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Idol Worship: 'Idol' 8.2 Redux

Joanna Welcome to an Obama-fied American Idol, brimming with stories of hope, struggle and unbridled optimism in this new era. Week two of the season 8 auditions brought dozens of contenders chanting "Yes we can" to Hollywood, but alas, San Francisco and Louisville's finest numbered relatively few. So instead, Kara and Simon's spats served as filler, along with some painfully awkward Paula moments, first courtesy of a clearly delusional Akilah Askew-Gholston and later with one Todd Plavsic, the straw-mooching tone-deaf nerd. We'd like to permanently erase them both from our memory, but there were a few auditions worth reliving. Here's our take on week two's most memorable moments:

1. Leneshe Young (Louisville)
Season 8's answer to Fantasia is the lovely Lenesha, whose tug-at-your-heartstrings back-story of homelessness and poverty was an obvious choice for the week's close-out segment. Only one thing made her audition just a tad more special than, say, San Fran's Kay Kalama (see No. 3): she sang an original song, and a decent one at that. Simon's already professed his love -- it's just a matter of time before the rest of America does, too.

2. Brent Keith Smith (Louisville)
The judges didn't let this looker talk very much, but we couldn't help noticing how chatty Kara and Paula suddenly got in his presence. Tongued tied, in fact, and bothered enough to duck under the table. Is the voice worthy of a one-way ticket to Hollywood? So far, we've only seen good enough in his Badfinger, but have some faith. 

3. Kai Kalama (San Francisco)
Looking for this year's Elliott Yamin narrative? Meet Kai, who spends every day caring for his ailing mother, the "only woman" in his life (yes, that means he's single, ladies). You knew this guy was going through, what with the build-up all episode long. But to our delight, Kai is not only easy on the eyes, but on the ears, too. The Top 12 is in his future, no doubt. We'd put money on it.

4. Joanna Pacitti (Louisville)
Carly Smithson, the sequel? Joanna Pacitti had a deal with A&M Records that went nowhere, but somewhere along the line, she managed to make an impression on Kara, which turned out to be a valuable, almost built-in endorsement. Having already paid her dues in L.A., the judges made it easy for the stunning Joanna and welcomed her back to Hollywood.

5. Matt Giraud (Louisville)
What Matt lacks in the confidence department, he more than makes up for with his Justin Timberlake looks. The girls were instant cheerleaders, while Simon had some criticisms, but in the end compared Matt's unexpectedly old school singing style to that of Elliott Yamin. We just like that he's a professional dueling piano player!

6. John Twiford (San Francisco)
As one of three successive contestants from L.A. to get a yellow ticket, they barely showed his San Francisco audition, but every season needs a long-hair and we like the look of John Twiford. First impression? He seems more Jason Castro than Bo Bice, but time will tell. And if he doesn't make it through Hollywood Week, at least home is but a few miles away.

7. Alexis Grace (Louisville)
We were expecting country flavor from this Memphis native and single mom, but cute-as-a-button Alexis Grace surprised us by braving Aretha and pulling it off (unlike the hot mess that was Tatiana Del Toro, No. 9). Simon made it very clear that she has a commercial, Idol-friendly look, but needs to "dirty up" a bit. We're not sure what that means, but here's to finding out.

8. Adam Lambert (San Francisco)
There's already been a good amount of buzz on Adam Lambert, the David Cook look-alike with an impressive theater background. Sure, he starred in the L.A. production of Wicked, but Broadway and Idol don't always mix, so we have our reservations. Still, Kara took an instant liking to him and even Simon fell in line. A little Idol makeover with less scruff and more shine could go a long way.   

9. Tatiana Del Toro (San Francisco)
With her Evanescence gown-gone-tragically bad and a full press kit in tow, trainwreck-in-the-making Tatiana broke one of Idol's cardinal rules: Don't try Aretha unless you are Aretha. But her all-drama vibe — hands clenched to heart — was apparently enough to get her through to Hollywood, to our astonishment. What were the judges smoking?

10. Jesus Valenzuela (San Francisco)
Ah, there's nothing quite like using children as Idol bait. Sure, Simon cut off this Aaron Neville wannabe four lines in, but somehow, Jesus managed to get through. Granted, his kids were cute, but his vocal abilities? Meh. We think Jesus might be better suited for Dr. Phil — after he gets the boot. And hey, it's never too early to teach your kids that life is full of disappointments, right?

Are we being excessively harsh on Jesus and Tatiana? What did you think of week 2 and who are your early picks for the Top 36? We wanna know! -- Shirley Halperin

January 22, 2009 in American Idol, Music, Television | Permalink


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