American Idol Chicago Auditions Recap: The Windy (City) Project [Updated]

lazaro arbosLadies and gentlemen, start your Kleenex.

Indeed, 12 seasons in, the giant onion that is American Idol hasn’t lost an ounce of potency. Sit with it long enough — breathe in its swelling strings and its harrowing backstories and its humble notion that, with the right melody, the misfits and outsiders and scrappers of the world can make like Kelly Clarkson and have their very own “moment like this” — and eventually, you’ll be succumbing to the urge to ugly cry on your couch.

To put it another way: Nigel Lythgoe, 1; America’s tear ducts, 0.

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It may have been edited for maximum audience manipulation, but it was impossible not to feel the heartstrings getting pulled like saltwater taffy as 21-year-old ice-cream scooper Lazaro Arbos talked about a severe stuttering problem that resulted in a childhood with too much heartache and not nearly enough friends. How he was nevertheless able to deliver a haunting, melodious rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is not for me to explain, and quite possibly a miracle. And whether or not Lazaro makes it past Hollywood Week is of no consequence. For 10 minutes on January 17, 2013, the kid was an American Idol. Congrats.

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Better still, the Season 12 Chicago auditions gave us a good, long listen to a whopping 16 Golden Ticket recipients — with several legit potential winners in the mix. (They must’ve gotten good and inspired by an appearance from Season 10’s incredible Haley Reinhart, yes?)

Without further ado, let’s do a quick rundown of the proceedings:

Going to Hollywood
* Mackenzie Wasner‘s dad is Vince Gill’s longtime piano player, so if she advances past Hollywood Week, she can brace for the inevitable onslaught of message-board comments accusing her of being too well-connected for an amateur singing competition. Whatever. Mackenzie’s voice floated over “Whenever You Come Around” like a butterfly navigating a field of flowers, and I wanted to hear more, even though the song itself has a hook so weak a guppy could bend it. Keith Urban made an interesting observation that the kid’s runs are reminiscent of Dolly Parton, but Nicki Minaj went a little overboard with her “someone like you only walks into a room every few years.” Is it possible Wigmaster 3000 hasn’t watched any of the prior seasons of Idol?

* Kiara Lanier announced she’d recently sung to President Obama on his birthday, which pretty much erased any possibility she was going to be the rare gorgeous/poised chick with absolutely no vocal ability. That said, when she added she was about to tackle Celine Dion’s “The Prayer” — a vocal quintuple lutz if there ever was one — I got skittish. Turns out there was no need to fret. Sure, Kiara got a little showboat-y with the way she expanded and contracted her voice over the course of a sub-60-second tryout, but if you’ve got it, isn’t your Idol audition the place to flaunt it? I mean, David Blaine’s not gonna try out for America’s Next Top Magician and pull a coin out from behind a kindergartener’s ear, is he?

* Apologies to Stephanie Schimel, but I don’t remember much of her “Dream a Little Dream of Me” — aside from it being benignly pretty — thanks to the Nicki-Mariah dustup that followed it. I’ll admit I chuckled when Nicki told Stephanie they had a rivalry because they were wearing the same color eye shadow, and then I laughed again when an exasperated Mariah declared, “This is what I deal with when I come to ‘my job.'” But somewhere between the former’s flights of limelight and the latter’s growing disenchantment with the drudgery of a day job, the tension got a little less fun.

* Zinger of the night goes to Mariah, who took one look at the homemade cookies delivered by contestant Gabe Brown, then asked, “Is this like Halloween candy where we have to…,” before thinking the better of it and trailing off like Jennifer Lopez trying to sing “Vision of Love.” Gabe’s growling “Gimme Shelter” was very “bear suddenly comes out of a cave to protect its territory” — which is to say a bit shocking, more than a little jarring, and yet not entirely uncompelling. Still, Ms. Carey’s instincts proved correct when she asked for a more mellow followup. Not only was Gabe’s grasp on pitch a little less tight when he wasn’t full-out screaming, but he couldn’t go more than 15 seconds before he brought his trademark brand of vein-flexing bombast to “We All Die Young.” I’m kinda surprised the judges didn’t send him back home with a “come back next year when you’re more polished” pep talk. But some folks have to get that lecture in Hollywood Week, I suppose.

* I’m not Fox Mulder and therefore I don’t want to believe school skipper Isabelle Parell, she of the smoky-good “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” is only 15. I mean, most young’uns that age wouldn’t be all poised and unaffected walking into the audition room and handing a lyric sheet to Keith Urban with the assumption he’d be their duet partner, would they? (Better still was the “you were wonderful”/”please don’t read till after we’ve finished our duet” note Isabelle had scrawled at the bottom of Keith’s note.) I liked the hitch in Isabelle’s voice when she reached for her high notes, and the smoky-jazzy quality with which she infused her vocals. Plus, she’s already got some currency with Mariah, who loves Christmas music, dahhhhlings!

* I know, I know…Nicki is obnoxious, but how can you not crack up when she suggests craziness like shortening Griffin Peterson‘s name to a lascivious “Grrrr” or points out his heartthrob potential with bon mots like “Bieber don’t do this to me!” Anyhow….while Grrr’s choice of “Washed By the Water” (a song I admittedly didn’t know) was a little underwhelming, he’s certainly got a nice tone and some definite charisma. In other words, Randy’s “your voice was just barely below average” feedback merely proves the panel’s longest-malfunctioning member should be sent directly to the unemployment line without passing “Go” and without collecting a copy of Haley Reinhart’s Listen Up! Or maybe he just wanted to see Nicki beg Mariah to join her in sending the guy to Hollywood.

* If you can get Mariah Carey to throw a Gospel hand during a performance by someone other than herself, then you’ve got to be doing something right. If I’m being totally honest, Curtis Finch, Jr‘s choice of “God Is Able” was a little rambling and run-heavy for my personal taste, but it’s hard to complain too much when an auditioner is not only completely on pitch but feeling it like the first addictive blast of your morning shower. Plus, Nicki’s rhythmic “Oh! Em! Gee! Let’s have it for the boy! Boy! Boy!” — which, if we’re truthful, was more RuPaul’s Drag Race than American Idol — is the kind of judging spontaneity that overly self-aware J.Lo never would’ve been capable of pulling off. To which I say, three snaps in a Z-formation, huh-huh-honey!

* Mariah Pulice‘s story of battling back from the depths of anorexia was touching, and her ability to finish “Let It Be” (mostly) in tune was better than admirable, but my inner warning siren went off when she got her Golden Ticket and said the experience made her feel “beautiful for the first time in so long.” Let’s be honest: Reality TV is about as appropriate for someone in the early stages of recovery as a pit filled with live boa constrictors is okay for a miniature dachshund.

* To paraphrase an old Janet Jackson hit, Brandy Neelly‘s audition was a story about control — vocal control, to be specific. The country chica’s rendition of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” was one of my favorites in a night because it combined genuine feeling, moments of restraint, gut-busting glory notes and even a hint of gravel toward the finish. Plus, as Keith noted, Brandy picked an inarguably excellent (and not done-to-death) ditty and made it sound like it was written for her. Me likey!

* I didn’t think boyishly handsome Josh Holiday‘s “Back at One” was distinctive or soulful enough to warrant a Golden Ticket — that strained falsetto run at the end sealed my opinion — but the judges seemed to think they were hearing something special. And I’m not about to argue with Mariah and Nicki, seeing how I don’t have a giant Coca-Cola cup to hide behind.

* We only got a brief snippet of Courtney Williams‘ “Who’s Lovin’ You” and Andrew Jones‘ “Knock on Wood,” but the former vocalist definitely had some power in her pipes, while the latter dude brought some needed electricity to the proceedings by infusing his song with finger-snapping, foot-stomping rhythm. Let’s hope he makes it at least till the Group Rounds, yes?

* If Clifton Duffin didn’t have matinee-idol looks and/or that backstory of never once having sung in front of his parents, I’m not sure the judges would’ve been quite so enamored of his solid but hardly spectacular rendition of “Superstar.” (Having mom and dad sneak through that planetarium tunnel to witness the audition from the sidelines was a nice touch of drama, though. Well-played, Uncle Nigel!) To me, this audition was more significant for showing us Keith Urban is man enough to cry on national television (dude really is a charmer, no?) and for Nicki conjuring up the nickname “secret squirrel” for Clifton.

* Is it just me, or did Season 11 Hollywood Week hopeful Johnny Keyser seem to have regressed in terms of vocals and charisma with his rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness”? I mean, he threw in so many unnecessary runs, I was surprised the song wasn’t wearing a pair of Reeboks. (Sorry.) No way that warranted a Golden Ticket, but I suspect the judges had to follow some pre-determined marching orders to bring some familiar faces to the next round. Whether or not Uncle Nigel shows us footage from last year of Johnny continuing to sing while one of his groupmates collapses in a heap/hanging in a hot tub when he should’ve been practicing will let us know if he’s being groomed as an inspiring Colton Dixon comeback story or simple cannon fodder.

* I immediately fell hard for the plainspoken cynicism of “beginner fire performer” Kez Ban, who looked into the camera and noted that if she was destined for the blooper reel, to just let her know so she could head back home without embarrassing herself or her mom. This sensitive artiste knows all too well the horrors of the reality TV genre, and yet it turns out she had nothing to worry about. Her jazzy, unfussy spin on “I’ve Got No Strings” (from Pinocchio) showcased a fantastic tone, but it was her followup — playing guitar and belting an original track called “Wandering” — that proved downright revelatory. Kez, unlike so many Idol auditioners who dubiously choose to perform their own stuff, can seriously, seriously write. I rewound the audition twice, and if “Wandering” was on iTunes right this minute, I’d buy it and play it on repeat a couple dozen times. Kez’s voice has a hypnotic drive to it, and even her lyrics about azure skies and wandering the streets of Chicago were pretty solid. Add to it that Kez doesn’t think she should actually win Idol — that honor should go to a 17-year-old girl who’s dreamed this dream her whole life — and I’ve got to say I’ll be devastated if she doesn’t advance directly to the live shows. (Yes, Kez is this year’s Tami Gosnell or Deanna Brown. And yes, I still listen to my Tami Gosnell and Deanna Brown CDs to this very day.)

* Finally, we’re back to dapper cutie Lazaro, with his turquoise shirt and purple bowtie, looking like a waiter at a kicky Miami eatery. Was his vocal the best of the night? Not by any stretch. But the kid was so visibly nervous — sweating profusely, borderline trembling, and on the brink of tearful collapse — that I think it’s only fair to give him a one-time pass on any minor tremulousness that crept into his vocals, no? If his confidence can bloom once he gets to Hollywood Week, methinks Lazaro could quickly eat Johnny Keyser’s Season 12 Heartthrob sandwich.

* Oh, and two other things. Did any of you catch The Voice grad Jamie Lono in the montage of rejected singers? (His single “I Think I Like You” is damn good…ch-ch-check it out on iTunes!) And did any of you notice Colton Dixon’s sister Schyler in the montage of Golden Ticket getters? What missed opportunities to keep those auditions from our eyes and ears! Blerg!

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the American Idol Season 12 Chicago tryouts? What did you think of the Nicki-Mariah bickering? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? Sound off in the comments, take our poll below, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

WATCH: Lazaro Arbos Wows Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey

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103 Comments
  1. Sam says:

    I saw Schyler Dixon. Why didn’t they show her audition?

    • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

      Because she doesn’t make Top 40. I already know who does, but I won’t give away any names. If you want to see the full list, you can check out The Idol Pad. I was disappointed she was cut; I kind of hoped we’d have a family legacy on this show.

  2. rod says:

    im still crying, it was so sad and so good. Damn you american idol

  3. Kez Ban for the win. The name, the attitude, it just works. Loved that they focused back onto the contestants a little more, especially since next week will be the huge blow up between Mariah and Nicki. Lazaro was quite a story and I can’t wait to see more from him. Much better episode this time around than last night.

  4. dj says:

    I still found the judges annoying, but I liked more of the talent tonight.

  5. Stacey says:

    I thought this episode was a lot better than the premiere. Nicki talked too much for me in this episode (and after a while I couldn’t tell if I was watching Idol or The Bachelor Nicki Minaj edition) but the contestants were great! Especially the guy who had the speech problems, really moving. These batch of contestants were way better, there were less commercials, the cattiness was toned down vs the premiere and basically it was a good show.

    Question: Did Nicki actually tell the contestant with the purple eyeshadow she said “no” because of her rivalry with Mariah? I thought that was a bit much. And is it me or does Idol play Mariah’s music every chance they get along with basically every other contestant saying how much they “love” her.

  6. george says:

    So apparently it’s a known thing that people don’t stutter when they sing. Truly a miracle

  7. MB says:

    I thought tonight was a lot better than last night and we saw some really good talent. I am still not sure how I feel about the judges but I am really trying to give them a chance. I do like Keith but still can not warm up to the girls. Sometimes they are really great but too much of the time I find them annoying.

  8. Laquisha says:

    Omg I am crying so hard right now. I can’t stop and I’m out of tissues. Well I guess I have to use toilet paper… Now I’m not gonna have anything to wipe my buttocks!!! Crying even harder now!

  9. marie says:

    How far Idol has come towards inclusiveness in just a few short seasons, from when Adam Lambert was obviously told to stay well closeted, to giving an out-of-the-ordinary contestant like Kez Ban a golden ticket without batting an eye. And no, I realize I can’t legitimately make any assumptions about Kez’s backstory, but I think we can agree that this is a contestant who would not have been accepted – indeed, who may even have been played for laughs – not that many seasons ago.
    Don’t ask me to name names – I haven’t seen enough of these kids yet for any of them to really stand out yet – but it seemed to me that the judges were letting through more modestly talented contestants in Chicago than they did in New York. No one on either show has me jumping up and down yet – then again, I HAVE been watching this show for many years so the novelty is well worn away by now. Even so, I really do love this frickin show.

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      if you like this spoilery site good on you but can you keep it to yourself and not mention it or it’s results again out of respect to folks who don’t like spoilers? thank you

      • seattlejohn449 says:

        this was a direct response to IDOL FLASH doing his spoilerific comments in this column but HIS specific comment has apparently been removed so now MY comment is totally out of context

        • deedee says:

          seattlejohn, I still see IdolFlash’s spoiler post, so your post is still relevant to me. Must admit, I checked out the girls’ spoiler list myself because I was curious about one auditioner – who was not on it :'( .
          .
          This year there’s apparently no Wildcards, no top 12 or top 13 – just a straight top 10, which goes on tour automatically. I think Nigel is making a mistake doing this. It takes away 2 instances of drama and suspense: 1) who will be the Wildcard picks, and 2) who will be the Top 10 to make it on tour. But thank goodness they eliminated The Save! Oh, that ‘sing for your life’ crap was humiliating and cruel. Good riddance to that!

        • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

          Hi Seattle John. First of all, I am a girl. Please refer to me as “she.” (I know, androgynous screen names can be confusing.) Secondly, I already promised I would cool it with the spoilers. I’m just so excited to see who of the people I know made it will be featured during the auditions.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      LOL, marie. Isn’t it the truth?

    • justwondering says:

      I totally agree! I thought Kez Ban was a breath of fresh air. But I did have a question, and i don’t want to seem insensitive in any way! Are we sure that Kez is a “she”? Not that it matters at all, but I wasn’t completely sure. Was anyone else wondering or was it just me?

      • marie says:

        She calls herself “she,” and that works for me.

        • Tom22 says:

          ditto . I try not to think of anyone’s sex life anyway. Maybe there are a few singers and actresses I like to see wearing as little as possible but that isn’t what drives the music i listen to and generally they invite that with their clothing and photo release choices.

          The Show was pretty upfront about the “used to have hair on my chin” “but she doesn’t anymore” part. To me, that is a fairly classy way of trying to respect their viewers with less tolerant moral convictions and to not force them to delve into topics with young family members they don’t expect to in watching a family show. It’s not a political show yet they are showing some tolerance in their selection even if not making an editorial decision to explore that non singing subject as much as they would explore other unique family situations. They did give time to her professions. I think most adults over 18 pretty much get the message after some contemplating and the result of being inclusive with her makes the whole thing more familiar. Being familiar is a first step to begin to relax the worst fears and misconceptions.

  10. forwarddad says:

    Go away Johnny.

    • Timmah says:

      It’s over, Johnny

    • Ty says:

      I liked his audition last year better, but I hope he does not flame out like group rounds. He is a very good singer with the right kind of song. People hate on him because of some of his lack of reaction to other contestants, or that pool scene, but they need to get over it. Just go off how well he does on the show.

      • Mary says:

        I don’t like his singing period. Yes, last year he came off like a douche, but his audition this year does not warrant IMO a golden ticket. I am hoping he doesn’t make the top because unfortunately people will vote because of his looks.

        • Ty says:

          You are wrong, TONS of people feel like you do, they were incredibly VOCAL in how much they did not like him because of his attitude or this or that. Michael is pretty irritated and hostile to him as well. I agree this audition was not that great, but based off what I’ve seen him do

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udOK0yCDQUs

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwC9VfNLb6M#t=8m34s

          he should go through.

          He is a better singer than colton dixon (who had a more affable personality for the viewing audience – something I care less about than you all), and leagues better than Phillip Phillips. The guy is good, and if you can’t see that then we simply have irreconcilable tastes. But then most people have different tastes than I do, I did not want PP to win, or scotty, or freaking Lee Dewyze. And we live in a darker musical world because people stray so far from my perfect taste.

          • Mary says:

            At an audition you should be judged on how well you did, not you tube video from before. My point is based on his audition this year, not last he should not have gone through IMO. I did not care for his singing last year even before the incidents. I agree I didn’t want PP Scotty or Lee to
            win but unfortunately they did.

          • Ted Sutton says:

            Leagues better than Phillip Phillips? Are you aware that his CD has gone triple platinum? That is 3 times more sales the Scotty, the winner the year before. And this guy Johnny is “leagues” better than Phil Phillips? Come on man! Phil Phillips has real world success. Johnny blew it last year by being to cocky, and this year his audition was not that good. If you think he is better than Phil you have a tin ear. Phil is light years better than Johnny. Get a grip Ty! You’re making a fool of your self. The test of an Idol is do they sell records, and Phil Phillips did it in spades.
            And you are going to tell us that Johnny, who didn’t make it to the live shows, and won’t this year, is “leagues” better than a market proven winner? I don’t think so. Ty, your credibility is shot!

    • Owen says:

      Why do I get the idea this kid (who I think moved to LA after making it to Hollywood last year) now has the look of a desperate hooker?

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        I think it was the hair, Owen! I didn’t care for Johnny Keyser’s new do. It looked like something out of West Hollywood.

        And wasn’t his name pronounced “Kaiser” last season? Ryan was pronouncing it “KEE-zer”.

  11. Rick says:

    I loved the person who kept talking about the paperwork.

  12. Callum says:

    First, Randy, it’s not always about the vocals. Griffin’s voice was UNIQUE, which made it awesome. Second, I really enjoyed Kez Ban! I think I just developed two favorites.

    • dj says:

      I really liked Kez Ban, too. I don’t think the judges knew quite what to think when they asked what she was going to sing and she said, “Pinnochio.” I loved her voice and her guitar playing. I would like to hear more of her original songs. I hope she gets a chance to sing some of them and not just the same old crap they always sing every year.

  13. J. May says:

    Johnny Keyser again? Awkward…

  14. titania424 says:

    If you read about Gabby Giffords and her recovery after being shot, they talked about how they used singing as a means of getting her speech back. The parts of the brain used for singing are different than used for regular speech. It’s fascinating. But that’s why Lazaro can sing. I was touched by his story, and perhaps the exposure will get him some better therapy to work through his stuttering, but his singing was just ok.

    • CAM says:

      It would be great if he could some help. Seems like a nice person who has really had a rough time. I just hope he isn’t overwhelmed by all the Hollywood week drama.

  15. Southie says:

    Kez Ban had the best audition I have seen in years

    • deedee says:

      Agree. What a revelation! I hope she gets enough air time to give her a small local following. Would be nice if the exposure gives her a boost because she’s really quite talented – reminds me of Tracy Chapman.

  16. Vetle says:

    Kez. Ban. Kez. Ban.

    She was amazing. And Brandy Neelly was cool too! And Isabelle – unique tone. I do fear she will be drowned out. Rumor has it that Candice Glover tried out this year. I hope they show her audition!

  17. TVAddict says:

    Apparently I went a little too heavy on the FF button. Can somebody please tell me about how far in does the incredible Haley Reinhart make an appearance?

  18. forwarddad says:

    @idolflash. Please no spoilers.

  19. Shannon says:

    Nicki Minaj has got to go away…far far away. Or stop commenting every three seconds and speaking in a British accent. What is her purpose but to take focus away from the actual competition!

  20. Guitar Blue says:

    Mackenzie Wasner and Kez Ban are the only ones I care to hear sing again. This is a highly manipulated show, editing-in or out what they allow you to see – so they pumped some through, that are only grist for the mill, so they can get a big crew into Hollywood.

  21. Big Daddy says:

    Is kez a dude or a chick? Doesn’t matter either way the performance was awesome! Also, does Johnny need intervention ? Those are some serious bags and sweats?

  22. Timmah says:

    I rarely get sucked in by the back stories, but they got me with Lazaro’s. I’ll be rooting for him in Hollywood.

  23. Ty says:

    I disagree with Michael about Josh Holiday, I thought he sounded lovely. His high notes at the end were a bit wild but inside the line of sounding decent. Interestingly, they sounded better on my computer with my headphones sourced from a desktop amp. When I saw it on tv, my speakers rendered those last high notes in a way that made them sound more butchered.

    Kez Ban was fantastic. Her original song was actually good, which is something I can almost NEVER say about original songs sung on these shows by contestants.

    Lazaro Arbos was phenomenal too. He has good taste in music. I found it odd that people shunned him over the whole stuttering issue, he’s actually very “nice” looking. You would think many people would look past that for other superficial reasons.

    • Ty says:

      oh and, I like his style, how many people rock a bow tie to american idol?

    • Mara says:

      I thought the same thing! I’m like, wow. Lazaro is hott.
      I’m feeling a gay vibe from him. Not that it matters, but maybe it’s something he’s insecure about on top of everything?
      How he hasn’t made friends, even superficial ones, is shocking! especially when it’s obvious that he is such a nice person too.

    • Lazaro ARBOS is not very serious and he has not too much possibilities…he is jocking all the time…but, wait and see…Lazaro ARBOS has to change a lot…Anyhow…try to help him.

  24. Lois Benton says:

    Kez Ban was the standout of the two nights so far and easily the best American Idol audition I’ve seen (that would be since Season 7). I swore I wouldn’t watch this show after last year, because of the disgusting way this show is run (Jermaine Jones, anyone?). But then I remembered Joshua Ledet, even if he didn’t win as he should have and relented. Kez Ban should be the new American Idol, even if KB doesn’t want to win. All the white males with guitars always win would be….irrelevant and all, like, gender neutral. Or something. I guess she is a transexual, but she sure is great. And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how a female can win this show. Or not.

  25. Me says:

    I almost feel mean for saying this, but I think the last guy who had the stutter was just okay to me. He has the Susan Boyle/Chris Medina factor which may help him get through Hollywood week but I don’t know how long the hype will carry him.

  26. forwarddad says:

    This

  27. Mary says:

    I wasn’t going to watch the whole show, was going to switch to grey’s , but I became engross and kept watching. I was actually surprise of a couple of guys who made it, the cynic in me thinks they are casting some questionable guys in order for a female would win. The sad part is with the demographics the way it is , it will backfire. I am hoping they will can a few during Hollywood week. I am glad they put more emphasis on who made it with few joke contestants tonight. I didn’t mind a little bickering between Nicki and Mariah but a couple of times it got tiresome. I hope by the time live shows start they have learned how to play together. I think the judges are doing well so far, hopefully will continue when it counts and not edited.

  28. Ann says:

    Is it me or does that Lazaro fellow’s stuttering remind anyone of that fake stutter, Tim Poe, who competed on America’s Got Talent and lied about his stuttering??

  29. Monica says:

    Kinda wish the “And I Am Telling You” guy got on…he wasn’t bad at all, he just was super passionate!

  30. darcy the slutty twin says:

    Keith Urban needs to be shirtless at all times while judging. Also, that Griffin guy’s super hot and so is his dad! Be still, my quivering thighs!

  31. Jo says:

    A lot of good singers this episode, and Kez Ban was my favorite. I LOVE Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban as judges! They’re funny, eloquent, enthusiastic and very-down-to-earth with the contestants. One of the best lines of the night was Nicki’s comment about Bieber.

  32. darcy's evil twin says:

    I haven’t had the opportunity to watch Thursday night’s program yet but I could NOT resist reading Mr. Slezak’s column and everyone’s comments. Wow, I can hardly wait! And Johnny Keyser is back? That should be interesting.

    By the way, when I heard about Manti Te’o’s imaginary dead girlfriend/sob story I wondered if he planned to audition for Idol. ;-)

  33. BarbL says:

    OK, I broke down and watched this. I wasn’t going to–promise! I was forced by ‘nsatiable curiosity.
    .
    I’m glad I did; I was able to tune out the diva’ishness and focus on the talent, so I didn’t miss Kez, Steph — who I actually really like a lot, I think she has a future, Issy, and Lazaro.
    .
    My evening was a little brighter having “met” these singers. I now have hope for AI in my future.

  34. BarbL says:

    As far as the spoilers are concerned, I’d not trust them to be accurate. Many of them aren’t.

  35. EVPandHC says:

    Michael, saying Lazaro got through because of his backstory only? What is wrong with you?

  36. Morisot says:

    Kept thinking “This show really could use — SIMON” !

  37. Chrissie Kirk says:

    Mariah Carey…darlin’ you need just a bit of a makeover, you know? The hair, the hair has got to change…so old fashioned and I don’t care if you think it is part of your signature. That’s all for now.

  38. ListenUp says:

    My favorite was Haley Reinhart. Good thing I didn’t blink or I would have missed her. :/

  39. Tahoe Mike says:

    Hi kidz, how was everybody’s summer? Feels like being back at school and seeing the ol” gang again.
    ~
    I loved Kez Ban’s audition, that was awesome. As she said herself, once the shock wore off I was excited about it.
    ~
    A close second was Brandy Neelly’s version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Talk about taking a standard and making it your own! I’m glad I’m not the one she was singing about.
    ~
    I also loved Mackenzie Wasner, she’s just that cute and charming, and she sang like a bird.
    ~
    The one performance that stuck with me from the night before was the girl who belted out “Summertime.”
    ~
    Must disagree with our host; the line of the night went to Keith Urban, “I feel like a scratching post.”

  40. Sandy says:

    Griffin’s song “Washed by the Water” is a Needtobreathe song. One of their other songs, “Drive All Night”, was featured behind the Philliip Phillips audition last season.

    • Corky St. Clair says:

      LOVE needtobreathe. Washed by the water wasn’t the best choice for an audition though because there isn’t much range to it. But I’ll root for the kid just because he chose a needtobreathe song.

  41. TC says:

    Are we going to get a Reality Check video this week?

  42. EmmitWest says:

    At our house, we enjoyed some Kez Ban as well… however, she looked to be on meth: overly skinny, scary teeth, and apparently needing a fix (as she wanted to “come back and do the paperwork tomorrow,” as Seacrest tried to explain that that wasn’t really his job.)

    I do hope we are wrong, but I’ll be surprised to see her in Hollywood.

  43. freethinker says:

    Kez Ban is the real deal and should do well if the world was fair but unfortunately, the voting demographic on idol will not let her win and she knows it. I’m rooting for her though.

  44. Mari says:

    Kez Ban was great! Her tone, her original song everything perfect!

  45. cathy says:

    This is insane..I am the Biggest Scotty McCreery fan in the whole world( along w/my fellow McCreerians)He is just the best…haven’t watched AI since season 10,found my forever idol…but I REALLY liked Kez Ban…..

  46. Lana says:

    Its good to see all the familiar names and it feels like it was just weeks ago that we were all idolizing instead of a year ago. I really liked Kez but I feel she is too different for the American public so once voting starts I don’t think she will last however I am going to enjoy her as long as I can as she has some crazy talent. As for the judges, I enjoy Keith all the time, but the girls can get on my nerves. Sometimes I like them and they both can make me laugh but Niki can get too loud and obnoxious and she can be very rude to Mariah which is uncalled for. I don’t blame Mariah for being irritated with her. I do get tired of the bickering. I am not a big fan of Diva’s but Mariah does have more of a claim to that term than Niki does. I am soo glad that Idol is back and I’m going to love every show and every recap.

  47. CK says:

    Melinda and you must interview Kez Ban! She’s so unusual in an awesome kind of way.

  48. darcy's evil twin says:

    I just had time to sit down and watch the DVR recording and really enjoyed most of the program. I’ve always loved Keith Urban and am shocked at how much I’m enjoying Nicki Minaj. And is it my imagination but is Randy less annoying this year?
    .
    My favorite, hands down – Brandy Neelly’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. Wow. Just wow.
    .
    The people I wouldn’t have put through to Hollywood – the chick that sang for Obama, Anorexia Girl, the guy that destroyed the best rock song of all time – “Gimme Shelter” (He should have been tossed head-first into Lake Michigan), the guy that stuttered, and the guy that sang “Back at One”. I’m on the fence on the cross-dresser. Nice voice, but I’m not a fan of that type of music.
    .
    .

  49. Chris says:

    I’m surprised that you like Keith Urban and don’t like Nicki. I thought Keith was very bland and he didn’t say anything interesting. Mariah was also unexciting. Nicki was the only judge with a personality and her comments were thoughtful when she wasn’t asking about their dating status. In fact, she seemed to be taking control of the panel which makes Randy’s continuing presence even more bewildering.

  50. RD says:

    Love or hate her-Nicki Minaj is sharp as a tack.

    • deedee says:

      She is. I’m enjoying her a lot, even though loud-mouth rappers usually irritate me beyond description when they talk. Even though Nicki does tend to dominate and take over as the ringleader, which is obviously annoying to Mariah, she does bring the funny! Her nicknames for the contestants and all the tongue-in-cheek sass make me LOL more often than not. Not looking forward to her hair-trigger temper, but am looking forward to her spontaneous smack-talk during the live rounds. And I was really expecting to hate her as a judge!