Thursday, January 19th 2012
City of Champions
by The AI Insider
American Idol is looking for its next superstar...so what better place to do that than the City of Champions?
Idol visited Pittsburgh for part two of the Season 11 premiere, and one thing quickly became clear: the city was full of surprises. The first contestant, 22-year-old Korea native (and current New Yorker) Heejun Han, started off by telling us that he's "not that good." He also nervously compared the size of his head to Ryan's, complimented the judges, and did some kind of weird shaky thing with his arms. But when he performed Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," Randy was "shocked" — he was actually good! Jennifer admired his "beautiful tone," and Steven said he was "great." Three yeses from the judges, and he's going to Hollywood.
Next up was 26-year-old Reed Grimm of Ellsworth, Wis., who has been performing onstage since he was 2 years old — and it shows. This guy managed to turn the theme song to Family Matters into a jazzy scat. "That was hot!" Randy said, giving him "a zillion percent yes." Jennifer called him "exciting to watch" and gave him a "gazillion percent yes." And Steven called the performance "genius" and gave him a "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious yes." Guess it's unanimous, then!
The golden tickets were flying, so we'll be seeing Aaron Marcellus and Chase Likens in the next stage of the competition. Hollywood-bound Samantha Novacek, however, brought a strange accessory to her performance: her older sister, Patricia Bell, who "planked" on the stage while Samantha sang. Jennifer "loved" her version of Faith Hill's "Like We Never Loved at All." Steven and Randy were also impressed, so expect to see more planking in Hollywood.
The next contestant was one of New York City's many starving artists. Creighton Fraker, 28, used his nine-hour bus ride to Pittsburgh to write an original song about Randy, Jennifer, and Steven and wound up sounding like "Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby," as Jennifer put it. Randy was "intrigued," Jennifer was impressed, and Steven said that he joined "Idol" just to tell Creighton: "You are so Hollywood!"
Seems like everyone wants to be the next Justin Bieber, including 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz of Milford, Ohio. But he's more than just a cute kid; after his performance of "Ain't No Sunshine," Jennifer said that he was "born to do it," and Randy said he has a "natural, God-given gift." Three yeses!
No, you're not having déjà vu: 17-year-old Travis Orlando of the Bronx, N.Y., has auditioned before. Last season, he told us how his family fell on tough times, and this year, things are even worse. His mom left his family for a new relationship, he dropped out of high school, and he's moved into a shelter with his ailing father and brother. Travis said that he's trying out again "not only to show myself, but to show my mom that I am worth something. I'm not a good-for-nothing lowlife." Travis sang Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," and Jennifer said that his voice is "stronger from last year." All three judges thought that he still has room to grow, but he's going to Hollywood.
Wedding singer and "mobile DJ" Erika Van Pelt, 25, of South Kingstown, R.I., wowed the judges with her performance of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," with Randy loving her "low alto." Steven said that she's "very sexy and very sure of herself." Three yeses!
Shane Bruce, 19, of Moundsville, W.V., has followed in his family's footsteps and become a coal miner, but he has a secret dream. "I'm proud to be a cold miner, but if I had to choose something to be for the rest of life, it's gonna be a singer," he said. Shane gave the judges "all he had" on "Hallelujah," but he knew he didn't do his best. Jennifer and Randy urged him to do some work and come back next year, but Steven said that singing "down there" might be his forte. Ouch.
After a few more "no" votes — and a lot of tears — we met 24-year-old Hallie Day from Baltimore, Md. Day, a waitress, just got married six months ago, but it's almost a miracle that she "survived" to see her wedding day. Hallie dropped out of high school at 15, moved to New York, became an addict, returned home, and nearly overdosed on pills. After "hitting bottom," she met her husband, Ryan Day, who encouraged her to try out for Idol. She has the "ability to inspire a lot of people," he said. Day sang Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," and Steven said that he "likes watching her." Jennifer said that she "has a gift" and added that this "super, super special" blonde "could win … the plot thickens!"
All in all, 38 contestants left with golden tickets to Hollywood. Next stop: San Diego