“Idol” Goes to 7 Cities, but Offers 8 Audition Days

Fox devoted eight days to the “American Idol” audition round, but there were only seven cities on this year’s cross-country vacation for host Ryan Seacrest and the judges. That gave the show an extra hour to fill, which made Wednesday a clip show that focused mainly on singers who did well enough to make it to Hollywood.

Sixty more minutes of heartwarming tales and nervous-sounding voices … who could ask for anything more?

Fake it ‘til you make it
As part of the Hour of Filler, Ryan treated the audience to a montage of “the fake out,” the trick that some successful auditioners have of hiding their golden tickets as a joke played on family and friends. In addition to being mean, it’s a ploy older that Simon Cowell’s T-shirt collection. Season 10 contestants, be more creative next year! Try making origami swans out of the brightly colored paper instead!

He writes the songs that make the whole world sing
Dreams die hard, even when Simon attempts to crush them, so season nine has already seen its share of repeat contestants. Jessica Furney sang from the Janis Joplin songbook in her successful audition a year ago, but went after bigger game this year: a Simon Cowell tune.

Cowell co-wrote “Footprints in the Sand,” and while Furney sang it well enough to earn her return trip to Hollywood, it was most noticeable because Victoria Beckham was shocked and impressed that Simon had written a song. She should have known better. Anyone as gifted at clichés as Simon is a natural songwriter.

Another chance
Another familiar name for those who watched the show a season ago is Lacey Brown. She came as close as humanly possible to making the Top 24 last year, getting caught in the chair of despair and losing the last spot in the field to Megan Joy in Hollywood. She’ll hope that this season brings the joy of victory instead of the agony of defeat as she earned a second chance at Hollywood this year.

A very special episode of ...
Texas native Hope Johnson epitomizes what this stage of Idol is all about — a touching backstory suitable for made-for-TV-movies. Talking about the poverty of her youth, she told the cameras, “I didn’t know we were poor when I was little. I thought a lot of kids didn’t eat dinner. … I used to take food from my lunch tray. … I would give my brother my food from my lunch. I figured there was always tomorrow, and things were going to be better. Music was my escape.”

She should call Katy Perry when in Hollywood to discuss her potential for a Lifetime movie deal, or at least a role in the next remake of “Annie.”

Stephanie Fisher has auditioned for “American Idol” seven times already at age 23, so assuming she went one time each year, she’s five years away from setting the unbreakable record for futility. She got rejected again this year, though at least she got to meet one of her heroes. “I’m so excited for Victoria Beckham. She’s my Idol. She’s the most beautiful creature I have ever seen,” Fisher said, showing the lack of good judgment that has kept her singing dream alive this long.

The next Ruben?
Michael Lynche was a favorite of the women, as Kara DioGuardi and guest judge Kristin Chenoweth were giggling like schoolgirls during his audition. “Kind of like a singing teddy bear,” Kara noted afterward. That could be both good and bad news for Lynche. While “The Velvet Teddy Bear” Ruben Studdard did win the competition in season two, he isn’t thought of as one of the more successful champs.

Gentle rejection
Adrian Chandichi looks like a basketball player, but the 6-foot-8 high-school student is a swimmer and a wannabe singer who says things like, “I am a beautiful man-flower. I will blossom.” He didn’t sing very well, but anyone cringing at the expectation that the judges would embarrass him had nothing to fear. They were relatively kind when they shot him down.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.

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