Hollywood can be a cold, cruel place for those looking to make it in the singing business. The guest judges in the “American Idol” Los Angeles auditions did their best to give hopefuls a taste of the School of Hard Knocks early.
Singers Avril Lavigne and Katy Perry did the best job of any of the Paula Abdul replacements to channel their inner Simon Cowell and challenge the wannabes. Lavigne said no to a pastor with three cherubic youngsters who the other three judges loved. And Perry snapped, “This is not a Lifetime movie, sweetheart” to a young man with a perfectly pleasant voice and a touching backstory.
Though both guest judges may have been hot and cold, “Idol” wound up giving 23 yeses among the thousands of nos.
Movin’ on up
Andrew Garcia was one of the easy yes votes. The 23-year-old comes from a bad enough neighborhood that his parents spared no effort to move in order to avoid the influences of gangs and drugs. Now, he’ll be influenced by the likes of Simon and Ryan Seacrest in the next round instead. Compton might seem kinder by the end of Hollywood week.
Simon called him “the only person to walk through today who I genuinely believe is a good singer,” adding, “I think you’re a great guy and I’m very, very happy to say yes to you.”
Fox, not Lifetime
Chris Golightly had the backstory that ensured his advancement, as he not only has a nice voice, but he also grew up in a series of foster-care homes and made it clear that nothing good had ever happened to him. Perry, whose heart has been hardened into a cold lump of cynicism by her time in Hollywood, sniped that this was a singing competition and not a Lifetime Movie, but even she ultimately bowed to peer pressure and gave him a yes vote.
Losing his touch
Jason Greene had no chance of making it past this round, but his “I Touch Myself” performance was the most memorable of the night. After making all four judges say they felt dirty, Greene handed Ryan his phone number on the way out and said “Call me Ryan. Any time. I’m serious.”
Ryan responded, “Jason, as much as you may believe what you read, here’s the one you should be giving it to” as he handed it to somebody else. Well, that clears all of those rumors up!
She dissed a girl and she liked it
Poor Kara DioGuardi. She lost fellow female Paula from the judges stand, and until Ellen DeGeneres arrives, she’s the lone woman on the panel. She wants so desperately to find a friend among the guest judges, but none of the two Los Angeles selections were Kristin Chenoweth-esque in their willingness to join her Girl Power Troop. That was especially true of Katy Perry, who at one point threatened to throw her Coke in Kara’s face after one too many snide references to Perry’s songs. Guess Kara shouldn’t expect to get a songwriting credit on Perry’s next album.
Church of the Pop Singer
Jim Ranger seems like a guy who doesn’t need anything else to make his life complete, but the worship pastor with three cute kids still tried out for “American Idol” and was one of the best voices of the day. Still, Lavigne did not understand why Ranger was trying out, skeptical that someone with his commitments would be able to endure the travel and sacrifices that being on the show entailed. She voted no, wondering about his commitment to his church, but the other three put secular concerns before spiritual ones and sent him to the next round.
From scripture to singing
Ranger wasn’t the only singing pastor in town. Tasha Layton is a personal assistant by day, minister by night and now, “American Idol” contestant by … afternoon or something. Is anyone surprised that Los Angeles leads the nation in ministers who dream of a pop music career on the side?
I am telling you I’m not going
Neil Goldstein said he has an IQ of 168, pretty good for a data entry technician, and he boasted of having “the love to touch the soul of others.” Unfortunately, the Mensa mind didn’t come with a strong enough voice, though he did make an interesting case when he decided to stay anyway.
“I am not going anywhere! I’m sorry! Simon Cowell, there is no reality other than what we make for ourselves, and I am going to Hollywood,” he said. Unfortunately, on “Idol,” Simon is the only one who has that kind of pull, and Goldstein’s reality resulted in him being booted to the sidewalk.
Quote of the day
“Are these people frisked before they come in here?” — Katy Perry, after Austin Fullmer gave an audition that Simon described as being the work of “one disturbed young man, let me tell you.”
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.comcraigberman.