American Idol Meets Middle America

"Omaha, somewhere in middle America. Get right to the heart of matters..."

Ok, let's get to the heart of AI matters... shall we?

Paula, whose flight to the Cornhusker State was "delayed," appeared to be up to her old tricks again.

The judge saunters in way late. She is extremely fidgety: up, down, up, down. The girl even broke out the baby clap (we hadn't seen yet this season). She arm wrestled a contestant in a disco shirt and interrupted another's audition with an enormously loud hiccup...

Paula gave a YES to Sarah Whitaker (above) all slumped in her chair. Sarah???

All signs point to... suspicion.

Where was Ms. Abdul for the beginning of the Omaha auditions anyway? Plane problems Paula? Was that jet lag that had her acting so loopy?

The first contestant wasn’t necessarily looking for a golden ticket when he was shown the door. Chris Bernheisel was so excited he says, “I feel I could explode and happiness is going to go flying everywheres, yeah!”

The guy brought pictures of himself and Kelly Clarkson, gifts for each of the judges and an enthusiastic attitude to just be a part of American Idol… any part.

It didn’t matter that Chris’ singing voice wasn’t good enough. He’d take a spot on the Finale show. He was thinking “red carpet.” Simon told him that he wanted to see him reporting for his local FOX affiliate and it was as good as getting that golden ticket to Hollywood. “This is the biggest life altering… my greatest moment of my life so far.”

As Chris made his way out the door Randy called out, “Tell Seacrest you’re the next Seacrest.” That, Chris says, is “even better than a lottery ticket.”

Pressure is on… for other contestants to get that ticket to fame. And some couldn’t take the heat. It’s just so hard man, to remember the words when all you can think about is… poof -- blank.

The guy who pulled the lyrics from his pocket was one of many who let the pressure get to him. No ticket, but he made the montage for all of us to laugh at him.

You could tell newly-farm boy, Jason Rich had a solid voice, but kept “losing the words” from nervousness. It took him quite a few times before he could focus. He just couldn’t get passed that first verse. He eventually did and was given a pass to Hollywood. Simon reminded Jason that he gets no more second chances after this.

Forget the lyrics on LIVE TV and it’ll be him who’s easily forgotten.

Then you had the contestant with the sweaty underarms who forgot what show she was on. “Wait till I go to Hollywood and prove Simon wrong. I am America’s Top Model.” Looks like Kristen Erkert might be settling for something with this singing competition thing. We know where her aspirations really are.

What about the girl whose father was so strict, she had forgotten… herself.

Angela Puente fought with her father and eventually moved out of his house and in with her grandmother. She spared us the gory details, but it seems like Angela is just now finding out who she really is. Her tone was promising, but mimic-like. She’s going to need to hone in on a style all her own.

Samantha Sidley (below) needs to work on her delivery. Just ask Ryan. Oh yeah, he and Paula switched jobs for a few minutes. Ryan sat down between Simon and Randy and Paula went out to greet the contestants like Ryan does.

When Paula walked out there she had a look of fear in her eyes as she got a look at the contestants. Ryan was quite comfortable on the panel.

The host told Samantha, “I like your voice, but I think you have to work on your self confidence.” He mentioned her sway being part of that. Paula, Simon and Randy all basically said Samantha’s ability to sing overshadowed that. That’s for now.

The judges have been giving chances to singers who have drastic room for improvement. That’s smart because right now, viewers who are investing their time in this show are looking for that certain someone they can root for. Plus, there is plenty of time between the auditions and Hollywood to practice, practice, practice!

Finding one’s own true voice is what makes winners in this competition.
That’s what America wants, confidence and uniqueness.

David Cook’s genre was a bit Chris Daughtry (Season 5). His look was a dash of Blake Lewis (Season 6). But you know what, he was mostly - himself. Unique, confident and did it the way he wanted. He made Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” his own. This guy already gets what it takes.

Simon complimented Leo Marlowe for being “very open.” Leo joked that his “mom always said she raised a perfect homecoming queen. Too bad it wasn’t one of her daughters.” This contestant is funny, a good singer and will be quite entertaining to have around.

Leo sang “A Song For You” and added his own inflection. All the judges agreed he should make it though. Paula jumped up – threw her hands in the air and screamed, “TOUCHDOWN, I haven’t done that in a while.”

Which brings me back to my first notion… what’s up Paula? Is it time to "turn your ticket in and get your money back at the door?”

Who’s already taking bets this season? And what or WHO are you wagering?

American Idol goes Miami Wednesday night. There are sure to be some characters in this one!

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