'American Idol' auditions: Bust bowl in OK City
Quality drops, stunts prevail in season's final audition episode
Oscar loser: Singing ventriloquist Halie Hilburn, pictured with her puppet Oscar (who was cruelly consigned to a dumpster), may have been the Oklahoma City auditions' top talent. (Oscar, a gifted yodeler, may have been second.)
Well, the streak had to end sometime. After an impressive run of minimal stunting and maximal star potential, the "American Idol" auditions fizzled to a peculiar finish in Oklahoma City Thursday night. Contestants included a shrieking, blue-eyed, soul brother; a manic, anthem-mangling, space cadet and a singing ventriloquist. And those were the winners.
There were also one of the show's patented heartbreaking-but-inspirational cases, and a singer with a simply divine agent. Sound entertaining? It wasn't. But it was bizarre from the beginning. Guitar-slinging Karl Skinner had the honor of opening the episode with a hyperactive "I Got You" that made James Brown himself sound sedated. He also sang a mystifying original with guitar but radiated a sufficiently entertaining and kooky vibe to snag a ticket to Hollywood.
Foreshadowing the show's unfortunate direction, a loser montage was next, slotted unusually early in the proceedings. Normality prevailed fleetingly during sign-language instructor Nate Tao's straightforward version of Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" (a ticket winner). Then Halie Hilburn and her professional partner Oscar showed up.
Oscar turned out to be a dog puppet, a key ingredient in Halie's ventriloquist act since childhood. He dueted with her on Patsy Montana's ancient country hit "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," contributing a rather deft yodel, but the judges were taken aback. They asked Halie to sing puppetlessly, which left them far more impressed -- to the point that they gave her a "yes" on condition that she ditch the puppet. A "comic" epilogue showed Oscar yodeling for food on the sidewalk and ultimately discarded in a dumpster.
Strange as that sequence was, it was only a warm-up for Zoanette Johnson, who bounced off the walls while torturing Francis Scott Key's biggest hit at seemingly endless length, at one point forgetting the words (which were supplied by Mariah Carey, who's probably sung a few "Star Spangled Banners" in her day). Zoanette's version was enough to make viewers forget about Beyoncé, Whitney, Marvin and Jimi, not to mention any reason they might have had to watch this episode. Apparently feeling the Hollywood-bound crop to date was too dull, the judges voted her through.
You wouldn't think, especially after the last two exhibitions, that there would be any need or any room in a one-hour program for a second loser montage, but you'd be wrong. The linking factor in these rejects was uncontrollable bouts of crying, including one fellow who sobbed disconsolately even when he got a "yes" vote.
Anastacia Freeman also cried -- before her audition. During it (an excruciating version of Toni Braxton's "Un-break My Heart") she revealed that God had told her to audition (illustrated a needless fake "dramatization" cooked up by the producers). And after she was rejected, she accused Nicki Minaj of devil worship, rounding off a memorable appearance.
At last, in the final slot reserved for uplifting stories, the show reverted to form. Kayden Stephenson, at 16, has less than 20 years left to live, according to his cystic fibrosis diagnosis. The diminutive Kayden, singing Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," had a voice to match his stature, but his story and his infectious confidence got him a "yes" vote only the sourest of purists could begrudge.
But just when memories of the episode's multiple travesties were fading in the glow of Kayden's triumph, who should show up but former judge Steven Tyler? In drag! And, consistent with his past "Idol" tenure: not funny. It was the ideal conclusion to the season's most dismal episode, which showed all of six singers, five successful (sometimes inexplicably), while 40 other winners lost their shot at airtime due to a tsunami of shenanigans. Thank God the auditions are over – but somebody tell Him to stop encouraging contestants.
One to watch: Halie Hilburn may be a keeper, but I can't help wishing Oscar was coming with her to Hollywood. (But then it would be two to watch.)
Enjoy 'em while you can: It's difficult to imagine a long ride for Karl Skinner and Zoanette Johnson. The most we can hope for is that they'll be more entertaining than irritating.
"American Idol" airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.
Nicki Minaj... The Idol went from a awesome show to a good show to now a FREAK SHOW!!!!. i WILL NOT WATCH ANOTHER IDOL SHOW THIS YEAR... UNLESS.... NICKI THE FREAK LEAVES
Zoanette Johnson, Halie Hilburn and Anastacia Freeman were so fitting when we have Steven Tyler in drag, to be honest. This was certainly a city that was a tribute to the strange and wild, but congratulations to Halie for getting through though. Carl Skinner wasn’t so lucky because he was teased so much, but he got a ticket too. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this episode like I used to because this was a firecracker! I missed a lot of Idol shows previous to this year since I’m gone a lot for business or working late, with the kids etc. Now though, I have a DISH Hopper that has PrimeTime Anytime, which automatically records my shows for me on the four big networks, during primetime hours. Plus, my DISH Hopper holds them for 8 days before they are automatically deleted, that way I can watch it when I’m free, which is about the only way I’ll see any TV these days.
When does "The Voice" start again? At least they are seriously looking for talent. American Idol is over for me.
I knew this season would most likely be the last time I would even consider watching Idol, BUT, Last nights episode - Sealed the deal. The producers chased away anyone that may have been on the fence about Idol. I am extremely confused as to why the producers where unable to Keep Certain Judges, and then to put "Nicki Minaj " aka a Menagerie of a whole lot of NO TALENT - This woman - and I use that word loosely,Brings nothing to the table when looking for potential talent = She's still searching herself. Randy Jackson has become a Simon Cowell- Wanna-Be.I seriously believe the show would be better off adding a "Up and coming" Record producer in place of Nicki (she makes me sick" Minaj. For some unknown reason the producers insist on showing The Worst Of The Worst instead of Showing that A.I can still draw real un tapped talent, I will stick with X-Factor & The Voice.
i finally agree with ken barnes but think oscar shudda gotten a golden ticket - the one they gave to the singer of the national anthem. dont worry folks, that singer will be gone in the first wave in hollywood.