Nervous Singer Pukes, Mom Disses Daughters — Peek Inside 'Idol' Auditions
PASADENA, California — The smell of the vomit in tunnel 6 as it cooked in the valley heat was atrocious. And it was probably all for nothing.
Still, tens of thousands of "Idol" hopefuls show up each summer, some apparently battling worse nerves than others, all going for their shot at Justin Guarini-like stardom. (OK, bad example, but you get the point: Not even #2 is guaranteed a career from this.)
At the Rose Bowl on Tuesday, an estimated 15,000 showed up, a few less than the 2 million this reporter estimated during the exhausting walk from the start of the line to the place in the back where MTV News shadowed a spirited hopeful.
Our man, a sort of better-singing Ace Young, had driven 24 hours straight from Omaha, Nebraska, to be there, which is how you gain respect from this crowd.
Like the quarterback with the most concussions, the singer with the worst horror story of getting to Pasadena was the one who stood tallest.
In our section, the only competition was a woman who flew on a one-way ticket from Kansas. "I'll figure out how I'm getting home after the audition," she said without worry. There was also a woman from South Africa, but it turned out she really lived in Los Angeles (nice try!).
The line, of course, is part of the fun. Some were complaining that "Idol" wouldn't allow camping this year. (Auditionees could register beginning Sunday but could only start lining up Tuesday at 5 a.m.)
That's fun in the same way watching "Napoleon Dynamite" is fun — you know, a lot of quirky (OK, nerdy) humor. For instance, you would have to know "Grease" to catch the made-up lyrics our man and a woman in a pink cowboy hat were trading during a group rendition of "Summer Lovin'."
Oh, that's the other thing about the line. There's a lot of singing. Even at 5 a.m. there was a lot of singing. Sometimes it was one person practicing their audition or showing off their voice to one of the many camera crews covering the spectacle. Other times it was a group of old or brand-new friends just passing the time.
Regardless, in any 20-minute span you were guaranteed to hear "Respect," "Natural Woman" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" at least once.
And always, when a song was done, there was clapping. The camaraderie in the "Idol" audition line was commendable. "You ask a question, and everyone answers," one young girl said.
Sure, there were some rolled eyes, like when the clubbed-out dude destroyed an R. Kelly ballad, but even he got a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The wannabe "Idols" that stood out were the competitive ones. A few singers refused to reveal their audition songs for fear of someone stealing them. And then there were the two "best friends" full of confidence.
"I'm just glad all these people came out to support me since I'm the next American Idol," one said.
"After me, that is," her friend replied.
That was almost as cold as the mom who, when asked if she could see each of her three daughters as the next Idol, replied, "One of them, yes." And the other two, who were standing right next to her? "Not a chance."
People-watching was the best way to pass the time, but others brought guitars, portable video game systems and even sleeping bags. The "Idol" organizers were also generous enough to hand out stress balls and yo-yos, which almost made up for the empty concession stands.
After about four hours of standing, which seemed solely for the purpose of getting good camera shots for the "Idol" show, the auditionees were allowed to enter the Rose Bowl.
At the gate, a chipper coordinating producer named Patrick Lynn held a makeshift news conference for the dozens of journalists present.
"What we're looking for at this point is really hard to put our finger on," Lynn said. "What we're not looking for is guys with gray hair and bald rockers. We've already got those. We're looking for originality, personality, singing talent. But we really don't know what we're looking for until it hits us in the face."
Another thing they were not looking for was to make this quick. Once inside, there was another hour of waiting and then another 30 minutes of shooting crowd footage.
During this time, the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" repeated over and over on the loudspeakers like a scene from a Disney remake of "A Clockwork Orange." Although it seemed like a torture trick to drive people to give up, it turned out the producers just wanted everyone to learn the chorus so they could sing it together for the cameras. As if hearing it twice wouldn't have been enough.
The hopefuls filled a quarter of the stadium, but every singer was allowed to bring in one guest for support (a.k.a. keep them from going crazy and smashing one of the loudspeakers playing "Daydream Believer"). Some brought friends, others brought their parents, and a few even brought their babies.
By about 10:30 a.m., producers began escorting just the singers (we're guessing babies were allowed) to 14 tables set up across the football field. (Only 11 were used.)
Groups of four then approached each table of three judges — "The same people who have been doing it for years," Lynn said — and sang one by one until each was cut off, which was anywhere between five and 30 seconds. Our man actually made it into the second verse of "Ain't No Sunshine." He thought he nailed it, but all four in his group got the same verdict: "Not this time."
On the auditions that air on TV, which are a few more steps from this one (none of the judges or even Ryan Seacrest were in attendance), there's just as many horrible singers as truly talented ones. "I've had contestants do everything from try to strip in front of us to give us money," Lynn said.
The desperate, however, were tough to spot at the Rose Bowl — the exception being the kid in the banana suit, whose audition song of choice was the Buckwheat Boys' "Peanut Butter Jelly Time."
Banana Man was near the end, so you would have had to stick around into the early evening to see if he made it.
Justin Previews New Tracks At Hollywood Show With Help From Will.I.Am, Timbaland
Before JT took the House of Blues stage Friday night, two men made the mistake of trying to squeeze into the first row past the die-hards who had rushed to the front when the doors opened at 8 p.m. A pack of ladies who hadn't met one another before waiting in line outside the venue banded together to move the men back.
The incident set the scene for the intimate show, where the crowd's loyalty to the former boy-bander came through in its equal excitement for his mega-hits and for brand-new tracks from his September 12 release, FutureSex/LoveSounds.
The singer made his way onstage to the "Inspector Gadget" theme, suavely decked out in a fitted pink-and-white checkered shirt, pink tie and gray dress pants. He went right into one of his biggest solo hits, the Britney-skewering "Cry Me a River," with girlfriend Cameron Diaz singing along from the balcony. Pulling from Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," Timberlake repeatedly sang, "I bet you think this song is about you," over the song's final bars.
In a shout-out to his home state, a quick taste of Arrested Development's "Tennessee" morphed into "Señorita," another single from Timberlake's first album, Justified. He hopped onto the keyboard for this one, joining a live band that featured two electric guitars and no DJ.
"I feel good tonight," Timberlake said after wrapping up the song's sing-along finale. "I'm sure you guys are hip to this already, but I'm gonna play some new songs for y'all. Hope you like 'em. If you don't, f--- you!"
"My Love," the next single from Timberlake's upcoming LP, kick-started a string of new songs. The slow and saucy track will feature T.I. on the album, but the crowd had to settle for JT's beat-boxing in the Atlanta rapper's absence. Next, he performed "Damn Girl," rolling up his sleeves for the "SexyBack"-style club cut. Black Eyed Peas mastermind and Timberlake producer Will.I.Am, the night's first surprise guest, played to the pumped-up audience as he rapped along with the singer.
"This guy doesn't need a producer," Will said after the song. "He can produce himself."
After Will exited, the crowd got a sample of Timberlake's first solo single, "Like I Love You," with Justin playing mariachi-style guitar. The band then went for a whole new sound, breaking into Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Not to lose focus, JT got back to the new stuff. Before kicking off "Until the End of Time," a slow jam à la R. Kelly, Timberlake (back on keyboard) told the audience, "This song's for the lovers." Then the rapid "Love Stone" inspired Justin to show off his dancing skills and lose the tie.
The show slowed back down with "Take It From Here," an ethereal cut from his first album. Justin had the ladies' undivided attention as he sang, "When all the love feels gone/ And you can't carry on/ Don't worry, girl/ I'mma take it from here."
"It's a couple minutes since I been here, and it feels really good," said Timberlake, who hasn't released a new album in four years.
JT got back on the keyboard for "What Goes Around," the soon-to-be karma classic from his new album, which he's insisted isn't about former flame Britney Spears. The moody song includes the biting line "I was ready to give you my name." He followed up the new track with a pared-down version of the similarly bitter — but more upbeat — "Last Night," another non-single from Justified.
After a string of new and lesser-known tracks, Timberlake gave his fans what they wanted — a high-energy hit — with "Rock Your Body," adding a little back-and-forth banter.
"Y'all tired yet?" he asked his louder-than-ever fans.
"Hell no!" they yelled.
"Y'all ready to quit?"
As he crooned, "So go 'head girl just do/ That ass-shakin' thing you do," JT did a little shakin' of his own, which went over well with the mostly female crowd. Two of the backup singers joined Timberlake onstage for a dance interlude that really loosened the singer up. He loosened up a little more when, after the song, he summoned a shot girl over to the stage and grabbed a test tube of tequila.
"Normally I don't do these types of things, but you make me feel so comfortable," he told the crowd before downing the shot.
"It tastes so good when it hits your lips!" he said, paraphrasing Will Ferrell's "Old School" line.
Justin then promised "some Memphis hip-hop" as two members of Three 6 Mafia, who are featured on the new LP, joined him onstage. The crowd heard some rare rapping from the singer as he tried to keep up with the Oscar-winning MCs.
Timbaland popped onstage next, and JT took over for Nelly Furtado in a bite from the producer's #1 single "Promiscuous." Timberlake also channeled Annie Lennox as the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" led into his latest single, "SexyBack." The drummer worked overtime to re-create Timbaland's intricate beat, and JT and Tim fed off of each other's energy, running all over the stage as the fast-paced comeback track closed the show.
Celebrities — including Paris and Nicky Hilton, Tyra Banks, Spike Lee, Ellen DeGeneres and girlfriend Portia De Rossi, Kate Bosworth and Timberlake's former 'NSYNC bandmate Lance Bass — crowded the VIP balcony at the small show. As fans filed out of the concert, they were pumped about JT's energy and his new material.
"His passion about his music comes through in his performance," said Elian Dashev of Los Angeles. "You can tell he's having fun and you have fun with him."
"The new sound's much more mature and funky," added Robin Chen of Taiwan.
Outkast Deny Breakup Rumors: 'Everything Is Still Tight,' Andre 3000 Says
It's been years since we've seen them in the same video and there are no plans for them to perform together in the near or distant future, yet the members of Outkast maintain that they have not broken up. Andre 3000 phoned in to MTV News on Tuesday night to clear up the rumors.
"Yesterday I got a phone call from Big Boi and he said that on some hip-hop Web sites that the headlines were reading something to the effect of, 'It's Official: Outkast Is Broken Up,' or something like that," Andre said. "And man, we're looking at it like, where is this sh-- coming from? I was on 'TRL' today to release a new video, and I meant to say something [about the situation] on the air. But the way they had the questions set up, I didn't have a chance to do it."
Andre says that the rumors are not just on the Internet, but very much in the streets.
"N---as hit me in the street like, 'Yeah man, I heard the bad news. Sorry to hear about that,' " Andre continued. "I'm like 'Man, what are you talking about?' Everything is still tight, most definitely."
Fueling the rumors of the 'Kast's separation have been the fact that both Dre and Big are appearing in separate videos for two solo songs — "Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me)" and "Morris Brown," respectively — to promote their upcoming film and video instead of releasing visuals for the cut "Mighty O," which features both of their raps (see "Missing Outkast? They've Already Lined Up Three 'Idlewild' Singles"). Dre blames that on not being able to find the right way to present "Mighty O" in a timely fashion.
"Really, we were supposed to shoot the 'Mighty O' video, but we were shuffling around with too many treatments and it got too late," 3000 explained. "The record company and film company felt that it was probably better off to help sell the movie to go with these songs ["Idlewild Blue" and "Morris Brown."]. But originally we were supposed to come out with just one single."
In addition to the hailstorm of Internet rumors, there was a May feature story in Entertainment Weekly that painted the twosome going in separate directions musically and personally. More recently, some radio shows and news outlets started to report that Outkast had turned down an invitation to be on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" because the group could not match up schedules.
"Really man, this album, it's been a whole bunch of crazy rumors. [One said] we turned Oprah down and all this type of stuff which was totally not true," Dre added, audibly registering his disappointment in the falsehoods that have been spread.
"We went to Oprah because we were pumping this 'Idlewild' film and soundtrack. They sent her a copy of the movie. But the [film's] release dates kept being pushed back and Oprah's show is dormant during the summertime, so there was no chance for us to do it. Next thing we see on the Internet is, 'Outkast turns down Oprah.' They make it seem like we're jumping on the bandwagon with 50 Cent and Ludacris and some people boycotting, which is totally not the case' " (see "Oprah Says She Doesn't Have Beef With Hip-Hop ").
Despite Mr. 3000's public affirmation that he remains a part of the legendary duo, he says there are still no plans for Outkast to tour or even perform one song together live.
"But that's not even new news," he said of his lack of interest in performing live. All that has been going on for years. ... Big Boi knows I'm in no position to be thinking about hitting the stage. ... I'm just more focused on producing and writing like I been doing and staying in the studio."
So what is Dre coming up with in the studio? Could it be material for a traditional studio album from Outkast?
"We're holding it under wraps," is all he would say. "We want to keep it on the low so expectations won't be a certain way. But we're still doing music."
Dre and Big are trying to decide what the next single from the "Idlewild" soundtrack will be, but they are leaning toward a song called "Hollywood Divorce" which features Snoop Dogg and Lil Wayne. Dre says if they do choose that track, you'll see him along with Big in the video.
New Beyonce Single — And Eddie Murphy Singing — Featured In 'Dreamgirls'
BEVERLY HILLS, California — Everyone's talking about Beyoncé's forthcoming B'Day LP, but the singer's also got something in store for Christmas.
The soundtrack's first single, in fact, will be a Beyoncé track called "Listen" that is one of four new songs written for the movie and not featured in the original musical (several online retailers also say the song will be one of three unlisted bonus tracks on B'Day). She plays Deena Jones in the film, the breakout leader of an all-girl singing group that's suddenly catapulted into stardom after crafty manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) lands them a spot working with Eddie Murphy's James "Thunder" Early (see "Beyonce Slimming Down And 'Completely Becoming Deena' ").
"It's a ballad, it's got a big orchestra, so it's totally different for her and for the radio and MTV and everybody — it's gonna be exciting," said Harvey Mason Jr. of production duo the Underdogs (Omarion, Mario, JoJo), who spent six months producing the soundtrack. "That's gonna be a big, big record."
The album's track list is still being finalized, but Mason said the Underdogs recorded more than 50 songs for the movie. "It's got most of the stuff from the Broadway play, and we reinterpreted some of that," Mason said. "And then some small pieces of new stuff in between. We saw a screening of it last week and it's going to be an amazing movie."
Another one of the new songs, "Love You I Do," is a solo tune from former "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson, who plays the group's ousted lead vocalist, Effie White (see Jennifer Hudson's 'Dream' Is Reality: R&B Album, Starring With Beyonce, Jamie Foxx").
"It's a big debut for her," Mason said of her overall performance. "She sings the toughest song, 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' — everybody knows the song, and she nailed it. She really, really nailed it."
Mason and partner Damon Thomas also had rave reviews for Foxx and, more surprisingly, Murphy, who has not been heard singing since his failed 1985 R&B album How Could It Be.
"He's singing, he's dancing, he's doing the splits — it's hilarious," Mason said. "Good stuff."
Along with working on the "Dreamgirls" music, the Underdogs have been in the studio recently with Fantasia (working on a duet with Aretha Franklin), Tyrese, Ruben Studdard and Marques Houston. The team has also finished five songs for Omarion's next album.
"He's always been really, really creative and has really great energy, but I think vocally, he's really gotten a lot stronger," Mason said of Omarion. "And with his experiences, he's a veteran now, and I think he knows what he wants style-wise, and what he wants to talk about, and I think it might be a little more personal this time."
Heath Ledger To Play Joker In 'Batman' Sequel
The last time we saw the Joker in a Batman movie, he was trashing the Gotham Art Museum and grinning his maniacal grin while busting up busts and painting over masterpieces to a soundtrack by Prince.
Oscar nominated Heath Ledger, 27, will get his shot at the villain Jack Nicholson reinvented in 1989 when he takes over the role of the Joker. According to Variety, the "Brokeback Mountain" lead has signed on to be the bad guy in "The Dark Knight," which is expected to go into production early next year.
Christian Bale will be back as Batman/ Bruce Wayne, joined by "Batman Begins" director Christopher Nolan, whose brother Jonathan, will write the script. Jonathan Nolan previously penned the screenplay for 2006's "The Prestige," directed by his brother and starring Bale, and wrote the short story that inspired Christopher Nolan's 2000 breakthrough "Memento."
The sequel to the $370 million grossing "Begins" will likely be released in the summer of 2008, Variety reported, where it could face stiff competition from the next James Bond flick and another big-screen superhero adaptation, "Iron Man."
'It Is OK To Be Gay': Fans Voice Overwhelming Support For Lance Bass
The day after the 'NSYNC singer publicly revealed that he's gay, fans have voiced overwhelming support for him. "I'm not ashamed," he told People magazine in the issue that hits newsstands Friday. And as far as fans are concerned — at least, the ones who've written to You Tell Us — they're cool with it. Bass' announcement has shocked many, eliciting cheers — and a few tears — from supporters.
"As an 'NSYNC fan for eight years — literally half my life — I was shocked when I heard the news, and I did cry," said Taylor, 16, of Richmond, Virginia. "But even while I was crying, I knew I loved Lance all the same, just in a different way now. I support him completely, and as much as I admired him before, I respect him immeasurably now."
"It is a little jarring to see someone I had a major crush on when I was in junior high come out of the closet," agreed Rebecca, 20, of New York, "but going by the articles and the things he's said, he's really happy now, and that's all that matters. I'm really happy that Lance is able to finally be himself without having to hide anything."
For some fans, the time may have come for them to stop hiding as well.
"I just want to let him know that what he has done has encouraged me not to hide anymore either," said Paul, 19, of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
"I think that it was really a good thing to come out like Lance Bass did," wrote another reader, Hansel, 23, of Ozone Park, New York. "He is brave. ... I'm myself bisexual and I'm proud of it, but my parents don't know."
One gay teen who has already come out was impressed by someone of Bass' stature making such a declaration.
"I can't imagine how hard it must have been for Lance Bass, an international star, to come out," said Jarrid, 17, of Jonesboro, Georgia. "As a gay teen, I know that each of our own cases seems to be the worst and hardest there is, but the fact that he did it on such a large level, I truly admire him for doing this. Hats off to you, brother!"
A large number of readers said they believe Bass' announcement will not only spur others to admit to being gay, but it will make homosexuality more accepted in American culture. For one reader, though — Erin, 22, of Fort Wayne, Indiana — the news is having a much more personal impact.
"Lance Bass' story makes me so very happy," she wrote. "I am the daughter of a homosexual male. It kills me that my father had to hide who he truly was for 15 years. It makes me happy to see that Lance is happy and comfortable enough to tell the world who he is. In today's world, gay is becoming a norm. While many in the world may not agree, if we could all take the approach of Lance's grandmother, who loves him and accepts him no matter what, maybe we can become a more accepting world too."
A few readers, however, expressed discomfort over Bass' announcement. Some, such as Kyle from Texas, cited their religious views.
"I cannot believe America is letting this immoral thing come in," he wrote. "Lance [said] God is OK with [his sexuality]. Except if they read their Bibles they would see that in Exodus it says that it is an abomination for man to lay with mankind."
A larger number said Bass could have come out sooner.
"It's no big deal anymore that Lance is gay. If that's what makes him happy, then so be it. Why keep it such a secret?" said Nelson, 21, of New York.
Another New Yorker, Armando, 23, voiced a different type of criticism: "I'm happy for Lance that he came out, but for him to make a stereotype by labeling others like him 'SAGs' (straight-acting gays) is really uncalled for. Gay is gay, so why all the labeling of what type of a gay man one is? Keep the labeling to food and clothes and not a person's sexuality."
By and large, however, Bass has a wealth of fans who approve of the singer's decision. "I love this story," wrote Mona, 15, of Austin, Texas. "I think it's fantastic because it shows that Lance is happy with himself and that he is comfortable with who he is. It shows that it is OK to be gay and that there is nothing wrong with it."