Wednesday night gave us auditions from San Antonio, Texas, and Long Beach, California. And both cities offered up a lot of remarkable talent -- I will be genuinely surprised if several of the contestants featured tonight don’t make it into semi-finals at least.
I won’t go through every audition, but I will pick out my favorites. Before I do, some general thoughts about the show:
-Can we please retire Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” on this program? It is a wonderful song, but BEYOND cliché at this point. At least two people featured tonight sang it. How many countless others do you think went with that song? Or “At Last” by Etta James?
-Speaking of clichés, the judges need to quit it with the vote countdown. How many times did they do the “1,2,3…” thing this episode? It’s not cute. It’s not entertaining. It’s not original.
-The “feature” packages on, say, the hauntings of the Queen Mary are shlocky and a total waste of time. Sub-Syfy Channel-level graphics and a bored Ryan Seacrest prancing about?Shut up, show.
Anyway, the auditions that really made an impression on me Wednesday night:
Savannah Votion, 24, single mom, sang “At Last” (it’s an epidemic!) and surprised me. She’s got a solid voice with some legit soul leanings. Huge range, and she was strong throughout in both the high and low parts. Savannah’s issue is her look. She needs to be completely stripped down and rebuilt because her image, right now, is very low-rent. Too much make-up, not nearly enough clothes. Girl, where are your gays, and why have they treated you so poorly?
Sanni M’Mairua is a young man with Kenyan/Tanzanian heritage who seems like a natural performer. He sang Michael Jackson’s “Who’s Loving You?” and had an instantaneous star quality and a nice, bright voice. He went a little overboard with the runs, but he’s got potential. I just hope he doesn’t lose his sparkle as he continues in this competition.
Adam Sanders, 19, seemed like a joke contestant at first. Even the judges thought so. When he told the crew that hew as going to sing “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James they all prepared for the bomb. But then he opened his mouth and it was incredible. While other (I am presuming here) gay male contestant joke that they have a large black woman living inside of them, Adam really DOES, and that woman is amazing. Nicki Minaj’s jaw dropped. Mariah Carey threw up her hands in disbelief. Keith Urban literally went, “Come on.” There is such a visual disconnect between Adam and the way he sounds -- a trend for the night, actually -- that it’s almost unbelievable. But he’s great and I hope he continues into semi-finals at least. He also gets points for inadvertently suggesting that Mariah was a contemporary of Etta James, which led to her nearly burst into flames.
Micah Johnson, 24, has a legitimate sob story. He loved to sing, loved music. He needed to get his tonsils removed and in a freak accident, something happened during surgery -- he now speaks with a pronounced speech impediment. So when he came on to sing, the judges were -- let’s be honest -- ready to humor him, to encourage him on his path to recovery. But when he burst into “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band, the speech issue was gone, and Micah could sing beautifully. Similarly to the stuttering gentleman from earlier this season, his issues just disappeared when he sang. Why not sing all the time? Place your order at McDonald’s to the tune of the national anthem. “And say do those cheeseburgers come with onions and piiiiiiii-cklllllllles?”
Brianna Oakley, 16, has a less affecting story. Several years ago Brianna was a guest on “The Maury Povich Show” in a segment about talented young people. She sang, apparently quite well. According to Brianna, after the show her friends “turned” on her and everyone at her school was so mean that she had to eat lunch in the bathroom -- because she felt unsafe in the cafeteria -- and eventually had to switch schools. I am…dubious about all of this. I’m sorry. I'm sure Brianna felt that she was being bullied, and I guess in this case that's ultimately all that matters -- the victim's perception. But Brianna is a pretty girl who seems very talented. What exactly were these bullies finding fault with? I feel like bullying is one of those issues that’s getting thrown around on these shows an awful lot, and often not by the kind of people who truly got the raw end of the deal in life. (See below.) Anyway, Brianna sang “Up to the Mountain” by Patty Griffin and she was freaking amazing, so expect to see her for a while. I will like her a lot more if she drops the victim shtick, because from where I'm sitting she has been given many, many gifts by the universe.
Now, Matheus Fernandes, 21, I think probably knows a thing or two about being bullied. Matheus is cute and seems like a really nice guy -- and he’s talented. He is also quite short. They never gave us his exact measurement, but I’m betting it’s 4’ or shorter. He’s not a dwarf or a midget; doctors cannot tell him why he does not grow. He just doesn’t. Listening to Matheus speak, you get a sense that this is someone who has really STRUGGLED to make his way through life. But he has done everything he can with the hand he has been dealt. So kudos to him for staying positive, and for being pretty great on his rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come.”
But to me the star of the night was Papa Peachez. Peachez was another fake-out. A) His name is Papa Peachez. B) He likes to dance around his parked car with the doors all open. C) He lead choreographed dance routines in the middle of the holding pens. Need I go on? So when he came in and said he was going to sing an original song of his own making, I was prepared for awfulness -- but again, he was awesome! Papa Peachez has a surprisingly low voice and a weird alternative vibe. But somehow it all works. NickiMinaj was totally captivated by him and pushed hardcore for Papa Peachez, while Keith Urban and Randy Jackson both said no. (Randy talked about his voice not being ready -- there was nothing wrong with Papa Peachez’s voice.) Eventually Mariah said yes, which left Randy as tiebreaker. He got put through after Nicki lobbied on his behalf. And THAT is why I’m happy Nicki’s on the show this year. I think she has a keen eye for potential celebrities, which is not always the same thing as talented vocalists. You can be an amazing singer and not achieve international stardom. And the reverse is also true -- as Nicki herself is well aware. Who is selling records right now? A hell of a lot more of the latter category. Like it or lump it. If Papa Peachez makes it to the live voting rounds he could take over this show. I really believe that.
Tomorrow: Oklahoma. I hope there are surries with the fringe on top.