American Idol Recap: Some Wails in Two Cities

rachel hale american idol auditionAmerican Idol doesn’t get everything right all the time, but let’s give the lumbering old beast a round of applause — or as J.Lo likes to call it, a standing ovation — for trimming back the Season 12 auditions to a succinct, three-week affair.

If I’m being completely honest, the sometimes uninspiring Golden Ticket recipients from tonight’s two-city, two-hour extravaganza had me wondering if maybe Nigel Lythgoe & Co. should’ve considered additional cuts. But ultimately, the episode was not without its charms: “The great Randy Jackson” ridiculing Shubha Vedula’s name in front of a national TV audience (how dare she not change it to something Dawg-friendly like Mary Smith…I kid, I kid…Mary has two syllables!); skipper Mariah Carey’s breasts frantically scrambling from her dress (negligee?) in search of one of the Queen Mary’s life boats (srsly, girlfriend gives The Voice‘s Christina Aguilera a run for her cleavage); and Keith Urban nailing understated punch line after punch line after punch line. (Dude is giving The Voice‘s Blake Shelton a run for his funny!)

Anyhow, the good news — in all seriousness — is that we got extended footage of 15 more Golden Ticket recipients tonight from San Antonio, TX and Long Beach, CA. The bad news, of course, is that most of them will go the way of a Corey Clark interview segment — which is to say embarrassingly and with little or no interest from the general public — by the time they get to Hollywood Week. With that in mind, I’m gonna weigh in on the episode’s advancing vocalists in a Twitter-esque 140 characters (or close to it):

Vincent Powell, “Rock Me Baby” | Don’t recall him from S11, but love his fine croakey tone & deep well of soul. Plus he made fun of Randy’s sipping-while-judging idiocy. #WIN

Savannah Votion, “At Last” | Docked 2 pts for illegal use of sequined tube top, but displayed patience, timing & nuance on “At Last.” (That breath before “my lonely days”…j’adore!)

Cristabel Clack, “If I Ain’t Got You” | Can’t lie: “IIAGY” has been rendered meaningless for me by too many reality competition covers. Still, Cristabel’s voice is strong and informed by experience.

Ann Difani, “Stronger” | Seems sweet, but tone is as common as hashtags on Twitter. Plus: Hubby’s excitement upon meeting Randy Jackson oddly depressing.

Victoria Acosta, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”/a snippet of Mariachi | San Antonio beauty hit more rough patches than a Kardashian marriage on her Fergie cover. Spanish-language number was better, but still not Hollywood-worthy.

Papa Peachez, an original track called “Gypsy on the Rise” | Peachez writing his own audition song is like me trying to change a tire: Messy, unprepared and ultimately going nowhere. Sorry, Nicki, not sure his voice was better than average, either.

Sanni M’mairura, “Who’s Lovin’ You” | Cute kid, but too much gesturing, too many embellishments and a final run that stumbled like a coed running for her life in the woods in a horror film.

Adam Sanders, “I’d Rather Go Blind” | I expected Uncle Nigel was setting up this weepy Mariah addict as a joke, but surprisingly, Adam hit most of his notes — even if his phrasing was rushed and the whole enterprise eventually imploded into a pile of discarded shrieks. Not for my Coca-Cola cup, Idoloonie Nation, but the judges will apparently have what he’s having.

Shubha Vedula, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” | Definitely channeled Xtina: The Early Years (Mariah: “What’s an Xtina?”) with massive vocal horsepower, a dash of sweetness, and no assless chaps. Liked that she brought a little finger-snapping rhythm to the proceedings as well.

Matt Farmer, “A Change Is Gonna Come” | Recovered from a traumatic brain injury he got while serving in Iraq, has a ridiculously adorable daughter, and possesses rugged good looks that caught Keith’s attention. Alas, though, Matt doesn’t have enough vocal control to maximize his natural gravel-y tone. Four “yes” votes from the judges represent a triumph of backstory over talent.

Jesaiah Baer, “Settle Down” | Her jazzy phrasing and stellar scatting on Kimbra’s “Slow Down” were well beyond her 16 years, but so was her composure in the face of a fire alarm that interrupted her audition. These kids nowadays!

Micah Johnson, “Chicken Fried” | Shocking how nerve damage from a tonsillectomy left him with a lisp that disappears when he sings. (No, Randy, that’s not called a “fake out,” it’s an unfortunate medical condition, you asshat!) As Mariah noted, Micah’s lively delivery and sweet tone would’ve been stirring without any backstory.

Rachel Hale, “People Get Ready” | Rachel appears to be one of those rare singers whose voice can transition from the delicacy of a kitten’s cough to the roar of a lioness standing over a fallen wildebeest. In what was certainly the episode’s best audition, this fast-talking Arkansas cutie took her sweet time with a classic melody and made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time. This is what Idol‘s all about (for me, for you).

Briana Oakley, “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” | Brought an otherworldly maturity to a Patty Griffin song that always reminds me of Crystal Bowersox’s awesome Season 9 performance finale. Maybe that’s a result of the bullying she suffered after appearing on a Maury Povich talent-search episode back in 2009. That said, is it wrong that I felt like Briana could use another year or two to grow into that big ole voice and find the ability to fully live inside a song rather than simply rent it out for big occasions?

Matheus Fernandes, “A Change Is Gonna Come” | Urgh, I remember this fella from Season 1 of The Glee Project — and not too fondly, I might add. But it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new reality show…so I’ll try to judge him on Idol evidence alone (and also not by the hideous argyle sweater/plaid shorts/neon-trimmed sneakers he erroneously mistook for acceptable audition attire). Matheus sounded solid — better than he ever did on TGP, I might add — but I’m not sure he dazzled in the way you need to dazzle when you’re beating a horse that stopped twitching somewhere around Season 9. Which is my roundabout way of saying: Please, no more “A Change Is Gonna Come” on Idol. (In fact, I’ve got 20 other suggestions for banned songs you can read about by clicking here.)

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Night 5 of the American Idol Season 12 auditions? Was it weird not having Mariah and Nicki there part of the time? How funny is Keith? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? Take our poll below, sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Timothy says:

    As painfully overdone as “At Last” is, I really liked Savannah’s voice. I thought that Jesaiah was really interesting and fresh. Rachel was pretty good too. I thought it was a pretty solid bunch tonight.

    I have a hard time listening to “Up to the Mountain” without thinking about Kelly or Crystal slaying it, so I’ll have to hold out on Briana.

    • I liked Savannah a lot, just not her wardrobe. Hopefully someone can help her with that. I just don’t think she needed to have the half shirt on and all that. Her voice was really beautiful. I liked Vincent a good deal, and I like that he is returner from last season. I am so happy this season is only 3 weeks of auditions, it is so much more tolerable.

  2. Angela says:

    What in the ever-loving hell was with the girl who stomped around the room screaming the Adele song and flipping the finger all over the place? That was beyond unnecessary. And the two guys who dueted and couldn’t take no for an answer in the first hour were beyond annoying as well.
    On a positive note, I liked the guy whose voice was affected by his tonsil surgery, certainly wasn’t expecting that. And I loved the girl who sang Kimbra’s “Settle Down”, too-I love that song, and she did a nice job with it. Pity it had to be interrupted by the alarm, but at least she got a second shot!

  3. Scott says:

    I liked Micah, and Cadence’s dad, whose name escapes me at the moment. Matteus at the end — everything he did reminded me of why he bugged my on GP-1. I am glad the judges made Victoria sing the mariachi song, because she was so much better with it than with Big Girls Don’t Cry, which was okay but flat. Pia all over again.

  4. D says:

    I don’t understand why Matheus didn’t go to idol first people would have liked him. Instead now a lot of people hate him because of how he acted on the glee project.

    • Anna says:

      I certainly don’t hate him from TGP, but I was definitely already tired of him even from the short promo before the commercial break. I honestly never thought he was that great of a singer. You have to wonder if maybe he only did well on TGP (and now American Idol) BECAUSE of his height.

    • Me says:

      Everyone from TGP is unlikeable. Whole bunch of arrogant music theatre nerds with no social intelligence who think they’re better than they are.

  5. Brandon says:

    Love, love, loved Rachel Hale. Maybe my favorite voice I’ve heard so far this season.

    • Brandon says:

      Also not a fan of Mattheus from the Glee Project…

    • Eli says:

      ditto, one of the best this season. And one of the few times where I actually thought “this girl/guy could win”.

      • teatime says:

        I felt the same way. Rachel’s was the one audition that made me think I might be looking at the winner.
        I don’t usually even try to pick winners early on. Something about her performance really stood out. She has a presence about her. She really made an impression. She seemed like someone who could have mainstream support while also being interesting.

  6. MB says:

    I thought it was a really good episode and am really enjoying the judges. I really think they have alot of good things to say. The contestants are really good also. Some have some real potential. I can’t believe I am looking forward to Hollywood week to see how they are going to weed out the competition to top 40. I stumbled on a spoiler showing who the top 40 are. Some of the ones I really like didn’t make it and I am anxious to see why.

    • Tom22 says:

      I really like the way the producers have made the show balance talent and “human interst stories”.

      It isn’t a full run of “sob stories” like it was in the past. There are some, but they are handled in a more inspirational way, and interspersed with some happy stories and showing some well adjusted husband and wife and kids families along with the ones that have overcome problems.

      The sad stories seem more related to barriers the performers themselves had in becoming singers and less outside happenstance.

      The auditions are a “tour of america” and it is fair enough to have some window to different things Americans go through alongside the singing competition.

      They do a nice job of not making the two quite as intricately interlaced which is nice.

      I hope they continue that into hollywood and don’t keep reminding us of contestants difficulties and define people by their difficulties not by their abilities that they now have.

  7. Tom says:

    My top three tonight were Rachel, Jesaiah and Savannah. Rachel’s personality is so adorable and sweet, and her beautiful crystalline voice did justice to the song. Jesaiah’s jazzy tone was refreshing, and Savannah’s passion rang through so distinctly that I forgave the overdone song choice. The best guy was Micah, although I wasn’t particularly keen on the song choice. Matheus was good, but it was painfully obvious he was trying *really* hard. Of all the sob stories, his was fishing for the most sympathy, and that was a slight turn-off.

    If I could revoke some tickets, I’d easily revoke Papa Peachez’s because he wasn’t ready. Don’t know what Nicki was hearing, but for the first time in light years I actually agreed with Randy. But then Randy stupidly gave in to Nicki’s wheedling and went back to deriding him, ha. I also don’t get the love for Adam. He sang like he was perpetually on fast forward, his diction was incredibly weak, and his upper register bordered on shrill. “I’d Rather Go Blind” needs to build and smoulder, and he just rushed through it without connecting to the lyrics at all. And while it was hard not to root for Briana, I think she could have benefited from waiting another year or two. Her vibrato was a tad too goat-y. I was fine with everyone else, though a few of them weren’t terribly memorable.

    • Montavilla says:

      I think Randy was thinking that Peachez wouldn’t make it through Hollywood, but might learn something there that would help the guy in other endeavors. The guy has talent and he’s interesting, but he needs help developing it into a marketable performance.

  8. Just an FYI it’s Cristabel Clack. Far better name than Cristabel Vlack. Much more tolerable to the ear. I enjoy her name way more than I should. And I like her voice a good deal.

  9. Tyriq says:

    Loved Adam Sander and Briana Oakley but so many were better than good tonight. The girlus interuptus was good too. lol. “Fire”! “Should I keep singing”?

  10. Ty says:

    I was in the room with a black woman when “Papa Peachez” said he was like an elderly black woman… the look I saw could have turned an army to stone.

  11. Grace says:

    Did any men audition this year?
    Every week it’s all about the women – way to be super obvious, Idol. Not that I’d mind a female winner, but were there really no impressive dudes to audition?

    • teatime says:

      I’ve been wondering about this. If we are going to have 20 guys in the top 40, there must be quite a few guys we have not seen. It seems like a lot of the guys we have seen get thru are going to be quickly eliminated in Hollywood.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      They certainly are showing a lot more women – I noticed as well.

    • Cana says:

      Last time I checked Johnny, Paul, Charlie, Micha, Adam, Papa, Jimmy, Matt, etc. are all guys :)

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Cana – you’re correct – I meant they appear to be showing more female auditions, and more good ones, than they have in past seasons.

        • Vetle says:

          Didn’t they have like 70% women going to hollywood in season 6 or something – ending in a HUUUUGE cut on the women side during the first round?

    • Name That Tune says:

      Haven’t you noticed the lack of guitars? One way to break the WGWG trend is to eliminate them before Top 20. Just looking ahead to the already leaked top 40 tells me there ain’t gonna be one left by then. It’s about singing & this year’s judges are sticking with that. It’s gonna be country, R&B, gospel, & soul. And that’s okay with me.
      That said, I see one or two white males who are gonna contend for P2’s crown. They will be this year’s cute guy & get the teen girls votes.

  12. chris says:

    I had no idea he was on TGP. The very first thing I thought after his clip was “I bet Ryan Murphy would love this guy.”

  13. Billy says:

    This is the 3rd time I’ve seen that screamo girl (can’t remember name) audition for a reality tv show (X Factor and America’s Got Talent last year)…when is she going to get the hint tha she’s just making a fool of herself on national television by auditioning for these shows???

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      When they stop putting her on national television. Apparently her schtick is working and she’s after the attention.

  14. Billy says:

    Also I didn’t even watch Matheus audition because I found him soooo annoying on The Glee Project (voice and personality)…I really hope he doesn’t make it far because I might have to stop watching because of it…

  15. Ty says:

    Just saw Matt Farmer, LOUD voice but he needs to pay more attention to the melody of the song. That did not come through in his audition, it was just loud, making me wonder what he would sound like where he combined some melody with the power.

  16. Guitar Blue says:

    The producers put the screamer on the show for shock value, ain’t it awful scene, just as the other 2 shows did. They do a number of these each season; such as people that lay down to sing, or can’t carry a tune or were told by a fake producer in the bathroom story; to sing, or are ridiculous in some way. Those who get to the 2nd level of the “pre-official-audition” stage are generally told that “you need to be real good or really bad or some type of act we may be looking for this year” – in order to go before the real Judges for filming.

  17. pianoman says:

    No review for Matheus? I liked him on on TGP, and I thought the slower-paced song suited him really well.

  18. pianoman says:

    Oh wait, it’s there now. NVM

  19. Timmah says:

    I thought Shubha had the most interesting voice of the night, and really nailed that Christina number.

  20. Tom says:

    Oh noes, Michael forgot to recap Briana!

  21. darcy's evil twin says:

    What the heck was that purple outfit Keith was wearing the first day on the Queen Mary? Did he lose his luggage and borrow something from Nicki?
    It seems as though there are a lot of girls with big voices. They sound great but it really isn’t what you hear on current pop radio. The one voice that stood out for me as far as having potential was Jesiaiah Baer’s. Her “Settle Down” was wonderful and her voice was current. didn’t get the captain’s hat, though. I also liked Micah Johnson.

    • Timmah says:

      I don’t know if her voice is mature enough yet, but I like that she tackled the Kimbra song — it really needed the burning dolls for full effect though.

      • Mary says:

        She was my top pick. Something about her voice made me take notice. She stood out for me.
        I will say there were quite a few good singers in tonight show, but unfortunately I cannot remember any of their names except hers. I hope she goes far but I have learned from past experiences not to set my sights up for anyone until the top 20 have been choosen

  22. Annie says:

    Honestly, the only person who I really enjoyed tonight was Vincent Powell

  23. Marilyn says:

    I don’t mind that Matheus was on the Glee Project–but I AM annoyed that this show never mentioned that, nor does it ever mention when someone was a major contestant on any show. I don’t get it.

    • Trouty Mouth says:

      Yeah, Emily tried out last year, got to the top 40, and they showed absolutely nothing of her except for her saying “I’m going to Hollywood” after her audition. I only knew she got to top 40 because I kept seeing her walking around while other, more hyped contestants (*cough* Colton Douche *cough*), were getting interviewed.

  24. polky17 says:

    There’s no way keith urban can give blake run for his money, and its coming from someone who’s keith’s fans

    • Mary says:

      I disagree, Blake is the type of person either you like him or not. I personally think he comes across as arrogant and find him irritating. Keith comes off as funny but not insulting like Blake.
      But I guess to each their own.

  25. YowzaPowza says:

    Rachel Hale. That’s all.

  26. Cana says:

    Rachel could be the one who breaks the guy winner streak-she has it all. The bubbly personality, great voice, girl next door appeal, country singer, being from Arkansas(They voted for Kris, remember?), and being likable. I hope she doesn’t disappoint and continues to stay consistent in Hollywood!

    Also really enjoyed Shubha and Savannah.

  27. Maria says:

    Keith Urban “nailing punch line after punch line after punch line” was my favorite part of the show. He’s got a great sense of humor.

  28. Kathy says:

    I wonder if Idol pays for the transportation to Hollywood, hotel accommodations, and food for Hollywood contestants. They seem to put a frightening number through at each stop and that would have to add up to a lot of money if Idol is covering the tab!

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Kathy, I’m not sure if they’re putting more people through or merely showing more of the better auditions.

      • Name That Tune says:

        We’re seeing the auditions with the stories they want to tell us. There’s a lot of the “look what I overcame to be here. ” A fair number of these don’t make it to top 40. I count at least 6 of the top 40 who we barely have seen. For some of these guys, making it to Hollywood is ” their moment. ” For the others, their moment comes later.

  29. ' says:

    Is it wrong that I was too distracted by the piece of tattoo in Kieths chest? I was like… Holy Mama, let me see it more!!!

  30. Kevin says:

    I remember Matheus from TGP as well and it is impossible for me to ever root for him cause of how he was on TGP. Rachel Hale is possibly my favorite audition so far this season. I see her going far if she plays her cards right. And if we can’t get Aylin on Glee how about a deserving TGP alum tries our for Idol!

    • Trouty Mouth says:

      Agreed. Aylin was my favourite on TGP and it would be awesome if she won Idol as a kind of “f**k you Ryan Murphy”.

  31. Billy Richbourg says:

    Jesaiah Baer. That is all.

  32. Kim R says:

    Why do we have to listen to Randy Jackson? He acts like a mean, high school boy. Make fun of a girl’s name? The young man with the speech problem? Randy is like that kid you don’t want to have to walk by in the hall. I’m just venting. He just seems socially clueless.
    Now I sound like the mean kid! I’ll stop now. :)

  33. Guitar Blue says:

    Since Melinda was once a part of the show, perhaps she could enlighten on how the compensation works for those designated to Hollywood. I have heard that there is a clause in the contracts one signs, that certain information can not be divulged about how the compensation works.

    According to the recent potential lawsuit against Idol, which was instigated by the producers use of televised drama to disqualify Jermaine Jones last year, rather than just announce that he had been disqualified from the show, — the Idol hopefuls are considered employees of a division of the Idol system/complex once they get past the auditions.

  34. Just have to say you too are adorable together and I’m glad I’m here. Really enjoy both of your insight and dialogue on my guilty pleasure AI.

  35. Scott says:

    Some things about the judging that have been excellent: Keith Urban’s references to other musicians’ voices that he hears in the contestants’ voices. Nicki’s Wigs and makeup. I find myself staring at the smooth smooth smoothness of her skin. Mariah’s tits.

  36. Derrick says:

    You know what’s getting just as annoying as Randy Jackson, Slezak? Your constant griping about him. Seriously, I read several different recaps and follow the writers on Twitter and they rarely ever mention what Randy says or does and, when they do, they don’t go off on some rant about it. You’ve become obsessed with it. You twist everything he says to fit your old, tired “Randy Jackson is the most horrible person” storyline. It’s become obvious that he can’t even breathe without you putting a negative spin on it. It tiresome. I wish he were gone from the panel just as much as you, but all you do is draw more attention to him by wasting 5-10% of your recaps and 2-3 minutes of Idology on him every week.

    All the complaining about Randy being mean and insensitive to contestant is pretty rich coming from a guy who has done the same thing with his comments about contestants in previous seasons (i.e. Lauren Alaina, Kristy Lee Cook, Syesha Mercado, Danny Gokey).

    • MB says:

      and Phillip Phillips who he never even interviewed. A huge disapointment especially since he was the winner. I understand Phillip had surgery right after the show but he was in NYC many times after that but was still never on Idolology. I really like Michael and agree with alot of what he says but his treatment of Phillip was not so nice.

      • Trouty Mouth says:

        Phillip refused a lot of interviews. Why was this one any different? And Michael said heaps of nice things about Phillip and gave credit to his good performances and critiqued his bad ones.

        • MB says:

          …….and you know Phillip refused lots of interviews, how? If he did refuse an interview with Michael maybe it was because of the really cruel things Michael said about him. Michael was furious when Skylar, his favorite got sent home, he pretty much slammed Phillip and blamed him for it. It was pretty nasty. It wasn’t just Michael, this site was brutal with their post about Phillip. Many of us who were fans of Phillip were called stupid, cougars, and lots of other non complimentary adjectives. It was ridiculous and all because Phillip was not a girl and was concidered a WGWG. I am just glad Phillip did well and wasn’t the flop so many of them predicted him to be.

    • Name That Tune says:

      I think Randy understands the role he plays. He doesn’t seem to mind being the brunt of criticism or jokes. AI could have replaced him this year, but they chose not to. Randy seems quite capable of fending for himself. He doesn’t need you to fight his battles.

  37. Evan says:

    Yep. I still hate Matheus. His bad joke (“Is there a height limit?” Lolrotfhateyousomuch), the goofy changes to the song, the crying… ugh.

  38. Rusty says:

    Looking at the results you see a pretty even spread…and I would agree. I thought there were a LOT of good voices on this episode.

  39. Dave in Alamitos Beach says:

    I guess I’m alone in remembering Mattheus fondly from The Glee Project. I thought all the “drama” on that show was trumped up if I remember correctly and I thought he was a better actor than either one of the winners.

  40. Jim Welker says:

    Briana is gonna win this years. AI! GO BRI GO GIRL!

  41. Jim Welker says:

    My last comment refers to Season 13!