'American Idol' recap: San Diego makes some noise
"American Idol" fans who stayed up past that extended nail-biter of a football game in which the New York Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers for a Super Bowl spot and were still interested in singing after listening to Steven Tyler's rendition of the national anthem in Sunday's previous championship game, where the New England Patriots also earned a Super Bowl spot by toppling the Baltimore Ravens (I actually kind of admired the "Idol" judge's unconventional take -- and he mostly remembered the words) – as well as football fans too zonked out to reach for the remote – were treated to what we were warned at the outset would be an "Idol" audition episode "unlike any other."
What made it different? Well, for starters, the auditions, held in San Diego, didn't take place in a building or even on land, setting up shop instead on the "historic USS Midway," a retired Naval aircraft carrier. That meant viewers watched many a contestant's backside as he or she determinedly ascended the stairs to the ship's deck to audition and then saw at least one of them bonk his head on a low-slung pipe as he celebrated his golden ticket below deck. It also meant viewers, judges and contestants had to endure all manner of rude open-air interruptions. Much merry was made of plane noises, boat honks, and the like. Tyler, in particular, seemed to be enjoying the opportunity to jest: letting the ambient noise "bleep" his more colorful exclamations, waving at his rear end as if waving away a waft of gas, etc. Oh, that rock 'n' roll nut!
Tyler's fellow judges, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson, were decidedly less enamored of the indoor/outdoor locale. "What are we doing here?" Lopez rightly wondered. And Jackson at one point begged to have the area closed off -– alas, to no avail.
What else made it different? After kicking off with a bikini-clad hopeful (honey, it's been done) whose best assets did not include her voice (the auditions started "with a bust," Ryan Seacrest punned), we were presented with a few unknown singers who could carry a tune, as well as Jim Carrey's daughter. Yes, that Jim Carrey.
"Tell father we say 'What's up?'" Jackson told young Jane after she was handed her golden ticket – just before she called her dad on the phone to tell him the good news. "Oh my gosh. This is going to be an exciting year," Carrey said, clearly doing his best to sound excited –- because really, couldn't the blockbuster movie star have gotten his daughter a meeting with pretty much any record producer without her swiping a Hollywood spot from some no-name hopeful from Nowheresville, USA? And if she'd wanted her "Idol" chances to be independent of his influence, shouldn't she have avoided mentioning him?
Hopefuls with less famous family members who also left clutching golden tickets included …
Ashley Robles, an account manager and deejay with an adorable 5-year-old daughter to whom she says she likes to sing J.Lo's "On the Floor." She gave a clear, solid performance of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."
Jayrah Gibson, who had a hard time speaking, but whose version of Musiq Soulchild’s "Just Friends" earned high praise from the judges. Jackson called him "mad, mad good."
Aubree Dieckmeyer, a pretty 20-year-old who couldn't remember the name of the show she was auditioning for (she kept giggling and calling it "America's Next Top Model"), but then unveiled a surprisingly sweet-voiced "Feeling Good." The judges felt it was more than good.
Ali Shields, who already impressed former "Idol" judge Ellen DeGeneres with a YouTube video, nabbing a visit to DeGeneres' show and a stint gathering kisses from the likes of Mike Posner and Usher on the red carpet at the "American Music Awards," also impressed the current "Idol" judges.
Kyle Crews, a frat boy and "ladies' man" attending UC Berkeley, whose "Angel of Mine" prompted Jackson to comment, "You sound nothing like you look." That was both a compliment and … not.
Jason "Wolf" Hamlin, a big, hairy auto mechanic who clearly has a soft heart (he repeatedly mentioned his late father and gave Seacrest a kiss on behalf of the women in his life) and a way with a "git-fiddle" (a.k.a. a guitar, made by his dad). He also had a full, rough and ready voice, which we heard both a cappella ("Midnight Special" by CCR) and with guitar (Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues").
What did you think of the "American Idol" San Diego auditions?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: "American Idol's" Steven Tyler, left, Ryan Seacrest, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox