'American Idol' Season 11 Portland Auditions: The Best (and Worst) Contestants
The Fox contest's Oregon outing attracted some memorable standouts and some screechy singers whose voices we'd like to forget.
Portland, Oregon is known as a sort of hipster capital of the West, what with the organic food and the nature and the ... American Idol auditions?
Turns out, the city attracts a ton of wannabe pop stars -- in a good way. Wednesday night's Idol tryouts featured talented singers ranging from a 6 foot-8-inch "gentle giant" to a young single mom whose ex cheated on her to a Liberian immigrant with a soulful Bob Marley impression.
Then there were the cringe-inducing and deluded contestants who made us wish that the Fox reality show's crafty producers would peel back the curtain to show Simon Cowell standing behind it, declaring: "X Factor was a mistake. Make room for a fourth judge!" And then he could resume the kind of acid-tinged commentary that crushes dreams yet entertains viewers back home.
Until that moment, Steven Tyler's one-liners remain one of the best parts of the new-ish judges' panel. (Take, for example, the Aerosmith frontman's response circa the Galveston-Houston auditions when a Hollywood-bound hopeful said she was so excited she might wet her pants. "Go right ahead. You were that good," he said, creepily.)
But we digress. Let's begin with the most promising Portland performers, shall we? All right, then:
Britnee Kellogg: She's the aforementioned Single Mom With The Cheating Ex, and as it happens, she's got a set of pipes as strong as her reality TV-ready backstory. The 27-year-old from Washington -- who has two young sons -- wowed Tyler and company with her spirited rendition of Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good," to which Randy Jackson responded: "I like the attitude. ... Keep that passion." That was her cue to head to the Hollywood rounds.
Jermaine Jones: As soon as Jennifer Lopez dubbed him a "gentle giant," we had a feeling this guy would get through. The church-going, mom-loving singer from Pine Hill, N.J., made a mostly positive impression on the judges for his smooth, nuanced vocals on a cover of "Superstar," that Carpenters oldie. Tyler praised Jones' performance as "spiritual," while Lopez advised him to "loosen up a little bit" since he appeared a tad too nervous.
Jessica Phillips: The comely, stylish 25-year-old hails from Brooklyn, where she helps look after her boyfriend of five years following his recent stroke and memory loss. "It's a different type of love," she explained to the camera, tears streaming down her face. Phillips sang a solid, engaging version of the Faith Evans song "Again," and the judges all said yes to Hollywood.
Romeo Diahn: This was our favorite audition of the night, precisely for the fact that Diahn, a survivor of civil war in his native Liberia, sings with unmanufactured emotion and joy. The 22-year-old performed Marley's "Is This Love" with his eyes closed seemingly the entire time -- something we'd normally find annoying -- but he appeared to genuinely feel every lyric.
And now, last but never least, the worst:
Ben Harrison: This baby-faced blondie had immediate Blake Lewis potential but blew his tone-deaf rendition of Queen's "Somebody to Love," after which he blew Lopez a kiss (blech!) and said, all cocky-like: "I didn't puke or pee my pants, so ... ."
Ben from Philly: The 18-year-old who described his occupation as "I sell cable TV on the street" flew all the way from Pennsylvania on the encouragement of (possibly evil) co-workers. Jackson said his intepretation of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" was "terrible," although Lopez called him "cute." Alas, he was voted back to Philly. (Adding to the rejection, he also suffered from a bad cold and was caught on camera blowing his nose, clearing the phlegm in his throat and burping.)
David Weed: For the past 22 years, Weed argued, people have been telling him he has a "phenomenal" voice. Not so. The sweater vest-sporting fast-food industry employee from Idaho had an appealing deadpan demeanor but a delusional belief in his singing ability. His cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" sounded like cats screeching in harmony with the two Bens and your friend who thinks he can sing but cannot carry a tune but you don't want to hurt his feelings so you don't say anything at all.
That's why we have judges.
Thursday's auditions in St. Louis promise to bring an extra dose of terrible, given the added focus on talent during the Portland rounds. Or not.
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