American Idol: Season 11, Episode 2 – The Unfortunate Planking Incident

American Idol: Season 11, Episode 2 – The Unfortunate Planking Incident

The second night of our 2012 journey with Idol found us in the city of Pittsburgh.  That’s right, Pittsburgh.  We were welcomed to the “City of Champions” by a guy with a size 58 beer-belly wearing a size 28 shirt.  (And by the way, it looked like he was there to audition.  If he’s 28 or younger, I’m Captain Caveman.)  With the bar set that low, I had to wonder what sort of talent Pittsburgh would bring to the table.


First up was Heejun Han.  To say that he presented himself in an underwhelming manner would be an understatement.  As he talked to Ryan I wasn’t sure if he had been sniffing glue or was just roused from his midday nap to attend the auditions.  Dude was strange.  To top it off, his family told Ryan they had never heard him sing.  My thought was – “they’re probably the lucky ones.”  But then he walked in the audition room and started singing.  You would think by now I would know not to judge a book by its cover.  Turns out dude was strange – but dude could sing.  Three quick yeses and he was on his way.  (By the way – he also had one of the strangest, and yet coolest, “I’m going to Hollywood” moments ever…)



A quick montage after the break featured glimpses of Dorky Pittsburgh Kid, Tie-Dyed Guy, Clueless Dave Mustain Guy, Generic Girls #1, #2, and #3, and Justin Guaraní 2.0 – it was scintillating. 


Next up was Reed Grimm.  He walked us through the entire process of his parents meeting, getting married, having kids, and then apparently putting them to work as child slave labor in a travelling rock band.  Those long hours toiling away as a child roadie and miniature Elvis impersonator must have paid off because Reed nailed the audition.  He had an obvious depth of musical knowledge and experience.  It was a bit of a Casey Abrams vibe – but in the best possible way.  Good news was – where Casey was “blessed” with Seth Rogan’s beard, Reed was instead gifted with Tom Cruise’s smile.  Cleaned up a bit – girls are going to dig Reed. 


Time for a montage of some of the singers who made it through to Hollywood (including one girl who looked eerily like Julie Louis Dreyfus…) Again – I’m not prepared to give a rat’s rear end about any of them unless the get through day one in LA.  Check back with me in a few weeks. 


It’s at this point that I feel compelled to pause for a public service announcement.  Friends don’t let friends “plank” on American Idol.  It distracts from the important work of mocking those people with no self-awareness or who are just willfully ignorant of their utter lack of singing ability or social skills.  Once you “plank” on the show, I will neither give you the honor of a snarky nickname nor will I review your sister’s audition.  This has been a public service announcement from Concerned Citizens Against Planking.  (If you want to be relevant, you need to be Tebowing – even I know that.)


After the unfortunate planking incident, we were treated to Creighton Fraker – a starving artist from New York.  I’m not sure why he’s starving – the bunny ears and cheap Elton John sunglasses he wore in his bio piece fairly screamed – “I’m classy, you should pay me to entertain you!”  He chose to sing an “original” song, and Jennifer commented that he sounded like Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby.  For me it was more like the Keebler Elf than Justin Timberlake.  Still, he wasn’t without talent.  It was too stylized and quirky for me to really enjoy it, but there might be something there.  I found myself intrigued.


Eben Frankewitz was next up.  He was only fifteen, but I was impressed by his maturity and even more impressed by his audition. He tackled “Ain’t No Sunshine” and absolutely slayed it.  He had a pure tone and great control for fifteen.  I wonder what it will be like if/when his voice changes.  It’s too bad the producers decided to play Justin Beiber as his exit music.  Let the kid be himself – one Beiber is already one too many.


Travis Orlando, a returning auditioner from season 10 was the next up.  I don’t really remember Travis from last season and I’m not sure I will remember him this year either. He wasn’t bad; he just wasn’t great.  His backstory was far more compelling than his voice and – in the end – it was enough to get him through to Hollywood.  We’ll see how he fares against the truly strong voices in the next round.


After the break, Randy and Steven treated the contestants to an impromptu performance of “Pink”.  It wasn’t bad.  Good thing they didn’t ask them to do the National Anthem…


Wedding singer Erika Van Pelt was next in front of the judges.  Just listening to her talk in the interview, you could hear the delicious rasp and texture in her voice.  When she started singing, it really came through.  She had that deeper, fuller alto voice that I love.  All those weddings really paid off for Erika.


After the break we met Shane Bruce, a coal miner from West Virginia.  (Okay – just let me tell you how hard it is for me to restrain myself from including a page or two of West Virginia jokes here.  Look – I’m from the South, I’m allowed – but I’m going to restrain myself and show a little decorum.)  He was proud to be a coal miner, but wanted to chase his dream of being a singer.  I respect him for both of those.  This was one of those really tough auditions to watch.  Shane had a good voice, but not quite good enough.  He was almost there but couldn’t push it over the edge.  You could feel the disappointment rolling off of him in waves after he didn’t make it through.  I genuinely felt bad for him as he cried on his mom’s shoulder.  I hope he comes back next year.


The last singer of the night was Hallie Day.  She had a compelling story – dropping out of high school and moving to New York to try to make it in a band.  After failing to make it big, she moved back home to Baltimore where she eventually tried to commit suicide.  After her recovery, she met her future husband Ryan, who encouraged her to audition for Idol.  Good thing he did.  Hallie had a strong voice, the kind with plenty of range but also plenty of body.  No thin, shrill high notes from her – it was all power. 


And that was the end of the show.  Pittsburgh delivered 38 hopefuls through to Hollywood.  All in all, not a bad show – but no one really jumped out and grabbed me.  Maybe I’m getting jaded, but I’ve been left a little flat by most of the auditions so far this year.  Next up is a trip to San Diego and auditions on an aircraft carrier.  Maybe there will be someone there who’ll rise above the crowd.  We’ll have to wait and see.  Until then – Word Zombie out.      



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


Time for a limerick.  “There was a young man from St. Paul’s” – no, never mind – we won’t do this one.


You’re a beautiful man.


© 2012, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

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