Five years after Archiemania, 'American Idol' auditions return
In July 2008, thousands of "American Idol" hopefuls gathered at the home of the Utah Jazz to audition for TV's top talent show. On Wednesday, a few hundred were lined up outside the EnergySolutions Arena as registration for this year's auditions began.
The show's streamlined registration/audition system accounts for much of that. And, well, things have changed for "Idol" since 2008.
"I think it feels less frantic," said Stephanie Lewis, 22, from Orem. She auditioned in 2008 "and we were coming off that big thing with David Archuleta. He was from here and people thought maybe he'd show up."
That didn't happen, but Archiemania was still in full swing.
"I just remember being overwhelmed," Lewis said. "There were so many people."
It wasn't just in Salt Lake City that "Idol" auditions were crazy. Stephanie Syphus, a 21-year-old Brigham Young University-Idaho music major, auditioned in her hometown of Phoenix when she was 16. And that experience prompted her to arrive at ESA at 3 a.m.
"I'm surprised there's not more people here," she said. "My dad and I got to the one in Phoenix at 4 a.m., and we didn't get home until 11 p.m. It took us forever to get through the line."
The show's producers changed things up to make Wednesday's registration less of a crush. Hopefuls can register throughout the day; on Thursday, they'll get to audition for production staffers in the order they register.
"There's a big rush in the morning and then there's a steady stream all day long," said senior supervising producer Patrick Lynn. "We wanted to make it easier for people."
He said he's expecting about 3,000 people to sign up to audition, "and that's a good number for us."
Those who make it through Thursday's auditions will return to sing for the yet-to-be-named judges sometime this fall. "American Idol" returns to Fox for Season 14 in January.
And there are those for whom the "American Idol" passion hasn't faded. Fifteen-year-old Jenna Charkosky really wanted to be first to audition. She and her parents arrived at ESA from their home in Murray at 10:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
"We'll always have those people," said Lynn. "And you know what? God love 'em. Because we need them. We love their enthusiasm."
"I wanted to be first in line," said Charkosky, who can't remember a time when she didn't watch "Idol" on TV. "Didn't want to wait [to audition]."
"And I have to be at work in three hours!" said her mom, McCall Clark.
"American Idol" is not the huge hit it once was the most recent season finale drew 14.3 million viewers, down 55 percent from the 31.7 million who watched Archuleta finish second to David Cook five years ago. But there are still plenty of people who take this seriously. Syphus said she's been rehearsing for months, and she amped that up this week.
"Two nights ago, my husband and I went around to different people's houses, just randomly knocked on doors," she said. "And I was, like, 'Hey, do you want to listen to me sing for 'American Idol'?"
You can't underestimate that kind of enthusiasm.
Aron James who auditioned in Utah five years ago and has also auditioned in Denver and Los Angeles thinks the new "Idol" reality may be better for people with talent.
"It's a little less hyped now," James said. "The last season, they had some issues with the judges and the ratings weren't as amazing as they could have been. So I think people just aren't as passionate about auditioning, which might work to some people's advantage.
"But it's a good show. Tried and true. Season after season of making careers."
And every person in that line was hoping that this season, it would happen to them.