singing voice and, alas, this isn’t American Seacrest.  Still – it would be a crime if we didn’t see Sean again at some point during the season.  Could a date with the finale be in his future?


Shannon Magrane was next to grace the stage.  She was 15 years old, 6 feet tall, had size 11 shoes, was a volleyball player, and was also the daughter of a professional pitcher for the Cardinals.  Her dad made the mistake of asking how the weather was in Boston.   “Hot, humid, and happening – just like your daughter.”  Say what??  Awkward.  Shannon was an okay singer – not stellar – but good.  Looks like an easy cut in Hollywood. 


Time for another montage – this time of the worst singers of the day.  We had bleach-blond Jessica Simpson wannabe, Forgettable Guy #1, Forgettable Guy #2, Forgettable Guy #3, Unfortunate hair-highlights guy, hippy girl, Seth Rogan beard guy, and Forgettable Girl #1.  It was a truly moving montage. 


After the montage we met Amy Bromfeld.  Amy told us she lives in a tent with her boyfriend because they have no money.  We got a tour of the tent (at which point we all realized she must have a great voice – they rarely do background pieces on “Forgettable Guy #2”).  When asked about it, she told Ryan “I would rather be outdoors and happy than indoors and miserable.”  From the moment she opened her mouth, I knew I would like her voice.  I was right.  She had an authenticity and a likability that was infectious.  As Jennifer dubbed her – she’s a “Hipsy” (that’s a Hip Gypsie for those slower people playing along at home.)  If Amy makes it through Hollywood, she would benefit greatly from the stylists on the live shows, and might just find a path out of the woods and on to the stage.


Joshua Chavis informed us his biggest dream was to sing the national anthem at a NASCAR race.  He also told us that he’s been compared to Chris Daughtry and Brad Paisley.  Really?  Not so much. The good news is, he didn’t break down and cry like a girl after the audition, curse at the camera, and then flip America off.  Oh wait – actually he did.  Stay classy, Joshua.    


Stephanie Renee grew up watching American Idol and loved Carrie Underwood.  We were treated to pictures of her homemade Carrie poster from when she was a kid.  She even sang “Inside your Heaven” for her audition.  She squeaked through to Hollywood, but was very average and forgettable.  At least Carrie got a little screen time. 


And that was the halfway point – one hour in and one hour to go.  Mercifully few terrible singers had hit the screen by this point, but I was already getting tired of the “wow all these kids grew up watching American Idol” meme.  I know – I’m old.  In other news – “you damn kids get off my lawn.”


Schylar Dickson was next up.  She auditioned last year with her brother Colton (who I vaguely remember from Hollywood week…)  This year she decided to go solo, or at least she tried to.  Instead, the judges made a big deal out of bringing Colton in from outside and making him audition as well.  This was supposed to be Schylar’s audition, and they made it about her brother instead.  Way to pump up the girl’s self esteem, judges.  You could see conflict on Skylar’s face while she watched her brother sing.  She wanted to be happy for him, but was also a bit ticked that the judges had stolen her moment.  Here’s the thing, though – she was really good.  I actually liked her better than her brother.  She has a tremendous voice and I hope the judges give her her due in Hollywood.


Look – it’s a montage of people’s emotional pain and anguish at not making the cut.  Doesn’t that just make you all feel warm and fuzzy inside?


Our next hopeful was Lauren Mink.  Lauren works with adults who have learning or mental disabilities.  Usually, these tearjerker stories leave me a bit flat, but Lauren was different.  She seemed very genuine and heartfelt in her assertion that she “has the best job in the world”.  I have to respect that.  Oh – and she has a great country voice and got a ticket to Hollywood.


When Mawuena Kodjo began his segment by telling Ryan he was “going to try and sing Rascal Flatts”, I knew we were in trouble.  That and the fact he needed subtitles to get us through his broken English.  Where is the auto-tune enabled subtitler when you need it? After massacring the song, Mawuena was sent out to find someone in Savannah who thought he was a good singer.  He brought some kids and an old guy to vouch for him.  Thankfully – the judges held firm and didn’t put him through.


Ashlee Altise unveiled a new dance she had created for the audition.  It was meant to be enjoyed whether you were happy or stressed.  Not sure about you – but we did the same dance at my wedding.  It’s called the Chicken Dance.  I also have to ask – was that her hair or one of those fake dreadlock hats you can buy at Disney World?  Bad hair and questionable dance skills aside, the judges put her through to Hollywood.    


W.T. Thompson was a former prison guard who told us “I had to make a decision – a job or my dream.  I chose my dream.”  He quit his job in order to make the Idol auditions.  Very ballsy – especially when you consider that he has a wife who’s 6 months pregnant.  He didn’t get a yes from all three judges, but he got two, and that was enough to take him one step closer to his dream and one step further from the prison. 


Okay – anyone else get a bit uncomfortable watching teenage girls (and their moms), swooning over Steven Tyler in the last montage of the evening?  (And let’s not even talk about the mom who enlightened us all on Steven’s “10 inch Record”…)  I’ve said it once already – awkward… 


Erica Nowak showed us what you had to do to hold your own with Steven.  Let me just share a few select quotes from her audition. “He’s my future ex-husband.”  “The hell with the golden ticket, just give me a g-d-damn hug.”  “The best note you hit was when you grabbed my @ss.”   Enough said.


At this point, it was getting late and I was getting tired.  Thankfully, the show was drawing to a close.  Brittany Kerr was up next and I would recap her audition thusly – she was hot, her voice was okay, two yeses from the guys and she got a golden ticket.  Shockingly, Jennifer didn’t care for her.  That about covers it. 


The last audition of the night was from Phillip Phillips.  Yep – that was his name.  I thought – “apparently his parents weren’t very creative – or perhaps they were being cruel.”  Turns out it was neither.  His dad’s name was Phillip Phillips Sr. – so it must have been his grandparents who were lazy.  His parents were just derivative.  Anyway, enough about his name – how did he sound?  Pretty damn good.  He had a surprising amount of soul, channeling a bit of Joe Cocker during his performance.  Then….he broke out his country version of “Thriller”.  Holy cross-genre-inspiration Batman – it was amazing.  Simply amazing. Phillip exuded the confidence of true artist, comfortable with who he is and not afraid to take chances.  Good way to end the show.  He may be one to watch.


That was it.  Savannah was a wrap, and the journey to American Idol glory was officially underway.  Not a bad start.  Can’t wait to see what this season has in store for us.  Until then – Word Zombie out.



Tonight’s “Pearls of Wisdom” from Steven Tyler:

Savannah’s treatin’ me great – but I didn’t know you knew her…


This is the earliest I’ve ever been late.


It’s hot, humid, and happening – just like your daughter.


The best note you hit was when you grabbed by @ss…

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