"American Idol's" New Orleans audition show started off almost as sensationally as the season premiere, with a tearful contestant sitting at a piano singing Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” before breaking into full-fledged sobs and storming off. Perhaps the “Big Easy” wasn’t going to go that easily after all.
Not to worry, though, the rest of the show Thursday continued on much like the night before. Well, mostly. One glaring change was the lack of lawsuit-worthy remarks from Steven Tyler. In Jersey, we were treated to a full mini-montage of his lascivious comments but Thursday night’s airing showcased things like (scoff!) actual singing.
In their place were insinuations that Tyler could be the unknowing father to any contestant who walked in with those telling trout lips. Tyler insisted that his doppelganger Gabriel Franks had the mouth of Mick Jagger but grilled bespectacled Sarah Sellers with “Where did you get those lips?”
Yet another lippy hopeful told the panel he'd won several Tyler lookalike contests -- though Steven insisted the guy looked more like Mick Jagger.
It seems that someone (Fox Legal?) may have asked the Demon to curb his salaciousness towards contestants. However, the allowance of a bleeped-out oral sex comment gives me hope that the sexual harassment was cut sheerly for time. It may be seedy but it sure makes for good television! Fingers crossed.
The judging panel continues to find its way in a post-Simon world. Tyler’s naturally outrageous personality is the ying to J Lo’s surprisingly demure yang. And Randy ... well, he showed up didn’t he? That deserves mad props, dawg.
True, as a group they are a little soft, but part of that is likely due to the current social climate. With issues like bullying and teen suicide permeating the news, family-friendly “Idol” has a responsibility to show some sensitivity. Though a few tone-deaf hopefuls always slip through the cracks there has been a welcome deficiency in William Hungs this time around.
Speaking of bullying, my favorite contestant last night was yet another 16-year-old, Brett Loewenstern. Describing himself as a “red apple in a pile of green apples,” this kid with the ginger ‘fro never got invited to birthday parties and was called names.
Looking like a gawky Ben Foster, he awkwardly greeted J. Lo with a tin-voiced “hola” before giving her goose bumps with a soulful “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He has the lame-to-fame quality of a Clay Aiken or Susan Boyle and is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Continuing the high school trend was 15-year-old Jacee Badeaux, who won Fox 44’s “Baton Rouge Idol” back in July. Badeaux is a chubby kid who looks like he’s 12. I shudder to think of what Simon would’ve said to him before hearing his lovely voice but this is a kinder, gentler “Idol,” remember?
The requisite sob story came in the form of Paris Tassin, a 23-year-old mother to a child with special needs. Pregnant at age 18, Tassin decided to keep her daughter even though she’d been diagnosed with complications. Her aching rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” produced a visceral reaction in me as well as J. Lo, who was no doubt thinking of her own twins. Lopez tried to fight off tears but eventually succumbed, fake lashes intact. It was one of the most moving auditions I recall seeing throughout the show’s history.
Ryan floating down the river with a Dixieland band gave the episode a sunshine and rainbows kind of capper, reminding us that “Idol” is about celebrating talent, not tearing people down.
Besides, British snark is sooo 2006.