"What's the difference between here, Los Angeles and Kansas City? It's just in Atlanta, people know how to sing down here," said show producer Patrick Lynn. "They love it. They have attitude. They do what we ask. That's the greatness of this city."
More than 9,200 show hopefuls from across the South auditioned for the show's ninth season Thursday, showing up in mohawks, short skirts and even a guitar costume at the Georgia Dome.
The show's host and the Idol judges didn't attend but are expected to be in Atlanta in August. An Idol official declined to comment on whether Paula Abdul might make an appearance. Her contract, which ended after the eighth season, has not been renewed.
"It was nerve-racking," said 16-year-old Drake, a resident of Florence, S.C., who didn't offer his last name. The teen, with a guitar strapped to his back, pumped his fist after qualifying for the next round. He was told by the judges that he has a great smile and fluid body gestures, but needs to make more eye contact.
Producers say they keep coming back to Atlanta because of the quality talent. Auditions have been in Atlanta five times _ second most behind New York.
Some of the finalists that have come from Atlanta auditions are Tamyra Gray, Clay Aiken, Amanda Overmyer and Fantasia Barrino.
When searching for talent, producer Patrick Lynn calls Atlanta a "main hub." He says the quality over the past years that the show decided to add another audition in Orlando, Fla.
Lynn feels Gray, a first-season contestant who auditioned in Atlanta, set the bar on how to perform in front of judges.
"When she sang we said to ourselves, 'Oh, that's what we're looking for,'" the producer said. "It was apparent."
Francis Reed of Concord, N.C., said she thinks she can add to the list of talent found in the South. Once the 26-year-old singer found out she made the first cut, she burst out of the Georgia Dome doors as she waived her arms high in a frenzy while shouting, "I made it, I finally made it!"
For those who moved on, there were some that didn't.
One woman, who was not picked, swiftly walked out wearing a white wedding dress, covering her face so no one would recognize her. A teenager stood silently, tears rolling down her cheeks.
"It's like a kick in the face," said Keylan Taylor-Parrish, 19, who said she won't audition again. "Our career is in the judges' hands. They don't know what we do outside of this, how hard we struggle to make this happen. It doesn't matter to them."
Reed said they need to keep their head up and try the next time around like she did.
"This is a long journey," she said. "You have to see it to achieve it. All you need is one break, and you could be the next big thing. It's happened before. It'll happen again."
Auditions for the popular Fox TV show will be held in the upcoming weeks in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orlando and Denver. One has already been held in Boston.
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