‘American Idol’ in Portland: Judges Put on the Rose-Colored Glasses

by | February 1, 2012 at 11:09 PM | American Idol, Eye on Idol, Recap

Portland contestant Britnee Kellogg performs in front of the judges on AMERICAN IDOL airing Wednesday, Feb. 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX.

American Idol” is hitting Portland, or is it the other way around?

A slew of dismal contestants in the City of Roses forced the judges to continue their streak of dishonesty this season with buffered rejections to the singers that offered hope that they could actually get better.

“Not yet,” and “You’re not ready” are all too common fallback phrases throughout the episode, although what the judges really mean is, “No. Not now, not ever.” All they’re doing is making next year’s line into the stadium even longer by filling it with repeat offenders who have no right to sing to me on my television.

Another thing about Portland: weird! I’ve never been but I’ve only heard awesome things about the city. This episode shows another side of the city, namely the strange-looking-with-delusions-of-grandeur side. This season, producers seem to be favoring footage of boring-bad contestants over truly-horribly-bad contestants, but at least Portland showed a strong contingent of the latter.

The Highlights

Gawky Ben Purdom, a Philly native who did a lounge version of “Born This Way.” It was… special. And if that wasn’t enough, the judges let him sing another song: a lounge version of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” The poor kid had a cold, so that explains why he was snapping his fingers through a Lady Gaga song. They didn’t let him through to Hollywood, but you know what? I think this budding pop-Sinatra just isn’t ready yet.

Another failure was the, um, well-endowed Sam Gershman, who brought out some of Steven Tyler’s best lines of the night, as you can imagine. (“You’re gonna make a good Easter bunny.”) This man really is a comic genius, I can’t say it enough. Anyway, Sam did some Broadway-ish song-and-dance thing, and bombed, but you know, it’s just not her time.

Watch JLo Clash With Randy and Steven During Last Week’s Auditions:

Ok, now onto the good singers. Brittany Zika was up first, and the 21-year-old is the embodiment of Portland. Fedora—check. Face-swallowing black-frame glasses—check. Suspenders—check. Witchy sorceress powers to make her dreams come true — check. (She once had a dream that she would sing with Sara Bareilles and it happened.) Highly affected singer-songwriter voice—check. Still, it sounded good on Brandi Carlile’s “The Story.” The judges, however, were not convinced about Brittany until she removed her hipster accoutrements and became a characterless blonde girl. There, that’s the Brittany for “American Idol”! Golden ticket—check.

Wait, there’s another Brittany! And she sort of looks like that first Britney! Britnee Kellog, a 27-year-old mother of two who proceeded to tell us way TMI about her philandering basketball player husband. She sang well on “You’re No Good,” but the best part was when she asked Jennifer Lopez about being a music superstar and a mother. It was actually a very touching, human moment for JLo when she explained that her kids were right outside of the judges’ chambers, along with her own mom, and that she takes them everywhere she goes.

But that’s not the mushy-gushiest story of the night by a long shot. First contender for that award is Brooklyn’s own Jessica Phillips. Her boyfriend had a stroke last year, and now the 25-year-old is his caretaker. Super heartbreaking, and actually brought a tear to my eyes… an especially dramatic slow, single tear. She sang Faith Evans’s “Again” and is off to Hollywood. The other contender for saddest and most inspirational backstory is Romeo Diahn, a gravelly reggae singer who spent most of his life in a refugee camp in Ghana. JLo warns that he may have a hard time singing Celine Dion and Whitney Houston ballads like everyone else does during the competition, but he’ll get to give it a shot in Hollywood.

Things I Learned

The judges dress themselves? It seemed that way when JLo arrived Day 2 without her tights, and Ryan Seacrest almost had to pony up his pair. It stands to reason, then, that she got dressed all alone in her hotel room that morning.

Which might mean that Steven Tyler’s outfits (and hair jewelry) all come out of that incredibly musty, cobwebbed brain of his.

And it also must mean Ryan’s leaving. No one wears an ill-fitting gray grandpa sweater to work unless they are completely checked out.