Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Truth about American Idol Auditions, Part 7

Executive Producer Round, continued

My audition
I've been dreading writing about this actual part (can't you tell by all of the parts that proceeded this post?)  and I'm not sure why.  I'm sure it's a lot easy to write about "I got through and I'm going to Hollywood"  than it is to say "they hated me",  but I wasn't embarrased and I thought I did as well as possible under the circumstances.  I tried to hold my head as high as possible and never say anything negative while I was there.   I tried not to be rude to anyone, even people like FlagBoy or Brick (although I was a LITTLE rude to her after she pushed me over my limits), I tried to look nice (not slutty),  and I was constantly trying to take the smart approach of evaluating what was really happening (what the producers were saying to me versus what they were actually writing down about me) and I think those are all the reasons why it wasn't a whole lot worse.

I wore jeans, silver sparkly flip flops, and a silver sparkly tank top.  I was thinking that I wanted to stand out but not appear crazy,  that I wanted something slightly sexy but not skanky, and normal.   I was considering that we would have to wear the same thing for four days so I couldn't wear anything that needed to be dry-cleaned,  and I was thinking about the fact that we'd be standing for hours at a time (hence the flip flops), and that we'd be outside in the New Orleans heat for a lot of it (hence the tank top).   I won't here for obvious reasons but if anyone would like to see a picture of what I wore, feel free to ask.   --  I also have a video of me singing the song as I did at the actual audition, wearing the same exact thing (I shot it the night after the arena day).

As for song choice, I've worked professionally as a classical singer.  That's not to say that I'm a really really good singer, I'm not.   But, I can read music, stay on pitch 99% of the time, and have worked professionally doing both opera and musical theatre for years.  I'm also a union opera singer.  So, I'd be lying if I said I had absolutely no experience or idea what I'm doing, but I'm not the greatest either.  I'm a phenomenal chorister, but just a so-so soloist.  If that makes sense.      But, I have watched American Idol for 9 years, I know it's about pop music and just recently R&B and rock music, and I know that anyone who sings opera gets made fun of.   I wasn't going to disclose opera at all.  I specifically left it off of all of my interview sheets, all of my questionnaires, and everything else.  I talked about my job, my school training,  my volunteer work, everything but that.  I knew better.   But at some point, in one of the legal disclosure forms, I had to by law disclose if I was in a professional singing union.  Crap.   So I did.

So I get to the audition fully prepared.  I'm going to sing "Barracuda" by Heart, and if they ask for another song, I'll sing "Come Away with Me"  by Norah Jones.   I had vocal nodules many years ago (blisters on your vocal chords) so I have this really really weird vibrato thing going on.   I sound generally ridiculous singing pop music because of that and the classical training combined, but I generally can do a pretty good job of faking 70s and 80s hair music where people half scream with vibrato, and Norah Jones has some of those same elements in her voice as well so I figured I was pretty good with that.  I posted some videos on YouTube for critique, asked some of my friends who run recording studios and bands,  asked some of my professional singer friends, etc.  I worked relatively hard on trying to pick the right songs for me.

I wait for Jessica to go in, she does, I hear her singing, it's great, I'm nervous... I'm waiting for her to come out and even though they are shooing me into the curtained area in between the waiting room and the singing room, I want to see her come out and hold out long enough to get a chance to.  She got a golden ticket.  Awesome.  I was happy for her but it made me even more nervous.

I enter the room.  It looks EXACTLY the same as what it does on TV.   Except for a few things.   Simliarities:  the big obnoxious American Idol wallpapered wall is behind where I'm standing.  You know this wall... every year they change it, sometimes it's red, sometimes blue, sometimes green, this year it's purple.  It's got big silhouettes of past idols, sometimes their big heads, sometimes even less successful Idols like Reuben Studdard are included, sometimes they aren't, sometimes there is a head or body with a ?  on it that means it could be you, you know what I mean.  More Similiarities:  judges table complete with Coca Cola cups,  PA's with clipboards sitting in the corner,  wooden floor that's been laid down,  obnoxiously large American Idol circle logo laid onto the floor for you to step on (that thing is LITERALLY four inches off of the ground, it is a HUGE step),  open glass wall with a view of the river,  big microphone above your head.    Differences:  HUGE microphone above your head,  three or four camera men with grips holding other microphones,  three or four cameras,  about 20 assistants in the corner, and aside from the three judges, about 10 other people on each side.  So it's you, alone, staring at least 15 people in the face with another 10-20 watching.     (I didn't mention this before but that was the thing that shocked me about Mel's room.  That room, although small, had a long table that was lined with about 10-12 producers. Talk about pressure!)   More differences:  an "x" marks the spot on the obnoxious 4 inch high American Idol logo indicating where you should stand, and which way your face should point.

I give a quick introduction, I think they may have cut me off to tell me to sing my first song.  I sing Barracuda, Mel laughs at me.  I think I see her mouth "I told you"  to Ken.   I immediately understand why she passes me through, she thinks I'm hilarious.   I glare at her and she puts her clipboard over her face.   I get through 3 or 4 whole lines this time before Ken stops me and asks me why I'm screaming.  He asks me something about being a union singer and I admit that I do sing opera.  He asks me to sing opera.  KNOWING where this is now going I politely decline.  I start singing the Norah Jones song.  He cuts me off and again asks me to start singing opera.  Of course he wants to hear  "O Mio Babbino Caro."  That's the only song that ANYONE ever wants to hear.   Opera singers know what I'm talking about.  I tell him I'm not doing that because it's too overdone, and as a private joke to myself I ask if he'd like to hear some Phantom?   Haha, I thought that was hilarious, personally.  He didn't get the joke.  I didn't think he would.   He tells me I can either sing opera or get out.  I considered this for a minute knowing the hell the camera man would give me if I was not cooperative in the after-interview.   I sing a German piece a) because I love it,  b) because it's German and there was no way to use English words against me out of context later (example, someone singing "Aint' no sunshine when she's gone"  and rearranging the words and melody so that it sounds like a bad "You are my sunshine"... not saying they actually do that but I wouldn't put it past them with everything else I saw).  and c) I took some delight in knowing that none of the producers had ever heard it before.  

After I finished singing Ken Warwick asks me a little about myself, I tell him a little more about myself, and he responds "you seem like a nice girl, really you do, but everything you sing sounds like a nun."   A NUN?  I was so shocked.  I expected to hear many things, the typical British "that's dreadful,"  or something like that, but I've never ever been told I sing like a nun.  And I've even PLAYED nuns before in productions!  Ha!   So without thinking, I respond, "nuns are good."    and I thank them for their time, smile graciously (into all 3 cameras),  turn around and walk out.

Stay tuned for the after-interview... that's a very important part of this whole thing as well.  But I have to tell you,  hahahaha, when I saw my mother and told her what they said, the FIRST thing she said is, "Nuns are good!    I like nuns!"     hahaha.  Awesome.    That, (aside from the charbroiled oysters) was easily the best part of my day!


  1. Edit. I just realized reading my notes back from that day that there is NOT an x on the American Idol logo. They actually instructed us to stand in between the N in American and the I in idol. So it's not visible to the TV audience but it's how they ensure everyone stands in the same place every time, for the best lighting /sound, and also to ensure continuity between judges/days/auditions.

  2. I am filled with rage. I'm so into this story that I'd tell you I was so proud of you that you defied him and found some other song to sing for him.
    I'm smiling now. Good for you.
    In life everything is temporary, all we can take with us through life is our dignity.

  3. Wish you had belted out "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Imean, if you sound like a nun and all . . . :)

  4. You have such dignity, grace and poise. Whereas I would have punched the lot of them - or tried to. Bunch of EEJITS!!! Good that you sang a German song. Serves them right.

  5. Thanks for this blog. I'm a classical singer too and this makes a lot of sense, infuritating as it is. Good for you for keeping your dignity.

  6. I really enjoy your take on this whole process. I'm exhaused just hearing about it!

  7. I would have asked for Carmen or La Traviata.


  8. When you asked if he'd like to hear some "Phantom", and he didn't get it, I roared with laughter.

    Perhaps you should have sang the song: "Old Souls", it would have certainly fit the scene you were in. But then that too would have been over his head..."Phantom" indeed - hahahahahahaha!!!! I love you, my Phoenix!

  9. god thanks so much for posting this, now i know why those people are so pissed off. bless you, "nuns are good" move

  10. Outstanding story and thanks for sharing. I am sorry it did not end how you wanted but by sharing this I think you mad a huge contribution to all the people out there that want to try to go through this process.

  11. Thanks! And wow, two comments exactly a year apart! I'm thrilled that people are still reading this thing. And I get e-mails daily from people asking questions or just thanking me because they got N's on their golden ticket and refused to participate after that.

  12. Interesting !
    Very interesting !

  13. I never have watched American Idol nor would I ever but this blog is very interesting to read!

  14. Amazing Story! Thanks!