Judging American Idol: The Journey Begins (And Ends) in Hollywood

Auditions are over for Season 10; the competition is just beginning...
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At long last! American Idol’s Hollywood Week AKA Hell Week is here. This is where contestants cash in their golden tickets for one chance at advancing in the competition. The show is handling this the same as in years past: contestants come out in lines of 10 and each one gets one shot to impress the judges. Ryan Seacrest called it Sudden Death, you’re in or out and get no feedback from judges. After all 10 hopefuls have gone and judges deliberate, they ask contestants to step forward or not, then dismiss the front or back row. I cannot imagine how nerve-wracking that is. Tonight it was pretty obvious by who got called forward which row was being dismissed.

First up we get quirky, frizzy-headed ginger Brett Loewenstern who revealed in his New Orleans audition he’s been picked on since the third grade. He’s nervous to start but but belts out a clip of The Beatles’ “Let it be” and even though judges can’t give feedback, it’s evident they’re pretty pleased with him and Brett is part of the group that is going on.

We also learn Rachel Zevita from NJ auditions moves on, as well as 15 year-old Thia Meghia who auditioned in Milwaukee. Casey Abrams, the Seth Rogen doppelganger makes it through as well. Casey tells us he was hugging people left and right who he didn’t even know because they were crying. This bit of news pleases my inner-hippie.

Next AI decides to package two sad stories together; we get James Durbin from last night’s San Francisco audition who suffers from Asperger’s and Tourette’s and Paris Tassin, the single mother to a special-needs child who auditioned in New Orleans. Paris tackled Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and it had shaky spots but she clearly has a natural, unhoned talent. James makes Steven Tyler say ‘DAMN!” So much for no feedback and being impartial.

Our next groups include Lauren Alaina, the girl who held fundraisers for her sick cousin when she was only 12,  Stormi Henley, the cute former Miss Teen USA winner who JLo thought had “the smallest voice we’ve seen so far!,” and Chris Medina. You’ll remember Chris as the first truly heartbreaking story of this season (his fiancé Julie is wheelchair-bound after an accident). Steven further melts my heart when he asks about Julie as soon as he sees Chris. It seems genuine, anyway. Lauren and Chris make it on and an unsurprised Stormi accepts her fate with grace.  Jacee Badeaux, my new David Archuletta from New Orleans auditions, nails his song while Robbbie Rosen and Hollie Cavanagh both greatly improve on their auditions and survive this round.

Exes Rob Bolin and Chelsea Oaks, who auditioned together and separately in Nashville, both move on as well. The same cannot be said for the so-in-love-they-frolic couple, Nick Fink and Jacqueline Dunford- who incidentally roomed with the exes (funny stuff Idol!). Judging from the previews, we deduce it was Nick who is left behind. After seeing them perform, I really figured they both would get sent home and AI was once again messing with us. Nick not only botches his one shot he sings, no shouts, “But I’m wearin’ my brand new suuuuuuit!” as he’s walking down the aisle, then gets snippy with Ryan on his way out of the room. Keepin’ it classy, Nick.

Tiffany Rios, who decided wearing big silver stars on her bikini top for her audition in New Jersey was a good idea, made it through somehow. She sang worse than in her original audition and even declared, “I’m tired of seeing people trying to do what I know I can.” What is that, over-sing, badly? JLo says, “I like her, she’s crazy” and Tiffany lives to see another Idol day.

While many of their competition is trying to show their stuff with a song different from their audition Scotty McCreery (my fave from Milwaukee auditions), Jackie Wilson, and Jerome Bell take a gamble by recycling their original audition songs. It proves to be a sound move and all three are safe. As the show concludes we learn that Stefano Langone, Julie Zorrilla, and Emily Anne Reed from San Francisco’s auditions make it through as well. 

No major surprises tonight but by the looks of next week’s previews, nerves and emotions run high as we see a few early favorites breaking down in different scenes. I’m a little worried about the future of a few of my own favorites, which is exactly what American Idol was shooting for.