On Thursday night, Randy Jackson and his American Idol crew went to his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., for auditions. Hopes were high going in with Keith Urban exclaiming that all good music comes from the south.
Keith's affinity for the south and country music is perplexing; does the south have a cult following in New Zealand? Well, if not it does seems as though Keith may have a following in the south, at least with beauty queen (her description, not mine) Megan Miller. Megan dragged herself from her hospital bed against doctor's orders to make her American Idol audition. After getting her ticket to Hollywood, Megan had to head back to undergo surgery and coquettishly invited Keith to accompany her.
And how did Keith respond? Well, Keith did the very that thing that men should never do. Keith said he couldn't go with her because he was married. Come on Mr. Urban - the right answer is that you don't want to go not that you can't. Wait, what's this? Oh, he does want to go but only if he can bring Nicole Kidman. . . well, that's an interesting twist.
Thursday's American Idol episode had its fair share of entertaining auditions but for a good part of the hour-long episode, this viewer was distracted by one nagging question: How can the word "tone" sound so absolutely grating when spoken by Nicki Minaj but so beautiful when it flows from Keith's lips. This fixation was worrisome. Sure, it's normal to fixate on someone you find annoying but to fixate on someone you are indifferent to is odd . . . and Keith Urban is unremarkable, right?
Hmmm, never noticed that tattoo on Keith's chest before . . .
Anyway, back to the contestants. Megan Miller wasn't the only one who dragged herself to the auditions from the hospital, Calvin Peters also hailed from a Baton Rouge hospital. However, unlike Miller, Calvin is not a patient but a doctor. He performed a Maxwell song that "earned" him a ticket to Hollywood. But the song was too big for him and it was more likely the novelty of his profession than his actual talent that earned him a "yes" from all four judges.
In fact, if the editing of the show can be deemed representative of reality (no, I did not type that with a straight face) then the judges were in complete cohesion and harmony during their time in Baton Rouge. Even less mainstream contestants, like Charlie Askew, who Randy characterized as "seemingly dark, strange and cool," earned a unanimous nod from the panel after his sketchy performance of Queen, followed by a stronger Sinatra song. Not sure how far Charlie will go in the competition but Randy was barking up the right tree, Charlie is fascinating in a bizarre kind of way.
The judges were not only simpatico in the good times, nay, they were equally in synch when it came time for rejection. When Chris "Mushroom" Barthel's vocals failed to live up to the expectations set by his engaging personality, all four judges were in agreement when they withheld a ticket to Hollywood. But, if you looked closely, there was one brief moment when a fracture in the armor of amiability among the judges could be detected. It happened when Nicki experienced a moment of delusional grandeur, asking Chris to approach the judges' table so she could run her hands through his hair and "bless" him. The camera panned to Mariah Carey whose face carried a distinct look of hatred. Seriously, it was like staring into the eyes of Medusa.
And finally Thursday night's anchor audition went to Burnell Taylor. Burnell is a young man whose entire home was ravaged during Hurricane Katrina but he attributes that disaster to awakening his passion for music. To say that the judges were all equally impressed by Burnell's rendition of, "I'm Here," from The Color Purple would not be completely accurate. Sure, they all showered Burnell with accolades and three out of the four got to their feet for a standing ovation after he performed (Nicki abstaining from an ovation was probably not as much of a reflection of her opinion of Burnell, as it was a way for her to be contrary and draw attention to herself) but no one came close to enjoying Burnell as much as Keith Urban.
To say Keith was in the throes of delight during Burnell's performance would not be hyperbole. He actually wriggled and writhed in his chair with a goofy (yet ruggedly handsome) expression of wonder and pleasure. Isn't it wonderful when a man can be so demonstrative with his emotions?
Uh oh, watch out Phil Phillips's. Your reign as this viewer's Mr. American Idol may be threatened by the newcomer, Judge Keith Urban. It's always the quiet ones you have to watch for.
Tune in next week when the judges head to San Antonio and then board the Queen Mary in search of your next American Idol.