Despite the fact that "Idol" auditions were in Miami — otherwise known as the sun and fun capital of the world — for many of the people who auditioned, the feeling in the air was anything but festive.
Take, for instance, Shannon, an 18-year-old whose parents' meat market is covered with pictures of her winning various and sundry singing competitions. While I could have done without her numerous demonstrations of her belching abilities, I thought the girl's voice wasn't half bad.
Suffice it to say that Randy, Simon and Paula did not agree. After watching her with a completely dumbfounded expression on his face, Simon told her she sounded like she was eating when she was singing her Janis Joplin song, while Randy labeled her "almost tone deaf" and Paula the peacemaker even joined in to lament her melody problems.
But their reaction to Shannon was positively enthusiastic compared to how they felt about 16-year-old Julie. A finalist on the 2003 "Idol" spin-off "American Juniors," Julie may be one of the best living examples of why it's dangerous to televise your children at too young an age.
An inarguably pretty girl with a solid voice, Julie's whole demeanor felt so rehearsed that she seemed incapable of showing us any kind of real human emotion. This didn't go over well with the judges, and seemed to cause them to be a bit overly critical of her Joplin number.
The situation was far cheerier when Corliss and Brittany, two best friends who seemed to create hilarity wherever they went, auditioned. They each came in declaring their love for a particular judge (for Corliss it was Randy, while Brittany was feeling Simon), knocked everyone's socks off with their performances and proceeded to pepper the judges with kisses and hugs once they were given their golden tickets.
Ghaleb, a 27-year-old harmonica player from Venezuela, was another affectionate one. While Simon offered that he'd really only like Ghaleb's singing if he were drunk and Paula told him he'd have to tone down his accent for future performances, Randy and Paula ultimately got behind the guy, which meant that we then got to witness him kiss and embrace every last "Idol" producer, security guard and photographer he could find.
Ramuel, a tiny 19-year-old Asian girl, also got a lot of love — especially from Paula, who couldn't seem to stop calling her adorable.
And while it was obvious that 21-year-old single mom Suzanne was going to make it through before she even talked about how she wanted to give her daughter more than she ever had, that didn't make the fact that the judges loved her any less sweet.
Ditto Syesha, who occupied the "troubled relationship with dad" story line (he's struggled with addiction, but they tearfully embraced both during their interview and once she'd gotten her Hollywood go ahead.)
Based on all of this, would-be "Idol" contenders take note: if you don't have a tugging-on-our-collective-heartstrings personal story, just try to act humble and declare your love for the judges. If none of that is possible, then whatever you do, just don't sing Joplin.
Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores.