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‘Idol’ goes to Salt Lake City

Last night’s “American Idol” found us surrounded by so many politely bland, “golly gee willikers” youngsters that it initially wasn’t clear where we were trapped (uh, I mean “visiting”): in a rerun of “The Donna Reed Show” or in the city that spawned David Archuleta.  Because the episode aired in color, though (mainly blonde, blue-eyed color), it became obvious that we could only be in Salt Lake City, home to everyone’s favorite Monchichi.  While one would think that chasing after fame would be a big no-no in the Book of Mormon, that did not stop the city’s youth from coming out in droves to be the next Kelly Clarkson, or, better yet, the next Osmond.
Speaking of Osmonds, the show started off with a bang – or, rather, a “Hallelujah!” – with the audition of David Osmond, son to Alan and nephew to Donny and Marie.  His choice of the Take 6 (that’s the “Christian Boyz II Men” for you secular folk) song “Something Within Me” did not exactly stir the judges’ souls but there was no denying that there’s a voice there.  While Simon’s concern was Osmond not being contemporary enough, the bigger concern should be whether he will be the victim of backlash, a la Joanna Pacitti, due to the fact that he’s already toured nationally in the title role of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a part he took over from Uncle Donny.  Osmond, whom MS confined to a wheelchair not long ago, should fare well in the weeks to come. He’s got a voice, an Osmond name and good looks.  Add to that the fact that he has a very Hollywood Week-friendly inspirational story and – can I get an “Amen?” – you may just have yourself an American Idol.
Tara Mathews, the flame-haired goth, did not foresee her “Idol” fate, despite apparently having ESP.  While some may scoff at the idea of an intuitive not being able to envision her own future, anyone who’s ever seen world-famous psychic Sylvia Browne on “The Montel Williams Show” knows that you simply can’t have ESP about yourself. Ya just can’t.  While the show’s promos made a big deal about finding “the only goth in Salt Lake City,” it is doubtful that it is that rare.  After all, Stephenie Meyer, the authoress of “Twilight,” (which is kind of like “Sweet Valley High” with monsters….and abstinence) is a Mormon. And, hey, what could be more goth than vampires?  Both Mathews’ outfit and singing were memorable….but for all the wrong reasons.  Yes, she had the same Ronald McDonald dye job that Nicole Kidman sported in “Moulin Rouge” and she sang a song from the same movie; however, her ESP failed to inform her that hair would not be enough.  The judges’ apologies did not seem to quell her rage at being rejected.  As she left the audition location she chanted, “Burn in hell! Burn in hell!” whilst holding up her middle finger. Classy.
When Chris Kirkham walked into the room perhaps you thought you were having acid flashbacks or maybe you had eaten some rancid Cadbury Eggs.  Let me assure you: You did, in fact, see a large, bearded, spectacled man dressed in a pink bunny suit accompanying him.  Even stranger, Kirkham carried with him a “Simon on a Stick” which matched the “Simon on his Shirt.”  By the way, this “Simon” looked more like a clean-cut, overly-caffeinated Sly Stallone sporting a brand-new brow lift.  Neither the “Simons,” nor his bunny friend or even his mediocre singing were enough to advance Kirkham to Hollywood but, man, did it make for good TV. 
While young mother Frankie Johnson had a good look and a good voice, she lacked one of the most important “Idol” traits: humility.  While you don’t want to err on the side of false modesty (see “Melinda Doolittle, Season 6”), it is important to show some grace.  Saying things like, “I’m pretty sure I’m gonna go through, not to be all overly confident,” makes you sound – well – “overconfident.” It would be nice to hear Johnson do another non-Amy Winehouse song, perhaps one that makes it harder to do a Winehouse impression, which was clearly what Johnson was going for.  Take a tip from the humble “Idol” winners of the past: Cocky does not endear, dear.
Twenty-three-year-old divorcee and single mother Megan Corkrey seemed to be a walking contradiction.  She was adorably fresh-faced yet had a full sleeve of tattoos on her right arm (in Utah, no less!).  One would expect her to sing something a little funky, yet she surprised everyone with a rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from “Show Boat.”  Her voice seemed to be from a different era and one could easily picture her crooning in an MGM backlot (minus the tattoos) back in the day.  The question is, while she’s original, can her style translate into something that contemporary audiences would like to hear on Top 40 radio? 
Austin Sisneros, senior class president and planner of all things Homecoming, which is, apparently, “a huge deal,” didn’t impress so much with his pleasant voice or his nondescript good looks, but rather with his odd song selections.  In serenading the judges with Train’s “When I Look to the Sky” and Raffi’s “It Takes a Village,” he joined the faction of Salt Lake citizens who chose to sing what had to be either hymns or songs they learned around the campfire at a youth retreat.  Whatever it was, it got him a Golden Ticket.
Sixteen-year-old Taylor Vaifanua’s parents must be letting out a sigh of relief.  Apparently they recognized her talent and love of music and moved back to Utah from Samoa so that the kids could “get noticed.”  No pressure, guys, but Mom really needs a new car.  Taylor, I know you’re 5’11” and you already feel awkward enough but why don’t you go try out for “American Idol” and hopefully Simon’s criticism won’t shatter your already-fragile adolescent ego?  Luckily for everyone involved, the judges were impressed with Taylor’s song (yet another hymn- yawn), with Randy even comparing her to Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks. 
The show ended with Rose Flack, aka “Rastafarian Barbie.”  Her voice wasn’t strong but her story of losing both parents within 2 years of each other was tragic enough to make great Hollywood Week material.  While Randy neglected to mention that it was “a little pitchy, dawg,” Paula, of all people, stepped up to the plate to advise Flack that she’s “gotta work on vocals.”   Simon, again a sucker for a pretty face, told her that she had “something special” about her and even gave her the compliment that she was one of the few he’d actually remember (something he also told Megan Corkrey). Randy commented that she had a cool “vibe,” which I think is “dawg-talk” for “dreadlocks,” and she did, in fact, receive her Golden Ticket.  A word to the wise, though, sweetie: Perhaps the streets of Salt Lake City are clean as a whistle, but once you get here to Hollywood, I would consider putting some shoes on your feet. 
Overall, going to Salt Lake City was definitely a cultural experience.  The emotions played out the same as anywhere else, with the exception of most of the “not ready for Hollywood” performers swallowing their rejection with a smile and a polite “thank you,” rather than a curse word and a lewd hand gesture. It is doubtful that tomorrow night’s trips to Puerto Rico and New York will play out as genteelly. Salt Lake had an interesting and diverse talent pool, although the performance of spiritual songs became redundant, as did the “more than usual” amount of friends waiting outside the audition room door.  Or were they siblings? It’s hard to tell in Mormon country.