I've been writing about American Idol for the last four years now. And this season, I find myself in a different place than before. I've always begun my coverage a few weeks into the season, once it's reached the audience voting stage.
This time around, I'm starting from the get-go. Here's my plan. For the next couple of weeks, instead of giving you my blow-by-blow of each show, you'll have one article on various aspects of A.I. and one on the contestants in that week's auditions who I feel warrants a second look.
My first piece, for example, was about how the show has grown as a showcase for marketing already established artists. Now, I'll go through and talk about those that caught my eye during the Minneapolis and Seattle auditions. Granted, at this time, it's still anyone's game to win. But it should be interesting to see how some of these out-the-gate-early players fare in the long run.
Denise Jackson, 16 years old, Wisconsin. She's got the whole package going on for her. Her background as a "crack baby" is newsworthy as is her attitude that she is both lucky and blessed. She has a panache that belies her tender age and a raw potential to go along with it.
Perla Meneses, 25, Florida. Another newsworthy story, Perla calls herself a survivor, not a victim, of a hard life in Columbia, South America. Although she almost blew it with her first song, Randy asked her to do another, one more suited to her personal style. The judges then gave her a thumbs up and so did I.
Jarrod Fowler, 27, Arizona. At first sight, I knew that Jarrod would have to have some pipes on him. He attended the audition in his U.S. Navy dress whites, signifying his current military status, stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. There is no way the higher-ups in the Navy could sanction one of its members appearing on the show if he or she didn't perform well.
Sarah Krueger, 19, Wisconsin. Auditioning with a song that was a signature piece for one of last year's top Idol contestants ("Over The Rainbow") takes some nerve. Sarah served the song well, showing very strong vocal control.
Those are the only ones from that audition that got my stamp of approval.
For all the talk about how disappointing the Seattle auditions were as an overall talent pool, I found that there were more on that episode that captured my attention then the previous night.
Thomas Daniels, 21 years old, Oregon. Thomas didn't knock me out, but I see a lot of potential in him. He has a nice, warm quality to his voice that out-shone his audition performance song. Love that he's rockin' the 'fro.
Blake Lewis, 25, Washington. Blake began his time in front of the judges with some beatbox and doing it well. His singing started out strong, but he seemed to lose it a bit as he improvised towards the end. But that's okay, that's part of the whole process — learning along the way how to channel raw talent into a viable career.
Shyamali, 19 and Sanjaya, 17, Washington. Brother and sister both entered the race for the next American Idol. Both received a 'golden ticket' to Hollywood that was well deserved. Taught at an early age by their musician father, the two of them had good vocal control and strong voices. Sanjaya has a larger understanding of showmanship at this point than his older sister, but that's an attribute that can be honed further down the line. I do think that both of them will go far within the context of the show.
Rudy Cardenas, 28, California. Rudy's vocals weren't too shabby, but it was his personality that I noticed immediately and what earned his placement here.
Anna Kearns, 20, Texas. VERY loud and that could have cost her a spot in the line-up.But it didn't, most likely due in part to the personal confidence she exuded.
Jordin Sparks, 16, Arizona. Or as I wrote down in my notes, Jordin Sparks! Another youngster that has better overall chops than many her elders. Her voice was very good, with a wide range and strong control.
There you have it… the ones that I think we'll be seeing more of as the season progresses. With one foot in the door, it's how the contestants grow as emerging performers that will determine their fate — that, and how well they can connect with the voting public.
Will any of my forerunners make it to the end? Hell, will any even make it on to the voting stage? Time, of course, will tell.Powered by Sidelines