You have a better chance of being the next "American Idol" than you do of getting hit by lightning. But not that much better.

Last year, more than 100,000 people turned out for "Idol" auditions across the country. And, of course, there was only one winner.

Your chances of getting struck by lightning are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 in 300,000. The thousands of "Idol" hopefuls who go to the EnergySolutions Arena to get wristbands today, Monday or Tuesday and audition on Tuesday have only a slightly better chance than that of impressing judge Simon Cowell.

"You can get 5 million people to turn up, and at the end of the day you're going to get three or four who are really, really good," Cowell told TV critics back in Season 2.

Most of you auditioners won't even get to meet judges Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. They won't be in Salt Lake City until callbacks in September.

And for the vast majority of you who do get to meet the judges the question isn't if you'll be sent on your way, it's how. As in — how mean will the judges be?

You could well be the best singer among the thousands of hopefuls at the arena, but that doesn't mean you'll even get a second glance. One thing "American Idol" has been over its eight seasons is consistent, and what Cowell told TV critics in Season 1 is still true today.

"The idea of this show was to try and show ... what the music business is really like," Cowell said. "Which is illogical, sexist, all those things."

Hopefully, that will help console those of you whose dreams are crushed.

First impressions mean everything in "Idol" auditions. You're going to get 10 seconds to prove yourself on Tuesday before you even get a chance to prove yourself in front of the judges. And even then it's go big or go home.

"You have to make a snapshot decision," Cowell said as Season 8 began. "It's based on instincts, I guess, and emotion. "

And it's not just how well you sing, but how much the judges like you.

"I honestly think (Season 2 runner-up) Clay Aiken has changed this competition forever.... It's becoming incredibly personality led now," Cowell said — explaining Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks.

Most of you will be sent on your way by judges who are bored out of their minds and ready to strangle each other.

"You get on each other's nerves," Cowell said. "I think we all find new audition sequences harder and harder as years go on because it is torture and it gets on your nerves."

And some of you will make it to the next round of the auditions even if you don't have an ounce of talent. During Season 6, executive producer Ken Warwick explained why one tone-deaf young man was sent on to the next round — "There has to be entertainment there as well, and no one can say that that guy wasn't entertaining."

In other words, that guy — and some of this week's hopefuls — will be sent into the judges' lair as cannon fodder. And you won't see it coming.

"They say, 'I can bring it. I can bring it,"' Abdul said.

"They'll say that, and I'll look at them, and I'm inches in front of their faces. And they're serious," host Ryan Seacrest said.

"We always said, when we came up with the idea of this show, if anyone could look inside a real-life audition, they would truthfully be amazed," Cowell said. "It is part of the fun and the wackiness of this show. People do turn up to 'Idol' or real-life auditions, and they are terrible. And they don't know it."

Cowell will, of course, be happy to disabuse you of your erroneous notions. And he won't feel guilty about doing so.

"What you don't see on camera is that we will go and talk to everybody before we start filming, introduce ourselves and basically go, 'All right. Is everyone good today? Are you going to win?"' Cowell said.

Invariably, he's greeted by screams of "Yes!"

After warning anyone that a less-than-good audition could result in the judges giving them a "hard time," hopefuls are offered a chance to back out. And "100 percent" of them — even the terrible ones — scream that they really believe they're going to win.

"What are you watching and what are you listening to? We're just amazed that someone can show up and be that bad," Jackson said.

Of course, some of you know you're bad and are just looking to get on TV.

"Anyone who gets on national television and is murdered by these three (judges), they go home and they're a national hero," Warwick said.

But some of you might be surprised, nonetheless.

"We can pretty much sniff out ones who are there to just get their moment on television," Abdul said. "And we surprise them when they're done. Simon will go, 'That was great.'

"And you see them go, like, 'Get out!"'

If it makes you feel any better, the judges can be just flat-out wrong. Even Cowell readily admits, "This is not a perfect science." And, remember, he didn't have much nice to say about then-future Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson,

"That girl came into the room. I went, 'Oscar!"' joked Cowell, to whom the idea never came close to occurring.

But even with the long odds and the threat of humiliation on national TV, thousands of you will be singing your little hearts out on Tuesday. And it's not hard to understand why.

"We change people's lives for the rest of their lives," Abdul said rather redundantly but nonetheless accurately. "And real superstars come out of that."


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