Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"YOU'RE CUTE BUT YOU CAN'T SING"

I've never had a guest blogger here at Musical Ramblings, but I'm going to make an exception this once, because I think you guys would be interested in the story. What follows is a blow-by-blow first hand account of an American Idol audition in front of Randy, Paula, and Simon. If you've ever wondered about how things go before the contestants get in that room, you need look no further than this. I was fascinated by the story. So without further adieu, I give you our guest blogger.

"You're Cute But You Can't Sing"
--by Miranda Tozier-Robbins
edited by J.D.


I arrived in Boston circa 7:40 AM. I was told to be at the Boston Convention Center by 7:00. I knew that there would be a lot of waiting. A lot. I took a cab and the traffic ran up the meter. I told him not to bother driving across the bridge, and that I would get out, run across the street, go up the stairs, and go across the bridge myself. I probably saved myself three dollars, all the while wasting a $10 bill when I could have caught the underground for $1.25. I was in fear of being late. That fear left when I entered, presented my green paper to security, went upstairs and looked at a long line of hopefuls. I rushed for that?!?

We were seated in a room. Assigned seats, actually. There were seven rows of contestants with about ten in each row. The actual number of contestants was either 63 or 70. A good number of those contestants were from New York.

When I first entered, I saw a girl who I recognized from the Boston Herald. Becky O'Donohue. She was a twin, age 25 from New York. She and her twin, Jessie, who was present, but not a contestant, were on Fear Factor a few years ago. I started talking to her by telling her that I knew who she was. My seat was right behind her. She was in row 5. I was in row 6. Later, I left to use the bathroom, which I did a zillion times through the day, and when I came back some man, someone's parent, was talking to her. He was complimenting her presence and sophistication. "Do you play sports?," he asked her. "My daughter..."

"Are you Senator Brown?" I interrupted.

"Am I Senator Brown? Yes, I'm Senator Brown."

I rolled my eyes at him. "Ugh" I said. Then, after realizing how awful that sounded, I took it back. "I didn't mean it like that," I tried to explain.

He smiled and said it was okay. When he left I asked Becky if she knew that was the Senator. She said she didn't. She just figured she was talking to someone's dad. Well, I guess she was, but I wasn't going to say anything.

Hours later, a girl from New York and I were on our way outside. On our way down the corridor, guess who was coming up the corridor with a crew of cameras following? Paula Abdul herself. Twirling in front of the cameras and acting stupid. Even though I met her before in Orlando, I became temporarily star struck. I kept walking straight, staring at the crew and watching how silly she was being. The girl I was with had to pull my arm to keep me from walking into the crew. "Come on. To the left, to the left," she was telling me. My jaw was still dropped, but I kept a straight posture as we walked past Paula. There was eye contact, and I looked at her like she was stupid. She returned the look as if she was shocked that the contestants had seen her acting so goofy.

As we got closer to the escalator, we could see men wearing black through the window. This entourage came out of a limo, and amongst them were Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.

After descending the escalator, we asked a female security guard if she had seen Paula and the way she was acting. She told us that she had and that she thought Paula was acting stupid. She told us a story that had happened earlier where Paula had run up and hid behind her and had poked her head out saying "you can't see me" to the camera. Paula's not the brainiac of the bunch.

I shifted my attention and focus on to Simon. He had a coffee in his hand. Starbucks, I believe. I couldn't be sure. He walked into the Convention Center and looked up and around like he was an inspector making sure the roof wasn't going to fall in.

Later, we were brought back to our seats by the producers. Camera crews surrounded the door. It was time for Paula to come in and speak to everyone. She entered and everyone cheered and clapped. She gave a pep talk, and she ended by saying "'cause we want to give you a..." She made a square with her hands, and I yelled out "Golden Ticket!!" She looked at me, pointed and gave me the thumbs up. "That's right," she said. And that was that.

Not too long after that, all three judges came in for another pep talk. They told us to try certain things. "Argue your case," they said. "We do change our minds." Yeah, riiiight. They said those things to get people riled up, so that then they will give television what television wants. Angry people begging for a reverse decision and generally making a fool out of themselves on national television.

Ryan Seacrest was the last to enter and do his thing. "Don't try to read the judges, because you'll never know what they are thinking," he advised us. He also told us to just keep singing no matter what the judges did. Yet another way to get us looking like fools on TV. He warned us that the judges might look at us like we were aliens or that they might not even look at us at all. Oh how right he was.

After that round of auditions got started, the first Golden Ticket winner entered the room and Seacrest was working up the excitement. "I know you guys are saying 'yeah that's great for her but I want one,'" he said. I told him that was exactly what I was thinking!! By the way, he was wearing a sweater that said "Royal Flush" on the back. I asked him if he played poker, and he said I was the second person to ask him that. The answer, apparently, was no, and he didn't even know it was on his sweater until someone asked him. I'm guessing he was dressed by someone else.

Each contestant was seen individually for a camera interview and for a pre-judge "confessional." The "confessional" was the part you saw on the show where the contestants stand in front of the logo. If it's before the show, it's usually them talking about what they hope to do, and if it's after seeing the judges, it's usually them either crying or cussing out the judges. Anyway, by 12:30 PM only nine contestants had Golden Tickets (which were then exchanged for green papers.) Only about 3 rows had auditioned at that point.

The production stopped for a one hour lunch break. I went to lunch with the two Gwar guys in foil. I knew they would make it onto TV, and they did, so you Idol fans probably remember who I'm talking about. There's actually a funny story to those guys. Actually, when I was going out for lunch they were being escorted out by security. The judges had had them sing a duet. Once they got their "no" and exited the room, one of the two took off his foil helmet, scraped his foot on the ground like a bull or horse ready to attack, and ran straight for the camera, bum-rushing it with his "weapon". Security escorted them to the exit, and that's when I ran into them in the corridor. We left together. Interesting guys.

The judges had a press conference during lunch. It was leaked that Simon said he was disgusted at the talent here in Boston. Fortunately a third of the room was actually from New York.

2:00p.m. Very shortly after my lunch, it was my turn for my personal interview. They recognized me from last year. They told me to say my name, where I'm from, and what I do. I was asked what it would mean to me to go to Hollywood. What happened last year? How will I approach the judges this year? What am I all about? What's the "B" on my necklace stand for? Hold it up to the camera. I went into an explanation about two missing holes in the B. I made reference to the camera man probably having digital zoom. I remember finishing my interview by saying "I'm gonna be me, but a toned down me."

You can read last year's experience if you're interested in comparing last year to this year.

Hours went by and it was time for my "confessional." While waiting, I saw several Golden Tickets go by. A Chinese girl. A black chick with a long ponytail. A girl with golden curly hair named Brianna Taylor who smokes Newports. And there was Jenny Anderson, whom I recognized from the Herald. Of course, the senator's daughter, Ayla Brown, made it earlier in the day. She was the only one in the contestant room wearing a huge Patriots blanket, like she was too cool to wear a jacket. Becky O'Donahue, who I was rooting for, made it. I really wanted her to beat out Ayla, whom I didn't really like, if you hadn't already figured that out. Becky O was my fave for Idol.

There was another set of twins. They were annoying. When the judges were in the room earlier, the twins had been totally acting obnoxious and trying to get everyone to do a spirit cheer. I yelled at them to shut up and sit down, and every time they tried that cheer, a bunch of us would yell "1, 2, 3 NO SPIRIT CHEER!!!" People laughed at those two idiots.

This huge girl went in to the "confessional." She was in there for like five seconds before the Spirit twins came down the hall crying. They'd both been told "no" to Hollywood, and I couldn't have been happier. A producer opened the confessional door and told the other producer to take whoever was in there out, because they wanted to get the twins RIGHT THEN while they were still crying and carrying on. It was sad, but funny.

Then some guy was running full force to the bathroom and a camera ran with him. After a minute, he came running out full steam back to the judging area. Seconds later, he sprinted again to the bathroom. People wondered what he was doing. I now know he was Michael Sandecki, the Clay Aiken impersonator. You know, the one who sang on the finale.

Anyway, after confessional, Brooklyn, some other boy, and I went to look for somewhere to warm up. I had already warmed up a little in the bathroom downstairs, but I joined them for the heck of it. We finished warming up, and then we went to a room that the producers and crew ate in earlier in the day. There were still pie pieces on a table and coffee and hot water. We all poured a cup of hot water, and I put a lemon in mine. And we each took a package of honey. If we got nothing else that day, we at least got a free drink.

It was nearly 5:00 pm. We went back to the contestant waiting room where only about 20 people remained. The room had certainly emptied since the day began. Ken Warwick came in the room for yet another pep talk. He said the contestants were starting to get boring, because they were just coming in and singing their song like a monotone. He told us we needed to keep up the energy. We had been there all day in our best clothes waiting for our three minutes in front of the judges. We were tired, hungry, and losing energy. It got pretty bad. Maybe this sounds lame, but we pepped ourselves up with a game of Simon says. We pretended it was 7 AM and we had just gotten there. We started cheering and clapping, anything just to keep our spirits up.

They called for the next five. Brooklyn, a German girl, Colton Rudloff, another girl with curly hair, and myself were in the group. We sat outside the judges' door.

A boy with huge nerd glasses wearing a half cut Mickey Mouse shirt was there with his crew of friends. Like 20 or 30 people were there just for him. His shirt revealed his floppy belly. His contestant number had to cover Mickey Mouse. He went in and came out ranting and raving about how the judges didn't appreciate Metallica. Seacrest was there in the midst of his friends and led them in a group hug.

A few contestants later, it was my turn. The camera was on me. I got up but hesitated. The producer was rushing me. "Go in. They're ready."

I had a flashback. When I was in the Army, we trained for rifle qualification day. We only had one chance. Before the targets would come, someone asks over the tower megaphone, "Drill sergeants ready? Soldiers ready?" They couldn't start until everyone gave the okay. Our Drill Sergeant used to tell us to take our time getting the sand bags right and not to start until we were comfortable. I took that advice.

The producer, however, had heard of nothing of the sort. "Come on, they're ready."

"Yeah, Yeah," I was thinking. I was about to walk in, but I stopped and turned back. I stood still for a moment and took a deep breath. Then I started for the doors again...

"Hello," I said.

"Hello," they responded politely. The judges had a different seating arrangement than usual. Simon was on the far left where Randy usually sits. Paula was still in the middle. Randy was to the far right where Simon usually sits.

"Hi Paula," I said. She was looking down. Nothing. Then she gave me a delayed reaction. "Yo!" she said still looking down at her paper.

"We've seen you before," Randy said, looking at me with one eye big as if he were Sherlock Holmes and I was the Hound of the Baskervilles.

"Yes," I responded, smiling.

"Where?" he asked.

"Orlando." Then my personality began to come out. I started speaking really fast. "Remember? I had the microphone headset?" I made a motion with my hand around my head and across the side of my cheek.

All three looked at me expressionless. I stopped talking while I was ahead.

I can't exactly remember the exact words that were said after that. I believe Randy asked if I was in the Armed Forces. I told him that I had been in the Army, but I didn't sound too happy or proud of being there.

A few more questions before Paula asked "What will you be singing for us?"

"Janet Jackson's Together Again," I said, beaming.

"Uh-Oh. That's Paula's favorite artist," exclaimed Simon. He was being sarcastic, big shock. They joked on it for a minute. I guess Paula and Janet are rivals, somehow. I do know that Paula choreographed for Janet's videos back in the day, but I had no idea that they were such big rivals 20 years later.

I began singing. "There are times when I look above and beyond...."

Paula Abdul was paying me no attention. She held a paper up to her face and was chatting with Simon and laughing and giggling. Simon was talking back with her. She was looking at the director Nigel and smiling, still with the paper to her face, and shaking her head no. Was she talking about me? Then I remembered Seacrest's speech about continuing singing no matter what the judges do. I looked over at Randy, who apparently was the only one paying attention.

"When I feel that I don't belong draw my strength..."

Finally somewhere in the middle of my performance Paula did this exaggerated look up. It scared me.

"Dream about us together again baby. What I want us together again baby. I know we'll be together again cuz everywhere I go, every smile I see, I know you are there smiling back at me. Dancing in moonlight I know you are free, cuz I..."

"Okay you can stop," said Simon, and I faded out the last words. "Miranda. I believe the other judges will agree with me when I say you sang that song better than Janet Jackson."

"Really?" I said, smiling ear to ear, believing that he meant it. That was fantastic coming from Simon. "Thank you!"

He sat back and put his hands above his head. They all stared at me expressionless. There was a pause.

"I'm kidding," he said.

"Oh." My heart fell.

"That was terrible."

"Really?" I cried.

"No, that was good," he responded.

"Really?"

"No, that was horrible."

I was confused. Was it good or bad? I wanted this game to end.

"It was terrible," said Simon. The other judges agreed. "Would I lie to you?"

"No," I choked out.

"Would Randy lie? Would Paula lie?"

"No," I said softly.

I can't remember exactly what happened next. I think Paula said "I think she's shocked at you Simon."

"No," I said. And then I can't remember what I said after that.

Simon asked me about choreography, specifically why I didn't do any. I wanted to explain how the song was a last minute decision. There was a lot I wanted to say to answer that question. I started a word of a sentence, then stopped, then started again. I wanted to think of what to say, but I couldn't. I was choked up.

Then Paula made fun of me. "Uh, guh uh duh uh uhgah," said Paula. She was looking down again. I got red.

"Do you want me to do some choreography?" I asked Simon. "I can"

"No, thats' alright," he said.

"Do you want me to sing another song? I can sing another song," I offered.

"No, don't sing," said Simon.

Randy said I was out of key and my voice sounded vibrato. He made a motion to his throat, the way the French say F-you.

"Paula, what do you think?" I asked, my tone of voice begging her to at least TRY to say something nice.

She looked up. "Hmm?" she looked around, as if someone she didn't know was there had called out her name. She shook her head at me. I can't remember her exact words, but whatever they were, they weren't very helpful.

Then Simon asked me "Who are you here with?"

"I'm here alone. My mother was too sick to come."

"Who told you you could sing?" asked Simon.

"Everyone."

"What do they say when they hear you?" he asked.

"They say 'wow' and 'good job'-"

"Are you willing to sing out in public?"

"Yes! Do you want me to go out there and sing and bring you back ten people..."

"No, that deal's already been done," said Simon

"You know what? There was a guy that came up to me today outside when I was practicing..."

"Ooooh a guy," giggled Paula. They started making fun of me again.

"What can I do to get better?"

"Stop singing," said Simon.

"Give me some feedback," I asked.

"What more feedback do you want?" Randy interjected. "You can't sing. You're out of key. You're not a singer."

"You said we wouldn't lie to you, right?" asked Simon. "Would we lie?"

"No," I choked out again.

"Look," said Randy," you're cute, but you can't sing."

Then Paula said "You have a cable access television show. So that shows you have creativity."

"Yes!!" I piped up. "And I can use that creativity in Hollywood!"

"No, no, no, no, not in this competition you won't," she said.

"Can you act?" asked Simon. Another flashback. Last year in Orlando, I got a no from the judges but weeks later they wanted to do a story on me. Why? I wasn't going to Hollywood. This year they wanted to do a story on me but the Nor'Easter scared them away. Could it be that the producers had something in mind for me that had nothing to do with this competition?

"I can." I said. "I want to be a pop star. Please just give me a chance."

"No, no, no"

"Don't you want to work with me?"

"No, no, no"

"Listen, " I started singing again. "There are times when I look above and beyond..."

"Stop singing," said Simon. "Randy, yes or no?"

"No," Randy said firmly.

"Paula please, please, Paula please?" I begged.

"Paula?" asked Simon.

She shook her head. "No."

"Thank you," said Simon.

I exited the room to be greeted by the cameras that they hope will catch you acting the fool. "They want me to get mad and cry and punch the cameras," I said. "I'm not going to give them what they want."

"Why not?" asked a producer. "It will get you on TV!"

"No, " I said. "It just makes you look more stupid when you do all that and I'm not going on TV looking stupid."

I grabbed my coat from by the window and walked down the corridor. I went to my after-judge confessional, and I think about the only thing I said that wasn't calm was when I called the judges "jerks." I stayed calm, otherwise.

Walking down the corridor, I walked past an AI camera. "I'm sure you guys will have a great season," I said with a fake smile. "Good luck, O'Donohue!" I yelled to Becky as I walked by.

I lingered around for a minute. The girl right after me got a Golden Ticket. Brooklyn didn't get one. We walked downstairs together. I asked the security guard how to get to the underground. I made my way to North Station. My train was at 7:35 PM, almost exactly twelve hours later from when I first arrived.

6 Comments:

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Ali said...

Ummmmm.....that was.....interesting? I guess we've all wonder what the contestants who are "vocally challenged" are thinking when they insist on continuing to sing, even after their abilities have been "questioned". And in such an insulting fashion, no less!
Well, that's what makes A.I. the show it is, I guess...

 
At 3:09 PM, Blogger Georgia Writer said...

Wow. I knew the judges sometimes
seemed rude during the auditions, but that was crazy! I feel bad for those contestants who think they can sing but really can't; but I also think the judges could be a little less harsh. Interesting read j.d.

 
At 11:10 PM, Blogger Bathroom Hippo said...


Melissa McGhee got screwed.

 
At 1:19 AM, Blogger J.D. said...

What I found most interesting about the story is how it details the various lengths the producers go to in order to get maximum reaction from the contestants. They encourage them to scream, cry, holler, and make fools of themselves, assuring the contestants that "it will get them on TV!" I mean, I know a lot of it is manufactured, but when it comes down to giving the contestants bad advice just to make sensational TV, that's just a bit wrong.

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Spike speaks said...

This was eye-opening. Why in the WORLD would a sane person put themselves through such emotional pain! It is also interesting that the producers WANT people to make fools of themselves....I guess that makes for interesting TV...NOT!!

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

Poor girl... I hate how the judges sound so jerky!

I guess it is really more in the name of ratings and "good" tv than a pop star.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home