AI season nine - oh so fine

Feb. 9, 2010, 12:14 p.m. | By Ava Wallace Sophia Deng | 11 years, 2 months ago

As Hollywood week kicks off, talent remains unmatched

It was nine years ago when Kelly Clarkson was dubbed the first "American Idol." Now, almost a decade later, is there still enough of the glamour and talent previous contestants possessed to go around?

Photo: Guest judges, such as Avril Lavigne, showed up during "American Idol" auditions. Hollywood week, which begins today, will feature the addition of Ellen DeGeneres to the judges' table.

"American Idol" has not reached the 20-season status of CBS's "Survivor," but the "AI" path has been ground-breaking. We have seen artists like Kris Allen, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks and Taylor Hicks (remember him?) achieve fame and produce hits now on the radio. We have witnessed the dynamic of resident devil judge Simon Cowell with Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi.

From the first days of "AI," much has changed. Sweet Paula is to be replaced by Ellen DeGeneres, who makes her debut today. Cowell will also reportedly leave after this season to put more time and effort into the "X Factor," the British counterpart of "AI."

A few things remain consistent. Auditions featured interesting guest judges, including Joe Jonas, Shania Twain, Victoria Beckham, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne. DioGuardi, with her knowledgeable yet annoying antics, is the same old argumentative and long-winded judge. And perhaps most important, the talent has not changed from Clarkson's season. In fact, the talent this year is even better than last year's - nine is sure not to disappoint. Below are Silver Chips Online's picks for "American Idol."

Best auditions

John Park

Photo: Shania Twain loved Park's audition.

Country singer Shania Twain found one contestant she particularly liked in Chicago auditions - college student John Park. Park's audition was exceptional as he soared on vocals to "If I Leave You Baby." His raspy vocals were melodic and hypnotized viewers and Twain, who reacted strongly to Park. She adorably admired his "beautiful bottom end," "nice lips" and "good head." It is not often such a country diva is flustered and rustled, but we have to admit, with Park's good looks and deep, soulful voice, we were just as engaged and look forward to everything this contestant can bring.

Tyler Grady
Although he broke his arms after climbing a tree, Grady was far from handicapped in his vocal abilities. A Van Morrison-esque artist, Grady brings back the 1970s. During his audition, he chose to belt "Let's Get it On." His stunning vocal range, as well as his schoolboy charm, will make him an audience favorite in the next stages of the competition. Plus, he is a total chick magnet, sweeping judge DioGuardi and guest judge Beckham (who was a big fan of his bell-bottom jeans) off their feet.

Andrew Garcia
Garcia not only has a compelling background, but also the voice to make him one of the most likeable contestants this season. Growing up, Garcia had to overcome numerous pressures from his gang-affliated family to create a better life for his son. With viewers on the couch already tearing up, empathizing with his tragic yet uplifting life story, Garcia only became more of a favorite once he opened his mouth. His husky pipes provided a solid base to sing Maroon 5's difficult "Sunday Morning," while he smartly emphasized just the right parts in the song to make it more powerful. Look for Garcia to go far.

Chris Golightly

Photo: Golightly is a singer with true heart.

Another singer with a story, former foster care child Christ Golightly sang "Stand By Me" with all of the heart that he could muster. The audition earned him a big "YES!" from Kara - who said that Golightly was one of her favorite auditions - and Randy, as well as two "little" yeses from Simon and guest judge Katy Perry. Golightly said that he was determined to prove his worth to Perry and Simon, and we think he'll earn that chance. Golightly has a beautiful voice that's powerful and full of heart without being overwhelming or sorrowful. We didn't cringe when the singer went for the high notes, and if this is any kind of omen - Golightly could be Justin Guarini's (runner-up circa season one, in case you've forgotten) long lost twin!

Didi Benami
Didi Benami was also one of many contestants on "AI" who showed up with their hearts on their sleeves, and the singer walked into the L.A. audition room fully expecting an emotional performance. She was singing in honor of a friend who passed away in 2005 and cited her friend's faith as the driving force behind her own musical dreams. Benami confidently sang "Hey Jude," pointedly flaunting her range and power. Her voice is unique and engaging; viewers will want to hear Benami sing different styles and won't easily tire of her pleasant crooning. Benami's distinct sound will give her an edge in the future and her touching story is sure to curry America's favor later on in the contest.

Katelyn Epperly

Photo: According to Shania Twain, Epperly "has a voice that can sing a hit song."

The Chicago auditions brought us Katelyn Epperly, a 19-year-old Iowa native who, according to Shania Twain, "has a voice that can sing a hit song." The sweet-as-pie singer sang a unique twist on Duffy's "Syrup & Honey" and her soulful voice earned her four yeses. Though she doesn't transition between low and high notes as naturally as some of her competition, Epperly seems down-to-earth and likable. Simon described Epperly's performance as one in which "the lights are out, but somebody's home" - it will be a thrill to watch her come alive on stage when supported by a full band.

Todrick Hall
He learned the ropes from former winner Fantasia Barrino when he performed with her in "The Color Purple," and in Dallas, Todrick Hall earned his golden ticket. Not only does Hall have a smooth and effortless sound, but he has a refreshingly genuine and upbeat personality (even Simon admitted that he liked Hall as a person). Hall sang a self-penned song about Kara, Simon and Randy, and showed that he is confident and easy-going but doesn't lack passion. Despite Simon's reservations about the quality of Hall's voice, Hall's creativity and affable personality made him Randy's favorite audition.

Most memorable auditions

General Larry Platt

Photo: American won't soon forget General Larry Platt, who belted out "Pants on the Ground."

63-year-old Platt has revolutionized the idea of belts with his (horribly catchy) rendition of "Pants on the Ground." The song itself was hilarious, andPlatt's antics contributed even more to the humor when he repeatedly shouted, "Lookin' like a fool with your pants on the ground!" Platt's Atlanta audition has taught viewers a lesson - talent comes in all ages...and all kinds. The general's 15 minutes of fame have led him far, with appearances at the Grammys, "The View" and Jimmy Fallon's late night show to boot. "Pants on the Ground" is even in works in studios. Now let's hope that Platt and William Hung will join forces for a superstar album.

Andrew Fenlon
The angriest judge DioGuardi has been on season nine was during Andrew Fenlon's audition of "House of the Rising Sun." From the beginning, Fenlon got to a bad start, answering Cowell's basic questions with a snarky attitude, which extruded overconfidence and insolence. It was after Fenlon's song when DioGuardi and Fenlon began a battle of words, during which the judge mentioned, "that kind of pisses me off." Moral of the story - don't get on DioGuardi's bad side.

Cornelius Edwards
Adult entertainer Edwards arguably had the most painful audition in all nine seasons of "Idol." While belting "Rolling on the River," Edwards leaped into the air, contacting the ground in a split position that even Olympic gymnast Shaun Johnson would envy. The most entertaining aspect of the audition was the judges' reactions - their wide-eyed shock and utter surprise at Edwards's "talent." Luckily Edwards's audition (or was it his ability?) was good enough to get him to Hollywood, but in exchange for ripped pants and an aching groin.

Ava Wallace. More »

Sophia Deng. Sophia was the Managing Editor of SCO during the 2009-2010 school year. When not laughing or chilling to OWL CITY, Sophia can be found oil painting, playing volleyball, doing sudokus and sprinkling happy fairy dust over everyone. She loves folk/pop/electronica indie, Harry Potter, Burt's Bees … More »

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