Even though they said that Denver was the last stop in American Idol‘s nationwide audition tour, they lied. Because tonight we’ll cram other noteworthy auditions that didn’t quite make it in the city-specific episodes over the last few weeks into tonight’s show. This episode was originally called “The Best of the Rest”, until the folks at Fox changed it to “The Road to Hollywood”. That makes tonight’s episode a little pointless, at least to me. Uhh, why do we have to do this again? Can’t we just go straight to Hollywood and Ellen DeGeneres?

American Idol: The Road to Hollywood, Live Thoughts

Well, we’re here anyway. And take comfort: this is the last audition show before Hollywood. One more hour of train wrecks (unless we believe the “we saved the best for last” line in last night’s tease), delusional contestants, and Ryan Seacrest being very patronizing about contestants who are either “survivors” or have “faced the odds”. And, yes, one more hour of auditioners who will hopefully blow our minds. And then, no more: we’re one step closer to the actual competition. Let’s just hope this hour is all worth it. I’ll be here for the next hour, and I’ll also be on Twitter, possibly ranting in between train wrecks. Let’s all answer my question together: do we actually need this episode?

I apologize for sounding so cynical. Watching weeks of audition episodes has that effect.

They’re really calling this a “last stop” before Hollywood, but this is more of a compilation. But I already said that. Anyway, we begin with a look back at Larry Platt, singing “Pants on the Ground”, and Ryan suggests it’s the only thing we remember from the auditions, going to show a lot of clips from homes, colleges and the world of politics. But I remember the other faces you showed earlier. Well, you showed Tasha but you didn’t show Maegan.

Jessica Furney

She did Joplin last season, and now she’s singing “Footprints in the Sand”, which was co-written by Simon Cowell. She does pretty fine, a bit ordinary for me, but she hits the big notes quite effortlessly. After Posh (we’re in Denver, by the way) gushes over Simon’s songwriting, she gives a yes, and with three more yeses, she gets an easy pass to Hollywood.

Commercial break already? With another train wreck? I sooo saw that coming.

Amanda Shectman

She starts by doing this Britney Spears impersonation. Then Ryan dares her to do Lil Wayne. She does grab attention, but I smell a silly shtick coming on. She wants her true voice to shine, and it does. Again, pretty ordinary on me, but her voice is perfect for ballads. Simon thinks she connects with him, while Posh (we’re in Boston now) and Kara think she should look at her gestures. Apparently this girl’s done theater. She looks flustered but there isn’t really a reason to do so. And then Simon starts acting out–what the heck?–which flustered Amanda even more. Four yeses, still. I’ll be honest: the judges annoyed me this time.

Lee Dewyze

He does “Ain’t No Sunshine” and hums as part of his instrumentation. I like him. Raspy and soft at the same time.

Crystal Bowersox

She’s on the list! She’s got a good voice but she’s dread-locked, not in a Jason Castro way. Not really a good first impression, methinks. She came in with a guitar but she can’t use it, of course. She did quite well. Both those names got four yeses.

And then Ryan starts talking about fake-outs. Shticks, instruments, and now fake-outs. I smell a lecture on the science of Idol auditions. Is this show over? Anyway, there’s this interesting fake-out with Simon bluntly telling an auditioner’s entourage that it’s over–and then dude comes out with a golden ticket. Harsh. Necessary.

Now, a lesson on repeat auditioners, and whether the judges remember them. One of them wears a disguise, knowing she’ll be remembered. One thing we learned: Simon’s forgetful. This is a Simon Cowell highlight reel!

Lacey Brown

We go to Orlando, and to Lacey, who was cut last year. (Yes, I remember her. She was cut at the same time my favorite Megan Joy made it!) She does “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and it’s no surprise why she went very far last season. A good tone of voice, sultry yet fun, and not very pretentious. Four yeses, of course.

Stephanie Fisher

It’s her seventh attempt. Lucky seven, she figures. And she’s doubly excited because Posh is the guest judge. She starts nicely and then comes off too strong. I think I lost her with her attempts to look sexy. Simon goes “terrible”. Stephanie gets a second chance, since she’s getting distracted by Posh, but Simon calls her “horrible” again. Posh gives her a hug and some fashion advice… and Stephanie leaves before the judges can say no.

Rachel Hubbard

New crop of talent! Again, she sounds ordinary to me… but she’s okay and a little bit more.

Thaddeus Johnson

Very soulful. He’s rocking it. Randy calls him the best 16-year-old he’s ever seen.

Genesis Moore

For a moment I thought I saw Beyonce. She does have chops. Kara applauds her vocals. And that concludes Ryan’s lesson on the 16-year-olds auditioning for the first time, but before the ads, a reminder of what’s ahead. A “man flower”. Go figure.

So far I’m thinking this episode is really pointless. All those unused footage from unused back stories…

Adrian Chandtchi

He’s 17. He’s tall. Six-foot-eight, in fact. But he’s a horrible jumper. He swims. He’s nicknamed “the big Kahuna”. He doesn’t want to be called that. He calls himself a “beautiful man flower”. He wants to prove that he can do it despite his height. Some back story. He sings Elvis’ “Can’t Help But Falling In Love With You”, and what comes out is just odd. You see, he’s got a really small voice, and he sings like a nervous six-year-old forced to sing during the holidays. He gets three nos, and he leaves, but not after saying, “you have my number, you can just call me.”

Not exactly a train wreck. Just… not right.

Michael Lynche

So this is the guy who was supposedly disqualified? He’s got bad ass arms. Now, I know some fans have this thing called “arm porn”… what about this one? Does this count? Anyway, his looks defy expectations: he’s got a very soulful voice, a bit like James Ingram or Peabo Bryson (I’m not sure if I have my comparisons correct, so forgive me). Kara calls him a “singing teddy bear”. He gets four yeses and, with it, a golden ticket .

Didi Benami

She’s auditioning in memory of her best friend Rebecca, who died four years ago. Okay. Emo sequence with Death Cab for Cutie in the background. I understand since they’re really close BFFs. She tries to battle her emotions, perhaps affected her song choice: “Hey Jude”, which she does in a slightly jazzy, more upbeat way. Obvious comparison: Megan Joy. That linger in her voice, only more marketable. I like her! I really like her! She starts crying after, overcome by her emotions–guess she’ll cry more when she gets four yeses. Sure, Simon’s yes wasn’t so certain, but it’s still a yes.

(Right now I’m saying, “please be in the top 12, please be in the top 12…”)

Ryan talks about “facing the odds” and I know I should stay away. But, alas, I can’t.

Aaron Kelly

Dad can’t keep a job, moved around to many places, social services threatened to take the family away, uncle eventually adopted them. Obviously, with this set-up, he gets it, right? He does “The Climb” and… I can’t really put my finger around it. It’s decent, reminds me of someone whose name is at the tip of my tongue, only mixed with cute-boy charms. They did see him as a cute 16-year-old. Four yeses later, I’m guessing he’ll be a bit of a David Archuleta.

Kimberly Bishop

“I’ll be the next pop singer because I have a really good heart,” she says. Imagine a goth girl doing stuff Madonna or Angelina Jolie do. She does “I Kissed A Girl” and I automatically see a Glee reference. Tina sang this song on her audition, too! Only this one was a bit awkward. There are the seductive gestures. That works. But she struggled with the song, a bit slurry, seemingly out of breath. She gets two nos and a yes–from Simon. And then she asks before leaving, “can I be excused?”

Shaddaii Harris

Another sob story: her mom came along. Mom says she saw a vision of her singing when she was still carrying her. She does an Alicia Keys song and… it sounds odd. After a bad start, she gets her bearings later, but it sounds pretty bad. Imagine the sound of you singing in the shower, surrounded by metal plates. No, it’s just bad. It’s just a no. Okay, it’s not a sob story. But what’s next is “a story of hope”. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Hope Johnson

It literally is the story of Hope. She didn’t know they were poor when she was young. She talks about bringing home food for her little brother, sneaked from her lunch trays in school. And then she cries. I try so hard not to be annoyed at this overplay. Well, she hopes people see her and say she’s a star. Could be: she’s got this soft, sweet voice, a bit like Colbie Caillat, breathy and cool. Also helps that she looks pretty: this 15-year-old’s got the complete package. Four yeses later, she freaks out. “This is ridiculous!” she blurts out.

Genius, producers: Snow Patrol’s “Just Say Yes” in the background!

And finally, one last look at the past three weeks. 181 people through to Hollywood, out of 100,000 or so.

What did you think, kids? Do we have a winner? Was this episode pointless, or did it help lots? Next week, we’re on to Hollywood, with Ellen DeGeneres taking on Paula Abdul‘s old seat for good, talking about dullness and leopards. And finally, the search for our Top 24 begins. Be patient, young ones. We’re getting there.

(Image courtesy of Fox)


Henrik Batallones

Staff Writer, BuddyTV