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American Idol Fodder

American Idol: Hooray for Hollywood

8-Hollywood.jpgI always enjoy this time of year. Nope, its not the cold weather or the lull between holidays that is making me happy- it's the Hollywood round on "American Idol." Now that all the pesky auditions are behind us, its time once again to see if the people we predicted would be good actually have star quality, or will they just crash and burn.

Per annual tradition, the chosen few from "Idol's" journey around America finally cashed in their golden tickets for a trip to the Kodak Theater, hoping for a chance to wow Kara, Paula, Randy and Simon. (Or at least the chance to become the butt of a Seacrest joke.) This year 147 lucky singers made their way on stage to belt out a few notes for the judges.

Many questions weighed on my mind before the singing began. Will standout singers like Anne Marie Boskovich (who nailed her rendition of "Bubbly" in her initial audition) and Adam Lambert (who surprised everyone with a perfect take on "Bohemian Rhapsody") keep their momentum and sail through the Hollywood rounds? Will novelty acts like Katrina Darrell (the infamous "bikini girl") or Norman Gentle (a.k.a. Nick Mitchell) manage to become front runners? And would all the hubbub I'd heard about how the male contestants led the pack this year, actually be true? (Based on my observations from the audition rounds, the women had seemed to have the distinct edge.) It was time to learn their fates.

First, though, was a little something new the producers had dreamed up- Idol Boot Camp. From what I could tell, this amounted to a team of stylists and makeup professionals force-feeding lipstick on the contestants, before sending them off to sing for a staff of Idol voice coaches. The most surreal part came when the producers unveiled Barry Manilow, who has to be the most overused, yet most non-relevant to this age group, singer ever to be used on "Idol." And to make it even weirder, in a scene straight out of a self-help seminar, Barry hit the singers with some sage advice, such as: "be yourselves" and "make the songs your own." The look on his face seemed to say: "I'm Barry Manilow, and this is weird even for me."

After Barry pumped up the crowd, the singers were split into two groups: one group would perform for the judges today, while the other half got to tour Hollywood. Wasting no time, producers sent the first group of eight singers out on stage to perform. With surgical precision, each contestant sang a selection of their choice, was critiqued and quickly passed the microphone to the next person in line- the musical equivalent of a relay team.

In the first group were Lil Rounds and Dennis Brigham. Rounds was an early favorite, with Kara calling her one of the best during her first audition, and Randy initially comparing her to Mary J. Blige and Fantasia. She bravely sang Whitney's "I Will Always Love You" and was moved on to the next round. Brigham, whom I had compared to one of Gladys Knight's Pips due to his crazy dancing, underwhelmed and annoyed the judges. When they (predictably) didn't put him through, he angrily told them they sucked and muttered about Simon's t-shirts as he marched out of the theater on his way to obscurity. Simon's parting shot? "You're gonna go far."

Making it through from the second group were: -Nathaniel Marshall, a contestant I hadn't heard of before, but who showed some talent singing "The Anchor Holds." He seemed a tad dramatic when he choked up during his critiques, but he has a good voice; -Anoop Desai (who Randy once called Anoop-Dogg), who has shown his soulful side while singing Boyz II Men; Jasmine Murray, the 16-year-old Mississippi native who got to Hollywood by singing a Fergie song; and Rose Flack, who has an old-school sound to her voice and has a hippie style.

From the next group, the judges sent through: Stephen Fowler, Jorge Nunez and Von Smith. Out of those three I only remember Smith as the guy who misfired on his first attempt to audition, but regained momentum when the judges let him sing his second song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Tonight Simon called his performance "indulgent nonsense." But he made it through anyway.

Next up, Nick Mitchell, a.k.a. "Norman Gentle." This was the crazy dude with the sweatband who made it to Hollywood on the promise he wouldn't play it as a joke anymore. Looks like he lied. Norman bounded on stage once again singing a Dreamgirls song. Someone must have slipped some crazy juice into the judges' Coca-Cola cups, because somehow this clown made it through another round. I know producers enjoy entertaining contestants, but come on!

Jackie Tohn was the first old-school rocker to make it through so far. She was a little odd (Paula called her unpredictable in the audition round, and rightly so), and despite her awkward facial expressions, the judges sent her to the next round.

Out of the last few groups, here's some other stand-out performers to make it through:
-Jamar Rogers and Danny Gokey: Best friends who both keep making it through to the next round. Jamar has a good voice, and Danny is very soulful. Plus Danny has a very heartbreaking back story (his wife passed away only weeks before his initial audition).
-Katrina Darrell: The bikini girl once again scored high marks from the male judges, while the female judges weren't impressed. She survives to sing another day.
-Patricia Roman: She's defying the old adage: "Don't sing Whitney, lest you be cut."
-Alexis Grace: The 21-year-old mother who first surprised the judges with her big voice made it through.
-Adam Lambert: Has the look, personality and voice- and can sing "Bohemian Rhapsody." I'm not sure what he sang in Hollywood, but it impressed the judges once again.
-Frankie Jordan: She initially sang an Amy Winehouse ditty in the audition round, and the judges are giving her another chance.
-Anne Marie Boskovich: I'm glad she made it. She was one of my early favorites and I've already predicted she'll make it to the Top 12. Now she's one step closer.

That's all for tonight! Sound off below about how you think the first round of Hollywood performances went. Are you making any predictions about who will make it to the Top 24? Were any of your favorites cut? List your favorites (or least favorite) below and then be back for more Hollywood drama tomorrow! -Chris Sardelli

Posted by Chris on February 4, 2009 3:23 PM
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