Same show, different year? Not quite. While it’s too early to tell how some of the other changes (new wild-card round, longer Hollywood Week) will affect “American Idol,” it’s clear that the expert opinion of new judge Kara DioGuardi is a welcome addition (though, Paula may not agree). It is refreshing to see another female on the panel and even more refreshing to see one with some actual pop culture relevance. It has been fascinating to see girl after girl, including last night’s Anne Marie Boskovich, declare their admiration for her. Each time someone tells DioGuardi how “amazing” she is, Abdul’s frozen smile stays, well – frozen (thanks, Botox!) But the deadening behind her eyes gives her away.
Much fuss has been made over Paula’s mental state and God bless her for dealing with “Suicide Stalker-Gate,” but as anyone who has ever watched an episode of Bravo’s “Hey, Paula!” can attest, it ain’t just talk, people. It has been a while since we’ve heard a contestant cite Abdul as her inspiration. A prime example of this frustration played out on last night’s show during Julissa Veloz’s audition. After Veloz (sporting a tiara, natch) attempted Whitney Houston, Paula was offended when Randy called a vote before she could offer her constructive criticism. Abdul stormed off the set after saying, “Well, I guess my opinion doesn’t matter. It’s so funny because now that there are four judges, sometimes we forget…” Her sentence trailed off and we are left to wonder what its end was. Sometimes we forget what, exactly? That “American Idol” total rejuvenated Abdul’s career? Kara tried to soothe her, most likely feeling like she’d overstepped her bounds as the new kid on the block, but Abdul abruptly walked out. Contestant Julissa Veloz begged her to come back, Abdul got her attention fix and everyone was happy, including Veloz, who received her Golden Ticket to Hollywood.
When “cute-in-an-annoying-sort-of-way” Sharon Wilbur walked in with her shih tzu, there were only two ways her audition could go. The presence of her tag-along would either make her seem desperate and gimmicky, or it would endear her to the judges and tip the scale just a little bit in her favor. Wilbur sounded like Jessica Simpson but with even less breath support. She warbled the word “baby” just like Britney, yet she didn’t have the dance moves to excuse it. That being said, she clearly knew her audience. It may surprise you to know that “meanie” Cowell has appeared in PSA’s for PETA. Additionally, it is common knowledge that Abdul is a dog-lover, too. Remember when she came to “Idol” with a broken nose after tripping over her dog, Tulip? Is that what the kids are calling it these days? The shih tzu won them over and sent an attractive girl with a dog and a questionable voice to Hollywood.
It must be said that Wilbur’s fate seemed to hinge on Cowell’s opinion. When she was done singing, there was a pause, as if the other judges were waiting for Cowell’s opinion before daring to speak their own. When Simon (never one to disappoint a pretty girl) said, “I’m gonna say yes,” it was eerily similar to his treatment of last week’s now-infamous “Bikini Girl.” As soon as he gave the word, the room erupted in squeals of adulation for Wilbur. DioGuardi was the exception. Once Abdul gave her approval, DioGuardi simply threw up her hands and said, “Paula said yes,” which could be code for “You’re going to Hollywood whether I think you deserve it or not.”
T.K. Hash, who failed to make it to Hollywood last year, finally earned his Golden Ticket this year by crooning an impressive run-infused version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Ironically, though, the judge’s main criticism was that when a song’s that good, it’s best to just sing the melody and words as written. Interesting. Didn’t the same judges (sans DioGuardi, of course) absolutely gush over David Archuleta’s version of that same song last year? And wasn’t it clear to every hardcore “Idol” fan that Hash’s audition was clearly Archuleta-inspired? Consistency, please, judges.
The standout from last night’s show was the aforementioned Boskovich, hailing from Nashville. The judges liked her but felt she was missing that “X-Factor” and asked her to leave and come back later with a new “star” attitude. Apparently getting a “star” attitude translates to “take off your jean jacket, change your shoes and put on some dark eyeliner.” There is something to be said, though, for making the judges think that you’re trying to employ their suggestions. With her All-American good looks and “aw, shucks” demeanor, she was a shoe-in before she opened her mouth. Boskovich is reminiscent of Carrie Underwood before she became the hottest ticket in country music. She lacked the belt of Underwood or Kelly Clarkson but her voice was powerful in a quiet way, as showcased by her audition song, “Bubbly.” She will make it through Hollywood Week.
While we won’t really know what to expect from the contestants until far past Hollywood Week, right now it’s all about the judges. As far as they’re concerned, you pretty much know what you’re getting when you tune in to “American Idol.” Simon is tight t-shirts and witty remarks. Paula is a roller coaster. Randy is the calming median between Ms. Crazy and Mr. Snarky. And Seacrest….Seacrest is….well, why is he there, anyway? Kara’s role has yet to be decided but she seems to offer a mixture of Randy’s musical know-how and Simon’s feistiness. Add a dash of Paula’s craziness and we’re all set.