I Auditioned for American Idol, and Here’s How it Went…

So this past Sunday, I decided to make the seven-hour journey to Pittsburgh, PA to audition for ABC’s revival of American Idol.

There’s not a lot of people who knew I was going to audition because I felt that the pressure would build on me more if almost everybody knew. So I kept it on the down-low for quite some time. Keep in mind, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my ability to sing. I’ve always gotten embarrassed and red in the face to a point where singing in public was the one thing that terrifies me more than anything.

I stayed overnight in a hotel, alone, where the only company I had was college football’s kickoff weekend. Why did I go alone? Because it was just something that I felt that I needed to do by myself, with no one’s help or on-the-spot moral support. I’ve always done a lot of things alone, so this was another one of those things that I wanted to take on myself. I still had many texts and direct messages coming my way the day before and of the audition wishing me luck, so thank you to those of you who sent them. I greatly appreciate it.

The auditions took place at Bakery Square within the city in an open field outside of an apartment complex. The American Idol bus was way out in the open and you could see the masses of people already lined up by time I got there at around 7:15.

The men who worked security asked only those who were auditioning to be in line. Friends and family would have to wait on the side. Many mothers were holding up signs saying things like “My daughter is the next American Idol” and putting on a huge scene for their children.

Security organized us into groups of four to be brought in front of producers to audition. The show works very differently than how you think; producers are the ones to listen to you first and then grant you permission to go in front of the celebrity judges depending on how well you perform. They would never let Katy Perry and Ryan Seacrest sit through all 700 people that day.

While in line, others were practicing their song and group singing together for the news cameras that were on the scene. They also talked up a big game too.

“I was the lead in my school play all four years.”

“My vocal teacher has been preparing me for this for months.”

“If I don’t get a ticket to go in front of the judges, I will be furious.”

Me? I refused to join in. I was trying to find the perfect zone and composure so that I could go up and blow the producer away. I continued to see those who were talking a big game and had such high hopes walk away declined and in tears, so I knew that this was about to be one of the scariest moments of my life.

My mind was racing about what song I should choose to sing; I think I changed it three times that morning before I went in front of the producer. I made the final decision almost at the last second before it was my turn and I went with this song.

No change to it from here on out.

My group finally made it in front of the producer who had a very heavy British accent. He asked for all of our paperwork (the “What is Your Story?” form and the release form) before we started. I was the second person to go and I messed up within the first 10 seconds. Thankfully, he allowed me start over. I cruised through my allowed 90 seconds of singing with my voice a bit shaky towards the end, but afterwards, I felt that I did pretty well for myself. I think that was the most heart I’ve ever put into singing ever.

After all of our group was finished, he looked over our story forms one more time and called us up to the table. He told us altogether that this was going to be the most competitive season and that, unfortunately, it was a “no” for today. He reassured us, however, that we all had excellent voices and that he’d love to hear us sing in the future.

This gave me such relief because, to be honest, he genuinely didn’t sound like a complete, pompous dick about it. Either that, or he was giving us the same plastic response he gave to everyone else he said “no” to that morning.

I walked away from the audition noticing the line going down the block and a small tent set up off in the corner of the field where people who earned a ticket to go in front of the judges were waiting. Out of the 700 people that were there that day, only six or eight people were under that tent.

It’s understandable because it’s television; they’re looking for the people who will make for interesting, watchable content. They were also probably looking for people for us all to laugh at on social media. I guess that’s just the way the show works. There’s a lot more that goes on “behind the scenes” than we’re actually aware of.

I would’ve liked a different answer that day, but so would a lot of the other people who were turned away. I drove the entire seven hours back still singing, knowing that I have a good voice and that this audition changed nothing about how I perceived my ability to sing.

After miles of seeing nothing but Amish cornfields and occasional, unexpected sightings of strip clubs and adult video stores, I can honestly say that this was a very eye-opening trip for me. It showed me that I was way too shy about it and that it’s nothing that I should be ashamed of. It was an enormous ball-buster for me.

Plus, I got to pass by “Happy Valley” where Penn State plays football on the ride back and it is friggin’ huge.

beaver stadium

Imagine seeing that thing off the side of the highway. I mean, just look at it.


How I Feel About Chris Cornell’s Suicide

Yesterday, I attended the annual MMRBQ Hard Rock music festival in Camden, NJ at the BB&T Pavilion. It was an amazing night as I hopped the barricade into the pit, which I knew would be at my own risk considering the music acts that they had lined up.


Safe to say that it was insane.

Throughout the night, there were many tributes and salutes to Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell, who was found dead this past Wednesday night after a show in Detroit. The death was later ruled a suicide. The Pretty Reckless’ lead singer closed her set with a beautiful rendition of Audioslave’s “Like A Stone”, Bush mixed in the chorus from Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” near the end of their show, and LIVE performed “I Am the Highway” as part of their encore performance.

There was woman who was near me in the pit who was sick and tired of hearing all the tributes and salutes we were giving Chris Cornell. She asked, “Why are giving a man who took his own life credit?” This, of course, threw me off. I replied to her question with, “My dad took his own life. What are your thoughts about that?” She said that she wasn’t trying to be mean and I openly told her that she has an ignorant viewpoint on people who try to battle the inner demons and are not able to cope.

Whether the woman was drunk or not, there’s obviously a certain stigma that people have given mental illness and suicide over the years. It’s especially upsetting since I’ve been surrounded by people in my life who are battling and those who have let it overcome them, including my father.

Some people face some things that others cannot understand. They are personal battles that only they can understand. I just hope that anybody who faces these struggles that there’s always a reason to live. It truly does get better, and whatever you’re going through, I understand, is a trial. But what there is to remember is that suicide is permanent solution to a temporary problem, and there’s always somebody who cares, who will listen, and only wants to help you.

I would give every last breath of my life to help someone in need from taking their own. Because I’ve been there before and I’ve seen what it does to a family and friends. There are many people around you that want to help, whether it be a close, personal friend or a hotline.

Chris Cornell was a family man and loved the people around him. His death was surely tragic and big loss for the world of music. He was an extraordinary talent that touched many musicians lives and he will be missed immensely.

The 2017 Grammy Awards: What Just Happened?

Last Sunday was the first Sunday without football since September, and it was probably one of the most difficult things to endure for those 24 hours. I kept seeing tweets on my timeline from Patriot-based accounts saying, “Exactly one week ago…” featuring shots of Edelman’s catch, James White crossing the plane, Brady hoisting his fifth Lombardi Trophy… you get the picture.

However, one of the few things I enjoy that comes after the NFL season are the award shows that have the opportunity to take up the Sunday night primetime slots. And this previous Sunday happened to feature my most favorite: the 59th annual Grammy Awards on CBS.

This year was a very interesting year for music: the emergence of stream-only artists, the frequent push to express political stances, and the contest to see which song can make the loudest, most annoying electronic noise that people can tolerate (see examples: “Closer [feat. Halsey]” by The Chainsmokers, “Gold” by Kiiara, “Starving [feat. Zedd]” by Hailee Steinfeld & Grey, “Let Me Love You [feat. Justin Bieber]” by DJ Snake, etc.). Granted, these were good, highly popular songs that I do enjoy listening to, but these sounds can get to be too much after a while.

Either way, this past Sunday brought together some of the biggest names in music to celebrate the gift that affects our lives in so many ways; that which enlightens our senses and directs us into another world that only we can feel for ourselves. All the winners, nominees, performers, and presenters made the show one to remember. But there’s a lot to be said about the night, so here are the ups and downs of what this year’s Grammy Awards had to offer.

  1. Everything Adele Did

Adele opened up the show with a powerful performance of her hit song, “Hello.” How ironic. I love Adele; I think she’s got one of the greatest voices in music today and has undoubtedly shown how much emotion and love she puts into her work.

The way she paid tribute to the late, great George Michael was extremely elegant. The way she stopped during her performance to start the song over, not wanting to mess it up for him, was absolutely courageous. It takes guts to do something like that on live TV. Plus, it’s an awesome thing to hear her swear in her cliché, graceful cockney accent.

That was a definite up. But here’s a down…

Adele took home three major awards that night, including Album of the Year (25), Song of the Year, and Record of the Year (both for “Hello”). She beat out Beyoncé in all three of these categories. During her acceptance speech for AOTY, she took the time to thank Beyoncé who was sitting in the crowd. She renounced her win and stated that Beyoncé should’ve won for her nominated album, Lemonade. She even broke off a piece of the award to share with her.

Are you kidding me? You’re really going to kiss up to her like that? No. Don’t do that. As a matter of fact, screw that. This was your moment to revel in your achievement and be happy and you wasted it thanking someone who had nothing to do with your success. You have your production company, record label, managers, and accompanying musicians to thank for this. You did this with them and you should be proud of them and yourself. I don’t understand why everybody kisses up to this diva for ridiculous reasons. I don’t understand. But I’ll touch upon that later…

2. twenty one pilot’s Acceptance

twenty one pilots (there’s a reason why it’s typed like that) are a very unique band from Columbus, OH. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun have accumulated a very specific type of fanbase with their musical themes that touch upon depression, struggle, and mental illness. Before accepting their award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their song, “Stressed Out”, they took off their pants and took to the stage. What a funny story it played out to be as to why they did that…

It’s inspiring to many about how anybody can do anything. It’s possible if you surround yourself with good people. Sure, that whole bit was very different and strange to some, but that’s what makes twenty one pilots so great; they’re different, and the direction they’re taking music is interesting to say the least.

3. Ed Sheeran’s Performance

After being absent from the internet (and from the world for that matter) for eight months, Ed Sheeran finally emerged from what seemed like a time vault. He didn’t use his phone and traveled the world so that he could take some time to himself and write new music. Two new singles released on January 6th, 2017 to promote his upcoming album, ÷, set to be released in March. One of them, “Shape of You”, was performed Sunday night with Sheeran making the loops of the track during the intro of the song. He controlled the loops and other instruments on stage with pedals at his feet. He didn’t even use in-ear monitors to hear what he sounded like. It was captivating to see how talented he is and how much work he puts into his music.

4. Lukas Graham & Kelsea Ballerini Collab

Stop. That was awful. Who approved of this to go live? Don’t ever sing those two songs together ever again.

5. Beyoncé’s Performance

“Do you remember being born?” …What the f*ck do you think my answer to that question is? (special shoutout to Barstool Rundown)

I thought I was high while watching this performance, with the weird interpretive dance played in fast-motion in the beginning of it. Granted, it was somewhat of a solid performance based on the message she was trying to convey, being that it was about women’s empowerment. But she took forever to open her mouth to start singing; she took ten minutes.

Why do we choose to deify this person? Why is it that everything she does is a spectacle to people, especially her fans? Fans think she’s everything, a queen, a goddess, mother nature… no she’s not. She could’ve pooped on stage, and everybody would think it’s the greatest thing to ever happen. She’s a singer people; get it through your heads.

Also, why do we obsess over her being pregnant? Why does she keep ramming her pregnancy in our faces all over social media and to the world? WHO THE HELL CARES? She’s acting like she’s never been pregnant before. People are glamorizing the fact that a WOMAN is PREGNANT with CHILD/CHILDREN. Last time I checked, this is a natural occurrence that happens everyday. What makes her so different than any other mother that’s given birth? Hell, my mom gave birth to me. Let’s put her on a pedestal. And then do that for every single mother in the world. Beyoncé being pregnant is nothing special. Y’all need to chill and reevaluate your life to see how much time there’s been wasted obsessing over “the queen B.”

6. They Did Chance So Dirty

Chance The Rapper took home his fair share of hardware that night, winning Best New Artist (despite being around since 2012), Best Rap Album (Coloring Book), and Best Rap Performance (“No Problem”).

During his acceptances for both Best New Artist and Best Rap Album (in which he beat out both Kanye West and Drake), they started playing him out with the music, signaling for him to wrap up and get off the stage. That’s honestly so sad for an artist whose album was just the first streaming-only album ever to win a Grammy.

Chance doesn’t sell his music; he streams it across platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and other services like them. He makes all his money through tours and merchandise sales. He also is not under any record label; he is an independent artist. I guess, maybe, the music industry doesn’t like this. Music is meant to be bought according to them. For Chance to be doing something different and foreign to them is going against everything that they stand for.

Then why do so many people love him? I’ve seen him before and he is an amazing performer and puts on one hell of a show. What he’s doing is great, releasing his music for all of the world to hear and promoting his Christian beliefs through rap music in an appropriate way. He shows love for all and the world. He’s probably got one of the biggest hearts in the music industry, so for the Grammys to do that to him was saddening to me.

Oh yeah, and his performance later on that night was spectacular:

7. Botching Metallica & Lady Gaga’s Performance

This is especially heartbreaking to me.

First off, Laverne Cox,… learn how to read a f*cking teleprompter. You completely neglected to introduce one of the most iconic bands in history. You only announced Lady Gaga. Ridiculous.

When I first heard that Metallica was going to perform with Lady Gaga at the Grammys, I was a bit thrown off. I really didn’t know what to think with her being somewhat out of her element, but I kept my hopes high knowing that whatever she does performance-wise, she’d definitely bring it.

The song starts playing, which is Metallica’s “Moth Into Flame.” Fire is roaring, guitars are blaring, heads are whipping back and forth… yup, typical metal atmosphere. I love it.

Come time for Metallica frontman, James Hetfield, to start singing, his microphone isn’t working. Seriously? I can understand technical reasons, but with the direction music is going towards nowadays, it’s like they’re leaving bands like Metallica who write, and perform, and produce all their music on their own to be part of an alumni community. For a band to still be going strong from the 1980’s well into their 50’s, they could’ve gotten better treatment.

The performance cleaned up, however, with both artists finishing off the song in great fashion. All mics worked, Gaga stage-dived (which was awesome), and the world was given a performance of a lifetime with two icons at the helm.

8. Bruno Mars’ Tribute to Prince

Wow, this performance was great. I don’t even know a good way to put it.

Last April, the world lost a musical genius in Prince. Mr. Symbol left behind a legacy of how much music can create a movement. It was only right to have proper tribute for “His Royal Badness.” What a perfect part for Bruno Mars to play.

Bruno had already performed earlier in the night and was outstanding. However, this was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen him do live. With guitar in hand, he did Prince’s classic “Let’s Go Crazy,” and how could you not with that song?

Absolutely amazing. I didn’t know he was that skilled with the strings.

Primus: The Most Creative, But Strangest Band You’ll Ever Hear

I’ve recently started listening to Primus a little bit more, and their genre is one that I haven’t exactly been really given my ears to in the past. It’s almost indescribable, and even they can’t even place a specific name to it either; they’ve previously been comically labeled as “thrash-funk meets Don Knotts, Jr.” to “the Freak Brothers set to music.” Even Les Claypool, the colorful, eccentric frontman for the band, who I’ll talk about later, described their music as “psychedelic polka.” Whatever you want to call them, there’s one title that suits them perfectly. Introducing, “funk metal.”

Not one of the most popular songs that they’ve released; in fact, it’s one of their most recent releases within the past couple years. If you want the true, classic sounds of Primus, listen to “My Name Is Mud”, “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver”, and “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” just to name a few. I know what you could be thinking: “What kind of odd names for songs are those?” Trust me, I’ve contemplated the same thing. Ever since I’ve first encountered them on Guitar Hero II with the game featuring their song, “John the Fisherman,” I was mildly impressed. Lately, I’ve been coming back to old music I’ve heard on soundtracks in video games and this is one that I just happened to come across.

Now this is my favorite song by Primus.

If you look into Les Claypool’s playing style, you’d be amazed at his skills. His mix of tapping, flamenco-like strumming, whammy bar bends, and slapping gives the band their melodic sound. That’s what fascinates me the most: his musical ability to play so intricately and lead the band as its voice.

Other bands who came about in the same era as Primus will probably overshadow them. But look at today’s bands who came about because of Primus: Korn, Limp Bizkit, Muse and Incubus. I always love hearing about today’s bands’ different influences. In fact, now that I think about it, I hear a little bit of Primus in Muse’s song “Panic Station.” Give a listen to Primus if you’re interested in them. They may not an iTunes Top 10 appearance in today’s day and age, but it’ll definitely give you a new perspective on the origin of their genre.