Project ‘Idol’: Judging the judges at NJ auditions

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READ MORE | View all of our Project “Idol” recaps from each episode this season and last

imageIn an opening montage hyping the new judges after the exit of everyone but Randy, “American Idol” Season 10 goes overboard on the suspense, building to tell us JLo and Steven Tyler are stepping in.

Yeah, everyone knew that already. We didn’t need operatic crescendos and bad graphics to get us there. In the nine-minute (we checked) sequence, Aerosmith’s Tyler is given longevity credit for not knowing when to quit, and Lopez mugs at the camera like a goddess while being called a triple threat: dancer, singer and actress. Whatever. Again, we know who they are. Here’s hoping that their studio and stage experience really does help revitalize “Idol.”

Miss Seacrest’s voiceovers save the major overstatements for the show itself: “Epic,” “the most illustrious prize in music” (Who won last year again? Oh yeah. That guy who beat Crystal, whatshisname), and in it’s 10th Season, “everything seems brand new.”

Not really. There are a few changes that might help the show, though. They’re apparently looking for a total package: talent, looks, style and drive. They’re also limiting the contestants’ use of musical instruments and changing the rule on an evenly split guys-girls ratio in the Top 10.

Other than those tweaks, the new judges and new nights–“Idol” airs Wednesdays and Thursdays this year–the rest of Wednesday’s premiere is pure “Idol” formula. It’s audition time, and love or hate this part of the season, that means a tour of the country again with highlight clips of the good, bad and ugly while going to great lengths to hide who makes the Top 12. Wednesday, New Jersey gets the ball rolling.

Warbling, high note-obsessed Rachel Bebida went to Hollywood in Season 6 and was cut on the first day. She comes back and tanks the first audition of the episode with an annoying rendition of “Hallelujiah.” The judges admit it sucks, then send her to Hollywood anyway. Caleb Holly steps in with an off-key Ray Charles ditty. Yep, he’s moving forward in the competition. Kinsey Palmer is a pretty young Music major with a pretty good voice. Steven says there’s no pizzazz, Randy agrees, and JLo disagrees. Then all three say yes to sending her through to the next round.

For a moment, it appears that they’re going to let everyone go to Hollywood and God is going to sort it out. Cue montage of golden tickets flying to kids with no audition clips to back them up. Not so fast. It wouldn’t be auditions without the jesters. Send in the clowns. Time for an interlude of bad to worse clips, judges lamenting the suckage, and… it’s time for another commercial.

We’re back with Jersey people, Jersey fashions, Jersey hair and Jersey jokes. Tiffany Rios cries over meeting JLo and wears cardboard stars on her breasts. She finally belts out a half-assed “I’m Your Lady,” and the Three Stooges send her through.

Another montage with laughs for viewers who enjoy super ugly singing by particularly unattractive people. Then 16-year-old Robbie Rosen pulls our heartstrings with his back story about being in a wheelchair at age 5. Today, he can walk. Luckily for us, he can sing too. Maybe not enough to be a contender, but enough for a golden ticket to Hollywood.

Chris Cordero is an actual Boy Scout and a bona fide weirdo. His flat notes and odd presentation make him a ringer for the finale show’s “remember these bad auditions” clips. Big gay Michael, who admits he burps when he’s nervous, woke us up with a drag version of “Proud Mary,” but not in a good way. Steven asks if Michael ate a lot of paint chips as a child.

Yet another clip fest: “No,” “No dice,” “Sorry,” “Not feelin’ it” … Zzzzzz. Whoa. We fell asleep.

Britney freak Michelle Sullivan follows. Operative word “freak.” But guess what? She can sing—if you like Broadway overkill. She says she wants to be the first showtunes pop personality. The judges waffle, so she cries and makes up a nonsensical rap on the spot. Michelle goes to Hollywood. We’re embarrassed.

North Carolinian Victoria Huggins is sugary Southern sweet in that stab-her-in-the-face sorta way. The pageant show pony twangs her way through a back story from hell. A (relatively) competent “Midnight Train to Georigia” rolls her through to the next round. Up next, Melinda Abdebe and her family won a green card lottery in war-torn Kosovo. Her dulcid tones win her the first deserved ticket to Hollywood in more than an hour of schlocky auditions. Devin Rush is a singing waitress in Manhattan. She starts off Day 2 with “God Bless The Child.” Like the song says, this child has got her own. She can really blow, and she’s in.

Cut to more bad singing through contorted faces. Where do they get these people? Yoshi Pop, a native of Japan, is a self-described Michael Jackson imitator. He doesn’t want to audition, but since he’s standing there, he might as well. He should have gone with his gut and saved us the trouble. Yoshi’s broken-English version of “Party in the USA” is tailor made for audition season and YouTube.

More Nos and Yeses without audition clips. Yay. Throw in cheers and tears and enough time for us to clip our nails, get a snack, throw in a load of laundry and remember we’re supposed to be watching this tripe. It’s grueling for the judges too, but they’re getting paid.

Staten Island’s Briell is cute and loves her dad, an old-time Duwop singer whose throat cancer is in remission. Cue tears. Cue Briell’s version of “Endless Love,” which the judges say shows potential and is good enough for the next round.

The final audition of the night is Travis Orlando, a 16-year-old Bronx cutie who spent many of his formative years living in a shelter. After two hours of crap, “Idol” saves the best for last. Travis sings “Eleanor Rigby” and “I’m Yours” well enough for us to say he’s the only one from Wednesday’s show who we can semi-visualize in the final weeks of the competition.

Travis cries. His mom and brother cry. JLo cries, and Miss Seacrest cries. If Steven Tyler’s tear ducts weren’t sewn shut, he’d be crying too. Then we cry: 51 hopefuls got golden tickets. In two long hours, we saw 11 of those and at least twice that many clunkers.

“Idol” does it all over again in New Orleans on Thursday. We’ll be there. Not because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because we’re in it for the long haul, when the wheat is separated from the chaff and the Top 12 competition really heats up.


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