The wristbands get contestants in front of a pair of behind-the-scenes judges for a 30-second audition today. Out of the thousands who've registered, only 100 to 200 will ever make it in front of the judges - Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.
Romain, who had been counting down the years until she reached the minimum audition age of 16, never made it past the prescreening judges when she tried out recently in Miami.
"They were looking for spectacles there," she said. "The producers were pulling people in who were dressed like hot dogs, Spider-Man and Flavor Flav."
Jorai and Chloe Shumate, siblings from Newark, N.J., were praying they wouldn't become spectacles on the TV show's gag reel.
Chloe, 27, a Federal Express driver, and Jorai, 21, a medical assistant, come from a religious family. Their father is a minister who doesn't approve of the siblings' choice to sing secular songs.
His concern might be doubled, Jorai said, if he knew that his son was planning on singing the Carrie Underwood country-music hit "Before He Cheats" from a man's perspective.
"He doesn't want us to go outside of ourselves," Chloe said, with a graceful concern for her father's perspective. "You know, I want to do good work but I don't want to disappoint or embarrass him."
As the day wore on, 19-year-old Jazzie Foreman of West Philadelphia and 21-year-old Nichole Fowlkes of Crew, Va., killed some time by critiquing the "Idol" judges.
"Simon is a mean-ass," Foreman said, her hands planted firmly on her hips.
"But Simon's the best because he tells the truth," Fowlkes said. "You've got to respect that."
The two women agreed that Jackson is the "ride-along-to-get-along" judge. When asked to interpret their characterization, Fowlkes said that nine times out of 10, Randy tends to go along with whatever "Simon says."
Foreman defined Abdul as the "sugar-coated" judge. Fowlkes was not so kind with her critique, noting Abdul's recent foray into reality TV and her sometimes unusual attitudes on "American Idol."
"Paula has become like the female Michael Jackson," Fowlkes said. "She freaks you out a lot."
Auditioners are encouraged to begin lining up at 5 a.m. today and should be "prepared to stay all day," according to an "Idol" information sheet.