Tonight’s auditions were boring. Some of the people who got golden tickets were mediocre talents without much personality and there weren’t many crazy, self-deluded singers, whom I love watching. The boys rebounded and were stronger tonight, though. Highlights:
- Casey Carlson, a pretty brunette in cowboy boots who sang Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” in a beautiful, clear voice. Kara called her “a total package.” Duh. She’s hot and talented. Seems sweet, too—not bitchy or slutty.
- Ashley Anderson sang a song co-written by Simon for Leona Lewis called “Footprints in the Sand.” Kudos to her for not being rattled after being stopped and corrected by Simon when she sang “footsteps.” She laughed it off, started over and did great. Here’s a girl who’s probably not gonna break when the stress of the competition kicks into overdrive.
- Michael Castro, younger brother to last year’s Top 5 finalist, Jason Castro. He said he only started singing 20 days before auditioning. With his punk-ish, red-streaked hair, he looked nothing like the dreadlocked Jason. When he started singing (Gavin DeGraw’s “In Love with the Girl”), though, he sounded a little like his brother, but less breathy and more powerful. And he’s as cocky as Jason was shy.
- Matt Breitzke, a big, bald, goateed welder. He sang one of my faves of all time, Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and had a surprisingly smooth, powerful voice aching with feeling. He’s got the Daughtry-ish backstory about putting his dreams on hold to take care of his family so I hope he goes far.
- Jessica Furney, who lives with her 93-year-old grandma. As soon as I saw this girl, before she even spoke, I said, “She’s gonna be good.” I don’t know why but some people you just look at and know they can sing. Sure enough, she bravely took on Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” and came out triumphant. I like her sweet, smalltown, natural, bespectacled look but suspect the producers will try to put her in hoochie-mama outfits before long. I also worry about Grandma: Who’s gonna take care of her and make sure she takes her “crazy pills”?
- Danny Gokey, whose wife passed away four weeks before his audition. This guy looked like Robert Downey Jr. with spikey hair and glasses. He made me so sad I feared what he would do if he didn’t make it. But no worries. When he sang “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” this dude had more soul than his best friend and fellow auditionee, Jamar Rogers (more on him later). His voice was raspy and cool and I had to rewind to listen to him sing twice.
- Anoop Desai AKA Anoop Dog, a preppy Indian boy who sang Boyz II Men’s “Thank You” like he was born a black man. His voice was smoof and had lots of power and control.
- Lil Rounds, a classy mother of three adorable little babies who recently had her Memphis apartment tore up by a tornado. She had a nice, big voice and reminded me (and the judges) of Fantasia.
- Asia McClain, who didn’t even make it to Hollywood but cried and cheered on her sister, India, when she got the golden ticket. I loved how completely selfless she seemed in her support of her younger sis.
Sadly, no funny freaks tonight. There was Vaughn English, dressed in a yellow jacket and shirt, who sang “Banana Man,” complete with a real banana prop. He wasn’t crazy, just bad. Andrew Lang brought his own team of cheerleaders who cried when he didn’t make it. That wasn’t funny, either, just sad. Then there was Mia Conley, who seemed to have slept through the whole waiting process and almost through her turn. When she sang Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You,” she put me to sleep.
I thought the judges were too soft tonight. They allowed one not-very-good singer, back-flippin’ Dennis Brigham, to beg his way to Hollywood. They also were enthusiastic about two guys, Von Smith and Jamar Rogers, who shouted through their entire auditions. Yes, their voices were big but they were just loud; there was no subtlety or honest emotion in their singing. My eardrums were popping after just a few bars. Can’t imagine what it’d be like to listen to them sing a whole song.
What did you think? Were the judges too easy or am I just too harsh? Anybody you like I left out?
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