We wrapped up the initial audition process in Oklahoma City, which of course included a huge group sing to the title song from the musical. Blessedly the show was only an hour so I'll try to touch on most of the featured contestants. Interesting to note that the theme of the evening seemed to be people who started off as jokes, but then somehow turned awesome.
Karl Skinner, 26, from Joplin, MO, is a fool. He started out singing James Brown and being a giant dork, dancing all over the stage and shouting like an idiot. But when the judges prodded him to pick up his guitar and sing an original song he was actually pretty good. Nicki Minaj said that when Karl grab the guitar it stifles the "monster" inside of him. Is Nicki suggesting that Karl is possessed? I could buy that. Randy Jackson suggested that Karl become the new Ryan Seacrest. Honestly, I'd like basically anyone to be the new Ryan Seacrest, because the current model is TIRED. Anyway, Karl got four yesses, which is ridiculous.
Nate Tao, 24, is a sign-language teacher from Reston, Virginia. Both of Nate's parents are deaf, which led to his career in ASL. He went with Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life." I was unsure of Nate at the beginning of his audition, but he got better as it went on, and his upper register is really strong. A very clean, clear tone, and he seems like a nice guy. Good audition, four yesses.
HalieHilburn came in with Oscar, her dog puppet, through whom she "speaks." I was really torn on her. Halie can actually sing - she's a country girl -- and she's a really good yodeler. Seriously! But the puppet thing was so corny. I feel like if she had just come out and performed by herself, like a normal person, she would have made it through alone. And in fact, when she put Oscar down and sang another ballad it was warm and wonderful. She needs to work on her upper register, but she's got talent. The judges told her that Oscar was holding her back, but they liked Halie. She got sent through, but Oscar was left to beg on the streets for change. Side note: why does Oscar have absolutely no eyes? Why deliberately make a puppet blind?
Oh my lord, Zoanette Johnson. ZOANETTE! Zoanette looks like one of the cast-off members of Destiny's Child who has been hanging out at McDonald's, in the same outfits they wore in "Bugaboo," waiting for the group to get back together. Zoanette has five different voices all fighting to get out of her. As she sang the "Star Spangled Banner" - which she forgot the lyrics to at one point - it looked as though a ghost walked through her, or possibly that she was passing a kidney stone. She hit some incredibly high notes, one of which caused Keith Urban to fall out of his chair. Zoanette brought it to church! And then she wrapped up the National Anthem by dropping it like it was hot and stepping. And she got very upset that President Obama has not yet invited her to the White House - he needs to hold another BBQ. She got four yesses! Nicki Minaj: "Thank you for being a superstar!" Yes! Thank you, Zoanette!
Kayden Stephenson, 16, from Tulsa has Cystic Fibrosis, and a life expectancy of 35 years old. Absolutely tragic.Kayden seems like a really sweet, bright kid. He did "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder, and Kayden has a small, sweet voice. Nicki compared it to young Michael Jackson, which is apt. Kayden is a real charmer. If I'm being honest, he is nowhere near vocally ready for this competition, and my fear is that Kayden is going to get continually pushed through because of his story, and because of his sparkle and charm. But I can't really mind it just yet.
Finally we had PeppaLaBeija, from the House of LaBeija. This was all a ruse; it was Steven Tyler -- Aerosmith legend and former judge of this very show -- in drag. I have a few notes. No. 1, Tyler knows his drag, because the LaBeija family is drag royalty. Go watch "Paris is Burning." You'll thank me later. Second, this makes me feel better about the song "Dude Looks Like a Lady," which I always felt was kind of homophobic. Maybe Steven was talking about himself. Third, Tyler actually makes a pretty convincing lady of a certain age. And fourth, I actually miss him this season. Steven was great in the initial audition part of the competition. He just became useless in the live shows. While I'm liking Nicki, Keith and Mariah are dull as dishwater so far.
Next HOLLYWOOD! YES! Bring on the tears!