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February 2, 2012



Kristen the Yellow Lab and I are waving our terrible towels!! After all, what better way to enjoy the Pittsburgh auditions on American Idol Season 11? Are yinz guys ready? Den, let's go! For DIS is American Idol.

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Oh my laundry! Who's this shaking a tail feather? Oh, it's just Ryan. He's here to tell us that we're in the Steel City, aka The City of Champions!  This, Ryan informs us, is the perfect place to find the next American Idol. (But, apparently, not the next Super Bowl champs... )  The judges arrive, and before you can order up a hot pierogi, it's time for the first audition!

It's a Burgh Thing!

First up is Heejun Han, (pronounced HeeJUNE) 22 years old, originally from Korea.  Bespeckled, chatty, and nervous, he has REJECT spelled out in invisible ink on his baseball cap.  Ryan asks his friends if he can sing, and they shrug. "We've never heard him." Uh-oh. He tells the judges he likes to sing R & B/soul, and will be performing Michael Bolton's How Am I Supposed to Live Without You. Brace yinz-selves! He opens his mouth and emits a sweet, soulful sound. Well, Jiminy Christmas! He's good! All three judges adore him, and he is off to Hollywood.

Reed Grimm, 26, is a cross between season 8's Alex Trugman and Season 10's Casey Abrams. He is funny, jazzy, and just enough at ease to appear he's in it for the fun rather than the competition.  Audiences will love him....for a short time.  He performs the theme song from Family Matters, but Kristen and I are hoping he goes with The Facts of Life next time.  All three judges send him through, and Pittsburgh is proving to STEEL the best of the contestants. (Get it? yuck-yuck!)

Kristen says, "Talent? It's a Burgh thing. Or maybe a bird thing."  

Samantha Novacek is here! She has brought along her sister, who goes by the name of Patty the Pittsburgh Planker.  She explains that planking is a yoga position that she has turned into a hobby.  Her sister, she claims, sings better when she planks with her.  So, while Samantha sings We Never Loved At All by Faith Hill, Patti lies facedown on the floor in front of her.  For the entire song. Kristen understands the value of lying at a human's feet (potential treats from dropped snack bits.)  But, as Samantha has no snack food in sight, this is all very confusing to a yellow lab. Fortunately, the gimmick paid off as the judges love Samantha.  Kristen and I aren't convinced that she's particularly good or unique.  Patty, on the other hand? AWESOME!

"Plankin'? Dat's nothing, Kristen. I carry planks of steel!"

Creighton Fraker wins the prize for the "Name most likely to be manipulated for humor's sake." He is 28 years old, a starving artist from NYC. He has written a song for the judges that he sings in a sort of nasally high tone.  Next, he does an equally nasally version of Whose Loving You by Smokey.   Kristen and I feel he has no gift for phrasing, and his voice, though on key, is not particularly appealing. He's a bit like last season's Paul McDonald for us, and we don't mean that as a compliment. Oh, fer cryin' in the sink! The judges adore him. Off to Hollywood he goes.

Here comes Eben Frankewicz, a 15-year-old that Kristen and I will refer to as Bieber From Another Mother  He is on the young-side of 15, but he has poise and confidence, yet a sweet nature. . He performs Bill Withers Ain't No Sunshine.  He's got a nice tone to his voice, and, surprisingly, a bit of a soulful style.  The thing about Eben is that, unlike previous teen boys, he seems capable of using his vocal skills to sing pop.  He makes it to Hollywood.  Hopefully, he won't go through puberty before the finale. Otherwise, he'll be up the crick without a paddle.

Travis Orlando, 17 years old of the Bronx, NY, is a return sob story.  Last season, we saw him at 16, living a shelter with his homeless family.  This season, he is with his father and twin brother, as his mother walked out on the bunch of them. In the meantime, his father's health is deteriorating.  He performs Stevie's Isn't She Lovely with the right soulful vibe.  The judges aren't convinced, however, and seem particularly disturbed that he dropped out of high school for this. Nevertheless, the judges decide to take a chance on him and put him through. Kristen and I aren't sure he can compete with the big guns when he gets to Hollywood, but we like him. We're hopeful.

"We're on the prowl!! For the next American Idol!!"

Right from the start, Kristen and I think Erika Van Pelt is a keeper.She is a mobile DJ and a wedding singer. We like her girl-next door look that contrasts dramatically with her voice. When she performs Carol King's Will You Love Me Tomorrow, it is throaty and rich. Also she has a voice unique enough to be identifiable on radio. She's off to Hollywood!

19 year old Shane Bruce is working in the coal mines in West Virginia, just like his daddy and his granddaddy.  When the judges ask him why he wants to work in the mines, he tells him, "Job security." Oops.  Then, maybe the music biz isn't for you, kiddo! Shane is filmed singing to his fellow miners down in the shaft,  He sounds good enough for Hollywood down there. But, in front of  the judges, his nerves get the best of him.  His performance of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is reedy and lacking in an emotional connection. He knows he blew it, and is disappointed in himself. But, Kristen and I hope he considers getting some experience under his belt and trying out again in a few years.  After all, we really don't want him to be a victim of black lung.

Arrrrggg! 'twas a little pitchy, dog!

Hallie Day is an interesting audition.  She shares her story of dropping out of school at 15 to run away to New York and join a girl group called Plum Crazy. Things didn't work out, so she returned home to a dysfunctional family life.  At one point, she tried to commit suicide. Then, she met her future husband. He encouraged her to audition for Idol. Hallie is also not a cookie-cutter blonde.  She has a rough edge to her that makes her far more interesting than the sweet young things parading through the auditions this season. She does a shouty, yet convincing performance of Gloria Gayner's I Will Survive. She could be a contender if she can figure out a way to get the audience to like her. Right now, she's got a wall up.  Off she goes to Hollywood!

And  with that, Elvis has left the building.  Kristen and I are off to to enjoy a refreshing Rolling Rock beer, before we head out to San Diego. Sees ya'! 

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