Season 12/Chicago Auditions

I got a look at the 2013 schedule on a couple of different sites, and the format has been changed some from previous years. Some of the changes:

– Six audition shows, the last one on January 31

– After the usual three Hollywood shows, the top 40 will be announced on Valentine’s Day

– Those 40 will perform 10 at a time, over 4 shows, two weeks; at the end of the last show the top 20 will be announced

– The semifinals will be 10 males, 10 females

– March 5,6 and 7 will be the semifinals, leaving us with a top 10 at the end of Thursday’s results show

– From there, the show will follow their normal format

Six audition shows is down from the usual seven or eight; no big deal. I’m not sure how many tickets they will give out, but there are usually up around a hundred contestants left at the end of Hollywood week. Hollywood is going to be even more brutal than usual, with only forty spots to go around. I wish I knew more about the top forty round; I’m pretty sure that it’s all taped footage, with the judges making the cuts. Idol goes live (and we get to vote) starting with the top twenty, on March fifth. Since there are usually ten members of the Idol Tour, it appears that the voting for the semifinals will also set the tour roster.

Anyway here’s my take on day two, the Chicago auditions. I watched the show before I wrote this, so I can tell you in advance that I liked more than a couple, more than a little. I had the time, so I took it and did a little research; my comments will sometimes reflect facts not in evidence from the show. When they do, I’ll try to note it.

The singers, the songs:

MacKenzie Wasner, 17– Pete Wasner’s kid (Wasner is a prominent Nashville songwriter, plays with Vince Gill’s band). She might have auditioned a couple of years too early, like so many of these kids do. She sounds like Dolly Parton, which would be wonderful if she shared Dolly’s other talents.

Kiara Lanier, 21- Singer, poet, autoharp player, lots of Youtube video…. She tends to get caught up in her own sweetness, but when she opens up she can blow out the back wall; her voice is not just loud, but heavy. Her big notes go right through you. Her phrasing could use a little work and her intonation is merely good, not great; but if she can get over her tendency to finesse everything and bring her inner beast to the top – watch out.

Stephanie Schimel, 21- Just turned 21 – She plays the Ukelele and sounds just like Didi Benami. If she doesn’t give in to nerves again like she did in her audition, she might contend for the live shows. I like her quite a bit. This isn’t her first time; she made it to Hollywood in season ten.

Gabe Brown, 21- The screaming baker. He does a pretty mean John Belushi, but he can’t really sing. Even his screaming is barely in tune enough to keep the dogs from howling. I can’t imagine his personality can overcome that, but he does have a lot of charisma.

Isabelle Parell, 15- Duet with Keith. She’s a Norah Jones type in training, very talented. I would normally say why waste your Idol shot so young, but her style won’t ever win Idol anyway so why not? She could certainly make the live shows, maybe the tour if the judges don’t make her sing outside her comfort zone.

Griffin Peterson, 22– Nicki’s boy crush, seems to have lost some weight since he discovered Quahog. Ladies and gentlemen, your next American Idol.

Curtis Finch, 24- Jacob Lusk type, but without the high range and the purple moo moo. He’ll last as long as he can stay in tune.

Mariah Pulice, 19- Anorexia survivor. She has a sweet voice, but honestly without the backstory she wouldn’t have gotten in front of the judges. I see no reason why she can’t have a career as a singer, but I don’t think she’s Idol material. Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum) has a voice like this and she failed two auditions, never making it in front of the judges.

Brandy Neelly, 17- Sang Your Cheating Heart, and made me like it (I f***ing hate that song). My first thought, after picking myself (and my chair) back up, was that she’s what Lauren Alaina was supposed to be, but even that is damning with faint praise. Brandy is better than Carrie Underwood was when she was on Idol, and she is six years younger than Carrie was. She ain’t perfect; she has work to do on her intonation and especially her phrasing, but she has that huge, scary strong voice, terrific range, a good bag of vocal tricks, and a tremendous rhythmic sense. Standout number two; Biggest concern is the inevitable Carrie comparisons.

Josh Holiday, 24- Judges loved him, which surprised me. His audition was awful, so many sour notes, but I looked up an outside video. He reminds me of Vince Gill a little, but he doesn’t really have what makes Vince special, that true tenor high range. He’s just a good, solid karaoke singer. He’s not as bad as his audition, though. I still don’t know what the judges liked; it made my ears hurt.

Courtney Williams, 18- Idol shows short snippets of girls like this every year; they always get cut just short of the live shows, and they never get any solo air time. Mostly we see them celebrating, or as part of a group.

Andrew Jones, 28- Idol shows short snippets of guys like this every year; they always get cut just short of the live shows, and they never get any solo air time. Mostly we see them celebrating, or as part of a group.

Clifton Duffin, 22- Secret squirrel; nice voice but it ain’t going to be easy to deal with live bands, group night, any of the stuff that people who play with others learn.

Kez Ban, 27- Dude in a dress; could be Brett Loewenstern’s alter ego, but he’s ten years older and even worse at football. They passed him/her (it?) through mostly to add some color to Hollywood, but you never know. Normund Gentle made the semis one year.

Lazaro Arbos, 21- Stuttering problems. He has a gorgeous voice, and the pimp slot probably means that he’s going to be here awhile. I’d be higher on him, but I sense a John Park issue: he’s too nice, and too sedate to go much past the semifinals. I find him interesting in a couple of ways besides his voice:

– He speaks Spanish and English, so I was curious… there is a video of him singing “Imagine” on a Spanish speaking TV show, and yep; though maybe not as pronounced.

– His occupation is listed as “ice cream scooper”. I suppose that means he works at Baskin and Robbins, but it made me think of him in an ice cream factory, standing next to a conveyer belt with a scoop, watching for defective Cookies and Cream…..
Zags game is in ten minutes, so I’m not going to tag it tonight. Seeya next week!!

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