'American Idol' Recap: Katy Perry Flashes The Camera in a Censored Moment (Critic's Take)
The auditions continue across the USA on night two of ABC’s reboot of America’s original(-ish) reality singing competition. At the top of the two-hour episode, we learn that some contestant or other’s mom had a goldfish named Ryan Seacrest. When Ryan Seacrest (not the goldfish) asks where Ryan Seacrest (the goldfish) is now, the woman matter-of-factly reports that the aquatic creature died. This... is American Idol!
In New York, Mara Justine, a 15-year-old redhead from New Jersey, is floored when Ryan saunters up and graces her with his presence as she waits to audition. Even more mind-blowing: It dawns on judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan that the sweet sophomore was born in 2002, the same year Idol first crackled across Fox’s airwaves in America. At any rate, Mara turns out a surprisingly mature rendition of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” that earns her a standing ovation and three yeses from the superstars seated before her.
This won’t be the only time tonight the trio of judges are simpatico with their decisions on whether or not to send contestants to Hollywood. This brings up a good point, which is that there is something to be said for the way original judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul’s frequent squabbling in the audition process made for damn good, explosive TV. I mean, Paula once disagreed so vehemently with Simon’s scathing critique of a deer-in-headlights hopeful that she hopped out of her seat and marched off the set. Those were the days, folks.
Anyway, back on kinder, gentler Idol 2.0, a bucketful of other teens -- including Andrew Weaver from Georgia, Griffin Tucker from Texas and Christina Jones from Illinois -- all snag golden tickets. Keep a particular watch out for Griffin, 15, a unicorn who does a mean Paul McCartney while playing piano and belting out The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” Even Lionel gives props to the kid: “If this is what you do at 15, I’m afraid of you.”
Next, Washington DC women’s shoe salesman William Casanova proves he’s as smooth with the crooning as he is with the charming pick-up lines. He even gets Katy to admit, “I used to have weird feet. I took care of ‘em and now they look great. And they’re, like, some of the Internet’s best.” William makes it through to Hollywood after bravely tackling Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.”
The show’s editing team decides this is a good time to throw things back to the Los Angeles auditions, some of which we saw the previous night. That’s where Michelle Sussett walks into our collective lives. She’s a waitress hailing from Miami by way of Venezuela, a country the name of which Luke finds impossible to pronounce. For her audition, Michelle first sings in her native language. Then she abandons vocals altogether and urges each judge to get on their feet and gyrate with her. At some point, Katy topples over in her heels, and her sparkly dress subsequently flies up in a censored moment — like way up. Lionel and Luke hoist the pop diva up off the floor, causing Luke to declare, “There are things a man can’t unsee.”
Where were we? Ah, yes: Michelle Sussett. Naturally she’s off to Hollywood.
And now we’re back to New York, because eff continuity. Ukrainian dude Misha Gontar bombs with a song containing a chorus that literally goes “ooh wee ooh wee ooh, wow-wow-wow!” But Brandon Diaz, whose father emigrated from Cuba so his children could have a better life, sails on through to Hollywood after becoming the second contestant in two nights to successfully take on Allen Stone’s “Unaware.”
Watch out for whiplash, because we’re now slung back to L.A., where Luke warns the cameras that Katy is looking for a date amongst the talent pool. The multi-Platinum-selling country star tries to helpfully advise his fellow judge, “Gotta get you one of them good ol’ boys, Katy -- datin’ them damn weirdos.” And just like that, Luke manages to shade Orlando Bloom, John Mayer, Diplo, Travie McCoy, Russell Brand, etc. in just six syllables.
Things appear to look up for Katy when handsome Trevor Holmes, 27, strolls into the audition room with his guitar. Even Luke blurts out, “Good lord, you’re a dreamboat,” upon his first sight of the the singing construction worker from California. Trevor admits that he’s had a crush on Katy “since as long as I can remember,” but there’s one snag: He brought his girlfriend along for moral support. Katy flirts with Trevor, while Trevor gets all aw-shucks on us. Then miraculously, at some point, we’re reminded this is a singing competition. Thus, Luke proceeds to make Katy (and Luke) melt with his sublime rendition of Brett Young’s “In Case You Didn’t Know.” Katy’s dreams are dashed when Trevor’s girlfriend flies into the room and glues herself to her man. And that’s another one off to Hollywood.
We next zip down to humid New Orleans. Lionel promises, “It’s the perfect spot to find great talent.” The “Hello” legend certainly seems to be telling truth when we meet steel-blue-eyed Laine Hardy, 17, a young guy from the Bayou whose smoldering performance of Band of Heathens’ “Hurricane” causes Luke to announce, “I think if you ain’t careful, you might win American Idol.” It’s the first time I feel like the country judge and I are on the same page. Alas, this only lasts about 15 seconds, because Luke then quips, “Don’t let a gator tail hit you in the throat, boy!” as Laine giddily leaves the room with his golden ticket. Wig.
Autumn Woods from Katy, Texas wears cleavage-baring leopard print to her New Orleans audition, so what could go wrong? The answer to that question comes when she massacres Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart.” Perhaps she should have kicked it up a notch with the Nicki French version?
More folks crash and burn after Autumn, including 22-year-old “Hank the Business Man” from Pittsburgh. But things look up when Gabbii Jones, 20, struts in front of the judges for a disruptive throwdown of Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman.” After the fantastic spectacle, Lionel gets up from his chair to hug Gabbii (something he’ll do with several more contestants throughout the evening). He then tells her, “There are things we could tone down. But the basic core of you is exciting.” Katy and Luke agree, and away Ms. Jones goes to Hollywood. Her first layover, however, is an obligatory segment with Ryan that plugs Macy’s as this season’s official fashion partner of the show. Stardom ain’t free, kids.
The New Orleans lovefest continues as the following are met with a trio of yeses: raspy-voiced 25-year-old Cameron Theodos from Shreveport; returning Season 9 contestant Thaddeus Johnson, who’s lost 162 lbs. since we last saw him; sweet as pie 17-year-old Rissa Watson from Apache, Oklahoma; and 6’4” teen Garrett Jacob, the apple of his grandmother Honey’s eye.
The night winds down on -- what else? -- an emotional note, as we meet David Francisco, 25, from Nashville. He moved to the city to pursue music, only to have his motorcycle hit by a car three weeks later. David feared he’d be paralyzed from the waist down forever, but he gradually saw his condition improve. He explains, “I don’t take anything for granted now” -- least of all his fiancée Christie, who stares at David lovingly while he strums his guitar and sings Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life staple “Isn’t She Lovely” during his audition. It’s a powerful display that moves Katy to tears. Lionel gives David a hug and wisely points out, “If you lose your spirit, you lose everything.” It goes without saying that David is on his way to Hollywood.
That’s a wrap for this week. Could something edgy happen next time around, like Lionel and Luke actually disagreeing on a contestant’s shot at moving on? Keep the faith.