American Idol Recap: Better 'Later!' Than Sooner

nate tao american idolAmerican Idol‘s Season 12 audition episodes came to a close tonight with a stop in Oklahoma City, and the giddiness was palpable.

Ryan Seacrest bumped chests with a contestant. Nicki Minaj was accused of worshipping the devil. And seemingly everybody got a Golden Ticket to Hollywood: Plushies, ventriloquists, a ginger-haired guy who performed a marginal song of his own composition, even a woman named Zoanette Johnson whose catastrophic rendition of the National Anthem made Keith Urban fall off his chair. (Suddenly, it’s sounding more like a Weekend Update segment starring Stefon than an episode of Idol, no? “The password is: Seeeeeacrest OUT!“)

Anyhow, I suspect the Idoloonie Nation is giddy tonight, too, but for a different reason: Next Wednesday, Season 12 moves on to Hollywood Week — and the serious business of finding the 2013 answer to Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Scotty McCreery and their ilk begins in earnest. And after tonight’s miserably stingy display of talent, that shift in focus cannot come soon enough.

I won’t belabor what went down tonight with long and cranky critiques, but instead try to break it on down in a Twitter-esque 140 characters (or a close approximation):

Karl Skinner, “I Feel Good” (plus a snippet of an acoustic original) | Graduate of Idol‘s small-town auditions bus did a decent James Brown side-slide, but his voice was more “yellow school” than “luxury tour.” An incomprehensible use of a Golden Ticket.

Nate Tao, “For Once in My Life” | Self-deprecating cutie with deaf parents — “What if Nate sucks?” he imagined them asking — showcased effortless range and an airy upper register without too much embellishment. Best vocalist of the night had to endure Randy telling him he looked like did taxes for a living, y’know, ’cause he’s Asian and all. Ugh. Randy is just The Worst!!!

Halie Hilburn (and Oscar), “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”/”More Than Anyone” | I don’t care for ventriloquism, but was nevertheless impressed when Halie got her dog puppet Oscar to yodel on “Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Alas, though, that gimmick (and Oscar, left for dead in a dumpster!) might come back to bite her.

Zoanette Johnson, “The Star Spangled Banner” | “That was a wreck,” sighed Mariah, after listening to Zoanette do possibly irreparable damage to the National Anthem with a combination of wayward sharp notes and blunt-force overconfidence. “Come on, I got a lunch date,” Zoanette implored the judges as they tried to make up their minds about her fate. Oh, wait, scratch that last sentence, because it implies the judges were using their minds in the first place. Because nothing short of a frontal lobotomy explains how this woman walked out of the Oklahoma auditions with a Golden Ticket.

Kayden Stephenson, “I Wish” | Ridiculously cute kid with cystic fibrosis and a life expectancy of only 35 stretched his thin, reedy voice to hit most of the notes of a tough Stevie Wonder song. Instead of giving him a Golden Ticket, though — since, if we’re being honest, he doesn’t have the requisite horsepower to last more than a week on the live Idol stage — I sorta wish Mariah had followed her “let’s go make the record now” comment and whisked the kid back to her studio to cut a track or two for iTunes release. To quote one of the lady’s first big hits, “Make! It! Happen!”

Ohhh…also there was Steven Tyler arriving in drag to “audition,” then ripping off his wig (and still looking like a crazy old lady) once the judges had made him.

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the American Idol Season 12 Oklahoma City tryouts? How do you feel about the quality of contestants overall? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient from tonight and from the last three weeks? 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. I thought this was a weak city. I thought they sent through a few people that shouldn’t have gone through, based on story or entertainment value rather than true talent. I don’t know how far the Oklahoma City contestants are gonna go. In my opinion the weakest city of the audition rounds.

    • professor1453 says:

      I live here, and I agree: it’s a weak city.

    • schmed says:

      And yet they said 45 golden tickets were given out. I can’t believe there weren’t a few that were better than the crap they showed. This was by fa the weakest episode this season.

      • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

        Makes sense to dump the weakest episode off against the finale of 30 Rock (which is what I was watching) perhaps?

        • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

          If I may chime in: Trust me, no one — and certainly not IDOL — is running scared from any episode of any NBC sitcom.

          • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

            No. No. That’s not true! That’s IMPOSSIBLE!
            Search the ratings, you KNOW it to be true.
            Noooahahahahahaaaaaaggghhhhh. Noooooooaggoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
            Anyway be it as it may, I for one enjoyed the final episode of 30 Rock. I almost felt as if it had been written solely for me and no one else. An audience of one. But then again, all the cancelled shows are like that aren’t they.

  2. Could you also put that last drag on the poll?

  3. RodMod says:

    Lord forgive me for actually kind of liking Zoanette! Lol. Who knows… with some work she could actually become a powerhouse vocalist. But who am I kidding, right?

  4. MB says:

    Zoanette Johnson are they serious? Something is very wrong because on a leak if it is true she makes it to top 40. Now for sure I think something is very wrong with this spoiler leak. Sorry about saying this I know how some of you feel about spoilers but this really threw me especially when some really good solid talent did not make it through. This by far was the weakest talent night.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      The best part of that five-octave train wreck was Keith falling out of his chair. I was STUNNED when they unanimously put her through. And she makes the Top 40? Sweet Baby Jesus. That is all.

      • Mary says:

        I agree 100 percent. His expressions are priceless. One thing for sure, there is no denying that she sung live. Sorry for thinking this but I think that person is in drag and she was put through as comic relief.

    • JordanStacey says:

      Spoiler in case anybody cares

      I find it really odd that up until this city they’ve shown more than one of the top 40, but tonight they only showed her. If you take her out of the equation though they’ve shown 10 guys and 10 girls who’ve made the top 40. My theory is that the one’s they’ve shown make the top 20 and they only showed Zoanette to throw people off. If my theory is correct then I’m a little worried, all 4 wgwg make it on and my favorite of the top 40 (Jett) doesn’t make it. Anybody think my theory holds water?

      • JM says:

        Saw Jett in her road to American idol interview on YouTube and she seems so chill and down to earth

      • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

        I was going to post that exact same thing, for I have also been keeping track of who from the Top 40 is getting screen time. Glad to know I’m not the only one who think about such things. And who knows, maybe those guys won’t play guitar and people will judge based on vocals (and physical appearance) alone. I really think it could happen.

      • Name That Tune says:

        I think you’re right. There are some of the top 40 we haven’t seen at all.
        Right now I’m looking at Paul Jolley as the leading WG to take P2’s crown. Just waiting to see him break out the guitar. That will seal it for me.

        • Evan says:

          Um… isn’t Paul Jolley gay? He definitely pinged my gaydar. And as good as he is, I don’t think that will inspire much love from the WGWG-supporting fangirls.

          • Name That Tune says:

            Interesting that you say that ‘cuz there are idol reviews that suggest he will appeal to the girls & the gays. I can see your point, but he’s playing the family man persona. He’s pure country & that matters most on Country Idol.

          • marie says:

            Adam Lambert was a huge favorite with women.

      • Erik says:

        What irritates me even more is that Kree auditioned in Oklahoma and she’s winner-material. Fits all the categories that would make a strong candidate. They didn’t even show which I find completely unbelievable.

    • Timmah says:

      There’s always one or two bad ones that they put through to the top 24 just for entertainment purposes. Tatiana, Reed Grimm, etc. Nothing new.

  5. darcy's evil twin says:

    It will be interesting to see some more comments, but I loved, loved, loved Carl Skinner. I thought he was wonderful.

  6. IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

    Man, was this a waste of an episode. I’ve heard the story of the leak as well, and if it is true, Zoanette is a total waste of a Top 40 spot. People have already broken out the Tatiana Del Toro/Norman Gentle comparisons. Hopefully they dump her before the voting rounds begin. Some others who read spoilers say there were a lot of good Top 40 people from Oklahoma City who were not shown tonight. What gives? Oh well, it’s Hollywood time. Time to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
    P.S. Mike. “Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Scotty McCreery, and their ilk.” Why “ilk?” That word sound so negative.

  7. MD says:

    Thanks for the spoiler alert warning. ^^. Forgetting the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” should be grounds to automatic no’s. Combine that with how bad it sounded, I was shocked that they let her through.

    • IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

      Sorry! I know I promised no more spoilers, but after seeing her perform, I was so outraged that I felt I had to warn everyone. I don’t what possessed them to give her a golden ticket.

    • Wenders says:

      I’m really glad I’m not the only one who was shocked that she was let through. I was going…um. Seriously? She was in a bunch of different keys and didn’t so much as sang but SHRIEKED the glory notes. So confused. So so confused.

  8. Mary says:

    This was a joke episode wasn’t it. I admit I was entertained, but none of them deserve tickets to Hollywood. I did have a few laughs but seriously did they really put them through.

  9. Blinged Up says:

    I loved Nate Tao (parents who are deaf) and the girl with Oscar. I thought it was a good episode, and I’m looking forward to Hollywood week!

  10. marie says:

    Liked last night’s show a lot; wasn’t crazy about tonight. Oh well, one poor audition show out of six isn’t too bad. Very happy, though, that there are only six audition shows this season; that’s just about right. I did get a kick out of Steven Tyler’s surprise appearance, though.

  11. JM says:

    I have to say my favorite people so far are Kez Ban and Angela Miller and Jabria (I think thats her name the one who went frog gigging.)

  12. Li-Li says:

    Oh man, this show is almost unwatchable. It’s become soulless – little videos mocking the contestants AS they are auditioning? Nikki Minaj is a self-involved cartoon character, Mariah is duller than dull. Keith seems nice, but has little to say, and I just can’t even comment on Randy anymore. I never thought I’d say I’d rather see J-Lo and Steven Tyler. Heck, even Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi. At least they had some passion and thoughtful comments to offer. No wonder they are losing viewers this year.

    • Barbz says:

      American Idol has been losing viewers for years. Its past its prime and even if Jesus himself was sitting on the panel, Idol wouldn’t have the ratings it had in its hey-day. Secondly, Idol is still the 2nd most watched show on televison (I believe still after NCIS) and still beats all competition shows. So, still not too shaby at all. I actually like this group of judges and think they have chemistry that JLO, Steven and Randy didn’t have. And no, I would not want to JLO or Kara on the panel considering neither onr can sing and even if JLo “had” experience in the music biz she can’t critique anyone when she is tone desf herself. At least Mariah is credible (I didn’t know she was the most successful female artist in history, pretty cool and absolutely credible) and Keith has talent and although Nicki has questionable talent–she’s relevant. And actually since Mariah and Nicki stopped unnesscarily snipping at each other, the show is pretty interesting and not as annoying.

      • Kiwi says:

        ….now i want to see the version of the show where Jesus is on the panel. Can’t help but feel he could have some pretty good lines…

  13. matty says:

    At first I really thought that Zonette Johnson’s golden ticket was a joke… I cannot believe they let her through…

  14. forwarddad says:

    @idolFlash I hope they ban you from this site . You are nothing but a troll. We don’t want spoilers.

  15. bbl says:

    So, around 9,000 people auditioned in Oklahoma City.. and they chose to air that handful? It was like watching a blooper reel that was stunningly, shamefully and embarrassingly unfunny. I felt like I was sitting through an hour of Jay Leno monologue. To call it entertaining would be a slap in the face to paint drying everywhere. The only laughs to be gained from tonight’s episode would be in learning how many millions it cost to produce it, or the total number of first-time viewers that will never watch Idol again.


    • Mary says:

      Come on you had to find some of the show humorous. I will say that it was the worst as far as talent, but considering the other shows were good I am not too mad about this one. I am thankful
      it was only a hour. I cannot wait till Hollywood.

      • bbl says:

        I guess the segment where they showed a bunch of people crying was mildly entertaining.

        Honestly, Zoanette Johnson’s audition was just so strange. Sure there were parts that were a little flat and very sharp, but it sounded to me like she’s a halfway decent singer that was deliberately trying to sing badly. This is why I don’t mind the golden ticket, but the audition itself was beyond horrid.

        I love metal and can enjoy listening to screaming, but Stephanie Sanson’s audition was extremely disappointing for me. Given that she’s been on a few other singing competitions, she just came off like a jerk. Her teenage fans may appreciate her little stunt, but I think it would’ve been best for her to show people she can do more than scream, which by the way is hard to judge a capella. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor is a screamer, but the dude can also sing.

        I did actually laugh out loud during the dramatization of Anastasia Freeman’s vision, where, overcome with emotion she let out a “Oh, Phillip!” as he was crowned last year. I guess now we finally know who kept him out of the bottom the entire season!

  16. Will says:

    Puppet girl was by far the best. Guy with deaf parents had a really weak grasp on pitch especially in his lower register, though his belt was impressive. The rest should have gotten no’s.

  17. Timmah says:

    The auditions were in July. How did she know that Obama won?

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Maybe her day job is with Psychic Hotline – which, by the way, she should keep.

    • Kristen says:

      The cattle call auditions were in July. The auditions in front of the judges are done in October and November.

      • Timmah says:

        Ok, that makes sense then. Thanks for clearing that up. For some reason I thought they did the Hollywood rounds then, but I guess that happens in December/January.

  18. Lois Benton says:

    Nate Tao has a fine voice, and is one of the most likable, purely sweet people I’ve seen audition for this show. But if it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now, the judges aren’t judging, in the sense that they have any control over who goes through, at all. They’re little producer’s puppets, the producer being the same man who brought us the Jermaine Jones shamefest. Shame on all the producers and the judges for putting through Zoanette just for the jokes. Maybe Zoanette is okay with that, just for the exposure. But Nicki shouldn’t encourage her with such false praise, just in case she’s not. And, while I don’t mind Randy so much, except for his obviously being a producer’s puppet, here he clearly had a hard time with it, more than the others. He should have said no, just to assert his manhood. He had no trouble saying no to the ventriloquist, and she could sing.

    • Mary says:

      Zoanette was entertaining but not the best singer, but I really believe Nicki liked her. Lets be real
      Nicki is not known for her voice but the characters she creates. I will agree the producers told them to put her through just for entertainment factor, but seriously if you go on this show you want you 5 minutes of fame and you can’t be that upset when you are use for a joke.

    • Guitar Blue says:

      “Producer puppets” is a good description of how this show works. And the Jermaine Jones elimination was a set-up for drama, at his expense. There’s a 99% chance they had already done a background check before they even brought him back as a surprise top 13 pick, if not before.

  19. forwarddad says:

    Randy says no lately whenever the judges all say yes. I like the judges but more often than not they ate all

  20. forwarddad says:

    * are likely to say yes.

  21. Maria says:

    The best part of the night was when Keith half-said/half-whispered to that ventriloquist/singer: “I think Oscar’s holding you back…”

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Normally I agree with you, Mr. Slezak, but I really enjoyed Karl Skinner. But clearly, judging from the poll, everyone is on your team, LOL. I don’t think it was a waste of a Golden Ticket at all. He may not go anywhere in Hollywood because there’s something about him that screams “won’t do well in Group Week” to me but I enjoyed confident his attitude. Plus he’s from Joplin, Missouri and there’s a soft spot in my heart for Joplin.
      I’m going to give Randy a break on the comment about Nate Tao looking like he does his taxes. I think it had more to do with the white shirt, tie, and overall appearance rather than the fact he’s Asian. Sometimes a horse is just a horse.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Oh, and I meant to tell Maria Keith is priceless. That comment and him falling out of the chair on Zoanette’s “glory note” was the best.

  22. Kim R says:

    Randy is a child who thinks he is funny/clever, laughs at the contestants & then looks over to see who’s with him. He just stands out as being so incredibly socially clueless. I agree with Michael……he is The Worst!

  23. DaisyKary says:

    NATE TAO!!!! Love him!!

  24. Chrissie Kirk says:

    Keith poppin’ out of his chair, Steve Tyler Dude Lookin’ Like a Lady, and Nate singing Stevie Wonder were the big pluses last night. And Nate? Thank you. Someone FINALLY goosebumped me out during the audition shows!

  25. fullyCOOKed says:

    Worst audition episode of idol ever. Are they kidding with the people they put thru. It will be fun watching those delusional, unworthy recipients of golden tickets go down in flames in Hollywood. Prepare for lots of tears, expletives and naughty hand gestures.

  26. jazzy says:

    Nate was great. I bet we’ll see him in the top 10. Zoomette or however you spell it was an insult to the talented down to earth people who have worked their asses off to get put through. Nikki likes to put unique through, but hello! there’s a difference between unique and crazy. You have to have a combination of talent, uniqueness and business acumen to make it. No record label would put up with that for two seconds. Maybe the judges heard something that I didn’t.

  27. Bobbi says:

    We needed a “none of the above” on last night’s poll.

  28. Louie says:

    Best part was the dramatization of the girl who heard a voice. Name checking Voice (No!) and X-Factor (NOOOOO!!!!). I think it’s the first any of the shows acknowledged each other on their own shows, no?

  29. scorpo says:

    Michael, I along with you would LOVE to see Randy go the way of the dinosaur but I need to call you out on something. Randy did NOT say that Nate looked like an accountant because he was Asian, he said he was very unassuming with his shirt and tie making him look like an accountant, doctor or lawyer.

    • deedee says:

      Thank you, Scorpo. I usually agree with Michael, but I also think he’s totally wrong about Randy’s comment to Nate. He wasn’t playing on Asian stereotypes, he was commenting on Nate’s conservative office attire.

  30. Alienate says:

    The little kid must have won a “Make a wish” drawing to be on Idol before he dies. The kid has no voice but will prolly be thrilled with the trip to Hollywood. I hope they cut him fast, but in a nice way.

  31. Guitar Blue says:

    They won’t build on their ratings by showing what they did last night. The producers and editors will have to do a much better job in creating a show out of what they sent to Hollywood. There are many of them that should have their tickets revoked, as they wouldn’t even be a good draw for a show at the corner Bar. But then, they have to create some Hollywood drama, so on to Hollywood.

  32. j d says:

    It is unfortunate that the audition process has become a joke. There’s a lot of talent in each city; The sad thing is when talented contenders get through to the second round, most of what they showed in OKC was pathetic. I don’t think that the city of Charlotte had more talent but by the editing of the show, viewers thought the entire audition was filled with winners. There are at least a dozen major country performing artists that come from OKL. along with well known opera stars, etc. The show now more than ever is catering to the lowest common denominator. Does Nicki M. have more than a hundred word vocabulary? Hearing her tell countless auditioners that they have “Superstar Quality” in that irritating voice just defines my point that her idea of a superstar must not be to have exceptional talent, proving that she aint that talented and that many are getting through who have no right to continue on. Put people out of their misery who shouldn’t spend the time, money, effort to live in Hollywood. There are great talented wantabees that could be discovered for other opportunities if the producers of the show wouldn’t have such low expectations of their viewers mentality. I bet CocaCola is irritated too for advertising and product placement with what will be low ratings. Good luck to real talent and hopefully those that have made it throught to Calif. who are dilusional will be spared too much pain of looking foolish. A.I. should have choosen Aretha Flanklin with Mariah Carey and Keith Urban.

  33. darcy's evil twin says:

    Whoopsie! Looks like the veteran that served in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury isn’t quite what he claims.

    • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

      Rather more than not quite what he claimed, it was 100% all made up.
      Anyway, one more reason to end all of the back story nonsense anyway regardless.

  34. Lana says:

    Wow, there was one who did that on America’s got Talent I remember because he was from San Antonio which is where I live, yuck. Oh well I wasn’t that crazy about his voice so I’m not disappointed. I am disappointed about the one going thru after murdering our national anthem. Whats up with that? I don’t like spoilers but if its true then maybe the judges did hear something I missed and can’t wait to see and hear it. I’m looking forward to Hollywood but if the spoilers continue to be allowed here then I am going to have to forgo the pleasure of reading all these fun comments because they ruin the enjoyment of watching the actual shows, at least until it goes live. I think that is very spiteful of people, if you want to know then go to those web sites but keep it to yourselves!!!

  35. Guitar Blue says:

    While Mariah Carey is getting a huge amount of money and Nicki a big amount – as Judges; so far, they have not attracted more viewers, as ratings continue to slide moderately from last year. Keith Urban’s slot is likely not helping much, but not hurting the ratings either – he’s is a better, current name draw than Steven Tyler …………………………………………………………………………………….. The gamble was to attract younger viewers, but that is not working well. Add-in the mega-millions to Seacrest, and you have a very top-heavy Celebrity payroll that could have partially been used to locate, develop and promote young talent from around the nation, through the Idol format. .

  36. Nephtalia says:

    Just because ratings go down doesnt mean the new judges dont attract new viewers. And Idol is still the second most watched show on TV. That is pretty impressive, As for last show, my husband never watched Idol but stop to watch Zoanette audition. The Idol process is boring especially after so many years. That audition was for me the most entertaining audition ever. And believe me if she goes to Idol live. She will stay on for a while. Idol is live TV, not live radio. Voice and pitch count as maybe 20% if not less of how America judges those contestants. Star power is everything. The Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Nikki Menaj, Rihanna, Selena, Beyonce, Kesha,Taylor Swift, 1D of Today are not the most vocally apt. But their stage prescence, the character they bring on tour is a whole other ball games.

  37. James A says:

    Too be fair…there needs to be a certain amount of contestants purely sent just to Hollywood so they can be cut right away…so that the judges can get right to the good stuff and to give the really good singers more then one chance in case they get bad nerves, or something bad happens on their first try…

    So there is a method to madness in allowing someone like Zoanette Johnson who barely has any talent a ticket to Hollywood…