Atlanta 'American Idol' auditions draw 10,000

ssorich@ledger-enquirer.comJune 19, 2009 

ATLANTA — Randy Jackson would have said these dawgs worked it out. Paula Abdul would have said the day reminded her of sparkles and magic rainbows.

Thursday, fans lined up early at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome to audition for the ninth season of “American Idol.” The crowd appeared to include about 10,000 people, possibly more.

It was the second stop in Season 9 auditions for the Fox reality TV competition. About 7,000 fans reportedly showed up for the first set of auditions, held Sunday in Boston.

True to form, auditions attracted the usual array of zany posters (“I Dyed My Own Jeans”) and eclectic costumes (two young women braved the heat in head-to-toe black getups, including a black parasol).

This is the fifth time in “Idol” history that producers have stopped here. Well-known “Idol” finalists Clay Aiken, Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson auditioned in Atlanta.

The last time the show came to Atlanta was Season 7, when just one of the city’s auditioners, Amanda Overmyer of Indiana, made it to the top 12.

By about 8 a.m., the majority of Thursday’s hopefuls had filled the inside of the Georgia Dome. There, they not only sang individually, but also filmed stadium footage of the entire crowd singing Britney Spears’ “Oops! … I Did It Again.”

It’s been just about a month since Kris Allen was crowned “Idol” winner. Some traces of the show’s eighth season were present. Eleventh-place finisher Alexis Grace was working as a correspondent for TV Guide Network.

Here’s what else could surprise you:

The schedule: It’s the first lesson in “Idol for Dummies:” These stadium auditions are not when singers see the four-judge panel (Abdul, Jackson, Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi) featured on TV. About two dozen “Idol” insiders critiqued Georgia Dome singers, producer Patrick Lynn said.

The clothes: Novelty costumes are hardly new in the “Idol” world. Amber Rose Price and Jenny Lynn Warren came to the auditions in matching Western-style outfits. It was an effort to stand out among the crowd, said Warren, 24, of Virginia Beach, Va.

She and 27-year-old Price of Amite, La., left disappointed.

Think a costume is the kiss of death? Think again. Before the sun even rose, 20-year-old Holly Hardin was flaunting her look, the human guitar. As in, the kind that wears a short skirt and fishnets.

“I figured since I can’t play the guitar, I would be the guitar,” Hardin of Rockmart, Ga., said. She advanced — a nice follow-up to her appearance on the last season of “America’s Got Talent.”

The instruments: Instruments might be allowed again during the competition’s later rounds, but contestants could do nothing but sing Thursday. They knew that. So why were so many hopefuls carrying heavy guitars?

We asked Drake Johnson, one of the contestants advancing to the next round of tryouts. He said he wore his guitar around his shoulder to prove “I’m a musician and a performer.”

The eliminations: Really, the singers who get a “no” aren’t as bitter as the ones you see on TV.

But you could feel their pain, especially when Thursday’s setup involved two sets of stairs: one for successful contestants and one for contestants whose “Idol” run had ended.

Nate Williams knew the drill. Thursday was the 25-year-old Marianna, Fla., resident’s fifth shot at “Idol,” and he was turned down. “They sent a lot of talented people home,” Williams said.

Sweat ran down his face. It had been a long day by lunch. Williams said he saw just a handful of them get the OK.

Will he try again? “Maybe.”

Contact Sonya Sorich at 706-571-8516 or ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com

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