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