All in all, between the two cities fifty hopeful contestants got golden tickets to Hollywood, but we only got to see fifteen of them. But those fifteen still kept us pretty entertained, even walking us down memory lane with some familiar faces.
Vincent Powell (29) was cut in Hollywood Week last year. He blamed judge Randy Jackson for that, saying he slurped his Coke. But anyway, there were no mishaps this time while he sang an almost note perfect “Rock Me Baby.” After his idol Mariah told him, “You sing like an angel. It was fantastic,” he was jumping for joy!
Young mom Savannah Votion (24) thinks “American Idol” is her best chance of stardom now and proceeded to give a pretty aggressive rendition of “At Last.” Randy called her “a real performer” and Nicki Minaj called her “organic.”
Worship leader Christabel Clack (29) belted out Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You, much to the delight of the judges. “I know you. I get you. I love you,” Mariah gushed. Randy concurred: “I love you!” Keith and Nicki raved about her own “little runs” that were different from Alicia’s. Definitely a hot prospect to do well this season.
I was a lot less impressed by Ann Difani (23), whose football-playing husband Jordan had nominated her for an on-field visit from Randy Jackson. She had a very pretty tone on Faith Hill’s “Stronger,” like Keith said, but she just…tried too hard. Ya know…? “I love country – the steel guitar, tight harmony, the stories…but I could cross over into pop as well!” she gushed, desperate to seem versatile.
Victoria Acosta (20) is a mariachi singer who often rides down the river “greeting people to San Antonio” with her unique vocals. I think she’s a lot better at that than music she doesn’t seem connected to, like her audition song, Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” I loved her when Randy asked her to sing some mariachi.
Next was Papa Peachez (19) a self-confessed “big black woman trapped in a little boy’s body.” He sang and original track, which made him stand out, but Randy didn’t think he was serious about “American Idol” and voted no until Nicki bullied him into changing his vote. Mariah was a little reluctant with her approval too. Hardly the “star” that Nicki thinks he is.
Tanzanian-Kenyan Sanni M’Mairura (16) wants to teach dance and dreams of becoming a role model. As if that were not sickly enough he performed Michael Jackson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You” complete with well-choreographed full-body gestures. False, false, false. Or as Nicki put it, “Candy canes, strawberries, whipped cream, rainbows, and sunny skies.” Randy called him “fresh” and he had no trouble getting through to Hollywood.
Adam Sanders (19) got a standing ovation from three of the judges; not Nicki, of course, but she seemed the most impressed with his version of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.”
Shubha Vedula (17) may have a name that Randy can’t pronounce but he and Keith loved her cover of “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” The girls had yet to show up.
Matt Farmer (26) survived an IED explosion and traumatic brain injury, defied the odds of near-certain sterilization due to the medication he had to take, and now has adorable 3-year-old daughter Cadence. He was pretty good on his “raw and real and beautiful and heartfelt” cover of “A Change Is Gonna Come.” That’s what Mariah called it anyway. He has what Keith called “that Gavin Degraw-esque thick thing at the back of your throat.” He’s pretty cute, too.
Jesaiah Baer (16) sang Kimbra’s “Settle Down.” She was interrupted by a fire alarm but was still amazing and confident and breezed through her audition.
Micah Johnson (24) was left with a speech impediment after a surgeon hit some nerves while removing his severely overgrown tonsils. He still struggles to talk but he wants to be an inspiration, and he is. His voice is good, maybe not outstanding, but as Mariah Carey pointed out he puts a lot of emotion in his voice.
Rachel Hale (21) is cute, very cute, and I was pleasantly surprised by her strong country vocals on “People Get Ready.” “You sound like someone who’s already established – you didn’t try to do too much,” said Nicki. All the judges loved her giddy personality. “I’m just enjoying you as an entity,” said Mariah.
Briana Oakley (16) was bullied so bad when she appeared on the Maury Povich Show talent competition in 2009 she had to change schools. They were clearly just jealous. Her talent is undeniable as she showed when she sang “Up to the Mountain.” I’m not sure it’s the start of something huge for her as the judges predicted, as she might not get voters on her side with her personality. But I am looking forward to seeing her again in Hollywood.
Matteus Fernandes appeared in season 1 of “The Glee Project” and was eliminated fifth of 12 contestants. He was also bullied in school, being pretty short. When he sang “A Change Is Gonna Come” and said “and hopefully it reflects this moment” I wasn’t impressed. But it should be all about the singing, and that was pretty good. Marih was crying. Nicki said “we’re looking for a unique and special person and you fit that bill.” “You could sing anything for me any day of the week,” Mariah managed to say as Matteus progressed to Hollywood.
So there you have it. Fifteen “American Idol” golden tickets. Back stories or voices? What won out in these auditions?