The first stage of the eighth American Idol season is now complete, and Idol is still wasting too much of our time in January.
In this week's final three hours of auditions, only one, Wednesday's Salt Lake City episode, featured multiple singers who appear to have a plausible chance of going far into the competition.
Thursday's hour was the most bizarre yet. It covered auditions in two cities, New York and San Juan, an Idol first apparently necessitated by the sparse attendance and even sparser amount of talent found in Puerto Rico (only nine advanced to Hollywood). But there were 26 passed through in New York, of which we got a good look at exactly three: Melinda Camille, a young woman who wants to "uplift humanity to a place of love and positivity" by dancing naked in her bedroom; Jackie Tohn, a bluesy-voiced rocker who nearly sunk her chances when she started out with a jokey take on Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours"; and Nick Mitchell aka "Norman Gentle," an alleged comedian who exchanged homophobic quips with Simon Cowell and was rewarded with a ticket.
We also saw only three successful auditioners in San Juan, though this represented a whopping one-third of the total number of yellow ticket winners on the first, and presumably last, Idol visit to Puerto Rico. The one to remember from this audition was Jorge Nunez, who showed off a huge tenor with his Spanish version of "My Way." Asked to sing something in English, he chose "What a Wonderful World" but gave it a completely new melody and basically sounded less sure of himself. Simon told him that singing with an accent wouldn't be a problem because Idol went to San Juan to find accents. Be that as it may, he'll likely need to work on emoting credibly in English to score with voters.
To complete this phase of Idol, here's my first tentative prediction of how the final round might go, the product of a very unscientific formula that combines how well the singer auditioned with my guesstimate of how he or she might fare in the competition given typical Idol trends. This list is likely to be all kinds of inaccurate; for starters, viewers have not seen the majority of those who advanced to Hollywood. But there are certain "types" who we invariably see on the show and particular backstories that are likely to connect with viewers, and this list reflects those tendencies.
1. Adam Lambert (San Francisco audition): Combines an excellent, versatile voice with a memorable performing style and unusually broad experience before live audiences. The only real question is whether this show's Middle American fanbase is ready to embrace him.
2. Deanna Brown (Phoenix): That thick accent of hers is worth five placement points all by itself. But in truth, she had a sterling audition and is no slouch in the experience department either. Her best shot is to nail down the country-rock niche.
3. Lil Rounds (Kansas City): She probably had the single best audition this season, but will she have enough in the way of youth appeal going forward?
4. Scott McIntyre (Phoenix): I have a lot of questions about the extent to which the visually impaired McIntyre can put across a youthful pop image, but he's a serious musician, and we saw last season that there is a segment of the audience which really appreciates that.
5. Anoop Desai (Kansas City): The college a cappella singer and barbecue expert seems to have sparked quite the online following already. A good showing in Hollywood could build the cult even more.
6. Joanna Pacitti (Louisville): Carly Smithson finished sixth too.
7. Alexis Grace (Louisville): My dark horse in the race, since I suspect most will not have remembered her, but her soul pipes were pretty phenomenal. It doesn't hurt that she's from Memphis, and this field seems light on identifiable Southerners.
8. Cody Shelton (Phoenix): Every Idol season needs its boy ingenue. He doesn't seem truly good enough to contend, but he'll be carried a long way by teen girls.
9. Megan Corkrey (Salt Lake City): Hard to tell because her audition was so far outside the Idol norm. It's definitely a voice one will remember, though. She could certainly go deep into the season.
10. Jorge Nunez (San Juan): See above.
11. Taylor Vaifanua (Salt Lake City): The mature sounding (and looking) sixteen-year-old was a big hit with the judges, but she seems less likely than Jordin Sparks to come across as a girl next door.
12. Leneshe Young (Louisville): The judges like her a lot, but inexperience is likely to be her downfall.
Next week, Hollywood! And I look forward to finally meeting the dozens of singers whose auditions were deemed less noteworthy than Alexis Cohen 2.0, the guy with the human bunny accompaniment, and two tone deaf physics students.