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American Idol finds musicality in “Music City,” pt. 1

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American Idol

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A young boy wearing a plaid shirt and absolutely ridiculous shorts, Darius Thomas, 18, from Birmingham, AL, is vowing to the judges, Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez, that he can sing high notes. Like, really high notes. He opens his mouth, and my cat, entering the room from an adjacent hallway, stops, and her hair stands on end. For Darius is not hitting high notes; no, he is just screaming at the top of his lungs. His shriek is shrill and piercing and goes on for so very much longer than it should. The judges don't need to give him a verdict. This American Idol hopeful knows that his journey isn't really going to take him anywhere.

This was how last night's episode of American Idol began - we dove right into the action without too much unnecessary reporting on where we were or what makes Nashville, aka "Music City," so gosh darn special. There was only an hour, so we got right to it. Anyone else prefer audition nights to go this way?

Christine McCaffrey from West Palm Beach, FL, a dental assistant, was the first auditioner to get a real amount of air time. This poor girl with a Minnie Mouse-esque speaking voice (re: incredibly and unbelievably unless you actually hear it squeaky) was so adorably pitiful that I didn't want Fox to make a fool out of her on television, but I guess that's their job at this stage of the game. Christine entered the room and walked to the judges singing some ridiculously tuneless "oh"s. Then, in an attempt at singing, she kind of quacked, and then squeaked. “I’m the American Idol!” she proclaimed mousily. “NO!” Randy yelled forcefully. Before poor Christine even began her song, the judges were suggesting she consider voiceovers in favor of singing. She thought she'd give it a shot, though, and as she launched into "I Hope You Dance," Jen took a deep breath, held it, and grabbed Randy's and Steven's hands in a sort of "I really hope she doesn't do this" prayer. She gave a horrible nasal honk, and Randy cut her off with three, “Really?”s, each of a varying pitch to display his incredulity. Steven was the first judge to officially weigh in with a no, to which Christine responded, "Awesome." Perplexing, at least until she left the room and told her mom that she had received two nos and a yes - from Steven. I guess all that squeaking she does on a regular basis has affected her hearing.

The auditions picked up after that, both in talent and drama, as exes Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks entered the room. The couple used to sing together, and clearly Idol thought it would be precious to force them to do so again, despite all the tension between them. (Chelsee has a new boyfriend and appeared to have moved on, while Rob still seemed a little bit hung up on her. Oh, and if they looked at all recognizable to anyone familiar with singing competitions, the couple previously sang on the CMT’s show “Can You Duet” in the show’s second season.) Before they got solo time, they sang a duet, and their harmonies melded beautifully together. Jen looked like she was going to cry while the couple sang simultaneously. “You guys are killing me right now,” she groaned. Echoing her sentiment, Steven said, “Sometimes the deepest passion comes from friction.” Then each singer got a chance to shine on their own. Rob delivered "What's Going On?" in a smoky rasp somewhere between Taylor Hicks and the slightly prettier tone of Danny Gokey. Chelsee warbled a little bit on her country choice with nerves, but she's still got undeniable talent. “Your harmony together was so deep,” Steven said, still feeling the passion of the finished duet. With unanimous votes from the judges, both got golden tickets. Will Idol rekindle their flame? “They’re gonna get back together,” Jen whispered to the camera. “They better,” both guys said forcefully. I wonder what Chelsee's new boyfriend would have to say about that?

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