The second set of “American Idol” auditions promised another diva cat fight between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, but what it delivered was far more interesting – and emotional – than that. Quite possibly the most tear-jerking auditions yet and a whole heap of talented singers. We saw sixteen people get their golden tickets.
Nicki Minaj still acted as if she was running the judging panel, which was still annoying. But soon the singing talent took over.
Mackenzie Wasner (17) from Tennessee was beautiful and talented and had the cutest, proudest dad ever…except mine – right? He performed with Vince Gill for years and had even had Mackenzie onstage. Her cover of “Whenever You Come Around” was lovely and perfectly pitched, but Nicki Minaj went a little over the top with the whole “someone like you comes in this room once every few years” thing.
I didn’t like the way Nicki cut off Kiara Lanier (21) when she was telling Mariah Carey how much she had inspired her. Jealousy is such an ugly thing. But when she got to “The Prayer” she had beautiful light and shade in her voice. Keith Urban liked her sassy outfit too. Creepy!
Lingerie sales associate Stephanie Schimel sang “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and had a lovely tone. Keith even called her “a Carrie Underwood/Gwen Stefani blend.” That makes her seem a lot better than she was. Nicki real though and admitted, “I don’t think she feels like a star.” But maybe she was jus jealous they were wearing the same purple eyeshadow. I laughed out loud at Mariah’s “Aw hell this is what I have to put up with at my ‘job’, and oh man I can’t even go on, it’s all so meaningless and shouty” and how Keith Urban murmured “I feel like a scratching post.”
Gabe Brown screamed his way through “Gimme Shelter,” in a kind of controlled, somewhat entertaining way. Keith loved him, dancing in his chair and exclaiming, “Wooooot! I loved it!” The ladies were less impressed (on the judging panel, anyway). Nicki grudgingly admitted to Gabe that “when you do rock, I believe it,” and “it feels truthful to you.”
Isabelle Parell (15) got Keith doing a duet with her on “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and I really loved it. She had a raspy voice I love. But I worry she’s not strong enough to progresss beyond Hollywood. As Mariah said, Isabelle has this humble and adorable spirit you don’t see that often, plus an exquisite “droopy in a good way” face. She was lovely.
Griffin Peterson (22) only had to sing one verse of “Washed By The Water” before Mariah and Nicki actually agreed on something: this guy could sell out arenas. It’s a shame that when these two finally agree it’s on something so ridiculous. Griffin is cute but he’s not a star. Ahh but then Phillip Phillips triumphed, didn’t he? OK, they have a point.
Curtis Finch Jr. made himselof look like an early favorite and Randy certainly loved him. I’m taking that as a good sign, because Randy is the only “American Idol” judge I respect right now.
And then the tears came – for me, anyway.
Mariah Pulice’s anorexia back story was powerful and I’m glad she had a performance to match it on “Let It Be.” She had been crying too, so how did she managed to make this pitch perfect and so strong? One to watch, I think, and her supporters were obviously thrilled with the judges’ decision to send her to Hollywood.
It was time for a change of pace then with Brandy Neelly’s cover of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” I didn’t expect to like this but I actually loved it. I like hyer attitude, which didn’t seem fake, and I’d like to hear her sing something that’s not country.
Josh Holiday got through despite cracking on his falsetto. Actually maybe that’s why he got through. Mariah Carey loved that part.
We didn’t get to see much of Courtney’s vibrato, which was impressive. Andrew Jones was foot-stompingly good. As we didn’t see much of either of these and they were both pretty good, I am hoping for some more screen time for them in Hollywood. I just wish Andrew hadn’t ended his audition with “I wanna be a star for you, Randy.” Randy looked like he wished he hadn’t his audition with that too.
Clifton Duffin (22) is so shy he apparently had never sung in front of his parents before the “American Idol” auditions. He chose one of his mother’s favorite songs, ”Superstar,” and it was great. He has a bright, clear, beautiful voice that had his parents (and me) gasping. Okay, I may be a sucker for a good back story but I loved this.
Then there was a returnee, Johnny Keyser. I remember him from last year. He cried when Mariah Carey called him “a star.” I didn’t quite agree with that, but the “You’re dismissed” from Nicki after it was just unnecessarily rude, especially when all she had to add was that Johnny had a “twinkle in his eye.” He got through, though, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he progresses.
Another returnee, Schyler Dixon (yes, Colton’s sister) got a golden ticket too.
Kezx Ban, although a seriously weird woman, gave one of the best auditions I’ve ever seen on “American Idol.” She sang an original song called “Wandering” and I liked it. It will be interesting to see how she copes with the material given to her on the show or if she will be allowed to keep singing her own stuff.
You will probably have heard the hype surrounding Lazaro Arbos (21) from Naples, Florida. Born in Cuba, he has ad a serious speech impediment since age 6 and it got worse after he moved to the U.S. at 10. Sometimes he couldn’t speak at all, and his mother had to say everything for him. Eventually, she told him to try singing.
I was crying by then but when he father admitted, “Since he is always alone and has few friends, music is his life” I was bawling like a baby. I found “Bridge Over Troubled Water” a too obvious, too sickly choice of song, but I love the tone and emotion in Lazaro’s voice. “You should sing all the time,” suggested Keith Urban, which is fine if you’re starring in ‘Les Miserables’ but tricky if you’re not.
So that’s all for the”American Idol” season 12 premiere, folks. I’m hooked already, are you?