The Fox TV ratings juggernaut, American Idol, rolled into it's filming home town of Los Angeles Tuesday night, with punk-pop princess Avril Lavigne and newly engaged Katy Perry hitching a ride as guest judges.
With the auditions phase of the hit show drawing to a close expectations were high for the entertainment capital of the world, and it didn't disappoint, delivering it's usual mix of horor and talent.
10,000 hopefuls lined up at the Rose Bowl in the hopes of bagging a coveted pass to Hollywood. Although most went home with their dreams shattered a few lucky contestants got through, with an exciting array of talent promising this year's competition is going to be as hot as any of the past seasons.
The show didn't kick off with the best though. First up was 19-year-old Neil Goldstein, a self professed "geek" with a love of books and computers. Overcome with nerves, Goldstein gave a shaky rendition of Meatloaf's Rock and Roll Dreams Come True.
Simon Cowell tried to break the news gently that the hopeful wasn't heading to Hollywood, but Goldstein insisted otherwise, refusing to leave and asserting that he was going to Hollywood. He finally left the room after Cowell asked him if he wanted to leave on his own accord or get an escort!
Next up was 27-year-old Jim Ranger. Ranger gave a strong performance of an original song that he wrote about his wife. Despite a no from a devil horned Avril, who said she thought it would be too tough for him to be on the road and away from his wife and three kids, the Pastor from Bakersfield got through to the next round.
Damien Lefavor told us he was addicted to martial arts before going on to murder a rendition of The Righteous Brothers classic, You've Lost That Loving Feeling. Not surprisingly it was a unanimous no, with even Damien himself saying, "I don't believe I just did that". Cowell told the wannabe Idol, "You should just go."
Bringing some rock and roll 28-year-old Mary Powers delivered with a version of Pat Benatar's classic hit We Are Young. Simon thought she had a "really good voice" but commented that everything about her was "cliched". Avril said she was "cool" and Randy rounded out with praise, saying, "little girl huge voice". It was a yes all round and a spot in Hollywood for the excited single mother.
The last contestant of the day, AJ Mendoza shared that he had sent a demo tape to last season runner up Adam Lambert, claiming Lambert had "loved it". Unfortunately the judges didn't feel the same way about Mendoza's murderous rendition of Living Colors, Cult Of Personality, prompting Simon to say it sounded like he had "just come from the dentist ten minutes ago."
Another day, another set of Idol hopefuls paraded in front of the judges. First up water cleaner Austin Fullmer who proudly asserted that "American Idol has never had anyone like me sexually", whatever that's meant to mean!
Giving an appalling performance Austin got a resounding no from all the judges, with Kara commenting she felt he was channeling Mick Jagger, and Cowell saying he felt Austin was "one disturbed young man."
There were tears galore as hopeful after hopeful were rejected, before 23-year-old dad, Andrew Garcia entered the audition room. With a moving story about a tough life being raised by gang banging parents in Compton Garcia went on to share that he wants a better life for his son. And it looks like he's on his way to providing one. Garcia showcased a soulful voice, prompting Cowell to rave, "you're the only person today I believe is a genuinely good singer". Katy opined, "You gave me the chills." It was a full house of yesses.
Keeping up the talent quota was 26 year old PA Tasha Layton, who moonlights as a minister at night. Giving a lyrical rendition of Joss Stone's Baby Baby Baby, the pretty singer got rave reviews, with Katy saying, "I love a good Southern Belle" and Cowell saying, "I think people will like you."
However, it's likely that not many people would like the next contestant. 21-year-old student Jason Greene did a laughable performance of the Divynals classic, I Touch Myself. Writhing around on the floor Greene horrified poor Katy Perry who confessed "I feel dirty" prompting Greene to shoot back, "You make me feel dirty Katy." Greene wasn't one to miss out on an opportunity to flirt though, slipping his number to Idol host Ryan Seacrest and insisting he call him!
Last up for the night was 26-year-old salesman Chris Golightly. With a voice as moving as his heartbraking story of living in the foster care system from the age of 18-months and of being shuttled to 25 families over the years, Golightly moved all the judges, with the exception of hard nosed Cowell. Randy said, "I like you man. I like the voice too." Kara was obviously impressed telling Golightly, "You are one of my favorites from today, if not my favorite. Simon commentd though that the singer "could of been in a boyband" and said he wasn't impressed. With three votes in his favor though Golightly is through to Hollywood, saying "this is the first something that's worth it."
22 other hopefuls also made it through to the next round