Viewers miffed that Simon has been more Dr. Phil than Dr. Evil so far this season will be delighted to hear that the Cowell Scowl returned with a vengeance on Wednesday night's Miami audition show. Whether he was calling Paula's short dress "really slutty" or sarcastically praising the failed "Idol" spinoff "American Juniors" ("I just love hearing children that age sing"), it was clear that the bratty Brit was in no mood to be patient or Paula-like.
Things got off to a deliciously retro start with an homage to the "Miami Vice" opening credits (the TV show, not the "realistic" 2006 Michael Mann movie). Seacrest stood before the 10,000 aspiring Idols in the same exact spot where we rolled out the red (and white) carpets when the VMAs were in Miami. Pssst, Ryan, did you find an iPod containing an ungodly number of Meat Loaf songs down there? I left mine in one of the production trucks back in '05. If so, please return to me. Not all of us make your ridonculous salary.
Anyway, with a cranky Simon back in the fold, let's cut the formalities and get right to Wednesday night's awards!
The "Thank God John Waters Didn't Direct This Episode" Prize: Shannon McGough
As Shannon the meat-grinder/super-belcher introduced herself to America, all I kept thinking was how happy I was that there was no accompanying scratch-'n-sniff card. I bet it would have smelled a lot like how I imagine Amy Winehouse's tour bus does: a touch of rotting meat here, a hint of fresh burp there and, thanks to Simon "I'm Hungover" Cowell, gin and B.O. (And that's not even including the likely mothball odor of the granny hat Shannon was wearing.) But even more offensive to the senses? Her singing. Poor Shannon had won a host of local singing competitions (including Okeechobee Idol!), which explained why she was totally blindsided by the judges' visceral reaction to her wonky "Cry Baby." Simon delivered a couple of wicked little gems ("That was like the Hungarian Janis Joplin," and "It sounds like you're eating while you sing," among others), but Randy's "almost tone-deaf" verdict might have been the final nail in her singing career's stinky coffin.
The Justin Timberlake Lifetime Achievement Award for Dodging the Britney Bullet: Robbie Carrico
"Idol" was very upfront about Robbie's boy-band past. (He was a member of teen pop also-rans Boyz-N-Girlz United.) But strangely, they made no mention of the fact that Robbie reportedly Britney Spears' beau back in the "(You Drive Me) Crazy" days (as opposed to, er, the current days). I wonder if Brit would recognize Robbie, considering he now looks (and sounds) more like the singer of a Puddle of Mudd tribute band than a former teen idol. Things weren't all rock-star posturing with Robbie, however. Upon leaving the audition with three yeses, Robbie gleefully jumped around while his posse covered him with silly string and confetti, proving that you can take the boy out of the boy band, but you can't take the boy band out of the boy.
Best Indication Eugene Hütz Might Be a Mentor This Season: Ghaleb Emachah
There are two ways to interpret Ghaleb's green light to Hollywood. One is that Paula and Randy are nincompoops content with getting a poor schmo's hopes up before cutting him in the next round. The other is that "Idol" is hoping to woo gypsy punks Gogol Bordello onto its stage this season. Either way, Simon was justified in asking a crew member to check Paula's sippy cup for intoxicating agents.
The Frenchie Davis/ Kimberley Locke "Most Likely to Bring It in Hollywood" Trophy: Corliss Smith and Brittany Wescott
How much did you love the large and in-charge duo of Corliss and Brittany? With libidos bigger than their appetites, these likable gals had me in stitches as they flirted (and practically mounted!) random crew members, Ryan, Simon and Randy. OK, fine, their vocals were only fair — with the slight edge going to Corliss — but I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a big girl "Band of Gold" reprise come Hollywood Week.
The Fantasia "Single Mom I'm Rooting For" Badge of Honor: Suzanne Toon
What could have been another quota-filling sob story turned into an ear-perking audition, thanks to Suzanne's smoky voice and a spot-on song choice: "I Can't Make You Love Me." The young single mother, who hasn't performed since her daughter's birth three years ago, glided through to the next round after Simon astutely noted that Suzanne became more attractive once she started singing. Her pitch problems should work themselves out once she starts using those pipes more regularly for singing and less for feeling sorry for herself.
The Jordin Sparks "Find a Better Idol" Consolation Prize: Ramiele Malubay
Ramiele didn't have a prayer in my eyes after she cited Jasmine Trias as a personal idol. I get the Filipino sisterhood thing (actually, being a white dude I don't get that at all), but to me, naming Jasmine Trias as a musical influence indicates that Ramiele aims to be a mediocre singer who somehow outlasts better, more qualified contestants. I enjoyed the contrast of her tiny body with her big, loud voice, but aside from an adorable mini-father and the guaranteed comedy that is Simon mispronouncing an ethnic name, there's not much else here that I'm looking forward to.
The Constantine Maroulis "Haven't We Seen You on a Trashy Reality-TV Show Before?" Demerit: Syesha Mercado and Julie Dubela
The second day of Miami auditons yielded two reality-television veterans. Not many people recall ABC's 2006 disastrous "Idol"/ "Big Brother" rip-off "The One: Making a Music Star," and that's a good thing for Syesha Mercado, who was a cast member on that show before it was unceremoniously canceled after two weeks (but you can still see her bio here on the ABC Web site). It was pretty obvious that Syesha had done this before, because, like a true reality-TV pro, the girl wasted no time exploiting her dad's drug and alcohol addiction in front of a bajillion home viewers. Gold star! That said, I sort of hated her shrieky Aretha impression, which was so loud and hysterical that it bordered on screamo. I suspect that if Syesha didn't look like a supermodel she would have been told to hit the road.
Later, we met Veruca Salt, I mean, Julie Dubela, a former cherubic "American Juniors" contestant who morphed into a really bad egg. (I'm embarrassed to say, I also recognized her as a contestant on the "Survivor"-for-kids show "Endurance." I need to stop TiVo-ing everything.) Julie strutted around the "Idol" set acting like a 30-year-old — or at least how a 16-year-old thinks a 30-year-old acts — and before she even opened her mouth to sing, I was already rooting against her. Sure enough, Julie's over-rehearsed and precocious ("What's that mean?") "Me and Bobby McGee" did her no favors with the judges, and she got spanked with three firm nos. Simon kindly suggested she head to L.A. to become an actress (couldn't you see her on "Gossip Girl"?), which set the 16-year-old off even more. In a post-audition interview, Julie delivered a monologue of Mary Catherine Gallagher proportions. "They kept saying I was acting! [Sassy eyebrow raise.] I'm not acting! [Sniffs.] And you know the worst thing is, I was asked to sing at a Red Sox game today [pause for dramatic effect], and I gave it up to come here. [Pouty lip.]"
Julie's unraveling was "Idol" at the top of its game. Using old "American Juniors" footage (de-saturated for maximum dramatic effect), the mad geniuses constructed a delectable montage of Julie back in 2003, singing "Rainy Days and Mondays," mixed in with footage of her leaving "Idol" in 2007, ranting and raving on her way out the door. The juxtaposition of creepy child-star Julie with embittered washed-up Julie was half cautionary tale, half Schadenfreude, and 100 percent brilliant television.
The Leroy Wells "Can You Dig It?" Certificate for Most Likely to Join Pretty Ricky: Brandon Black
I'm still unclear whether the delirious final audition of the night was the work of a jackass improv comic or a really desperate kid. Brandon Black's wig and gibberish shtick recalled Blake Lewis' terrible attempt at sketch comedy last season, but at least Blake had the decency to wait until the top 24 before bringing out the costumes. The rest of Brandon's audition consisted of a breathy "I'll Make Love to You" dedication to Paula, an original song called "I'm Gonna Be the Next American Idol" and the two male judges walking off the set. This couldn't have been a real dude, right?
What did you think of Miami's sound machine? Are you happy to see a grumpy Simon again? (Anyone else notice the daggers he shot at Brandon with his eyes?) And how weird was it hearing Rihanna's "Unfaithful" being sung by a talented singer?! Let the comments commence.