Published August 18, 2006
Somewhere among the thousands lined up outside the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ at 5 a.m. Monday morning may have been the future winner of “American Idol” – or the future William Hung, the “so-bad-he’s-good” “Idol” reject who parlayed his shockingly poor singing voice into a somewhat lucrative novelty act. But, unfortunately, I didn’t see either.
What I saw was far, far worse: Thousands of folks too talented to find themselves “Hung-ified” and not talented enough to be “Idol-ized”
Though the televised “Idol” audition shows would have you believe that there are basically good singers and bad, the reality is that most who audition fall into that gray area of mediocrity somewhere in between.
That’s tough, because these people will spend their lives hoping to making it big, only to fail – and watch completely untalented celebutantes with rich parents go on to make successful pop albums. They’re only solace will be to place a bulls-eye over a picture of Paris Hilton’s face and take aim.
Because these somewhat talented wannabes are the best in their high school, local theater or bar band circuit, they think if they just try hard enough they’ll reach superstardom -- but it's far more likely that only years of struggle and disappointment lay ahead.
But let’s be cheerier, shall we?
I did run into one young man who was among the 60 or so who got through to the next round. (Tuesday’s audition was in front of producers; those who passed face the show’s executive producers in the next round at a later date, and the third round is in front of judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell.)
The guy’s name is Luis Labrador, a Puerto Rican-born high school teacher now living in New York. He had actually gotten dissed in the first round of last season’s try-outs in Boston, but this time made it through. He looks like the George Michael knock-off from the 80’s boy band Color Me Badd.
I didn’t get to hear him sing because those who passed Tuesday’s audition were under strict orders from producers NOT to sing for anyone once they left the arena. As a potential contestant, they’re apparently already under partial “ownership” of the show.
Auditioners lined up 4 in a row and had about 20 to 30 seconds to perform. It was heartening to see the camaraderie of the group; most were happy if they saw someone else make it through.
But the general consensus was that too many talented singers were passed over, and many “Idol” hopefuls searched for any reporter they could tell their sob story to.
One producer told me that the biggest mistake anyone could make was to try to appear like a former contestant. Indeed, one reject told me he was booted with the words, “You’re too much like Ruben Studdard. We’ve already had Ruben Studdard.”
Anyone under 18 (the age range is 16-28) had to be accompanied by a parent, and they’re were many folks there to support their kid, or at least to hope that money spent on voice lessons hadn’t gone to waste.
One booted young woman sang rather feebly for me afterward. She said she had gone to the prestigious Berkeley College of Music, had put out her own CD, and added, “I’m going to make it big because God gave me a gift.” It was then I knew that God has a sense of humor.