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‘Idol’ Recap: John Wayne, Barbie & Ken … and Naughty, Naught Steven Tyler

What was missing? Nary a 15-year-old in sight, nor a really good sob story

The Austin auditions opened up with what sure seemed to be an tongue-in-cheek apology for Steven Tyler’s “outrageous behavior” last week. They couldn't have been too sorry, because it was immediately followed by a clip of the adorably incorrigible Tyler offering up words rhyming with contestant Jake Muck’s last name.

Inappropriate commentary from Tyler? Check.

Flawless hair and makeup on Lopez? Also covered.

So what was missing from the Austin round of auditions? Well, for one, there was nary a 15-year-old in sight. The last two weeks of auditions would have us believe that droves of young teens will soon descend on Hollywood, armed with Miley Cyrus sleeping bags and Proactiv Solution (a product coincidentally endorsed by Seacrest “girlfriend” Julianne Hough).

Perhaps Texan teens were too busy plotting cheerleader murders to show up?

There was also a welcome lack of sob story material this time around. Last week’s Chris Medina really took the cake with his refusal to leave his brain-damaged fiancée, but some fans were left reeling, citing exploitation of their emotions and Medina’s fiancée herself. While the Austin episode attempted to tug at our heartstrings, some of the sob stories were a bit of a reach.

Exhibit A: Although they lived 15 minutes apart, Golden Ticket recipient Corey Levoy didn’t come face-to-face with his sister Brooks until they were well into their teens. Now she is his biggest supporter. Heartwarming, yes, but not enough to induce tears of the Medina magnitude. How about the fact that Levoy, 21, was teased all of his life for his high-pitched speaking voice?

Thanks, but try again.

What about John Wayne Shulz, 23, who tried out for “Idol” at the request of his cancer-ridden mother? Put your hankies away. Thankfully, Mom is alive and well but his story certainly adds to his appeal. 

While not the best singer we’ve heard, Schulz (above) definitely earned his ticket by being the sum of all his parts. In a sea of hopefuls decked out in full cowboy regalia, Schulz was the real deal — a working cowboy. His voice on Brooks and Dunn’s “Believe” was pleasant enough, and his good looks didn’t hurt either. Add to that the backstory about his mother and you’ve got the whole package.

Besides, did you really think “Idol” could leave the great state of Texas without a Roy Rogers for the new millennium? 

On the flip side of the image debate was 17-year-old Hollie Cavanagh, originally from Liverpool, England. When introducing herself, her little British voice was so meek that it immediately called to mind Oliver asking for more gruel. What came out when she commenced with “At Last,” though, was the voice of a woman.

It was pitchy, yes. But not every teenager with talent has been trained in the art of stage presence or auditioning in front of bona fide superstars. Randy immediately gave her a no, stating that she wasn’t ready. This sent Cavanagh into sobs and an empathetic Lopez asked if she could collect herself to sing another song.

In a genius move, Cavanagh sung a situationally apropos version of “The Climb,” earning votes from Tyler and Lopez and even prompting Randy to change his vote to “yes.” 

The problem I have with this is that while Cavanagh definitely has some pitch and nerve problems, she has a stronger voice than, say, last week’s former Miss Teen USA Stormi Henley. Besides, her problems are nothing AutoTune can’t fix. 

Another hopeful on the younger side was Courtney Penry, 17. Proving that she’s as much of an actress as a singer, she did a mean chicken impersonation and even purported that she was sexually attracted to Seacrest. (Give this girl an Oscar!) 

Her performance of Sugarland’s “Stay” got a no from Randy, but Tyler thought she had star quality. Would that have anything to do with the fact that she mouthed “I love you” to him and blew him a kiss? Penry has a big personality but she may need to curb it, so as not to become as grating as Season 4’s Mikalah Gordon.

Jaqueline Dunford, 21, and boyfriend Nick Fink, 19, are giving last week’s exes Chelsea and Rob a run for their money and hope to become “Idol’s” first “power couple,” much like Oprah and Gayle. Endearing themselves to “Glee” fans everywhere, they met when they had a duet in choir.

They're like Barbie and Ken. Dunford is pretty in a Playboy kinda way and Fink’s voice calls to mind a showchoir version of Michael Buble. While they were cute auditioning together, time will tell how far they’ll make it when they compete individually.

This episode’s standout was, once again, the last audition of the day. Seth Rogan lookalike Casey Abrams, 19, said he’d been preparing for the show his entire life. He even brought along his Melodica, a kind of “wind piano,” claiming it would help keep him in tune and protect him from boredom.

Nerd alert! Was this guy for real?

Apparently so. As Abrams skillfully scatted his way through “I Don’t Need No Doctor” by Ray Charles, he once again proved that this is indeed the “unassuming season.”