Sell-out: My American Idol tryout
Well, I did it. I tried out for American Idol yesterday, just for kicks. And let me tell you, what an odd experience. On Monday I went down to the Energy Solutions Arena (formerly the Delta Center) in Salt Lake to get an official American Idol wristband and was told by the officials there (really some girl who went to Hunter High several years after I did and recognized me by my Travels picture in the drama hall) that I had to be back at the arena at 5:00 AM the next morning. Yeesh! So, eager to please, I stayed over at my sister Kjersti’s place (who now lives by around 45th South and 13th East or so) and went to bed at the earliest time I’ve ever gone to bed since I was probably in elementary school: 8:00 PM. Of course, I didn’t actually get to sleep until several hours later, and even then it was due to NyQuil, but eventually I fell into a confused slumber on the floor, since my sister’s Love Sac wasn’t quite big enough to sleep on.
The next morning we all headed over to the arena: my sister, brother Ben, and sister-in-law Luana (Kjersti just dropped us off, since she was six months too old to actually audition). I still don’t know exactly why they had us line up at 5:00 AM since they didn’t even open the doors until around 7:00 and due to the line being so long we didn’t even get inside until around 8:00. I guess they wanted some group shots of the line outside right when the sun came up or something. We ended up right next to this lady that had brought a ventriloquist dummy of an old woman, who was interviewed by a few local news stations. She called her dummy “Simon’s Grandma” and yodeled. If you watched any of these news broadcasts, you may be able to see Ben and me in the background giving looks that say, “Who is this chick?!?” Anyway, Ben had a brief reunion with Jon-Peter Lewis, who was doing some sort of interview work for the show I guess, since he had a microphone and an American Idol camera following him around. We finally went inside right as a big burly producer was on the arena floor trying to teach everyone “Get Ready” by the Temptations. The next two hours were spent filming various people saying things like “From Salt Lake City, it’s American Idol! Woo!” and “First Archie (referring to David Archuleta), now me! Woo!” and “From Happy Valley, welcome to American Idol! Woo!” even though Happy Valley is technically Utah Valley, not Salt Lake. If you see the broadcast of the show, this may be the only point where you can see me, as a redheaded pinprick with a blue shirt among the giant crowd of over 7,000 potentials (yes, that’s a spoiler, but not a surprising one). The producer ended with everyone singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye (or at least the parts of the songs where some of us knew the words), and then auditions proper started.
Contrary to what you might believe from the show, not every contestant gets paraded before Paula, Simon, and Randy. No, what they actually did was set up six tables (later expanded to ten) on the arena floor, and took each section and lined up the contestants by fours in front of each table, at each of which sat one or two producers (apparently this show’s got a lot of producers). Each person would step up to the table and sing for a bit (probably around 25 seconds or so), then step back. When all four had sung and the producers had discussed their choices for a bit, they invited the four to step forward. They then told the people who were not moving on to step behind the table and get their wristband cut off and do the walk of shame out of the arena. The people who were moving on they gave a number to and told to walk out the other door of the arena to sign a bunch of papers and stuff.
At about 10:00 they stopped the auditions because Ryan Seacrest showed up to film for another hour things like “We’ve never been to this city before, but it’s home to some of the most beautiful scenery and 7,000 of the most energetic people we’ve ever met.” Director tells us to cheer (at 50%). “From Salt Lake City, This. . .is. . .American Idol!!” Director tells us to cheer (at 100%). While the director was a no-nonsense sort, Ryan was very gracious and kind. Case in point: a kid was taking pictures of Ryan, delaying the shot and making the director mad. Ryan’s solution was to take the camera from the kid, take a picture of himself, and hand the camera back with a big grin.
Anyway, after Ryan left the auditions continued in earnest. Ben and Luana were seated in the third section to get called up, and I sat with them until they were (minus about one hour in which I stood in line for lunch. One freakin’ hour! The line was only about 20 feet long! That’s the longest I’ve ever stood in such a “short” line! Ever! Yeesh! For a frellin’ hot dog and pretzel!). Since they were taking tickets I couldn’t bluff my way down with them, so I had to return to my seat, which was on the opposite side of the arena, in the next-to-last section to be called up. This meant, of course, that I had to wait pretty much the entire day (we got in the arena at 8:00 AM, and our section was finally called up at freakin’ 5:30 PM, but that’s how it goes when the producers have to sort through 7,000 people). ‘Twas a good seat, though, for it was only 12 rows back and it was behind the tables, so we could see and hear all the contestants pretty clearly.
I still don’t know the exact criteria the producers used to judge the contestants. There were some people that were absolutely amazing singers that didn’t make it, while there were others that seemed nondescript that moved on to the next round. Some were obviously not good singers and got moved on purely for the audition show, to be the horrible singers and ridiculous personalities that make Simon cringe. For example, the following people moved on: a flaming couple, one in horrible drag; a kid whose wrong notes could be heard throughout the entire arena (a feat, considering nobody had a mic), and the ventriloquist dummy girl mentioned earlier. There were at least two people that were such good singers that the audience cheered and applauded their performance, and then booed the producers when they got inexplicably cut. Probably only around one to two percent of the contestants even made it to the next round (which is still, what, 70 people? Maybe it was even less than that.) Ben and Luana both got cut (he sang “Hooked on a Feeling” and she sang something that I now forget) as well. I also saw Katie Hewitt (or whatever her last name is now) perform something, but she got cut too. I determined that since my voice could not match some of the awesome voices on display (even the ones that were being cut) that I would just have fun with it. My goal now became to not necessarily move on, but just to make a judge smile (and possibly move on to the main judges as a goofy audition).
This goal was strengthened when I finally got on the floor, after more than thirteen hours of waiting. The producers had been sitting there just as long as we (although in shifts) and looked incredibly bored. In fact, the producer at my table (who happened to be the same guy teaching us songs at the beginning of the whole process) just had his face supported by his hands with a “I just want to find a bar” look on his face. Even when watching the audition of a guy who made it to the next round in the group in front of mine he looked very bored. Then came my turn. I ended up singing part of “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, which I learned from watching Meet the Raisins. I even did the goofy choreography with my fingers like the raisins do:
Usually the producer would cut a contestant off at some point, but he just let me keep going. At the end of where I knew the words I just said, “And there’s a saxophone solo after that” and stepped back into the line. Nobody in my group moved on, but the producer chuckled. My goal was complete. I got my wristband cut off, and, after around thirteen hours of sitting in a hard seat (or concrete) and reading Matt Plotecher’s Rescue Ranger fanfiction on my Pocket PC, I was finally out of there and could go home! My main feeling was not of disappointment, but of relief, mostly for my backside and buttocks.
Would I do it again? No way. Too much hassle for a pipe dream, especially since the kind of music done on American Idol doesn’t really fit my style. Am I glad I did it? I think so, if for nothing else than to be able to say that I did it and know a bit more about the experience. It’s pretty obvious that finding the next American Idol isn’t American Idol‘s main task. Their main task is producing an entertainment TV show. Therefore, raw talent isn’t measured as much as “who would get us good ratings,” so if you want to really get a record deal, deal with people concerned with talent above all instead of this show.
Or, failing that, write goofy music that makes people laugh and brightens their day, no matter the voice quality of the singer.
This. . .was. . .my tryout for American Idol!!!!!