"American Idol" moved onto the ship The Queen Mary for the Los Angeles auditions and heard several inspiring backstories, but would they have to abandon ship?
You'd think that the "American Idol" producers would have learned from last season not to hold auditions aboard a large ocean-going vessel, especially when the ship horns blasted over the singing and the judges' pronouncements. But they didn't. So, comes the episode aboard The Queen Mary, the reportedly haunted legendary passenger ship docked in Long Beach, Calif., just next door to Los Angeles. And they needed a boat, because the judges let through more contestants during those auditions than in any of the others (50).
No matter the person, the place, the thing -- there is a story behind it. The theme for the Long Beach auditions turned out to be "a good story." The Queen Mary's story is that it is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of people who met an untimely death aboard the super liner that saw service for 31 years and was officially retired in 1967. There are also tales of that the ship is haunted by the ghosts of men from the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Curacoa, a ship The Queen Mary sliced in two during an Atlantic crossing in 1941 when it was used as a troopship transport during World War II. Of 338 men aboard, only 99 survived the collision, the ship sinking in six minutes.
But back to Long Beach, where the Queen Mary has been safely docked since October 1967. Only judges Randy Jackson and Keith Urban showed up for the auditions. Something seemed amiss, but the absences actually turned out to be explainable. Judge Nicki Minaj was supposed to be late -- she was rehearsing for a prior engagement, a performance at the 2012 American Music Awards. Judge Mariah Carey simply got stuck in Los Angeles traffic.
So Randy and Keith started without their colleagues. They quickly put through Shubha Vedula, a name the two judges had a difficult time with. She sang Christina Aguilera's "Something's Got A Hold On Me."
When Mariah arrived, she took her seat at the panel. She explained her lateness with a flippant, "When you want a diva, you have to expect certain behavior." Funny, considering that she really wasn't being a diva by making a noticeably late entrance.
As Etta James seemed to be a favorite at the San Antonio auditions, Sam Cooke got the nod in Long Beach. Unlike San Antonio, Long Beach contestants sang the same song, "A Change Is Gonna Come." The first rendition was performed by war veteran Matt Farmer, who brought his daughter in with him. Although viewers and judges were assured that she was her dad's biggest fan, she didn't seem impressed -- but adorably so. The judges were impressed, however, and her daddy got a gold ticket to Hollywood.
Judge Nicki then arrived, but she wouldn't be seated long...
Then Jesaiah Baer stepped onto the audition stage with a captain's hat on. Halfway through her audition of Kimbra's "Settle Down," the fire alarm began to sound. Everyone had to leave. Randy asked if they had run aground. Keith made the comment that the captain wasn't at the helm; she was auditioning. But it turned out to be just a simple fire drill. As everyone was led back into the audition room, host Ryan Seacrest explained that the fire alarms had been set off when the ship's cooks were attempting to make Randy Jackson lunch.
Regardless, Jesaiah got to finish her audition and she was given a gold ticket. (She deserved a ticket to Hollywood simply for the inconvenience.)
The Long Beach auditions were nothing if they weren't inspiring. And the first of the straight-to-the-heart inspirational tryouts was performed by Micah Johnson, a young man who had suffered severe nerve damage to his vocal chords after doctor's removed his tonsils as a child. The victim of bullying as he grew, he said he wanted to audition to show that you could overcome life's burdensome obstacles. But as difficult as it was to understand Micah when he spoke, there was absolutely no difficulty in the quality of his singing voice (or the enunciation). It was as if he didn't have an impediment. As surprising as the smooth singing was his choice of song, Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried." He got a unanimous "yes" from the panel.
The judges panel was then blessed by a young woman who Randy declared "the happiest contestant... ever." After a continuously smiling and upbeat Rachel Hale performed a rousing rendition of the Curtis Mayfield classic "People Get Ready." Judge Keith described her as "Wynona Judd-ish," a spot on description. When she left the stage, Keith observed that she probably would have been just as happy had they told her no.
Briana Oakley was next and she told the judges of her plight as a young singer mercilessly bullied by schoolmates after appearing on an episode of "The Maury Povich Show" that showcased "Maury's Most Talented Kids." She had been 12 and the bullying got so bad her mother had her transferred to another school. She performed Patti Griffin's "Up To The Mountain" and proved that it does get better. You just have to persevere and you'll be golden. She became golden and made it to Hollywood.
The night ended with another inspirational story. Young Matheus Ferndandes had also been bullied and made fun of as a youngster, but he had bullied for his height. Doctors had been unable to diagnose anything developmentally wrong with him, so he had to put his lack of height down to genetics. But as small as he was, Matheus had a big voice. He was the second act to get through to Hollywood singing the Sam Cooke classic, "Change Is Gonna Come."
And so ended the auditions aboard the historic ship The Queen Mary. Next stop: Oklahoma City.
"American Idol" airs on Fox Television on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. (EST).
Take Home Message: Don't give up. Period. No matter your circumstances, no matter how bad you might feel, no matter how gloomy the future might appear to be. Do not give up. Inspiration can be found in myriad forms. For those mercilessly bullied and set upon by those jealous or finding control in the disparagement of another human being, it should be noted that you are not the problem. Finding strength to carry on, to get to the next day, to achieve success, to pursue and find happiness -- that is the key. For some -- like Micah, Briana, Mattheus and others, music is that inspiration, that candle lighting the way out of the dark. For others it might be sport, literature, science, mathematics, the need to give aid to others -- a host of possibilities. They are all achievable. But only if you persist. Continue. Never give up.
(photo credit: American Idol, Fremantle North America, Fox Television)
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