You would think the talent pool in NYC would be tremendous and in fact some 35 people got tickets to Hollywood. I'm not sure how that compares to other cities, but it seems like a lot. Now I hate to be dramatic, but "Idol" encourges that sort of thing. One of the things I respect most about the show is its production -- the editing and crafting of stories. And surely last night's opener was the stupidest, most misguided one in the entire history of the series. They began the night with a talentless, unfunny waste of time who already gate-crashed "Dancing With The Stars" and did the same thing here. Simon once said they always tried to weed out the people who only showed up to get airtime. So why bother us with this guy? In contrast, the tone-deaf girl who ranged from oddly sincere to manic meltdown (Sarah Goldberg) was genuinely odd and intriguing. The whole night felt a little story-heavy to me.
Sarah Burgess -- the girl who just wanted acceptance from her daddy, felt more like a therapy session than an audition and continued the trend of seeming to get a golden ticket because of her sob story rather than her talent. (She did an okay version of "Call Me."
The same thing with the two Paris Hilton wannabes from Jersey -- the first BFF sang "Crazy" and was pretty awful. The second girl was much, much better but of course both of them got put through because it will make for a better storyline when the second girl goes farther and the first girl is cut.
But as always, what mattered most to me were the contestants who showed actual promise. Rachel, the opera singer, is an interesting wild card with interesting potential. Chris Richardson, who sang Leon Russell's A Song For You in the style of Donny Hathaway, was very solid. Porcelana, the "soldier" who got in shape but danced like a stripper wasn't bad -- but I couldn't believe the judges didn't bother offering the advice that she was supposed to look like the next "Idol," and not a whore. Nicholas, the guy who quit in Hollywood after melting down, seemed improved though still not stellar. (It's interesting how many people have auditioned numerous times or been to Hollywood more than once.)
The only truly mean section was when Simon said the guy with a girl's voice should be performing in a dress. Otherwise, as usual, they often tried to bluntly convince people that singing wasn't for them. But sincerity should be this show's watchword. And it was lacking in two places: Ryan continues to be more of a smart-aleck in the waiting room. His new habit of letting people dangle on-camera is especially mean-spirited and unfair. And when Ashanti went into a thoughtful, heartfelt plea, playing piano music over it was unnecessary and mocking. Plenty of people make fool sof themselves -- "Idol" doesn't need to scukerpunch anyone.
By far the best singer was Celine Dion-lookalike Jory Steinberg, who nailed a Tina Arena song "Chains" with refreshing restraint. And then there was Jenry Bejarano, the strappingly handsome kid who was adopted, has a great bond with his mom, sang a pretty good "I'd Give Anything To Fall In Love" and has the looks to work a runway starting tomorrow. This guy is 16? If nothing else, he's clearly got the poise for a career as an actor or mannequin and his looks alone should keep him in Hollywood for a few days. Of all the contestants, surely he'll be swarmed by the most agents...and the most fans.