"Idol" Rewards the Unconventional in Atlanta

Wednesday’s auditions may have set new records for the amount of unconventional acts that moved ahead

By Craig Berman
|  Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 PM PDT
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"Idol" Rewards the Unconventional in Atlanta

AP

Wednesday’s "Idol" auditions may have set new records for the amount of unconventional acts that got rewarded with tickets.

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Atlanta always gets good “American Idol” auditioners, which is why the show keeps going back there. However, Wednesday’s auditions may have set new records for the amount of unconventional acts that got rewarded with tickets.

A girl from small-town Tennessee who jumps off bridges for fun, a girl who dressed up as a guitar and a guy who called himself “Ski Bo Ski” all earned trips to Hollywood. But all were outshone by a 62-year-old who doesn’t like how kids are dressing these days.

From Tennessee to Hollywood
“American Idol” got a lot of mileage on Kellie Pickler’s country-girl-in-the-big-city routine, and it may have the sequel in Vanessa Wolfe. The girl from small-town Tennessee desperately needs a style makeover, but there isn’t anything wrong with her voice. The question is whether she can overcome her inexperience.

“I think you are incredibly ill-prepared for this,” Simon Cowell said, but voted her forward because “you stand out in the crowd for me.”

Wolfe was predictably excited. “I’m gonna ride on an aer-o-plane,” she said, as Pickler called her agent to see if she could sue for trademark infringement.

The human guitar
Auditioning as Guitar Girl is a great strategy for getting on TV, and a terrible one for making it to the next round. However, Holly Harden confounded the experts by coming up with a surprisingly strong “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,” and got the support of both Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi. When Mary J. Blige turned her down, Holly’s fate rested in Simon’s hands.

“Come on Simon, you’re gorgeous,” she said.

“Do you honestly thing I’m the sort of person who would respond to that sort of flattery?” Simon responded.

Harden is going to Hollywood.

Just call him ‘Ski Bo Ski’
Antonio Wheeler, aka “Ski Bo Ski,” continued the run of surprises when his voice was good enough to overcome his schtick and get him to Hollywood. He has a big fan in Blige, who said, “You have a great voice. Image-wise, if you can match what your voice is doing, you’re gonna be all right.”

Dakota territory
Mallorie Haley lists her hometown as South Dakota, but outshone all the Southern belles to emerge as an early favorite. Her rendition of “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” found a huge fan in Blige. “It was just dope. That was beautiful to me,” she said.

Pants on the Ground!
The most memorable auditioner in Atlanta wasn’t even eligible, as Gen. Larry Platt declared himself to be 62 years old. But he might have a hit on his hands with his original composition, “Pants on the Ground,” a commentary about how those crazy kids are dressing these days.

Among the lyrics:

Pants on the ground
Pants on the ground
Looking like a fool with your pants on the ground.

Look to see it again in the season nine finale, if not before.

Move over, Victoria
Blige got her turn in the guest-judge chair in Atlanta, and for those keeping score, she had a lot more to say than Victoria Beckham did in Boston. However, the show may have long-term effects. Simon described her as “very harsh. I think this show has changed you.”

“I think so too,” Blige agreed.

Nice glasses, Seacrest!
Atlanta isn’t just the audition city of Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken, it’s also the birthplace of Ryan Seacrest. To celebrate that, the introduction to Wednesday’s episode featured Ryan’s school picture. Let’s just say extreme makeovers may have been involved sometime between his childhood and the present day.

Respect this
Before his audition, Lamar Royal told the cameras, “Today, no matter what the judges say, I will respect their opinion.” Of course, he did no such thing, railing at them until security threw him out. Blige ducked as he was escorted out the door. “I didn’t know if he was going to pull out a gun or what,” she said.

I’m so excited
Jermaine Sellers said he was singing for his mother, who suffers from spina bifida and didn’t accompany him to the auditions. She still made her presence felt, however. After Sellers got his ticket to Hollywood, he called home and said, “Mom, I made it,” and the resulting screams could have been heard north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

 

The singing cop
Last year, oil rig roughneck Michael Sarver made it all the way to the top 10. This year’s early candidate to move from macho job to singing sensation is police officer Brian Walker, who easily advanced and was thrilled to leave his badge and gun behind. “I’ve never seen a police officer more excited to get a ticket,” Ryan said.

Dissing the ditzes
Whenever the show brings in a pair of best friends to sing together, it’s a good bet that one will be much better than the other. That was the case again in Atlanta, as Carmen Turner made it to Hollywood while Lauren Sanders got four no votes. Simon suggested that they stay together and form a group called The Ditzes to remind everyone that he’s old and still uses 1950s slang.

Quote of the day
“I’m like the dollar store. With the dollar store, you can have everything you want in that one package, and that don’t cost you know more than a dollar.” — Antonio “Ski Bo Ski” Wheeler.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/craigberman.

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