warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

"American Idol" Reaches The Last Stop: San Francisco

Jenny Chen |
February 10, 2011 | 12:30 a.m. PST

Associate News Editor

Inessa Lee tries to catch the judges' attention in head-to-toe pink (Michael Becker/FOX)
Inessa Lee tries to catch the judges' attention in head-to-toe pink (Michael Becker/FOX)
"American Idol" hit the last stop on the audition route in San Francisco on Wednesday night, hoping to strike gold. 

And while the three judges have not found a clear cut winner yet, they did find a couple of interesting characters during their stay. 

Weeks of auditions have gone by, leaving few moments that can truly surprise and shock. Still, "Idol" tried hard to start the episode off just right with a random clip of saying: “Just because someone farts, let ‘em finish singing, ok?” 

Oh yes, it only got stranger from then on.

Ukrainian Inessa Lee, 22, entered the scene dressed in head-to-toe pink, openly admitting that she came on the show to become famous. A montage of clips from her videos on YouTube flashed upon the TV screen – she has shower scenes, enough said. 

Inessa performed Air Supply’s “All Out of Love,” and shocked Steven Tyler with her lack of pitch and melody. When she replied in a cute baby voice, Tyler said she had a cuteness of 110%, but no singing voice. 

“How could you give me no? You’ll see me soon, I promise” Inessa said. Sure enough, she’s bound to get a few extra views on YouTube after Wednesday’s episode. 

Up next was the first emotional story of the night, featuring Stefano Langone, 21. Stefano was in an accident in which he remembers waking up to EMTs screaming he was live. Even though he was told he couldn’t walk again, he was back on his feet in less than four months. 

Stefano performed the classic “Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, surprising the three judges. Not only does he have a distinct soul to his voice that is pleasantly surprising to listen to, Stefano exhibited a very nice falsetto and upper register.  

J.Lo certainly thought so as she said he had “S-T-A-R” written all over him. 

Clint Jun Gamboa, 26, came next with his rendition of “Billionaire” by B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars. Unfortunately, the karaoke bar music host performed a rather watered down version of the song. While he hit all the right notes, he lacked something the original has. The judges somehow found him brilliant and sent him right on through to Hollywood. 

Following Clint came some of the worst performances of the night – all from boys. It seemed as if the Bay Area was not treating the men too well just as Weston Lee Smith, 22, took the stage. 

His brief rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” left the room silent and Randy Jackson with his head down on the table with a loss for words. The silence was so uncomfortable that Weston uttered “I’m sorry, you guys” before leaving the room. 

Next came Drew Beaumier, 24 who sang “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf. Too bad one could barely hear him as he sang inside the Transformers outfit he had built. Snuggled up inside the car, Beaumier forgot a few of the words and fumbled most of his notes. 

The second sob story of the night came via Colombia native Julie Zorrilla. Growing up there, Julie and her family were constantly put in danger due to the guerillas trying to get money from the people there. Julie performed “Summertime,” and while she does have a decent voice, she has nothing on Fantasia’s version. 

The judges predicted her as a potential winner, but Julie certainly wasn’t that believable as she relied heavily on her theatrics. 

Dave Combs, 25, came up next with The Beatle’s “Oh Darling,” continuing the trend of boys on the losing side. Tyler expected him to “represent” but there was nothing behind Dave’s stringy blonde hair and rocker image. “You were so far off the melody you were on another planet,” Tyler said. 

The boys that followed only angered Tyler more as he even asked one guy if he’d hit his head on the way in. 

It was with the last female performance that for once, the judges appeared divided. Emily Anne Reed, 26, sang “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me.” While Emily had an interesting tone that was light and airy, her voice was not as developed as it could have been. Tyler wanted to see more of her, but Randy welcomed her with open arms. 

J.Lo was on the fence as she considered Emily one of those singer-songwriter types that Idol had had enough of but was willing to give her a chance. It is, however, pleasant that J.Lo reaffirms the need for Idol to get out of the rut that it had been in last year with the multitude of singer-songwriter types that while nice on the ears, offered little variety to the show. 

The last audition of the night was of James Durbin, 21 who performed “You Shook Me” by Muddy Waters and then Tyler’s song “Dream On.” James’ father was a bass player that passed away due to a drug overdose when James was nine. James was later diagnosed with Tourette and Asperger’s syndromes.

The judges were amazed by his range and the emotion that he sings with. While early comparisons to Adam Lambert are circulating, James lacks the exact control and experience that the Season Eight runner-up. But hopefully, James can bring the memorable performances that Lambert brought to an otherwise dull year. 

America will see the yellow ticket recipients of San Francisco and more on Thursday night as Hollywood rounds begin. It’s time to buckle down and find the next "American Idol."

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.
Sign up for our weekly e-mail newsletter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.