My American Idol Experience
Well hullo tharr…
I figured for my first post I would give the much anticipated American Idol recap. To be honest, I wrote this a few weeks ago and was saving it for the Betties site so… I apologize for the lack of editing on my part but I don’t feel like reading through it again ;D !
I think I cover everything! So here ya go!
My American Idol Experience
When American Idol first came onto the scene, I thought it was brilliant. “See?! If those people can do it, so can I!” You know, all that jazz. I watched the first season with the rest of America and I fell in love with Kelly Clarkson and Justin Whatshisface. Funny thing about that last sentence is I actually like Justin more than Kelly but I don’t remember his last name at this very moment and I don’t have the internet connected to–Oh wait!
Justin Guarini. Hah!
Okay, back to the story.
So for years I would jokingly say, “I just wanna go on American Idol once. I don’t expect to win, I would just love to make it to Hollywood and that’d be fine with me. Just make it past the first round. Just impress Simon!” That was my idea. Mind you, it was never a fully fledged goal, just an idea. SO anyway… fast forward to 2008.
In May of 2008, after a long hiatus from my music, I was itching to play live again. What better motivation than a singing contest? As I was listening to my favorite radio station, 93.3 WMMR, I heard Preston and Steve were going to be hosting the “Montana West Idol” contest at Montana West in Quakertown, PA. Sounds fun, right?! It was! Every Friday for a few weeks they had contestants get up, sing a full acapella song and the judges would vote. Well, I made it to the final round and I won tickets to the Philly Soul game, which was terribly fun. Ethan and I had a lovely time.
I made it to the final round and my song of choice, after much deliberation, was Queen’s “Somebody to Love”. Why? Because WMMR is a classic rock station I’m a classic rock loving female. I would have done Aerosmith, but I thought Somebody to Love would be fun and everyone I sang it to beforehand LOVED it (plus I kept visualizing the audience as penguins like in “Happy Feet”).
So it’s the final round.
The first few singers were duds.
The two ladies before me?
…Finally it was my turn.
I took the stage and I ROCKED that shit! Had the crowed singing and clapping and dancing along. I knocked the SOCKS off of my friends that had never seen me perform like that before … and blew the judges away.
Did I win?
Fuck no! I didn’t even make the top 4! Though one of the ladies did tell me that I was #5. Yey (can you feel my enthusiasm?).
At least I got to ride the mechanical bull.
Anyway, apparently one of the judges went overboard and scored the country western dude WAY high because he likes country. Big ups for unfair judging. yey.
OKAY – So thats what got me back into performing after a ten year hiatus! After that, I couldn’t stay away from the mic! Open mic night here I come! I won another contest which got me my very first solo gig that same Summer at a little place in Wilmington called Stoney’s and then I started booking elsewhere. So naturally when time came to sign up for American Idol… I figured why the hell not?
On a beautiful weekend in August of 2008, I played hookie from my temp job for three days, drove up to East Orange, NJ (ever hear my song “East Orange Blues?”) and booked a hotel about 30 minutes away from The Izod Center where try-outs were taking place.
I got my wrist band which took all of 30 minutes more… grabbed my rules, waivers and such… and spent the next 48 hours practicing lyrics to “Get Ready” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” over… and over… and over… and over… and over… and over… You get the point. Not only that, I’d narrowed down my song choices for my own audition to “Ain’t Never Loved a Man”, “The Right Man”, “Somebody to Love” (I’m now seeing a recurring theme here that was SO not intended), and “Walk This Way”.
Naturally, I was practicing those too.
When you go the first day to get your wrist band, generally there are two or three audition days. They sign you up on wrist band day and tell you which day is your audition day… My audition day was the second day, so I had an extra day to hang around. I spent THAT day resting my voice and meandering about NYC, getting lost and listening to my iPod… and taking the wrong subway train. Good times 😀
The moment you’ve been waiting for.
I went to bed at 9pm the night before (extremely early for me) because I had to get up at 4am to get ready and go. I would be checking out, going to the Izod Center and leaving straight from auditions… so I packed all my shit, said my goodbyes to my cheap hotel room and wished myself luck out the door. All contestants must arrive at 5am sharp. Why? How else are the going to get those ginormous crowd shots?
People get there ass early in the morning because they can’t camp out, thinking “Oh if I’m the first in line I’ll be first to audition.” Well, they’re wrong. Turns out the order that you arrive has absolutely NOTHING to do with the order you audition. More on that later.
The place was buzzing with excitement. Musicians from all walks of life were there. People brought their guitars, keyboards, and other such portable instruments. It started out quiet, but after awhile (and I assume after everyone got some coffee in them) people would start practicing. While we were outside (from 5-9 am), it felt like I was at friggin’ Woodstock or some shit. Acoustic guitars EVERYWHERE and people singing in large groups. It was fantastic. Cameras were out and about, they asked us to shout silly things and act out and be crazy… which some people were happy to oblige while I and my new Line Friend (that’s what I’ll call her…) giggled and enjoyed watching the crazy.
No, I did not meet Ryan Seacrest. Yes, he was there, but he was on the other side of the building apparently. I did see him inside and I have to say, he looks like a douche on TV but in reality he’s kinda cute.
Anyway, back to the show.
So FINALLYl we’re allowed inside. We get seated and get comfortable. Now it’s time for the auditions to begin… but BEFORE all that… We have the biggest fucking sing along I’ve ever seen in my LIFE. Those songs I had been practicing? 18000 people were singing them too. One of the producers guided us through this sing along that was recorded but I don’t think it was ever aired… if it was, I was in the third row from the front in my black cherry heidi dress! 😀
Now, you would think at this point we would have some idea of when we would be auditioning, yes? No. There were 18000 people waiting to audition. You get 15 seconds (if that…) to impress the judges. The judges in this case are not Randy, Paula and Simon. The judges are set up at several tables in the arena separated by curtains. Two judges to a table. The judges are producers of the show, the behind the scene guys and gals that get the whole party started. These individuals are the ones that choose who out of these 18000 hopefuls will actually get to be contestants. If you make it past these casting auditions you go on to another set of producers… if you make it past them, THEN you get to be cast for the auditions in front of the star judges. So you think all those people you actually see on TV are just random people from the crowd that day? Nope. They were each selected by a set of producers. Yep. They let pants on the floor through. America’s got taaalent. hah.
They do things differently each time, apparently. This time they went section by section. As a contestant, you’re job is to stay within earshot so that you know when your section gets called up and depending on how the day goes, you have no idea when that might be. I got to know the girl sitting next to me a bit, she was a beautiful young woman whose name has gotten away from me. She was sixteen years old and her dad had brought her to try out for the show. What impressed me about the girl was her choice of song for the audition, “Hellelujah” the Jeff Buckley version. Excellent!
After chatting for a bit, it was time for me to calm my nerves… Before any performance, I like to be alone. I don’t like having people around when I do vocal warm ups or when I’m getting the jitters out. Apparently, MANY of the other contestants had the same idea… As I was walking around the concession area there were people huddled in corners, hiding behind things. You go in the bathroom and there are people closed in the bathroom stalls. What were they doing? Singing! Not everyone was hiding. Some people were walking… some were standing in the middle of the room.. some in groups… Some were going all out, full voice, top of their lungs..while others were quietly reciting lyrics. I felt like I was in a musical.
So I found myself a little corner and I popped in my iPod and start to sing along with the few songs I’d chosen. It was… liberating. In a hall filled with hundreds of other people singing at the top of their longs (or hushed in their corner), I pushed my voice out and warmed up, imagining how I was going to perform for the judges… and it made me feel good to see people actually turned and listened. These people ranged in experience from seasoned musicians to those like my young friend who’d never performed before, mind you.
A man came up to me with a camera and asked me my name, where I was from and what I did for a living. I told him I was a martial arts instructor. Well, it just so happens there was another guy there who had dressed up like a ninja. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind critiquing some of the “ninja’s” techniques… I said “Sure!” and well… I don’t think it was all that entertaining for them. The ninja did throw a kick.. and it was a terrible version of a roundhouse kick. I gave him a quick pointer, but didn’t demonstrate. Why? Because I was in high heels and a FREAKIN DRESS. Srsly? I’m not throwing a roundhouse kick in a dress and heels with a camera crew watching. Eff that.
SO… after that (which I’m sure never aired)… I went back to practicing and went back to my seat. I watched as row after row after row of contestants filed down onto the arena floor… did their 15 second for the judges and were either given the green light or shown the door. Ladies and gents, only about 200 people out of those 18000 made it past round one in NJ that year. From a spectators point of view? About 90% of those people did not deserve to get that far. There were SO many talented vocalists in that crowd! One woman stepped up and BLEW THE STADIUM AWAY! Her voice carried throughout the entire hall and she sounded BETTER than Whitney Houston… Did she make it? No.
A group of women stepped up and did a group song,they were gorgeous, had beatiful voices and a sweet routine! Did they make it? No.
One guy got up… and stripped his clothing off. Was he funny? Yes. Could he sing? No. Did he make it? Yes.
Another guy, CUTE as hell with an acoustic guitar (that he could play very well) got up and sang like an angel. Did he make it? Nooope.
Me and the girl who sat next to me were trying to find a pattern… anything… anything that linked the contestants that were making it through together somehow… and we couldn’t find anything. They were so varied… It had to come down to the numbers. That’s the way I saw it anyway… let a few pass.. say no to the next… couple. Let a few more pass… etc. Ask the judges and they all give you the same generic answer.
“We’re looking for someone who really stands out. Someone original. Someone who has that “it factor.”
Oh yeah, totally, got it. Yep.
Before it was our sections turn to go, a few of us got up and went into the hall again to get the jitters out… What happened was one of the coolest things ever. We had like… a sing off. So, everyone got into a huge circle and one person would just get in, sing their 15 seconds and get out, tag another person to go in and go on from there. It was AMAZING! SOOO MUCH TALENT! I was SO pumped! Beautiful people singing beautiful songs! We were on FIRE!
When it was my turn, I had kind of fashioned together the lyrics to get to the good part quick… I started low and built it up… By the time I got to the chorus I had the entire group clapping and singing “Somebody… Somebody… Can anybody find me somebody to love!”
Ah it was amazing.
Alright. So it’s our turn. We walk down to the assembly line, as I will call it. They separate us into groups an set us in the line before our prospective judges. It’s the moment of truth. Your 15 seconds that could lead to fame… I wished the 16 year old luck. I wished the other guy next to me luck… and recited the lyrics over and over and over again in my head…
The group of four contestants go before us. One of the ladies sang a beautiful version of a Christina Aguilera song.. the problem was she was wearing a pink sweatshirt, pink jeans and a pink tiara… and she placed some kind of present on the judges table. They told her no, she couldn’t bribe the judges…but when she got on her knees and begged, they gave her another chance and she made it through. And when I say got on her knees and begged? I MEAN GOT ON HER KNEES AND B E G G E D. …. They let the next chick move on to the next audition and she sucked. The guy that went before me went… and it kinda hurt to watch.
He had called his mom and had her on speakerphone.. it was his mothers birthay. He sang a Boys II Men song that I don’t remember the name of, but he did it horribly and he was turned down. Then it was my turn.
You get 15 seconds. No introduction, no talking to the judges, just get up and do it. I stepped to the center, cleared my throat and let it go. I had that judge rockin’ in his seat. I could feel it! I was TOTALLy going on! The other judge leaned in and smiled and they were dancing and clapping along! I SO had it! …I stepped back in line and waited for the next girl to go so they could tell us after who all would pass and who would leave. She sang wonderfully! Beautiful voice! We were so gonna make it to the next round!
The last girl out of our group of 4? Eh. I don’t even remember. So the four of us step up to the judges table…
“I’m sorry but unfortunately none of you made it through to the next round.”
One of the producers gave me a forelorn look… I *know* they enjoyed my song… but for some reason I didn’t make it. They clipped off our wrist bands and sent us on our merry way.
I wasn’t too upset though. I told my section neighbor not to let this one audition stop her. I wasn’t going to. This was just one audition. And that’s just it. American Idol is *not* a contest. At least, not until you get past the initial casting. It’s a casting call. A casting call with producers that have to narrow it down from millions of hopefuls to just a handful of contestants. God forbid you wear the wrong thing, pick the wrong song or just audition at the wrong time. You get 15 seconds. Unless you beg on your hands and knees, but fuck that.
I did have my second American Idol experience in 2009… which was a lot more fun..