American Idol Finds Magical Misfires in the Magic City

American Idol came to town this past August looking for some magic from the Magic City for the first time since Season Two. The results, which aired last night on FOX, were less than magical. Actually Miami fared as well or better than many other audition locales this season, with several fine singing specimens, but we don’t watch the preliminaries for the talent; we watch them for the train wrecks.

The heartbreaker of the bunch was Shannon McGough, an 18 year old from the rodeo town of Okeechobee. The producers had shot a bio segment about her, but you never know if that means they’re going to pass the audition. Still, in this case the odds seemed good: Shannon has been singing since she was 3, and her proud parents (who own a carniceria) touted her victories as Okeechobee Idol and even South Florida Idol. As the contestant talked about her life over b-roll of herself grinding meat into hamburger at her parents’ meat market, you couldn’t help rooting for her, even if the boasting about her belching prowess was a tad obnoxious.

Then came the audition, and to everyone’s surprise – including Shannon’s – the girl couldn’t sing. At all. (In a typically astute observation, Simon Cowell told her she sounded like she was eating.) She left in tears, of course: No one had ever bothered to break the news to her that she has no voice, apparently, and like most rejects, at this point she was not about to believe it.

There was much more satisfying schadenfreude to be had at the expense of Julie Dubela, 16. She came down from New Hampshire overbrimming with confidence, thanks to a stint on “American Juniors” four years ago. She sang “Me and Bobby McGee,” and was truly awful. A quick flashback to her performance as a 12-year-old revealed real potential, but it seems to have been squandered. You got the feeling that instead of being encouraged to practice, Julie was overpraised and coddled for much of the last four years.

Kind of like American Idol itself. But aside from the battered contestants, who's complaining? --Frank Houston

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