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American Idol: Sob Story, USA

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I really felt like Ryan Seacrest should have kicked off this week’s shows by saying, “This…is Sob Story Idol!”

During the course of the auditions in Milwaukee and Nashville, it seemed that a lot of the singers had a sob story to tell. There was one in particular that I feel rather strongly about, and I just have to talk about it.

Chris Medina is a contestant from Milwaukee audition. We learn that his fiancé Juliana was in an accident, woke up from a coma a month and half later and now can’t care for herself. Chris and her mother now take care of her.

You know, share your story, everyone else has, but for the show to bring Juliana into the audition room was just wrong. They exploited her to evoke emotion in people to get ratings and to get people talking. This is so wrong on so many different levels; I very much feel that Idol has crossed a line.

Where are the contestants this season who jump off bridges? I miss the spunk and personality from contestants that actually have some talent. But maybe if the show was worthy of the talent they claim to have every year, then maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to exploit their contestants’ families.

Tragedies should not be marketed as ratings gimmicks. Last I checked, this was a singing competition, not a competition for whose sad story is sadder than the rest.

Let’s talk about the contestants from Milwaukee and Nashville for whom I think are worth keeping an eye out during “Hollywood Week,” shall we?

From Milwaukee there were only a few people that really stood out to me including Jerome Bell, Hayley Reinhart, and Scott Dangerfield.

Jerome Bell from New York, NY sang Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” I really enjoyed this audition. I would love to see some legit R&B singers on Idol this season. I think Jerome has what it takes to do well this season. The 27-year-old needs to work on controlling the level of his voice while singing, so it doesn’t come across as screaming when he hits his high notes.

Returning to the Idol auditions for the second year in a row was Haley Reinhart from Wheeling, IL, who sang “Oh Darlin” I like Haley’s voice, it has a nice rock quality to it. She was one of the better auditions during the Milwaukee audition stop, in my opinion.

Scott Dangerfield

My favorite from Milwaukee was hometown boy, Scott Dangerfield who sang Amos Lee’s “Dreamin’.” The 22-year-old definitely has what I would call “The Clay Aiken Effect” going on. Seems like a regular dude with his red hair and glasses, yet he has a killer voice that makes you wonder how it’s possible that that voice came from this unassuming guy. Hopefully he is able to keep his momentum going during “Hollywood Week.”

I thought the Nashville episode of auditions brought a little more talent to the table. I found myself in favor of the ex-lovebirds, Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks, Jackie Wilson, and Paul McDonald.

Idol was definitely being dramatic when they had former couple from Nashville, Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks, both 23-years-old, in to audition at the same time. Together the exes performed “To Love Somebody.” They sounded pretty phenomenal. Fun fact: MJsBigBlog posted that Rob and Chelsee competed together on 2009’s Can You Duet. That show also happens to be produced by 19 Entertainment and Freemantle Entertainment. It’s probably just a happy coincidence that these two have found their way onto Idol, right?

For his separate audition Rob performed Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” He’s got a little James Morrison quality to his voice. He reminded me a little of Alex Lambert from season nine, sans mullet.

Chelsee performed Belinda Carlisle’s “The Story.” I thought she did really great. She’s definitely a strong contender among the female contestants. I also really dig her red hair. It works well for her. This could be the year of the gingers on Idol, y’all.

Another favorite of mine was Jackie Wilson, who is claiming to be 28-years-old, but she looks about sixteen. What I really appreciated about Jackie was that she seems to be really taking in the whole experience. Jackie sang “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” by Aretha Franklin. She has an absolutely gorgeous, soulful voice. I’m really interested to see she does in the next rounds of the Idol process.

The other contestant that stuck out to me was 25-year-old Paul McDonald. He sang “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart. He has this soulful, raspy tone to his vocal. I really loved his voice.

No, 15-year-old Lauren Alaina was not one of my personal favorites from Nashville. She’s good, I will give you that. However, producer Nigel Lythgoe had said that she’s the next Kelly Clarkson. Um, how about no she’s not. She has similar vocal inflections like Kelly, but she’s not even in the same league as the original Idol. I also thought that Lauren comes off as more confident than she originally let on, bordering on cocky. Basically, this girl knows she’s good. I’m calling total BS on the story that it was her cousin told her she was good.

Adrienne Beasley was not as good as I wanted her to be. The 22-year-old was kind of like a lame version of season three’s Vonzell Sullivan. And she already has the crying her way into the next round down. (Oh yes, I did.)

I really take issue with the male judges on the panel letting former Miss Teen USA, Stormi Henley go to Hollywood. She was alright at best. She had a couple really bunk notes during her audition. I liked that Jenny from the block told her no, yet the boys let their hormones do the talking and sent her through to the next round. So much for wanting to succeed based on your talent huh, Stormi?

It was an alright week of auditions, however I am praying “Hollywood Week” gets here soon.

Alright Idol fans, who were your favorite contestants this week? Do you feel like Idol should not have exploited Chris Medina’s fiancé like they did? And what are your thoughts about Rob Bolin and Chelsee Oaks previously appearing on a singing competition ran by the same people that run Idol?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her long-running music blog, Wait...WHAT, at waitwhatmusic.net. Follow Kirsten Coachman on Twitter: @KirsCoachman
  • Butch

    I think Chris and his wife, and their families, were probably thrilled to see her story told. I think the producers did a dignified job explaining what happened and how it has helped inspire Chris.

    My guess is that they are quite proud of being featured in such a way. I doubt we will see much of Chris again, because as we both agree his singing wasn’t that strong. But I think its awesome that they and their families have that special moment to remember when millions of people heard their story.

  • @Butch: I do think sob stories are always going to be apart of Idol, but there used to be one sprinkled in between auditions, and now it’s like everyone that tries out has a story, and it’s just ridiculous.

    I don’t feel like Chris purposely exploited his wife, but I feel like he should have stopped the show from exploiting her. Because that’s exactly what they did. This was very much in tune with Danny Gokey’s situation during season eight. He was the guy known for his wife passing away, rather than his talent. And while Chris’s story is heartbreaking, his audition was alright at best. If I was a judge, I would have passed on him going to Hollywood, because honestly, he’s not going to win.

    The 16-year-old country singer was good. He wasn’t one of my favorites, because truth be told, I’m not a fan of the country genre, but the kid is talented.

  • Butch

    I think the “sob stories” are generally acceptable. Idol has never really been just a “singing competition” – they’ve got to make it a compelling tv show. If these folks have interesting stories to tell, I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with it.

    In the case of Chris Medina and his wife, I thought it was actually really cool of them to feature that story and give his wife a moment in the spotlight. A true cynic would say that it was Chris himself exploiting his wife’s situation, knowing the sympathy card would be in his favor as long as he sang passably. And truth be told, his audition itself was just okay.

    Interesting point about the ex-couple being on the other 19 E show… Who knows, but it certainly wouldn’t be the only case of the show featuring someone with pervious connections (Carly Smithson anyone?)

    Kirsten – what did you think of that Scotty McGreery, the 16 year old country singer? Personally I’m not a big fan of that kind of music, but man that kid was impressive!!

  • Toni Schram

    I agree American Idol is pulling out all the stops on capitalizing on the sob stories of some of these contestants.

    At the same time, I believe singers who have incurred personal tragedy are better equipped to exude true heartfelt emotion that really connects with the audience.

    Just wait for the floodgates to burst when Carmen Salicido auditions in SF. Don’t know if you’re familiar with her story. Back in the mid 80’s, her father murdered seven people. He took his
    three girls (2,3,4) to the dumps and slit their throats. Carmen
    miraculously survived.

    The question is will she be the last contestant of the
    day vying for that golden ticket?

    Great coverage Kristen!

  • Hey! Hailey was in my son’s graduating class (2009) from Wheeling High School, which has a fantastic music/theatre program!