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American Idol Season 14 Episodes 7 & 8 #Overusinghashtags (Will!)

Another late writeup, due to another crazy work week, so here’s a double shot recap from our last stop before Hollywood week. This time the gang is in San Francisco to round out the last 2 nights before shit gets real.

These two episodes are chock full of either those who are “whacky” but with an unexpectedly good voice; or those who suffered some severe hardships and are looking for Idol redemption.

We start off with the former – a 15 year old girl with a 19 year old psychic cat who despite a trippy intro, belts out some dynamite Florence and the Machine and earns herself a golden ticket.  Then there’s Chandler Leighton who has that singer/songwriter coffeehouse thing going. Hollie asks me her name 3 times and I can tell she already has no patience for this gal.  Next we see 17 year old Andrew who is a Tim Tebow doppleganger and is accompanied by his friend, silver medalist sprinter Ryan Baily. When young Andrew advances but is upstaged by the judges’ shtick with Baily, I feel bad that the kid with the Golden Ticket is getting overshadowed. Hollie quickly reminds me that you don’t bring an Olympic athlete with you to auditions unless you are hoping it increases your chances of getting on TV. Fair point and I am no longer concerned.

Now it’s time for more Idol shtick. There’s a telanovela and #IdolExitFail and as I look over my notes I see that while the producers have certainly lessened the number of bad auditions they are airing, they are amping up the goofy montages accompanied by inane hashtags. (#walked, #Idolbooty). Am I supposed to search for what people are saying about #Idolonthefence? Are kids, or more accurately Grandmas, really dialing up their Hootsuite to see what the nation is saying about #turnupforIdol?

Some standout kids from this first hour are the sweet singing, uekelale playing Somoan, Reno; the smooth Rayvon Owen with a proud momma and humble beginnings, and 16 year old Maddy Hudson (whose dramatic red lipstick is irking me more than it should).

Despite some compelling talent, the clear highlights for me were twins Ezekial and Jeremiah.  It was their first audition and these kids were in full frosted highlight effect.  They were not good but also not awful and I am not really sure what to make of these two oddballs. Were they part of some creepy religious cult or just two metrosexual brothers with a strange Ricky Martin vibe. I was hoping we’d see more of them as twins are Idol gold – see Season 7’s Derrell and Terrell.

We move to hour 2 and Adanna Duru starts us out strong, with a great smile and polished stage presence. We also see Hunter Larson who is eccentric and falls into Idol category 1 as being unexpectedly good.  Still, I project sparkle and fade from this cute but loopy blonde.

Just 10 minutes earlier I commented to Hollie how it is unnerving to me that all of these 15-17 year olds look and act so mature…  and then in comes 15 year old Daniel Seavey. If he was wearing a Champion sweatshirt and a mesh Mets hat, that’s what I would’ve looked like walking in to audition. He’s surely talented but his voice is still cracking and he is no Adam Archuleta. They let him through but Hollie, the judges, America and I all know it’s way too soon for young Daniel. He’s going to Hollywood anyway and will get eaten alive.

Next up – perhaps to underscore that Daniel has not seen enough shit to sing passionately – is Rocky P. Rocky was abandoned in Africa and makes all of those “big family, single mom” stories seem like a walk in the park. This guy was rummaging through garbage for food and drinking from potholes but still has a smile on his face. His tone is mellifluous and he’s through, but as happy as we are that Idol can help make dreams come true, we are just as quickly disenchanted.

In walks Jaq who is 15 years old, goes to some art school and just seems too mature. The blue graphic under her name also says she is a “student/actress”. I’m sorry – if you are 15 and you are a high school student you are “/” nothing. You can be “waitress/actress” or “sales clerk/actress” but you cannot be “student/actress”. I’ll stop there as I am betting that Hollie has a 3 paragraph diatribe lined up right about now…

Anyway, after a montage of 200 tickets and Tyanna Jones – auditions are over and we get some Hollywood week teases. Drama – check. Goosies – check. Shell shocked would be stars – check. Health scares and EMS – YESSSSS! When the Idol experience causes someone to be so stressed and exhausted, both the cameras and a stretcher are there and there is no better promo.

So there you have it. I don’t need no Golden Ticket…just my Seamless login and my trusty notepad and I’m going to Hollywood.  See ya’ll Wednesday night. Let’s get us a top 24.

American Idol Season 14 Episodes 7 & 8: Rooting for the Poor Kids!

Instead of watching American Idol live this week, I was on a work trip in the Atlanta suburbs running a conference for 300 of our global sales people, i.e., making a bunch of drunk Australian and british sales guys to get out of the pool at 3 am for 4 days straight.

But I’m all caught up and I feel like the San Francisco auditions reflect how I feel about San Francisco itself: I mean it’s OK, but I’d never elect to see it more than I have to.

I watched the two episodes a day apart, and I can’t really remember much remarkable from the first one.  I was excited that we got our first AND second kids who list “Voice Coach” as an occupation (as a side note, there’s a disturbing lack of “church youth group leaders” this season – not enough southern audition cities I guess?! Did the Idol stats guy realize they had the same success rate as Single Dads on the show?) Rayvon Owen actually proved worthy of his Voice Coach job title.

An early golden ticket was given to a girl named Chandler Leighton who sang New York State of Mind, but honestly some middle aged executive from my company just slayed that song at karaoke during the offsite this week, and just watch that video on my Instagram and you’ll see how so-so her audition was.  For the record I sang White Wedding at the conference karaoke party, and as Keith told one contestant today, “you’ve got the passion but the voice just isn’t there. ”

Just as “Busker” has become the new “Church Youth Leader” as top occupation, I think that Samoans might be the new Filipino, with their giant families and strong nation wide network that would allow someone of that ethnicity to make it way farther than they are meant to, a la Jasmine Trias.  I think if Rene Anoa’I can make it to the voting public, that Samoan block will be influencing the voting pool.

Lot’s of young kids in SF. I was pretty disappointed that a set of overstyled twins, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, were both bad, as it would’ve been great to have one go through, and the other sit in the bleachers in Hollywood, fake-supporting the other.

The judges were all about 15 year old Maddy Hudson. But I got an instant “stage kid” fake emotion thing from her, and her lipstick was so distracting, and her fake “thank you thank yous” negated her talent. She is classic “needs to talk less, sing more.”

I have developed a new Idol pet peeve!!!  After all these years, a new one, that’s hard to do!! So, do you just wear that guitar, which you have no intention of playing for your audition, to give the judges some subliminal message that you’re talented ?  Does it intimidate the other kids?  Do you know how to play it? Did the producers tell you not to play it?

And I’ve also picked up that if you are one of the auditioners to have the guy play piano with you, you are going to make it.  And if you didn’t get air time, but we see some golden ticket b roll of you, good luck sailor.

So…. Hashtags. Can I ask how someone might stumble upon #IdolontheFence on twitter? When the producers want me to tweet #IdolCat, how do the people on the computer know? Is it just for people watching in real time, because I happened to be organizing shuttles to back to Grand Ballroom B when this was airing and didn’t get the chance to weigh in on #IdolStay. Is someone searching for this? Can I go on and tweet something about #idolcat on Saturday and will anyone find that tweet because #idolcat is now a hashtag they follow?  So many questions, I’ll park this with the Idol Bus and am definitely leading off this week’s meeting with our company’s social media manager with all of these questions.

I’d like it if the producers made more of a stark contrast between contestants like Hunter Larsen — a cool chick blond hostess/floral shop worker/nanny from Malibu whose rich dad totally supports her — and kids like Rocky Peter, whose father ABANDONED HIS FAMILY IN NIGERIA TO STARVE TO DEATH.  How can you not root for kids like that?! The hot cool California girl will be A OK regardless of her success on this show.

I timed it, and I think just as I was helping hand out “Enterprise Regional Sales Director of the Year” awards down in a resort in Georgia, Jaq Mackenzie was on the airwaves winning Hollie’s “Least Likable Contestant of the Audition Cities” prize!  This girl has it all:

  • stage name. No way is Mackenzie her last name, and don’t get me started on the Jaq with a ‘q’;
  • precocious 15 year old manner of speaking—eloquent but no soul: “American Idol will be a lot of fun,” she says, without a crack of a smile
  • sang an original song, of course;
  • labelled herself a Student/ Actress
  • goes to an arts high school;
  • has total “I’ve been auditioning for commercials since I was five so now I’m going to shed that ‘kid from the Jif Peanut Butter’ persona and be ‘edgy’ now” syndrome, complete with leather jacket, painted stars on her face and wispy hair. I am 95% sure that she is a dyed brunette, too.

Not since I started bully tweeting Sam Wolf to start sexing it up when he was costing me my American Idol pool have I launched into such child bashing on the internet!

AI Producers need to get around all the Stage Moms of this 10th grade field trip that is called Hollywood week. C’mon poor kids with bad pasts, practice up!

American Idol, Season 14, Episodes 5&6: Unfeeling Minnesota & Whole Lotta Harry (Will)

It’s been a tough week at work so our Idol viewing and write-ups will be condensed to a single post each. Part of the impetus for the combined recap is the lack of inspiration we felt during and following the Minneapolis episode.

We started off with yet another shy kid who has never sung in front of other people before. I really don’t get this. You sing in the shower and think the logical next step is to try your hand at being the next Kelly Clarkson on national TV? This is the second person in two weeks we’ve been shown who has this same story. I feel like there should be some middle ground like maybe playing a few rounds of Guitar Hero with your friends. Or perhaps before you sing a ballad in front of Keith Urban, maybe you want to grab a pitcher of Red Dog at Flannery’s Pub and belt out some Chumbawumba for Tuesday night Kareoke? Anyway – Shannon – or Shy Kid #2- is IN and I anticipate being annoyed with her next time we meet in Hollywood.

Then we see a guy with a gold mic, a close singing professional organizer, and an Air Force wife who gets a lot of air time. Ho-hum. Big takeaway for me is that I like Keith Urban. Keith holds to his word with a country singing contestant and pulls the lucky guy onstage at one of his concerts. Solid. However, I am also slightly confused by what it means to sing country. Harry critiques aforementioned contestant for singing with a country accent, which HCJ deems affected. Keith is sitting two seats down and as far as I can tell speaks with an Aussie accent but sounds more Mobile then Melbourne when he is singing. I don’t get it. I also don’t get why many of the American heroes on Homeland are played by Brits but none of the handmaidens on Downton Abbey are actresses from Detroit.

We see a good ole’ pretty blonde girl who fishes and hunts, a Jerry Lee Lewis understudy, and a compelling 16 year old, Hannah, who sings some Etta James. They are all through and then we finally hit 8:53PM and know it’s time for a special story. This time the story is that this guy is 28. That’s it? While I am not going to shed a tear that this is Mark Andrew’s last year to try out for Idol, I do think he’s a pretty cool dude and am interested to see him sing more…

New Orleans is next and so the following hour is filled with montages of Harry in the Big Easy and clips of him gushing about the city and his hopes for the talent there.

There’s some New Orleans related hashtags going on and I’ll admit that there are 2 things I absolutely cannot get straight. Clockwise and counterclockwise is one of them. The other is WhoDat and WhoDey and which one is Cincinnati and which one is New Orleans and why do I even care?

On to the talent..

  • Jelly Joseph – you’re in. Great name which sounds like a rookie lineman who gets hazed on Hard Knocks.
  • Tiffany – 16 year old cheerleader. She’s dorky and energetic and while I should be annoyed with her, I am not. Perhaps it’s because I know someone else will be very soon in Hollywood. Group week will see someone in her team crying.
  • Quentin Alexander: first a ‘Treme profile showcasing the 9th ward and then this hip guy with a funky tone gets a Golden Ticket. To me – he gave off a Lenny Kravitz cool vibe but Harry compares his edginess to Terence Trent D’arby. Now I love Wishing Well as much as the next guy but I don’t think I would classify it as musically groundbreaking. Is it possible I know more about music than Harry? Kinda hoping he drops a Pebo Brison reference next episode.
  • Montage time. Again, it’s 3 girls and I don’t care for any of them but they all advance. Extra yawns for the blonde girl who says there needs to be more country girls on the radio. No – there absolutely does not need to be.
  • Ricky Dale Hendricks is a local boy, plays guitar and has a face that the menopausal Facebook friends of Idol will go gaga for. McReery 2.0?

I can’t even go into the rest of them but there were three interesting guys that stood out for me. I liked 15 year old Grayson who slayed it with a great original. I was also impressed by Mikey Dunn, who had a unique tone and graduated from Harry’s alma matter.  Finally, Adam Lasher closed us out and seemed poised to make a long run in Season14. He is related to Santana so I am not quite sure why he needs to try out for Idol, but clearly has stage presence and polish and might be this year’s David Cook.

We finish with local crawfish and beignets and a trailer for the SF auditions which, based on the trends, will roll credits over Keith Urban sticking his head in a sourdough breadbowl next Thursday night.

I’m ready for Hollywood at this point…


American Idol, Season 14, Episodes 5&6: Land of 10,000 Snoozes and JLo eats a beignet! (Hollie)

I’m not going to lie, it was a rough week at the office. And coming home to then be treated to an hour of boring Minneapolis American Idol Auditions did not do much to lift my mood. Thirty minutes in,  I gave Will the “I can’t do this,” and we agreed to watch the rest the next day and to certainly combine our Wed/ Thurs recaps. waa waaaaaah.

I mean the Producers didn’t even try to feign enthusiasm in Minneapolis. Apparently it’s been seven years or so since Idol last went through the city, and there was nary a flashback clip of any memorable young contender, and if it’s one thing this show knows how to do it’s flashback clips.  I can see the PA going through 1,023 hours of footage from Minnesota, 2007, and being like “Sorry boss, there’s nothing.”

I was apparently in a very bad mood this week, and as I look through my notes, all I see is a lot of “Annoying” “Bland” “Cancel each other out” “looks like another Teen Mom” comments on my Idol notepad. Yes, I have an Idol notepad. And my husband has his own Idol notepad. We also do yoga, meditate, then scream about how stressed we are. that is how things happen here.

So, the kids.  Zach Johnson, seemed likeable, but his country twang while singing prompted a, “You don’t talk with an accent… why do you sing with one” comment from the judges. We look at each other with confusion and wonder how it is that Australian Keith Urban can sing with a country twang — and look at him, with all his banal country pop platinum albums!  Taylor Swift… doesn’t Taylor Swift twang it up but speaks normally, (maybe a ‘ya’ll’ here and there?).  And can we please all talk about how aside from Oasis and the band that sings that song Pompeii every British singer sings with a different accent than what they have?  I can’t, I just can’t.

The only promise is a ski capped likeable cute Dad named Mark Andrew. I can’t remember if he’s a single Dad or not. That’s really all I’ve got.

Cut to HCJ in all his adorableness loving his New Orleans. We see the footage of little Harry hustling in the clubs at age 9, learning his craft.  He’s pretty much holding his breathe hoping to be made proud by some good singers in New Orleans. Problem is, kids are soft these days, Harry. No one is hustling anything, and they all have Stage names. And I can guarantee you that any kid who is jamming with an 88 year old blues guitarist in the 9th Ward is not auditioning for American Idol.

Oh, well one is, Quentin Alexander is the only bright light in this week filled with awful deadlines, day-long meetings, eating takeout at 10 pm everynight, taking ½ a Xanax just to muster pleasantries, and boring American Idol.  He’s so friggin cool, really talented, from the hood and just someone you want to WIN dammit!!

I was disappointed to see some blehs get through, like Nalani, an over affected singer songwriter type equipped with yup, a  Gopro.

Ricky Dale Hendricks is a… gasp… likeable country singer. Kinda has a Country Phil Phillips thing going on.  BUT he’s only like 15, and this Cougar had it for Phil Phillips… so that is the last time I’ll compare him to Phil Phillips.  There is a fine line between Phil Phillips and Sam Woolf from Season 13, who f’d me over since I picked him to win it all. I failed to recognize that that fine line is called HOTTNESS, and though Phil Phillips brought the sexy, Sam Woolf brought the ‘I love my Grandpa stories.’  Ricky Dale’s voting future relies on how fast he can muster a sultry stare.

Sexy = wins American Idol

sam woolf grandpaHangs Out with Grandpa = Tricks you into Thinking he can win American Idol

I’m also rooting for Erica Washington, single mom who slayed Halo. She has the “I’ve been through some shit” swag that I like.

Swag I don’t particularly care for belongs to Carlos Santana’s nephew.  I mean… you play on stage with Santana, shouldn’t he have been able to connect you with a label by now?  GIVES ME PAUSE.

And let’s just hope that Dakota the Drag Queen keeps hanging on long enough for group week dramatics and for me to get my fill of Will asking me confused questions about drag queens.

OHHHH and JLo caved at the ‘regional food end shot’ in this episode. I was watching this time, and she did the same food stare down, like the whole world stopped when that platter came in the room. This time she ate the entire beignet, but I’m sure she went on a 10 day cleanse afterwards.

I’m about to embark on a business trip for the week, so no chance of watching Idol in real time. I kinda am just excited to get to HOLLYWOOD ALREADY where is my GOLDEN TICKET.

American Idol, Season 14 Episode 4: Jennifer Who? (Will)

For Hollie’s recap of this week, click here

It’s a 2 hour Thursday night episode and there is a lot to cover, so let’s get to it. We’re in NYC so of course we need to revisit Jennifer Lopez’s humble roots. She is somewhat dressed down and is walking through her old Bronx neighborhood and finds the one person who does not know who she is. Idol is not so subtly trying to send us two messages: (1) no matter where you came from, you can be famous (subtext is that AI can change people’s lives – and we will keep pounding this into your head from every angle possible) and (2) no matter how famous you are people who have day to day struggles have other things to worry about. I appreciate the latter sentiment but am not quite sure if JLo does as she seemed incredulous at not being recognized. It’s a double header show so we again see more “Jenny from the Block” footage late in the episode, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s another AI segment or one of those cheesy Fiat commercials.

It’s NY week and we have a sense of pride throughout much of this show – from shots of the Brooklyn bridge, to a peek into the Nassau Coliseum. Right off the bat I get psyched to see a good old South Shore Italian kid. He is a bit over the top (or so it might seem to TV viewers) but I’ve met plenty of those of his ilk growing up and like Sal, I am somewhat offended by Harry’s mocking. Harry –if you’ve never been to Mulchay’s on a Monday, Bogarts on a Thursday or Sprats, ever, keep the LI accent impersonations to yourself. Strong showing from Strong Island, so we’ll see you again in Hollywood.

I am shocked that we spent 15 minutes and only got through one contestant. We then see the Nassau Coliseum where the bulk auditions must’ve occurred in order to weed down the masses to a manageable number for the judges. Again – some LI pride as throughout the episode we see flashes of Islander banners in the background. I do feel bad for all of the rebuffed contestants who have not only the stinging pain of rejection but have to also walk through the bowels of that concrete shithole in Hempstead with a camera following them the whole way. Nothing glamorous about that. I too know the feeling of disappointment walking across that desolate parking lot, as I have been an Islanders fan for the past 30 years. Grab yourself some comfort food at the Fuddruckers across the street, kids.

If you recall, we’ve been treated already to a few kids with stage names (remember Lovey?). I don’t get it. This guy J. None is sweet and likeable but I am not sure if it is proper to anoint yourself with a nickname quite yet. I can feel Hollie’s vote for him vanishing into the ether as he signs “J None” to the whiteboard. I have the same conflicting feelings with Jax – an 18 year old from LI with a good parent backstory and compelling voice. There’s Prince, Madonna, Cher and …..Jax??? Sorry kid – I don’t think so. Or perhaps I didn’t realize that this was all acceptable. From now on, I am changing my work signature to “Dollar Bills” or “Double U Swaggy”.  Jax has a moment and who can root against a 911 hero Dad, but I am afraid she’ll be facing Angie Miller Syndrome, trying to recreate this moment for the rest of the competition.  The insanely annoying commercialization efforts by these kids doesn’t end as later in the episode we are treated to Shana or “Shi” – a shy girl who has given herself a new name, is a model and has never sung in public. We get a cliffhanger commercial break but I couldn’t care less. Hollie wants her to get a ticket so we can see her have an absolute meltdown during Hollywood week. I am on board with this and so are the judges. Only question is whether she has a sore throat and needs to go to bed early, gets into a fight with her groupmates in front of the piano player and locks herself in her room and/or cries in front of the judges. Sounds like a good AI commercial break question for the Twitterverse #AImeltdown.

Aside from the trend of amateurs giving themselves stage names, there is also a disturbing trend of panhandling being acknowledged as an actual occupation on this show. You know how that blue graphic that shows up on the bottom of the screen with the name, age and something like “waiter” or “dog walker”  or “Church group leader” or “teacher of special needs children”. I’ve noticed “busker” has now been substituted for “unemployed” this season. Obama’s America I guess….Anyway, we see another musician on the L train (although I am pretty sure everyone on the L train is a musician) and she is excellent. Najah Lewis is steady and mellifluous but also informs us that she makes $300 for every 2-3 hours on the train. Wow. Maybe I am the schmo with my silly 9-5 job. After I finish this write-up, I think I’ll change my to do list from catching up on writing Performance Evaluations for my team and finalizing business requirements to breaking out my guitar and practicing Smoke on the Water and Yellow Submarine for a few hours.


Before I reinvent myself, here’s a quick look at a few noteworthy contestants:

  • Eric Lopez: He’s from the East End and he’s all Adam Lamberty. I see group week dramatics ahead for him
  • 3 non descript blondes: they all get golden tickets and I don’t have the mental bandwidth to remember their names at this point. Idol has told me they are one in the same with their montage treatment so I’ll take the cue and spend my energy elsewhere.
  • Qaasim Middleton: Brooklyn in da house. Likeable kid and even more likeable Mom. His family exudes cool but with the musical Dad and the dorky musical child prodigy vibe, I feel he may be another Malaya Watson.
  • Travis Finlay: Harry is smitten with him and he has a sad story but a bright smile. More South Shore (Baldwin) LI. Go get it!

It’s now Adam Lambert flashback time. We get to revisit his initial audition and also am reminded of the terrible 4 judge Kara DioGuardi experiment. In case you didn’t get it, let me again hit you over the head with the Idol brainwash message. Remember Adam and how timid and unknown he was. Look at him now!!! This show makes stars (like no other show…ehmmm The Voice!). Got it? If you don’t I’m sure Carrie Underwood is still an Idol indentured servant and maybe they’ll cart her out again in a few weeks.

It’s time for Adam Ezegelian from…wait for it…WANTAGH MOTHER F’IN NY. He is a cross between Lost’s Hurly and Jonah Hill with a nice personality but who knows if he can sing. I haven’t been so pumped since the days of Levittown’s Kevin Covais (btw – where is he now? I really hope he is not busking outside the Tri-County Flea Market). If you told me I’d be hollering and waving signs for a parade down Wantagh Avenue in June, I’d have been certain it would be for the Stanley Cup. However, Adam is good and is sent through and I have grand visions of standing in front of Town Bagel all giddy during Homecoming Week, with a handmade sign that says “Adam is the EZ vote for American Idol”.

We’re nearing the end and I am getting emotionally exhausted. We see a duo in the “chamber” and I immediately ask Hollie which one of these kids is terminally ill. Awful. I am both relieved and annoyed that they are simply just boyfriend and girlfriend, the latter of which has a stage name, “Yanni G”. Let me guess – one makes it and one doesn’t. Not my first rodeo. Nick is in and if there are any teenage girls that still watch this show,  and if they forget he had a girlfriend, I think this guy who looks like an Adam Levine-Bradley Cooper combo will get some votes. I do actually feel bad for him as his survivor’s guilt does not allow him to fully appreciate the Golden Ticket. For you Idol historians – see the Dixon siblings for reference.

Lastly, Idol does what it has always done best at the end of these marathon shows. My heartstrings are tugged upon as Hollywood Anderson (I’ll refrain from commenting on the name) sings a beautiful original and gets congratulated by this middle aged do-gooder from the Covenant House who helped this homeless guy and got him a guitar.  Well done, Idol. Well done.

American Idol, Season 14 Episode 4 – American Idol Production Magic Pixie Dust (Hollie)

For Will’s recap of this episode… click here

I usually watch American Idol when I’m exhausted on a school night, setting the kitchen timer at 20 minutes to jot down my thoughts. Well, it’s a rainy Sunday, I’m well rested, and I just watched an amazing two hour episode, so get comfortable as there won’t be much self-editing happening today.

What’s a New York episode without some classic Jenny from the Block footage? There’s Jlo, casually strolling past the house where she grew up, and the current resident conveniently out on the front porch and having no idea who she is.  The innocent viewer in me wants to believe this is all true; the jaded viewer who has watched every season except that year I was living in Australia knows this is classic American Idol Production magic. Nothing is left to chance like this.

Will and I quickly start to debate the logistics of the New York auditions– we just can’t help ourselves. Clearly the initial mass ones were held in the Nassau Coliseum. The final judges table has a Manhattan backdrop, which I think has to be more AI Production pixie dust fake–  traffic does not move that consistently on the FDR and Brooklyn bridge, AND  I’m not aware of any hotel with ballrooms that have that kind of view.  I kinda do this crap for a living, so if this is a real place, someone let me know and save me some work.

Enough about me, let’s hear it for Strong Island, who sent some mean talent, filling us up with Long Island pride.  Sal from Bethpage is likeable and one of the strongest “crooner” type contestants I recall [insert here Google search  for the names of the terrible crooners of seasons past who Will loves to incorporate into American Idol trivia].

LI also sent Jonah Hill-esque Adam Ezegelian, who we were hoping was good because he’s from Will’s hometown of Wantagh, and he hasn’t  had that kind of Hometown Hero to beam about since the  Kevin “Chicken little” Covais of season 5.  He was very good, very likable, and I look forward to looking out for him working in CVS the next time we’re visiting Will’s parents.

covais A past Long Island wonder… can Season 14 represent again?  Does Kevin Covais work at the Dunkin Donuts on Jerusalem Avenue?

The strongest LIer was Travis, who Harry especially gushed over. Good looking, super talented, authentic… though it doesn’t appear I cared enough to write down what he sang or his last name.

All of this really makes me regret that this show didn’t exist when I was a high schooler on Long Island, because I bet I can name every single kid I went to school with who would have given it a shot. I can hear them practicing in the hallways, see them picking out their outfits at Jean Country in the South Shore Mall.  I have to settle for faux reminiscing over Facebook messenger with old friends, mocking the high school people we hated whose failed American Idol auditions-that-never-were would have been so painful it would have made our lives. I faintly recall one person having a short stint on Star Search, but that was nothing compared to what could have been with this American Idol machine and the false hopes given to the kids of today.

The generation who grew up with social media, reality TV and the selfie are really showing where we are as a society with the advent of Stage Names before any of them have performed on an actual Stage.  I’m sorry, but I don’t care how talented you are, J. None, Jax, Shi (my real name is Shayna, but that means beautiful and I don’t want strangers saying that), and Arianna (call me Yanni G), but you are competing for a bunch of middle aged peoples’ votes, and they do not appreciate this type of crap and will not be rooting for you!

I do need to give a special self-appreciation shout out to J. None, who didn’t say but rather sang his name not once, but twice, which is something I’m going to incorporate into my introductions during my next conference call.

Another production highlight from this episode was showing the buskers in various Williamsburg L subway stops, natch, where apparently you can pull in hundreds of dollars for 3 hours of work.  I did some quick math, and let’s just say I think Najah, an intriguing and talented guitar playing singer, is following her Fidelity Greenline at a faster pace than I am.

I also appreciate AI producers doing some work for us, mashing up footage of three nondescript pretty blonde OK singers. Those of us Advanced American Idol viewers would have realized that these girls cancel each other out at some point in Hollywood Week, so it’s nice to have that stage set for us from the get go.

We have our first “two people in the holding booth at once” of the season, and Will and I both let out an “uh oh.” Will asks me, “So which one of them do you think is dying?,” as the Producers typically don’t break audition protocol unless they are teeing up some sort of heartbreak story—or twins with varying talent so that you can see one feign happiness for the other.

Fortunately, it’s just a classic case of Young Love. The girl—the aforementioned YANNI G —  is not good enough to get through. But her sexy ski cap wearing boyfriend Nick sure does.  Insert an amazing few seconds of restrained excitement as they greet their friends with the bitter sweet news… then CUT to an elated, pumped sexy Nick flaunting his Golden Ticket as soon as Yanni G is out of sight.  We break for commercial as Yanni G gives a desperate, supportive “I love you” and kiss to her boyfriend-for-not-so-long.

One of the winners of the night is Qaasim, who slays it with Stevie Wonder. He’s so likeable and is also winning the contest that I think is just as important—Best Family, as Family Shots are vital to my enjoyment once we get to live performances. This dreadlocked musical whacky family is just so much cooler than mine (I know my sister reads this, as this blog is for her, but I can’t imagine she is going to disagree).

But we are all rooting for Hollywood Anderson, who makes me quickly shut up complaining about kids giving themselves stage names. He is an exception and is the real deal, from his original song that is actually good, his “I’ve seen some shit” interpretation, and his Covenant House story. And can we note that he’s only been playing the guitar for a year?  I bought a second hand guitar 3 years ago and I’m still working on my “Yellow Submarine.” It’s really so impressive, and I’m crying alongside JLo.

I will take an extra paragraph as I luxuriate writing on this lazy Sunday to address something that’s been perplexing me. This #TurnUpForIdol … does that mean people are physically turning up for idol, as in the contestants getting up to go to Nassau Coliseum? Or is it like a phrase that means something like the Little John “Turn Up for What”—or is that “Turn Down for What”?  Do I need to go on to my Twitter account, which is only used to yell at companies I’m mad at, and search for this hashtag and figure it out?!

You’re doing great so far, Producers!

American Idol, Season 14, Episode 3: All high pitched and quirky (Will’s take)

For Hollie’s take on this episode, click here

It’s been a long 6 days but finally we are back and are treated to seeing the best of the bus. Idol is “taking it to the streets” which means another montage featuring this famous and mysterious bus, a map and a lot of potential Idols who apparently waited on long lines, outside a bus.  Did the auditions happen on the bus? Did the kids get on the bus if they were selected or was the bus just full of talent scouts and scones? I don’t think we’ll ever know but we are 3 episodes in and the Idol Bus has gotten more airtime than Ryan.


On to the talent: We start off strong with Big Sexy. He’s affable and quite the character and of course you have to root for him. He comes in with swag singing “Jenny from the Block” and immediately you know he’s getting a ticket. Then I go from excited to annoyed. He’s still likeable and is crooning to J-Lo at which point Keith and Harry go into ultra-shtick mode. Big Ron jokingly tells them they were rude and I non-jokingly agree.


Next is a really high pitched theater dude from New York. He’s not good enough but he’s also not bad enough to be classified as absurd and I am again rubbed the wrong way as Harry has a bit too much fun with him before the judges send him packing. He’s got good insight for the kids and is light hearted and funny, but Harry is starting to be a bit of a bully. If my wife thought he was ugly, I’d still say the same thing.


Montage time. Lots of kids with guitars including that dude Casey Thrasher who we’ve seen in a prior season, along with an in depth backstory profile. I can’t wait to revisit this and see how he has remade himself! But wait – as quickly as they show him with a golden ticket – he is gone and Hollie and I are left to wonder if he has a 3 year old at home in his grandparents house or if he is living out of the backseat of his car because “he loves music and can’t do anything else”.


Now things start to get interesting. It’s a blue haired funky accordion player. How’s this going to go??? I haven’t been this interested in seeing a women with an accordion since Judy Tenuta’s HBO One Night Stand Special (PS. Can you imagine being invited to dinner at Judy Tenuta and Emo Phillips’ house? What do they talk about? Do they have normal friends? Does anyone younger than 35 know who I am talking about?). Anyway – the chick with the squeezebox has an interesting voice and is actually genuine but Harry wisely advises her not to border on novelty.


Alexis Gomez gets some air time, and while she has the package (ie. good looking) she seems middle of the road so I don’t think we’ll see a ton more from her. The half Mexican, country, hippie is followed by the unassuming cowboy and both our living room and the judges panel are all in.  See you in Hollywood Anton. Next, the quirky 18 year old with a high voice, old soul and crush on Steve Perry gets a golden ticket and I can’t wait to see more of this loveable weirdo.


Time for the 15 year old who has two deaf parents. Oh boy. Her family comes in to see her audition and her Dad has some Sonos type hearing aid system that has allowed him to hear little Ashley sing from across the room. She is out of tune and as I watch and cringe at the thought of her not making it, I also wonder out-loud if her Mom lost the hearing aid coin toss that morning. Awful. Doesn’t seem fair and now the judges send her home. Hollie asks if I am crying and I just dump my head back into my eggplant parm.


YESS!!! BANJO! What is going on tonight? I am fully expecting to see Dr Teeth on the keys and Janice on guitar in the next segment. The bluegrass girl is good and she is through but if the Swedish chef walks through the door with a triangle, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Anyway – I can’t wait to see what poor soul gets put in the same group as banjo girl and the accordion lady during Hollywood week.


Finally, it’s time for the closing segment and it’s a guy who is battling depression by travelling. He says the loneliness is terrible but it’s a blast. Hmm. His voice is odd but he’s interesting and the judges ask this eccentric fella if he is going to do what he needs to, in order to win this completion.  No – Harry – I don’t see Kholton answering “who is your favorite celebrity crush” in the Coca Cola lounge or giggling at the premier of Rio 4, but why not give this kid a good night’s sleep at the Hollywood Sheraton.



American Idol, Season 14, Episode 3: JLo, you can have a rib! (Hollie’s take)

For Will’s take on this episode, click here

This post is late because I spent all of Wednesday night writing something for work, which ended up being torn apart and needed rewriting the next day anyway, so I wish I could get my Wednesday night back and have watched this episode fresh. I mean Jesus, Hollie, you have ONE LIFE TO LIVE, you should spend it watching forgettable mediocre singers, not churning out some crappy marketing schwag!

OK, I get the bus now, it goes to C- list cities to audition kids who stop off on their way to Denny’s.

Kansas City started off with Big Wan– Will is insisting it’s Big Ron, but I really do believe it’s Wan– who seems to have genuine swag and who I genuinely like. However I can only take so much of that Marvin Gaye shit, so long time prognosis is to be determined.

We are then made to feel uncomfortable for the first time tonight as the judges mock some Broadway-style guy with a high voice. It was one of those “are they making fun of him or not?” moments for me, as I often really don’t know if someone is good or not. Which is probably why I have not ever won my American Idol fantasy league.

A guitar folksy montage then commences, and there he is, SINGLE DAD from last season. But there are ZERO single dad references, and not even a “flashback to last year” back story. Producers do not seem hot on Single Dad!
For those of you who ride the subway:  Do you know when you’re waiting on the platform, and the train just isn’t coming, and there is some busker – for me it’s usually either one of those guys who drums on buckets, or an old Chinese man playing that horrible old Chinese man instrument—who is so goddam annoying that you wish you were more of an asshole so you could go up to him and give him $20 to STOP playing until the A train arrives?  That’s what I felt like during that entire Accordian-girl audition. Again, I didn’t know what the judges were going to say—was she good?  Did she suck?  I guess she was good, as she and her novelty instrument will be annoying her roommates at the Hampton Suites Burbank during Hollywood Week.

eah, this thing

Then we get one of TWO Poor Man’s Crystal Bowersox of the night.  The first one is “so quirky I’m barefoot.”  The other one is “so quirky I play the banjo.”  They both annoy me and both go through.

Enter the lanky, shy cowboy Anton, hands down the most genuine, sweet, authentic person and voice… and the judges’ eyes are welling up too, so my senses are right and he’s in!  I’m mostly intrigued by the puzzling “Family Shot” outside the door… I think there were two women there with babies. Was one baby his?  Are both his but the producers didn’t want to ruin their ‘shy cowboy’ bit by showing he’s got two baby mommas?  Did an AI focus group reveal that the Single Mom story is more marketable than the Single Dad bit?  I’m nervous about what is going to be revealed.

Oh No, Deaf Parents.  The poor girl with a not-good voice has to trot her poor family in the room so that her Dad can hear her sing using a special device.  Will and I simultaneously wonder aloud, “What about the mom?!,” who is forced to sit there, reading the heartbroken expressions on the judges’ faces, not having a fancy hearing device of her own. What the hell?!  You can tell the judges HATE the producers for making them go through that sad, sad, scene. I look over at Will, whose eyes are teary.  Well played, AI.

We’ve seen the ‘homeless drifter’ routine before, and we’ve got another one in Season 1-4. Man, this kid has seen some shit.   Harry said that the kid’s ability to fit into the show “concerns me”—what concerns ME is the prospect of watching these people make this kid suffer through a terrible group dance number set to a lip synched version of “Bang Bang.”

But the best part of the show was the last scene. Did you guys see how J-Lo was looking at that plate of ribs Ryan set in front of her, while she mumbled “I can’t, I can’t” repeatedly?  And just yesterday a friend was telling me how his sister was on a photo shoot with JLo, who wolfed down craft services and then kept running in place and maniacally exercising. Did I just feel bad for JLo a little bit?

OK, Off to go to watch episode 4, which I didn’t watch last night bc I was out with aforementioned friend talking about JLo’s eating disorder.

American Idol Season 14, Episode 2: Somebody please explain the Bus to me (Will’s take)

For Hollie’s version of tonight’s episode, click here 


Well it’s the first working Thursday night of 2015 and with it comes the back end of a two night AI premier doubleheader. I’ve heard rumors that this year Idol will only be one night per week, as ratings have continued to decline, but I am skeptical. Am I to believe that Bones can pull in the kind of audience that an even sub par Idol elimination night draws? I, for one, want to end my week seeing some precocious kids sweat it out on the stools and then frantically search for my face to shoot across the screen amidst a slew of 50 something ladies when they flash the background montage of Facebook voter profile pics.

With the idea of a potentially trimmed down Idol viewing season haunting my thoughts, I pick up my remote and check out the Guide only to find that AI is blessing us with a 2 hour show. YESSSSS! Fast forward to 40 minutes later when H exclaims “oh F….we’ve only watched an hour”. It’s a marathon not a sprint, babe – pace yourself.

On to the show…

The intro comes on strong with not so subtle digs at the Voice. “It’s all about the kids”…”It’s not about the judges”…”It’s the only show that has produced bona fide stars”…Listen – I love that Kelly Clarkson as much as the next guy but this is all sounding pretty defensive. You’re American Goddamn Idol. Start acting like it!!!!

AI shows us a bit of behind the scenes – which frankly I love. H and I always talk about how we wish AI had their version of Big Brother after dark so we could see how things really work behind all of the staged red carpet shenanigans and kids jumping on beds in the AI mansion. (PS. – we know of Big Brother After Dark as my parents might be the only two people who have watched the Big Brother cast on off hours besides Julie Chen).

We then see this year’s version of Dexter (I cant remember his last name). The kid is 22, has a cherubic face, likeable family and is a good ole boy from Alabama. He’s also a bit annoying and I am not terribly impressed. Nonetheless, I think there is a quota for this guy every season. Great – now we have one for AI14, so can we move on…?

Then we see someone a bit androgynous who reminds me of MK Noibillete. I earnestly ask H what gender this contestant is and then immediately feel guilty as it is just a 16 year old boy. He’s geek-chic and his nerdiness reminds me of Malaya Watson. Kid is talented but not sure how long he will last.

And as soon as we see pretty Kelly on the screen for a nano second, I yell “SINGLE MOM”. AI – I know your formula and I love it. Sure as shit, she’s got an adorable little girl who sings that awful theme from Frozen to the judges and I am fully onboard the Kelly Klime bandwagon.

Montage time along with various soundbites of “I recently quit my job”, “Music is all I have”, “I won’t do anything but sing” and “I don’t have any other plans”. Then it dawns on me that American idol might be responsible for several downturns in the economy. H and I both groan and shake our heads disapprovingly. I love to play basketball but I am not going to quit my job to try out for the Knicks. Sigh.

AI is an emotional rollercoaster and after my dismay at these kids’ wonton lack of sense and responsibility, I am then again fraught with emotion watching Garrett Miles and his devoted Dad. Garrett is blind and super talented and will cause some serious choreography issues when the top 10 dress in all white and do an awkward Bruno Mars medley group number (I just cringe thinking about how painful it was to see the finalists try to all dance around season 8’s Scotty Macintyre). Despite this I am rooting for Garrett.

Moving on…there is a busker from Nashville and J-Lo gives us a classic “you have the whole package so I am sending you through”. Translation: “you’re a mediocre singer but you are good looking. Teeny bopper girls and Midwest grandmas will Facebook vote the crap out of you so I’ll throw you a golden ticket. “ I don’t remember this dude’s name and I doubt I’ll have to.

Some others to note as we round out hour 2:

  • Savion Wright is back and I do remember him as do the judges. He is talented and confident and should be in the top 24 for sure.
  • Lovey James just made me uncomfortable all around. She’s 16, has a stage name and a music video and tells us that “some guy she is working with” gave her the moniker Lovey. There seems to be a lot wrong there. I am betting either TMZ or the local authorities will dig into this pretty quickly.
  • Jess Lamb is our final contestant of the night and she is good and quirky. She’s long in the tooth for Idol and while I do fear we have another Erica Van Pelt on our hands, Jess is much more interesting and I think I recall her voice from a mysterious silhouette last night.

We wrap up the show and are teased with scenes from next week and more “best of the bus”. Both H and I catch a glimpse of some blonds guy that is “back again this year”. I shout “lives in his car!!!” while H “screams “single Dad!!!”. ….Ryan implores us to come back next week to see all of the action. “F. Yeah I’ll come back.”

American Idol Season 14, Episode 2: Somebody please explain the Bus to me (Hollie’s take)

For Will’s take, click here


American Idol started off with what we in the corporate world refer to as a competitive analysis, hitting The Voice right in Adam Levine’s surely waxed nuts. You see, American Idol is the only show to give us bona fide stars (cut to Clarkson, Underwood, ignore Hicks, Dewyze). And it’s MORE than just raw talent. The judges are looking for the ‘whole package’ — which means ‘if you are good looking, you just might get a pass,’ based on the fact that right before anyone so-so got sent to Hollywood, we cut to a judge talking about some “star quality” je ne sais quoi, and in walks some hot guy with a guitar.

Season 13 aficionados had a shocking flash back off the bat, with an even MORE annoying version of Alabama country Dexter singing Signed Sealed Delivered.  Harry called him out for being ‘goofy’—which is a far nicer adjective than I used playing at home. Good God, he got a ticket. I’m going with my gut that America will find him annoying as well.

We continued to be delightfully underwhelmed, yet we saw lots of montages showing kids with golden tickets whose performances we never saw. I always feel bad for those kids, who I’m sure told their entire senior class at Indian Hills High School and coworkers at Espresso Yourself Café and every distant relative on Facebook that “I will be on American Idol tonight. “ Surely if Ryan Fn Seacrest filmed a whole segment riding you around in a rickshaw while you proudly displayed your golden ticket, you will have a whole feature on the TWO HOUR show. Nope, that rickshaw was just a nice photo op and something to do with an increasingly irrelevant Seacrest (I can say this because I see how I am becoming the irrelevant old lady at work, myself).

Tonight we got our first Single Mom of the season. She trotted in her cute kid and after some home footage of going into the refrigerator, I could tell the judges wanted the mom to be good, as did me and Will. My husband also said, “wow, she’s pretty” about 8 times during this segment, giving a big clue as to why this girl got knocked up at 18.

There were some 15 year olds that looked like 24 year olds, mercifully only one Go Pro, and a great montage with VOs claiming, “My hopes and dreams hinge on a life in music,” and “This is the only life I see for myself.”  This right here explains why 15 years into my career, I’m still making my own spreadsheets, filing out my own expenses and running to Staples to make more labels… all the people who should be doing this shit in any company across the United States is “not going to give up on my dream.”  Kids, learn Powerpoint, Salesforce and Marketo, and you can make a good steady salary with benefits, we’re hiring.

And then, the clouds opened up in the heavens, and out came a blind guy.  One of the highlights of my and Will’s American Idol journey was the season when the blind guy made the top 10. Watching the amazingly cheesy AI choreographers work around that poor kid in the so-awful-it’s-amazing group numbers was really something we looked forward to every week. This guy Garret is not only blind, but he is so friggin cool, really good… and the cherry on top is he comes with a super proud Dad that makes me cry just looking at him.  I’m all in.

I’d be remiss not to mention the American Idol brainteaser posed to us at the end of a commercial break. I feel for the people who have to put this together, as I think that I have the equivalent of their job. Guys, we need you to come up with something engaging to keep the viewers attention until we come back from break. Keep it light, and dumb it down to the least common denominator. GO.  Uh, how about “How many of Keith’s sexy t-shirts are on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame?” I do have to admit that Will and I actually debated it during the DVR FF.  SPOILER ALERT:  ONE.

We see a couple guys from last year who I actually recognize, Alex Sheir and Savion Wright or something like that.  In their “last year” package, they look all sorts of different, and the judges notice.  I’m frankly shocked every time this “year on year change” happens. I was looking back at college pictures from 1997, and really the only difference between then and now is about 10 pounds and sometimes I wear a necklace. How do people change ‘looks’ like this?!

We see an interesting guy who’s totally OCD and good… but with that face paint, you are not going to win over the “Ladies from Accounts Receivable” vote, kid!  And living with a neurotic person myself, I’m very concerned for his poor roommate at the Ramada Inn West Hollywood. And then this manufactured poor child who talks about her stage name “Lovey” who has some “original content out there” [cut to clip of her really poor man’s britney spears music video, which must be blowing up right now]. I’m shocked and appalled that 1) the judges put her through; 2) that if she has gone through the trouble and expense of hiring some predatory ‘manager’ who gifted her this nickname, she doesn’t have a fake story to make the name seem genuine and announces it as her Stage Name; 3) that she has some creeping predatory manager who probably paid for her bus ticket to Nashville in exchange for owning the name Lovey.

They talk about the American Idol Bus again, and I still don’t understand. Do people win automatic auditions? Do they get their plane ticket paid for? Do they go ON the bus?  I don’t understand, I don’t understand.

Anywho, props to Keith for the “What a Cluster” t-shirt, which I need to queue up for Casual Friday. And HARRY YOU ARE STILL DREAMY, so funny, so handsome, swoon. #myhusbandsahater

Yes Ryan, I will tune in again next week, I friggin love this shit.