Ryan Seacrest stands in the centre of the stage at the Kodak Theatre in LA where eight months ago, Carrie Underwood was crowned the American Idol but he tells us that now, that position is once again available. Ryan talks about all those working in restaurants and the like around the country who have a dream to be the next American Idol and now we're about to find out who that person is going to be.
Chicago erupts with a stadium full of wishfuls chanting and clapping to "We will, we will, rock you" as Ryan tells us the number one show in the country is back looking for the next hot talent. Quick facts - Ryan tells us that there is still a lot of talent out there despite being on air for four years, of which more than a billion votes have been cast. For some it's the money. For others it's the chance to touch others' hearts. In any case, it's an integral part of American culture.
Ryan launches into telling us about some of the people we're going to see along the way and there are some fantastic voices in the first few minutes ranging from soul, to rock to crooning. From what we've heard in the first few seconds of this series, things are looking very promising.
However, Ryan reminds us that we'll need to kiss a few frogs in the process and that we're about to witness some of America's worst as well.
The weather was crap in the windy city as the thousands of hopefuls stand huddled under umbrellas waiting in the rain as they wait for the stadium to open.
First into see the judges is #2061, Derek Dupree, 25, from Chicago, IL who sings a medley of songs featuring Shout and Making Plans For Nigel (XTC) , which is just a very strange combination and very much the surprise Derek said it would be. The judges are polite and say wow but you know they're gonna give him a no. Simon says that everything is horrible about the audition. He knows he's got the voice and reckons if he can have one hour he'll come back through that door and will sound way better. The judges give him an hour but he's worn away their patience.
#1231 Katrina Yaukey, 28 from New York, NY arrives in the room to audition with The Humpty Dance until Simon asks to her to please sing something else. She appears stumped when they ask her to sing something with a bit of personality. It goes nowhere and Simon says no, as does Randy. Katrina says she thinks they are making a mistake but Simon rebuffs her by telling her that she is the one who made the mistake. Paula tells her she really should have come prepared.
Ryan tells us that the judges were all business right out of the gate with no time for anyone who was unprepared. And so they should be. Who would want to have to sit through thousands of piss poor auditions and have to watch people humiliate themselves? Apparently 35.5million viewers of this episode, that's who!
#2892, Justin Sticht, 26 from Burnsville, MN tells us that he has a unique voice and quite a voice and can sing everything from Elvis to Queen. He is auditioning with I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) from Meat Loaf. Simon cuts him off and asks for his second song, Beyond The Sea , which is just as bland.Simon just shakes his head as he interrupts him with that obnoxious "thank you". Justin looks defeated as he walks out.
Next up we've got a pair of twins sitting with Ryan as he talks about the last few seasons of twins and whether or not these guys can bring it. #7959 Terrell Brittenum, 27 from Memphis, TN and his brother, #7958 Derrell Brittenum sing an original together which is simply spectacular. Terrell sings first with My Girl and is just as good solo as he was in the duet. Simon asks Derrell if he is going to sing My Guy. Nope, instead he breaks into Ain't Too Proud to Beg . It's unanimous. They're going to Hollywood. And with that, they burst out onto the streets of Chicago to proclaim the good news.
While the Brittenum twins are out on the streets making fools of themselves, Simon is getting a ribbing from Paula and Randy about being a grinch. Meanwhile, in the lobby, we are introduced to a Simon bopper who gushes over him as if she were a presidential campaigner and he was a baby.
The Simon bopper is #1277, Gina Glocksen, 21 from Naperville, IL and is a dental assistant by day and the lead singer of the all girl band "Catfight" by night. Auditioning with The Power of Love , Gina changes the lyrics slightly to "I'm your lady, and Simon you're my man". Paula swoons and Simon comments that it was a beautiful, beautiful change of lyric. Both Paula and Randy say yes so Simon tells her she's through to the next roung. Looks like she'll be spending more time with her Idol.
#4591, Gina Noriega, 21 from Chicago, IL makes a right royal mess of Blue Moon claiming she's just really nervous. One attempt. Two. Three. Four. Five. No, six shots at it before Simon interrupts her and says one word. Appalling. With that Gina just walks out with her head hanging.
Ryan is outside talking to #6369, Mandisa Hundley, 28 from Antioch, TN who is about to head on in to see the judges to blow them away. The judges ask her her name and she insists that it is just "Mandisa" before launching into an Alicia Keys cover, Fallin' . It's real soulful and Simon loves that she is everything that he hoped she would be and also loves the fact that she only wants to be known as one person. All together they give her a yes. We'll be seeing her in Hollywood. However, Simon remarks that he wonders if there'll be a bigger stage this year. Paula says she's got like a frenchy... before Simon interrupts and says "forget frenchy, she's like France.
Hoping to make his way unscathed in the audition room is #2728, the 21 year old Kevin Brenneman from Cuyahoga Falls, OH, who sings Don't Wait by The Band. Randy is imitating his facials with a big wide open mouth as Kevin rocks along looking completely out of place and not sounding much better. He looks like the chess captain who wants to be a rocker with his raspy voice. Cowell says he reminds him of a wasp. The others want some clarification so Simon jokes that it's his stripey shirt before he gets to his point. He thinks he's buzzy and energetic with a cartoon voice. Paula gets on her spiel about cartoon voices before Simon cuts her short by simplifying it for him. "Basically what's she's saying is that you'd make a good rat". Poor Kevin looks confused. Ryan throws in a pun. Who is the real rat? Simon or Kevin. Touche.
Coming back for another go after failing to make it to Hollywood on previous attempts is #313, Charles Berry, 23 from Darby, PA. He reckons he's taken onboard the advice the judges gave him last time he stood in front of them so let's see whether his vocal coaching has paid off. He sings a song about how he wants to be the American Idol but Simon cuts him down at the end saying it doesn't get much worse than that. If that wasn't enough, Simon then tells him that he should shave off his beard and put on a dress because he'd be better off being a female impersonator. Paula voices her disgust at Simon suggesting he should be a woman. Simon replies that it's no worse than suggesting someone should be a rat. Outside, Charles is completely embarrassed.
The bubbly #2951, 25 year old Amanda Rabideau from Hoffman Estates, IL who is a furniture sales person. After trying to inform Cowell about a competition she was recently involved with, but not a participant of, to do with cows, she auditions with Something to Talk About . Unfortunately her personality is too big for her voice and it was awful. Simon said it started off okay but then it got really weird. Randy says it's not good enough for this. Paula rambles, as she does, but makes a funny quip at the end about how she should name one of the cattle "Mad Cow-ell". At least she walks out with a smile. But in the booth she has a wee cry to the camera.
To the theme tune of CHiPs walks in #2292, Deputy Brandon Groves, 25 from Wheeling, WV who is wearing his police uniform. Randy asks if he is there to arrest Simon. replies that that totally depends on what kinda news he gives him. His audition song is, fittingly, I Shot the Sherrif .It's pretty awful and nasally as we wait for Simon to arrest him as he keeps repeating "I shot the Sherrif" - almost seven times. Simon asks him if he has any jurisdiction here before he give him his verdict. Deputy Brandon replies with a no, as do all the judges.
Out on the street, Ryan is trying to find someone to listen to Derek Dupree, who we saw at the top of the show, sing before he goes back in to see the judges as his hour almost up and he is ready to come back and prove just how much difference an hour makes.
Meanwhile, back inside, the prom dress wearing #1212, Christine Davis, 17 from St Peters, MO doesn't impress Simon with her outfit, who infact thinks she looks like she's wearing a wedding dress and can't figure out why people would wear something like that for a prom. She auditions with My Heart Will Go On and it's not good enough. Paula says it's not good enough but that she should come back again if she wants it that bad. Simon says he hated it all. The song and the dress. Paula chips in with a final remark about how it's pretty insensitive to say to a 17 year old girl that you're bland and boring and I hate your dress.
Back outside Ryan has found a couple to listen to Derek sing. Unfortunately he gets a few laughs, which isn't what he probably was hoping for. Back with the judges is #1452, Blake Boshnack, 20 from Hewlett Neck, NY, who is definitely after some laughs as he's dressed up as the statue of liberty. He pipes up with New York, New York but is stopped short by Simon before he gets passed the second word. His voice isn't bad from what we hear but Simon is obviously not in the mood for gimmicks.
Derek comes back and proves that one extra hour of preparation with a bad voice still leaves you with a bad voice. Simon thought he was possessed and came back as a six year old. It's a no. In the booth, Derek confesses that perhaps he isn't the music type that he thought he was as he holds back all the tears.
Small towner #2736, Erik Lawhon, 18 from Maitland, MO, who is here with his grandmother who is completely in awe of his voice is going to audition with If You're Not The One . He's butchered it. And his voice is just weird. Simon says that he sings like an Auntie. Outside, his grandmother is has a go at Simon for being so mean. Simon tells her that she's giving him false hope and she asks why she wouldn't since she is his grandmother.
We get a little bit of a behind the scenes look at sisters #9719, Brooke Barrettsmith who is 23 from Spring Grove, IL and #9720, the 19 year old Leah Barrettsmith, also from Spring Grove, IL. Brooke auditions first with The Shoop Shoop Song (In His Kiss) and then Leah auditions with Blessed . Randy likes Leah's voice and Paula says she's either gonna say yes to both or no to both. Simon says no to both of them. Randy says that the judges have a quandry until Simon says that he's going to apply Randy's yes to both of them. Paula says that they need to work on their vocals but they can do that in Hollywood. That means that the little hometown overview at the beginning of their audtion was a sure fire indication that they were going to make it through.
#1220, Yvette Gomez, 27 from Hayward, CA tells us that she has been singing since she learnt to talk and is here to win it all. Whe auditions with How Come You Don't Call Me . Unfortunately for her, she's been singing badly since she learnt to talk. When Yvette gets to the line that asks why wont you pick up the phone, Simon interrupts with "because he can hear you sing". She doesn't think she did too badly but the judges votes are inevitable. Simon says something about dropping a bag of cats into boiling water.
#1590, Zachary Smits, 17 from Hudson, WI swoons over Paula in his pre-audition interview before heading in to sing I'm In the Mood for Love . His voice is very velvety smooth. Randy asks Paula what she thinks. She is very impressed with him and likes the great vibe about him and his quiet confidence at 17. Simon thinks that he's very charming. Vocally, Simon says he's on the fence. Randy says ok why not so he's through to Hollywood. Randy tells him he has to bring the heat to which he says that he will.
#4421, Jessica Nelson, 18 from Peotone, IL auditions with Terra Naomi's Up Here and based on the look on Randy's face when she sings the bleeped out line "When a great big rack and a ripe, round ass walk through that door" she isn't going to be progressing any further. Not that we really expected it after hearing her sing. Simon thinks it was a right mess and with that she walks out. Outside she lets rip. She tells us how she thinks she has a stronger voice than anyone else she's heard there today. While she is letting go, we hear another contestant #514 who has also been let down telling us how that if they are looking for something unique, then they should release an artist and album that is so that we can all know what it is that they are after. #522 comes out with her yellow ticket to Hollywood after auditioning with Work It Out and litlle miss jealous #514 says she heard her sing and reckons she wasn't that very good. In a little bit of drama, #514 wants a sing off but #522 refuses and walks away saying that the proof is in the paper.
19 made it through to Hollywood on the first day of the Chicago auditions so how will day two go? First up to see the judges is #2436 David Radford, 17 from Crystal Lake, IL who we can assume is going to Hollywood simply because there is some additional footage of his life and family at home - something that I doubt the producers would go to the effort of filming if they didn't need his back story for the rest of the series. Radford is a crooner and rattles off a list of names who have inspired him before he heads in to audition with The Summer Wind . Hands down, Paula thinks the package is great saying he looks the part and that the tone of his voice is good but it's so one dimensional and that worries her. She thinks that if he was 27 she would be inclined to say yes because it would be his last shot at it but thinks he is so full of promise. Simon then questions Paula asking her why she wont put someone through who is so full of promise. An argument breaks out and Randy says no. Simon actually likes him and says yes. It comes back to Paula who is convinced by Randy that they need to give him a shot but tell him that he is really going to need to work when he gets to Hollywood. As David walks out, Paula and Randy joke that once he gets to Hollywood Simon is going to cut him down like a lawnmower.
Next up is a Paris Hilton wannabe, #4358 Crystal Parizanski, 16 from Palatine, IL who comes across as an obnoxiously annoying bimbo. She asks them if there is anything they would like to know and Simon asks her about her tan. She answers by saying that her name is Crystal and that she just turned 16. Simon interrupts and says "no, I want to hear about your suntan". She says OK, and then proceeds to name the song she is about to sing. Simon interrupts again and says once more that he wants to hear about her tan. Finally she hears him and says she goes tanning. Simon sarcastically says "noooo". She doesn't believe it's of any importance. Simon says it's the strangest makeup/tan he's ever seen in his life. He's not wrong. She launches into And I am Telling You and it's pretty ugly. Her performance is about as effected as her makeup. Randy is lost for words. Simon asks what her mother thinks about it. She rambles about her style and Simon wants to meet her mother. Crystal's mother walks in wearing a mini skirt and Simon immediately figures where she gets her inspiration from. "It's an absolute no from me". Crystal retorts that they never let her finish her song. She rambles something about "most of the people here" to which Simon farewells her. Outside she talks to Ryan about how this isn't the next round for her and how she doesn't care what they think. Ryan toys with her a little which is hysterical.
We have a segment about how many hats they've seen this season as a lead in to our next contestant. #3959, Stuart Benyamin, 27 from Park Ridge, IL who is wearing a hat that could easily be mistaken for a pink ostrich. He sings a foreign language song about a girl who has left him but he wants her back. Randy asks if he was wearing the hat when she left. Paula says it's a no from her but would like his hat. He walks out.
One of the more interesting contestants to audition for American Idol is #3421, Yuliya Matus, 24 from the Ukraine but staying in Naperville, IL with a six month visa. She is hoping that her performance of Bohemian Rhapsody is going to get her, not just to Hollywood, but into the US on a performers visa for the next 3 years. Apart from the fact that this is "American" Idol, she is pretty painful to listen to, not to mention all the mannerisms and dance moves she throws in as she sings out of tune and floating all over the place. Simon says that that audition could take her a long way in Hollywood, just not with this competition. Simon continues to be rude and says she should audition for fatal attraction 3 if they ever make it. Paula says she was sexy though and thinks that she'll be famous on American Idol now because of her audition. Outside she is distraught.
Next up we have another set of twins, #4705 Jarrett Simmons, 16 from Inkster, MI and #4706, Joshua Simmons, also 16 from Inkster, MI who perform Superstar as a solo/duet to Paula. They come over to the judges table and take her hands as they sing. Randy says they made Paula's day. Randy liked them alot and says they're very mature for 16. Both Paula and Randy say yes although Simon is a little concerned that if they had come in individually whether or not they would have been picked without the twin gimick. Needless to say, they're off to Hollywood. Out side with the family they celebrate in jubilation.
#2109, 28 year old David Hoover from Wexford, PA is a strange one. Apparently the animals talk to him in english. He is all over the place. Barefoot and all for his audition for which he is singing an original song. It's like he's part of a voodoo ritual with his eyes rolling back in his head. Randy says yes if he talks to the animals. Simon says categorically never. Then Paula, who says for her own reasons, that yes, he is coming to Hollywood. Hang on. Did I hear her right? Is this some strange plot by the judges to sabotage the show or are they simply trying to upset Mr Cowell? Back inside Simon asks if they are completely insane.
A further 15 made it through on day two taking Chicago's tally for Hollywood to 34. To round out the end of the show we have a Patti LaBelle tribute. Well... kind of. A montage of a the worst auditions who used Lady Marmalade as their audition song. Tomorrow it's off to Denver.