This is Season Seven of “American Idol,” so you’d think by now people would understand what it takes to get their “golden ticket to Hollywood.” You actually have to own some pretty significant singing chops in order to participate in this contest. Even to survive past the first round of cuts, there needs to be a polish and professionalism to your performance. So why is it that year after year we still have to suffer through a series of embarrassing and humiliating auditions that nobody with half a brain would put themselves through?
As a person with many actor friends, I know how hard it is to audition for professional jobs. And though “American Idol” is supposed to be an amateur contest, the people who make it to the final ten usually have a lot of experience and training in their portfolio. They don’t have silly wigs and lobster costumes, but why would you wear those to a talent contest anyway? Unless you were auditioning to be a costumer, in which case, you should perhaps apply to “Project Runway” instead.
I think in some ways, “American Idol” represents the poor man’s road to the American Dream. People seem to think it’s an easy path to fame and fortune. Only it’s not so easy. And just because you delude yourself with feelings of grandeur, it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to the prize. You have to earn it. You can’t just show up and expect all the glory without any talent to back you up. And yet, year after year, that’s what people do.
That being said, I have assembled a list of ten tips to consider before auditioning for “American Idol.”
1. Can you sing? This one should be fairly obvious. But judging from the millions of people who audition each year that can’t, I think it’s a pretty fair question. And just to emphasize the point:
2. Repeat Question #1 four more times. And then ask other people as well. (At least forty.) And not just relatives either. Go up to perfect strangers on the street and sing them a few bars of Mariah or Whitney. If they don’t think you’re crazy, and actually like what they hear, then you may advance to Tip 3. (If not, please go back to Question #1 and repeat until you finally decide to give up and audition for something more appropriate, like maybe “Extreme Makeover” or “The Biggest Loser.”)
3. Do you have talent? Even if you can sing in the church choir or the school play, would your voice actually sell a record? And I don’t mean a William Hung type of record. I mean something that people would actually buy for more than a quick laugh. (Unless you are intentionally trying to be funny, in which case, you might instead audition for “Last Comic Standing” or “The Singing Bee.”)
4. Do you have experience performing in front of people? It constantly amazes me how many people freeze up in front of the judges. Or sing so quietly, you’d think they were whispering. I understand that nerves can be severely heightened, especially since you are also being filmed in the process. But if you don’t already have experience handling this type of pressure, why would you put yourself through it now? Did you think that everything would magically come together once you got in the room?
5. Is your physical appearance appetizing? I don’t mean you should look like someone would want to eat you, but your appearance certainly shouldn’t want to make us throw up either. The minute you walk into an audition room, you are being judged. And one of the first things you are judged on is your appearance. So if you come in wearing leg warmers, a poodle skirt and a ski mask, you’re probably not going to be taken as seriously as someone who looks nicely put together. You don’t have to wear a tux, but don’t look like trailer trash either. (Unless you’re going for the grunge look, in which case you might want to consider “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel.)
6. Can you sing? Hey, people have gotten further than this without really knowing.
7. Have you ever spent time in a mental hospital? Seriously, I have to ask, because there’s simply no other explanation for some of the people who audition. Where do they get off feeling like they’re so entitled? “F*&k you, American Idol! I’m a star, whether you know it or not. And I’m going to keep pursuing my dreams, and you’re going to see me in the movies in no time. It’s your loss, not mine. Because I am a star! Do you hear me????? I’M A STAR!!!” This is followed by a lot of fire breathing and screaming and general chaos, until the Godzilla of Stars finally decides to leave the building, an unsympathetic cameraman following her all the way.
8. Can you handle criticism? Because if you can’t, you’re in the wrong business. You’d better have several thick layers of skin if you hope to survive past the final round of cuts. And then several more layers for what you’ll encounter should you actually win the entire contest. This is not a business for the shy or introverted. So why do people, like this week’s inflated Tiny Tim look-alike, insist on auditioning for something that obviously scares them? Unless it’s like a therapy session for them, and they’re using the experience to try and break down their “inner walls,” in which case they would be a better fit for “Dr. Phil.”
9. Do you need a lot of sleep? Then this contest isn’t for you. Because once you get accepted to Hollywood, your life as you know it will be over. No more sleeping till noon, or partying all weekend long. You will be thrown into a non-stop whirlwind of rehearsals, vocal lessons, photo shoots, television appearances, and other obligations that will take every second of your time from now until the end of your contract. (Which, by the way, is almost akin to signing your soul away to the Devil.)
10. Can you sing? Please, please, please take an honest evaluation of your voice. Because just your desire to be a star is not going to be enough. You actually need some vocals to back you up.
There are many roads to the American Dream. For millions of people, “American Idol” seems like the easiest route. But for many this road will only lead to pain and disappointment. So if my little list of Ten Tips can save just one person from going through all that angst, my work here will not be in vain.
But that’s just me. What are your best tips for auditioning?