The American Idol audition tour is winding down this week with stops in San Antonio, Long Beach California, and Oklahoma City. This will be the last chance for contestants to earn their “Hollywood Golden Tickets” before heading ot Hollywood. Tonight’s show saw a surprise appearance by former judge Steven Tyler.
The last time American Idol visited San Antonio was in 2006. Surprisingly enough, San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas and popular attractions in this beautiful city include the Alamo and the River Walk. But we are not here to sightsee, we are here to find the next American Idol, so let’s move on to the auditions.
SAN ANTONIO AUDITIONS
Vincent Powell is another returning contestant. You might remember him. He made it all the way to Hollywood week last year but failed to make the cut. With another year of experience under his belt he is back to give it one more try. Vincent immediately gets the show off on the right track with a cool and jazzy version of “Rock Me Baby”, by B.B. King. The judges loved it and so did I. Nicki said, “Clearly your voice is amazing.” In a unanimous vote by the judges, Vincent is headed back to Hollywood.
Savannah Votion is a 24 year old single mother from San Antonio, Texas with a beautiful 5 year old daughter. Entering the room she immediately tells the judges she is the next, “American Idol.” While we have heard this proclamation a million times before, with her confidence you almost believed it. Backing up her announcement, Savannah sings a terrific version of the Etta James classic, “At Last”, and the judges are all impressed. Randy says, “You seem like a real natural performer”, and Keith continues the praise with, “You have life in your voice and it reflects the highs and lows of your life.” Nicki counts off 1, 2, 3 and in unison the judges send Savannah to Hollywood. She better find a good babysitter because I think she is going to be there for a while.
Cristabel Clack is a married 29 year old Worship Leader from San Antonio, Texas with three children. Being 29, this is her last chance to try out for American Idol and despite the pressure she delivers. She sings a strong version of “If I Ain’t Got You”, by Alicia Keys and the judges loved it. She has a strong raspy type voice and sings with a lot of soul. Mariah said, “It is obvious that you are a real singer.” Randy Jackson leads a second chorus of 1, 2, 3 and with four yes’s Cristabel is headed to Hollywood.
Ann DiFani is a graduate student at the University of Arkansas. The 23 year old county singer was a former Miss University of Arkansas. Her husband, Jordan nominated her for the show so Randy travelled to an Arkansas football game to deliver the invitation to audition in San Antonio. Showing personality and poise, Ann sings a good version of the Faith Hill hit, “Stronger.” She loves country music and it shows. Mariah Carey liked that she didn’t have any nerves and felt right at home auditioning. Nicki thought it was “kinda cute that your husband nominated you, and he believes in you”. In a unanimous vote she was off to Hollywood. With her good looks, voice, and personality she could be the total package and could go far in Hollywood.
Victoria Acosta is a 20 year old a Mariachi singer from San Antonio, Texas. She has been singing Mariachi songs since she is 6 years old and is a beautiful girl with a big voice. Victoria sings an average version of Fergie’s, “Big Girls Don’t Cry’, and the judges don’t get it and either do I. Looking for something more, the judges ask her to sing a Mariachi song and the performance is like night and day. You can feel the emotion and the passion in her voice. In a unanimous vote Victoria is headed to Hollywood. She can go a long way in this contest if she can bring that same passion to all of her performances.
Papa Peachezs is a 19 year old singer born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. Introducing himself to the judges Papa said, “I am not just a cute little white boy, I am much more than that, I am a big black woman trapped in a little boys body.” This guy is definitely interesting!!! He goes on to sing an unusual but entertaining version of a song that he wrote himself. Nicki is immediately sold on his talent and proclaims him a superstar. Unfortunately both Randy and Keith don’t see it and they vote no. It is up to Mariah to keep him in the contest and she gives Papa a weak yes. We are now tied two and two. Randy has the tiebreaking vote and after much pleading and begging by Nicki, Randy changes his vote to a yes and Papa is on his way to Hollywood. I don’t know how far he will go but I guarantee that watching him will be interesting.
Sanni M’Mairura is a 16 year old singer and dancer from Pearland,Texas. His mom is from Tanzania and his dad is from Kenya. This kid is so talented he even speaks Swahili. His performance of Michael Jackson’s , “Whose Loving You”, was exceptional. Randy, “Loved that you weren’t trying to sound like Michael Jackson and you made the song your own”. The other judges agreed and in a unanimous vote this young 16 year old is headed for Hollywood.
Adam Sanders a 19 year old R&B singer was the last audition of the day and he was worth the wait. Adam sang a terrific version of “I Would Rather Go Blind”, by Etta James and the judges rewarded his efforts with a standing ovation. He was clearly the best audition of the day and without any comments the judges immediately rewarded his performance with a “Hollywood Golden Ticket.”
LONG BEACH AUDITIONS
The next stop is Long Beach, California. Today’s auditions will be held on at the historic Queen Mary hotel and museum. Mariah Carey is caught in traffic and Nicki has a prior engagement so today’s auditions will start with just two judges.
Shuba Vedula a 17 year old student from Mt Pleasant, Michigan kicks off the show with a good version of Christina Aguilera’s, “Something’s Got a Hold On Me”. She is a thin girl with a surprisingly big voice. The judges both recognize her talent and without any fanfare Randy and Keith give her two votes for Hollywood.
Matt Farmer is up next and Mariah Carey arrives just in time to make it a judging trio. Joking she said, “If you want a diva, you got to pay the price”. Matt is a military veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury while serving overseas in Iraq. The medicine he was taking was supposed to make him sterile, but in a minor miracle he has a daughter who he brings to the audition. Matt sings a strong version of “A Change is Gonna Come”, by Sam Cooke and the judges all like it. Randy says, “I like your voice you have strong pipes”. Mariah says “You definitely have strong pipes and I loved the heartfelt moments.” In a unanimous vote Matt is going to Hollywood.
Jesaiah Baer a 16 year old student from Hollister, California sings a different but entertaining version of “Settle Down”, by Kimbra. Halfway through the audition the fire alarms go off and they have to leave the ship. After a short delay they try again and she replicates the magic. The judges all love her, including Nicki who has returned, and in a unanimous vote they send her off to Hollywood.
Micah Johnson from Morrow, Georgia was of my favorite auditions of the year. Micah suffered accidental nerve damage during a tonsillectomy procedure leaving him with a lisp that requires ongoing speech therapy. Expecting the worst, Micah belts out a compelling version of “Chicken Fried”, by the Zac Brown Band. The judges are stunned and so am I. While he has trouble talking, when he sings it is absolutely heaven. Keith tells him to keep singing and before you know it he has four yes votes and a “Hollywood Golden Ticket”.
Rachel Hale a young country girl from Arkansas sings an amazing version of Curtis Mayfield’s, “People Get Ready.” The judges loved her performance. Keith thought she sounded a little like Wynonna Judd and Randy said, “She had to be the happiest contestant we have ever seen.” After four yes votes from the judges she was really happy. I liked her and with the recent success that country singers have had on American Idol she could be worth watching.
Briana Oakley is a 16 year old student from Antioch, California. After winning a talent contest Briana was a target for severe bullying. It got so bad that in order to escape the bullying she had to eat lunch in the bathroom or in the teacher’s lounge. When the bullying continued she was finally forced to transfer to another school. In an emotion filled audition Briana sings a beautiful version of “Up to the Mountain”, by Patty Griffin. The judges love her and so do I. She sings with passion and with a great smile. She will definitely be a fan favorite in Hollywood and hopefully even further.
Matheus Fernandes is a 21 year old Computer salesman from Atlanta, Georgia. Due to his size, Matheus was also the subject of bullying when he grew up. He stands a diminutive 4 foot 9 inches tall, but fortunately for him he has a great personality and a big voice. He sings, “A Change is Gonna Come”, by Sam Cook and the judges are impressed. It is an emotional audition with a happy ending. In a unanimous vote he is off to Hollywood to pursue his dream. His trip to Hollywood will be very short one. He recently moved to Los Angeles so it will just be a short drive across town to pursue his dream.
At the end of the day 49 Long Beach contestants earned “Hollywood Golden Tickets.”
OKLAHOMA CITY AUDITIONS
The last stop on the American Idol audition road show is Oklahoma City. This is American Idol’s first trip to Oklahoma and with a turnout of over 9000 contestants, the judges will have their work cut out for them. The Auditions are being held in the U.S. Olympic Rowing facility. Despite awarding 44 “Hollywood Golden Tickets”, in Oklahoma City there were really only five contestants featured on the show that got “Golden Tickets”.
Two of the five, Karl Skinner and Zoanette Johnson, were so bad that it is an embarrassment that the judges sent them through to Hollywood. While both of these contestants were interesting and unique they don’t belong in this singing contest or any other singing contest.
Nate Tao is a 24 year old Sign Language Teacher from Weston, Virginia. While both of his parents are deaf Nate isn’t. He sings an OK version “For Once In My Life”, by Stevie Wonder. While his story is interesting, I thought his singing was just average and there were pitch problems throughout the audition. Fortunately for Nate the judges disagree and in a unanimous vote he was off to Hollywood. I have a feeling this is going to be a short trip.
Haley Hilbert is a 17 year old singer and ventriloquist from Texas. She has been singing and performing since she was 9 years old. She enters the audition with a hand puppet (Oscar) and performs a duet of sorts with her and the hand puppet. She sings “I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart”, by Patsy Montana that includes some serious yodeling. While the song was entertaining, the judges aren’t sure about her and ask her to ditch the dummy and sing a second song. She sings a good version of Gavin Degraw’s, “More Than Anyone.” The judges send her to Hollywood but tell her she needs to sever her ties with “Oscar the Hand Puppet”, to continue her career. At the end of the audition you see Oscar begging on the street and ending up in a dumpster his legs dangling on the side. It’s a sad ending for “Oscar The Hand Puppet.”
Kayden Stephenson is the final audition and keeping with American Idol tradition it is an emotional heartfelt story. Kayden is a young 16 year old boy that looks like he is 12 years old. Kayden suffers from Cystic Fibrosis and his life expectancy is 35 years old. He was diagnosed at 18 months. He never takes a day for granted and he tries to be the best that he can be. I don’t care if he can sing or not the judges better send this kid to Hollywood. Kayden doesn’t disappoint. He sings a beautiful soft version of “I Wish”, by Stevie Wonder. His performance is captivating. His voice reminds me of a young Michael Jackson. The judges are inspired and in a unanimous vote Kayden gets the last “Hollywood Golden Ticket.” It’s an emotional audition and when Kayden says “It’s the best day of my life”, you believe him. I don’t know how far he can go but for today he was the “Next American Idol”.
WAIT! Just when you thought it was over there is one last contestant. No wait, it isn’t a contestant it is Steven Tyler dressed in drag!!! Calling himself Pepper LaBeija, Tyler comes in wearing a blond wig, a miniskirt, and fake breasts that honk when you squeeze them. Despite his pathetic attempt to conceal his identity, the judges quickly realize that it is Steven Tyler and Mariah says, “The dude looks like a lady”, which happen to be the song title to one of his most famous songs. Tyler just wanted to come back and say hello and wish the judges well in the new season. Tyler gives us a fitting end to the audition season and it’s on to Hollywood.
AMERICAN IDOL ODDS AND ENDS
• The last time American Idol was in San Antonio was in 2006.
• Kelly Clarkson was the top earning American Idol in 2012 making over $8 million dollars.
• American Idol alumni continue to top the charts. Kelly Clarkson has a new #1 single with, “Catch My Breath.” American Idols have now accumulated 374 #1’s to date, counting all national and domestic charts compiled by the Billboard Information Group.
• Only forty contestants will move on from Hollywood to the next round. The American Idol “Top Forty” will consist of twenty guys and twenty girls.