People still believe in the star-making power of American Idol, as evidenced by the line that wound its way through Krutch Park this morning. That line was pretty short by lunchtime, though.
None of the judges made the trip (which makes sense, since no one seems to know who will be judging this season of Idol), so everyone sang in front of producers.
Tiffany Davis came from Kentucky to try out. She said she'd auditioned before, and was told no, and was considering auditioning for The Voice if the Idol producers turned her down. Ultimately, Idol's Knoxville stop was a convenient opportunity. "It wouldn't hurt me [to audition]," she said of her decision to make the drive down.
Alicia Calloway, a local, tried out and was told "no" by the producers. It was her last year of eligibility (Idol is pretty firm on their contestant age range: 16-28). Still, she said, the show continues to be a way to "get your name out there" even if you don't win, a mantra that was repeated by several people.
Brandon Dillingham, who is also from Knoxville, is aware that his look is not shared by many who make it to the live TV rounds of Idol. He was wearing a sleeveless black hoodie and had his long hair tucked behind his ear.
"I don't think it's the show for me. I just want to show [the producers] that I can rock out," he said as he waited in line.
He was planning to sing "Planetary Duality" by the Faceless.
"It's not their kind of music," he said, but "I'm not going to do anything soft."
Jamey Lynn, another rocker from Tuscaloosa, said the show doesn't get a lot of quality rock singers because most of them are already in bands. But he thought he'd give it a go.
"It'd just be fun to go through [the show] as a solo singer," he said.
But the spectacle in Krutch Park didn't just draw hopeful singers. Several office workers came out on their lunch breaks to clap for the people singing for the producers, and get a peek at how the Idol machine works behind the scenes.
After standing in line, the auditioners stood in groups of four in front of a producer sitting under a marquee tent. One at a time, they'd get their chances to sing. When the producer had heard enough, he or she would hold up a hand and move on to the next person. The ones who were allowed to sing the longest tended to be the ones who were handed "golden tickets."
If an auditioner did score a ticket, there was a lot of paperwork waiting for him/her, photos to be taken, and some video footage to be shot. They were also handed a sheet of paper outlining the do's and don'ts for fielding questions from the media. The first instruction was not to speak to any media outlets whatsoever.
The show's ratings may be falling, but LaKisha Brown has an idea why it's still so popular.
"I think because of that asshole Simon Cowell," she said after she was turned away since she's over 28 years old. (For the record, she said she thinks his British accent is sexy.) But she doesn't think the show should coax him back to the judge's panel. Brown volunteered herself, saying she'd look for "style, uniqueness, and a good voice" in contestants.
A good handful of people made it through, so keep your eyes out for them on TV, if you're into that kind of thing.