American Idol – Recap & Review – Chicago Auditions

photo: fox

photo: fox

American Idol
Chicago Auditions

Original Air Date: Jan 17, 2013

Patricia Morris Buckley — Sr. Staff Writer
pmb@thetwocentscorp.com

I don’t think that Idol has ever had a better entrance than at a planetarium in Chicago. Pulsating lights, slick surfaces, chiseled angles —very scifi. It made me almost want to be a contestant on the show so I could walk through it. Almost.

I have to say this episode was head and shoulders above the season opener. While a lot was made of the judges “feud,” we also got to see a lot of contestants. In fact, over two hours, 21 singers paraded in front of the panel to receive a life-changing yay or nay. Crazies were kept to a minimum (thank you producers!).

Of course, many viewers turned in to see the catfight escalate between Mariah and Nicki. Mostly, they spat at each other little poisonous barbs. But at one point, Nicki made a huge compliment to Mariah about how wonderful it was to meet her for the first time.

If only it would stay civil, but Fox has leaked enough details to suggest it won’t. And the previews hinted that one of them walks out of the auditions next week.

Meanwhile, here’s how the auditions went:

Contestant: Mackenzie Wasner – 17 — student
Backstory: Her father is a keyboardist and her biggest supporter.
Impression: She has a nice voice, but nothing too special. She’s Hollywood fodder.
Verdict: Judges says she’s a star. 4 yeses.

Contestant: Austin Earles – 19 – fast food server
Impression: Wears a poof of neon yellow hair. Judges laugh at him, and the Austin looked confused.
Verdict: No, no, no and no.

Contestant: Kiara Lanier – 21—college student
Song: Mariah’s “A Prayer”
Backstory: She just sang for President Obama’s birthday fundraiser
Impression: She fawns over Mariah and you can see Nicki get chilly. She has a nice way of massaging a tune.
Verdict: 4 yeses. Nicki praised her control.

Contestant: Stephanie Schimel – 20—lingerie store employee
Song: “Dream a Little Dream”
Impression: She’s way breathy and very nervous. Mariah, Randy and Keith liked her, but Nicki wasn’t wowed.
Verdict: Three yeses. Randy tells her to leave when Nicki and Mariah’s bickering gets loud.

Contestant: Melissa Bush – 27- massage therapist
Song: “Downtown”
Backstory: She arrives in a jeweled pink jumpsuit and says she’s quite shy.
Impression: The producers have obviously included her for the giggles. No talent whatsoever. She leaves practically crying.
Verdict: 4 nos.

Contestant: Gabe Brown
Song: “Gimmee Shelter” and “We All Die Young”
Backstory: He’s a rocker who auditioned as part of the new Idol tour bus, then invited to Chicago. He’s a baker who brings cookies.
Impression: He’s screaming more than singing. Mariah asks him to sing a second song that’s softer. I’m not sure how much he can really sing – he might end up going home the first day of Hollywood Week.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Kevin Nabity – 25 – digital media designer
Song: “One Week”
Impression: They put subtitles up because he sings so fast. Randy compares to an auctioneer. But he’s really bad.
Verdict: 4 nos.

Contestant: Isabelle Parell –15 — student
Song: “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
Impression: She’s got a fun, fresh-faced look and a great tone to her voice. She gets Keith to sing the duet with her.
Verdict: Randy says no, but the rest send her through. Nicki said she reminded her of Taylor.

Near the end of the day, Keith had to leave to give a concert, so Randy is planted between the battling divas.

Contestant: Griffin Peterson – 22 — student
Song: “Wash By the Water”
Impression: He’s gorgeous. He sounds a bit like Phil Phillips, but it’s a bad song choice with little range. Randy says he’s “just below average” while the female judges like him.
Verdict: With two yeses he’s got a Golden Ticket.

Contestant: Curtis Finch Jr. – 24 — tutor
Song: “God is Able”
Impression: Wow! He’s got a great gospel voice with killer control.
Verdict: 3 yeses.

Contestant: Mariah Pulice – 19 – restaurant hostess
Song: “Let It Be”
Backstory: She’s a recovering from anorexia.
Impression: She has a fairly good voice. She doesn’t have power, so she might be eaten up by the belters in Hollywood. She made Mariah cry.
Verdict: 3 yeses. Her family comes in and throws confetti.

SECOND DAY

Contestant: Brandy Neelly – 17 — student
Song: “Your Cheatin’ Heart”
Backstory: She was adopted by her aunt after she landed in foster care as a baby. She went to Hollywood in Season 10 and 11.
Impression: She’s got a powerful set of lungs. Nicki liked her control and presence.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Josh Holiday – 24 – caregiver/vocal coach
Song: “Back to One”
Impression: He can really, really sing.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Courtney Williams – 18 — student
Song: “Whose Loving You”
Impression: They show only a snippet of her audition, but her earned her Golden Ticket.
Verdict: All yeses.

Contestant: Andrew Jones – 28 – high school music teacher
Song: “Knock on Wood”
Impression: He’s got tons of soul. It’s a shortened audition – I wish we had seen the longer version.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Clifton Duffin –22 – college student
Song: “Superstar”
Backstory: His parents have never heard him sing.
Impression: Mariah cried to see his parents hug him. I can’t see him going far as his voice is limited, but he was fun to listen to.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Ieisha Cotton – 19 – professional dancer
Song: “Thank You”
Impression: She needs to stick to dancing. She can’t even carry a tune. Randy tells her that she’s tone deaf.
Verdict: No, no, no and no.

Contestant: Johnny Keyser – 23 — musician
Song: “Try a Little Tenderness”
Backstory: He was in Season 11.
Impression: He starts really rough. Not a great song for an audition, though. Mariah thought he had star quality.
Verdict: 4 yeses.

Contestant: Kez Ban -27- fire and street performer
Song: “Pinocchio” and then an original song on the guitar
Backstory: She’s odd looking and is aware she’s no cute 17 year old. She’s honest that she just wants to go to Hollywood.
Impression: Really nice jazz voice. Really, really nice. She’s the first person that feels like she might be a singing star to me. And I like her self awareness.
Verdict: Easy 4 yeses.

Contestant: Ashley Curry – 19 — student
Song: “Mama Knows Best”
Backstory: She’s a twin and considers herself lacking confidence. She’s studying musical theater.
Impression: She’s painful to listen to and she shouts every word. Mariah actually runs away when she won’t stop singing.
Verdict: 4 nos.

Contestant: Lazaro Arbos – 21 – ice cream scooper
Song: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Backstory: He stutters very badly. He’s originally from Cuba and his stuttering got worse when his family moved to the US.
Impression: He has an exquisite voice and does not stutter at all when singing. You can still hear the accent, but not the stutter. He gave me chills. (But he could lose the bow tie.)
Verdict: 4 yeses (sniffle, sniffle).

All in all, the judges gave out 46 Golden Tickets. If I had to pick out one singer I would die to hear again from this week, surprisingly it would be Kez Ban, the odd-looking street performer. She has a different sound and a lovely voice. But will she be too different for voters?

Next up: Charlotte, N.C.

Did you see anyone you think could win? Were you moved to tears by the story of stutterer Lazaro Arbos? What do you think of Mariah and Nicki’s bickering? Give us your TwoCents…

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