So many memorable performances — in both a sweet and sour fashion — and so many, many good stories. American Idol’s comeback season struck another positive chord Wednesday with its Milwaukee auditions.
Let’s start with the stories:
1. “What kind of guy would I be?”: A couple of blogs ago I warned you about what might be the saddest story in Idol’s 10-year history. The rumors proved accurate. We saw and heard about Chris Medina and his fiance, Julie, who shortly after their engagement less than two years ago suffered a serious brain injury in an automobile accident. She was in a coma for six weeks and is now confined to a wheelchair with limited abilities. Chris is one of her caretakers and obviously still loves her deeply. “What kind of guy would I be if I left her now?” he said. All three judges — Steven, J-Lo and Randy — were obviously moved when hearing Chris sing — and then meeting Julie. It was one of the most memorable Idol moments ever. And in case you were wondering, yes, Chris got a gold ticket.
2. Size matters, she said: Vernika Patterson, a sassy contestant who was miffed when the judges nixed her Idol bid after she butchered Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You.” She turned on the panel and said, “It’s because of my size, isn’t it? I think it’s because of my size.” Randy tried to assure her that size had nothing to do with their decision. The simple truth was that Vernika sounded like fingernails on a blackboard.
3. The numbers guy has mad vocals: Steve Beghun, a tall, unassuming CPA surprised everyone — myself included — with his singing ability. He said he sings at weddings and funerals. “But weddings are more fun,” he informed. He’ll be singing next in Hollywood.
4. Ready, aim fire: Nathaniel Jones came dressed in a Civil War uniform, complete with gun and bayonet. He’s a Civil War re-enactor and he’s really, really, really weird. He sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and was then court-martialed.
5. The new rocker chick?: Do we have a new Carly Smithson or Amanda Overmyer in the making? Alyson Bados displayed some Joan Jett-esque qualities with snippets of “Come Together” and “Dream On.” I’m not sure how well she will fare in Hollywood, but it’s nice to see the the Carly/Amanda element represented again.
Honorable mention: Megan Frazier is a diehard Green Bay Packers fan. That’s OK. She sang some Justin Bieber song in operatic fashion. That was not OK.
Line of the night: It went to an unidentified person waiting in the Idol line to get into the Bradley Center, offering praise to Wisconsin in general and Milwaukee in particular: “We don’t have an accent here, we just like our cheese and beer.”
MEDAL WINNERS AT MILWAUKEE
It would have been easy to put together (at least) a top 10 from Milwaukee, but I narrowed them down to the following podium finish:
Gold medal: Thia Megia of California, a 15-year-old mature — at least as a singer — well beyond her years. I’ll be surprised if she does not survive Hollywood Week. She has both the voice and stage presence needed in a competition like this.
Silver medal: Scotty McCreery, 16, another youngster who wowed the judges — and me — with his incredible voice. A baritone who is already an accomplished country singer, Scotty is some crazy cros between Randy Travis and Tracy Byrd. This is a genuine star in the making.
Bronze medal: Haley Reinhart, who failed once before in an Idol tryout, blew the doors off with her “Oh Darlin’” and was a unanimous choice for Hollywood. She has a powerful voice — and the necessary looks — to go a long way in this thing.
Of course, there were plenty of OMG moments, too. These were three of the best:
Gold medal: Mason Wilkinson screeched his way through some unknown song, but only after taking what seemed an eternity taking deep breaths with his back turned to the judges.
Silver medal: Kody Zalewski told us he sang like Frank Sinatra — he didn’t — and then got all sorts of weird at the end, capping his uneasy stay by asking Randy if he could have a drink of his Coke Zero.
Bronze medal: Nathaniel Jones, the Civl War renenactor mentioned above, had to have a medal for his own special bizareness.
TYLER A BREATH OF FRESH AIR AND JUST A ‘REGULAR’ DAD
Unquestionably, one of the brightest spots in Season 10 of Idol continues to be wacky Steven Tyler. This from Gil Kayufman of MTV.com: The Aerosmith singer has already proven to be a witty, funny and unpredictable presence on the show, serving up some instant-classic sound bites and DVR moments in the (early) rounds of audition … One of Tyler’s daughters, plus-size model Mia, told Life & Style she thinks her dad is the best thing to ever happen to Idol.
“We’re a very sarcastic family,” Mia told the celebrity weekly. “He’s the funniest man I know. He’s saving the show because it was kind of boring before. There’s only so many times you can watch Simon be mean to people.”
Tyler, 62, has not been shy about batting his lashes at some of the luscious contestants, and Mia said that’s because he’s having a ball in his new gig. “He loves (being a judge),” Mia said, explaining that despite his wild and crazy reputation on- and offstage, he’s just a regular dad when he’s at home.
“He’s very protective and gets mad at us for not cleaning the catlitter box — typical dad stuff,” she said. “It’s so nice to see him up there … He loves it!”
While appearing at the Sundance Film Festival over the weekend, half-sister/actress Liv Tyler told Access Hollywood that she’s a new convert to the show and watches it all the time now and gets “goose bumps” when she sees him on Idol.
“I was so excited. I never really watched American Idol,” she said. “I watched it with my girlfriends at home the other night and I had goose bumps for an hour and a half and laughed and loved it.”