It was a late night for "American Idol" on Sunday, as the show's San Diego auditions didn't air until after the New York Giants' overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. That meant "Idol" didn't start until nearly 11 p.m., and didn't wrap until just before midnight.
The show — which, in an "Idol" first, took place on an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway — introduced viewers to seven of the 53 singers who earned Golden Tickets to Hollywood Week. It also showcased a singer, Jennifer Diley, who gave season eight's Katrina "Bikini Girl" Darrell a run for her money in the skimpy-wardrobe department.
Sunday's show also featured a pair of shout-outs to Fox's yesteryear hit "In Living Color." In the opening moments, Jennifer Lopez was referred to as a "Fly Girl," her role on the former sketch comedy series. Later, viewers were introduced to Jane Carrey, daughter of actor and onetime "In Living Color" star Jim Carrey, whom Lopez said she remembered as a baby on the set of the show.
Carrey, now a 24-year-old waitress in Los Angeles, sang Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About," and though she appeared slightly timid, she did earn a pass to Hollywood from the judges. "Good melody, you've got to work on the volume," Steven Tyler told her after delivering the good news. A phone call to her proud papa followed, and Ace Ventura himself gushed with pride and told her, "Oh my God, is this going to be an exciting year."
Carrey's connections helped her stand out, as did those of Ali Shields. The 19-year-old from Lodi, California, appeared as a guest on "Ellen" after she wrote a song for the talk-show queen (and former "Idol" judge). That appearance gave her the confidence to try out for "Idol," she said, and for her first song in front of the judges, she awkwardly sang/rapped Chris Brown's "Look at Me Now," accompanied by a cringe-worthy booty-shaking bit of "ghetto dancing" (Randy Jackson's words). She followed with an earnest version of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like a Star" that better showed off her vocal ability, and it earned her one of those pretty little Golden Tickets to Hollywood.
Also passing through to Tinseltown was Ashley Robles, a 26-year-old single mother from San Diego, who works as a DJ and at an insurance agency when she's not singing. Robles took a big risk by attempting one of the biggest ballads ever, "I Will Always Love You," but she held her own and managed to scale the song's landmark high notes with precision and grace. Jackson called her a "natural," while Tyler predicted, "You're gonna be big."
Tyler also had high praise for Aubree Dieckmeyer, a 20-year-old receptionist from San Clemente, California. Dieckmeyer sang a solid version of "Feeling Good," a standard that she credited to Michael Bublé, and Tyler praised the "flavor" in her voice. Jackson complimented her "good natural talent," noting she lost some power in her upper range, while Lopez told her she loved her look, her voice, "everything about you."
Though they made a strong showing, it wasn't all about the girls in San Diego. Jayrah Gibson, 26, of Long Beach, California, won the judges over with his version of Musiq Soulchild's "Just Friends," which Jackson dubbed "mad, mad good." Curly-haired frat boy Kyle Crews, 19, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, serenaded Lopez with Monica's "Angel of Mine" and was called the "best male voice we've heard yet" by Tyler. And 24-year-old Jason "Wolf" Hamlin of Livermore, California, a burly mechanic with an armful of tattoos, wrapped his big voice around songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Johnny Cash and earned his way into Hollywood Week.
While Sunday's show continued the season's renewed focus on "real" singers rather than gag auditions, at one point Tyler gave a revealing glimpse at the other "Idol," the one we're not seeing. Prior to the second day of San Diego auditions, Tyler sarcastically lamented to the cameras, "I can't wait to hear 40 people sing the same Adele song for six [bleeping] hours!" We'll take the new format over that any day.
"Idol" returns Wednesday, when it hits the slopes in Aspen, Colorado, for its next round of auditions.
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