American Idol Atlanta Auditions Recap: By Georgia, I Think They've Got It! [Updated]

american-idol-recap-atlanta-auditions-jessica-meuseFour episodes in to American Idol‘s 13th season and I find myself standing at the intersection of Delighted and Nonplussed.

Oh sure, everything’s peachy keen on the surface: Extended footage of a whopping number of Golden Ticket recipients (close to 90 over four nights); a near total absence of fameosexuals desperate for their 15 1.5 seconds; Ryan Seacrest gettin’ spanked on camera (!) by his mama. But where’s the feeling of white-hot rage that’s always gone hand-in-hand with these early weeks of the competition?

RELATED | American Idol: Relive Harry Connick Jr.’s Best (and Funniest) Week 1 Moments!

To be clear, I j’loathed the way Seasons 1-12 exploited the mentally unstable for questionable laughs, tried to turn foreign-born auditioners into human punch lines and allowed Randy Jackson to impale the English language on a stake and dangle it over an open flame. But still, like a Big Mac without its bun or a Katy Perry verse without a cliche, the experience of Idol auditions without the toxic mcnasties, without the desire to send a strongly worded email to Fox chief Kevin Reilly, has taken a bit of getting used to. I liken it to touching a low-wattage electric fence and asking oneself, “Do I like how this feels?” (Of course you do, you lunatic!)

RELATED | American Idol Detroit Auditions Recap: Electric Motor (City)!

The good news is that tonight’s Atlanta auditions episode only lasted an hour presented us with several more Season 13 standouts, kids who might look/sound downright natural standing side by side with Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Phillip Phillips and Candice Flippin’ Glover.

To that end, I’m gonna count down my favorite hopefuls from tonight’s installment — and without any further ado!

Top 8 Atlanta Auditions
(No, 15-year-old Jordan Brisbane and 15-year-old Bria Anai did not make my cut; where was Hatchet Harry to tell these kids they needed another 5-10 years of groundwork? The former ‘s When I Was Your Man” wasn’t merely overbaked, but downright torched; the latter brutalized  Adele’s “One and Only” like a chef attempting to tenderize a tough cut of meat. Send ’em back!)

8. Chris Medina, “Chasing Pavements” | Handsome fella with a black lab at this side showcased a distinctive, smoky tone, but his absence of personal charisma was a bit off-putting. I mean, I can’t be the only one who was a little weirded out by Chris’s total non-reaction to Harry’s extended schtick about the dude’s dog dropping a deuce on his lap, can I?

7. Caleb Johnson, “You’ll Find a Way” | The producers showed very little of this Season 11 Vegas round evictee’s rock-soul return, but what we did hear sounded pretty solid.

6. Nica Nashae, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” | Nica’s one of those  contestants who can boast that she’s gonna win the whole enchilada without coming off as cocky or stank. It helps that she’s got a big, powerful instrument (and a moniker that’s tailor-made for the pop charts), although it remains to be seen if restraint is a part of her repertoire.

5. Ben Briley, “Arms of a Woman” | I’m not sure Ben’s tone left me quite as elated as Keith — who said if he heard the dude’s voice on the radio, he’d drive right off the road (!) — but there was a gruff, emotional quality to his singing that made me curious about how he’d fare when staring into a theme like Disco Week or Billboard Hot 100.

4. Jesse Cline, “Washed by the Water” | This late-shift gas-station attendant looked positively tickled when the judges praised his voice and his “believability” on his NeedToBreathe cover, which only made him seem all the more “plucked from the actual real world” rather than the “showcase of erstwhile major-label artists” that often pop up on The Voice. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, of course.)

3. Lauren Ogborn, “Fancy” | Man, that Harry gives great constructive feedback — even to the kids he likes. When he told the be-flagged, bandana-sportin’, southern gal that she was “overaccessorized to the point of ridicule,” even Lauren nodded her head in agreement. Styling issues aside, though, the 19-year-old sang with a clarity of tone, a straightforward purposefulness and an authentic twang so appealing, I didn’t even cringe when J.Lo said “goosies.” (I’m a sucker for “Fancy,” though, so I might be a little biased.)

2. Majesty Rose, “Violet Hill” | The night’s first contestant — decked out in a rose tiara for emphasis — hit a rough note or two, but in the vein of a Tracy Chapman or a Joni Mitchell (or even a Crystal Bowersox), Majesty’s style isn’t about bombast or note perfection. She injected every word, every strum of her guitar, with such passion and nuance that I found myself holding my breath waiting to see what came next. As Keith noted, “the quieter you got, the more I leaned in.” Preach it, Aussie!

1. Jessica Meuse, “Blue-Eyed Lie” (original track) | You’ve got to love an auditioner who introduces herself by saying she’ll either die “a successful musician or a broke one” — and then showcases both the singing and songwriting chops to back up her crazy passion. (Bonus points if said auditioner is from the “so brilliantly named, you wonder if she made it up” town of Slapout, Alabama.) The grit in Jessica’s tone — and the expressiveness with which she delivered an original track I’d never heard before — have me ready to do a Google search to determine if she’s got any indie gems for sale (or at least some YouTube renditions of her own tunes that I can peruse). That, perhaps, is the greatest achievement of new EP Per Blankens’ Season 13 reboot: The triumph of new and exciting voices over the depressingness of pranksters and the deluded. I mean, whether or not Jessica survives the Hollywood Week lunacy and graduates to the live shows, she’s one of 90-some-odd artists who’ve gotten exposure to some 15 million people in the last two weeks. And if that’s not a win for underappreciated vocalists — and for people who love music — I don’t know what is.

With that, let me turn things over to you: What did you think of Episode 4 of Season 13? What did you think of the judges tonight? Any fave moments or decisions with which you disagreed? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? 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. darcy's evil twin says:

    I watched last night’s episode on DVR this afternoon and then watched tonight’s episode. Wow, I just can’t say enough about the talent and the chemistry between the judges, particularly Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban. so far this season is wonderful.

    • Danny says:

      Yea, this show is off to a booming start. I hope the viewers come back. A few from this site have said they’re giving up on it because of JLo. To those who read this forum, but don’t watch the show. Ya may want to give it another shot. This has all the makings of the best season ever. Or at least since Season 4 when I started watching. Obviously the live shows may prove different, but the first 4 auditions have been awesome.

      • HTGR says:

        Maybe. maybe. If you are still talking like that a number of weeks into the lives. For now they don’t deserve my ratings and I don’t feel like or really even have the time to be tossing all these hours into yet more reality tv when there is some good scripted stuff on and so much to do outside of TV. I still feel over-stuffed from the fall. I did catch the Patriots cheerleaders, which was interesting in many ways, but that’s all for this season.

        • Stormy says:

          And you came here ……. because ?

        • mike hollingworth says:

          you are consistently annoying….stop posting please!

          • HTGR says:

            And you mikey are a consistent little stalker who has never posted a single worthwhile thing here ever. Not once ever. 300 posts and 300 little snide/rude/nasty remarks/personal attacks over the last year with zero content about the show or the contestants. And not a single post otherwise. Haha.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I’m still worried. I peaked at the leaked list of who makes it through the Hollywood round – Don’t worry I’m not going to give any names away — my absolute favorite so far did make it through, but a lot of others didn’t and a quite a few I hated DID make it through.

      • Ginger Snap says:

        This is the 13th season. Surely you know by now that you’re being shown a lot of fodder to fill time. Fox has ads to sell.

        I believe that The Voice is returning in February, just about the time this show will be wrapping up Hollywood week. So both shows will be at about the same place. One is just going to get there quicker.

    • linda says:

      Glad to see American Idol has returned to being a really good Entertainment Show! The auditions have been great … not too many untalented people only there to get their 2 seconds of fame. The joking between judges, especially Harry and Keith, is fantastic and they are all giving constructive comments at the auditions. Last season became too much about the “cat fight” amongst some of the judges and not about the amazing talent.
      Comment from Australia.

  2. I loved Jessica Meuse and I really enjoyed Majesty Rose. I think seeing so much talent will benefit the show later, because the audience can start rooting for these contestants early on. It gives less of a big advantage to people that get featured and those that don’t because Idol would rather show silly montages of contestants. Seeing more people makes it fairer and balanced in the long run, and after 12 years I’m over all the ridiculous contestants. This is far better.

  3. Danny says:

    I’m actually glad that Idol is keeping the joke auditions to a minimum. I guess now the only thing to gripe about is………………….. there’s not much to gripe about.
    My fav Atlanta audition was the one from Slapshot (not Slapshot, but close) Alabama. Since I consider myself an Idol slappy (inside joke among friends, no offense meant if “slappy” is a negative term elsewhere in the country) she hit home for me. Her auditon was really good too.

    • marie says:

      SlapOUT. What a cool name for a town.

      • Danny says:

        Thanks Marie. I was racking my brain. “Slapshot- no, that’s not it. Slapstick, nope.. not it either”. I did that for a few more tries, then figured I’d be here all night. So I’d better just post it as Slapshot, which also was the title of a great movie.

    • marie says:

      I thought something similar: not much to gripe about…and the quality has been so consequently good that I don’t have much to say except that this season the show seems brand new. Lovin’ it.

  4. marie says:

    Thanks, Michael, at this stage of the season I never remember names, but Jessica’s deserved to be noted. Excellent.
    Another well-edited, thoroughly entertaining show, with plenty of talent to savor. Watch it, Idol, you’re starting to spoil me!

  5. Lindsey says:

    No Sam Burchfield? He was my favorite of the night! His Jungle Book audition felt so original to me!!

    • marie says:

      I was with Harry on this one: I thought he was not quite good enough – not compared to so many truly wonderful singers we’ve seen up to now.

      • scooby says:

        Ditto. I was definitely with Harry. He can sing but so can a lot of people they had to not put through to Hollywood, and the line has to be drawn somewhere. It’s not some indictment of tone deafness if you’re not quite good enough to be in a couple hundred out of 75,000. Some people are gonna have star potential, some might be able to have careers as unfamous professional musicians if they’re lucky. It’s very hard to even accomplish that much. Many people can’t afford to live solely as musicians. It’s one thing that makes you impressed with Jessica Meuse. She’s been working at it and has artistry down. She’s got the experience. She doesn’t need to stumble over things that others will. The only questions will be song choice (I’m betting she has a repertoire of rock covers) and whether America likes her. I’m a fan.

    • Blinged Up says:

      I liked Sam, too! Originality is a big plus as the auditions continue on……and choosing a song from The Jungle Book is some serious originality. I enjoyed it.

    • Kim R says:

      I liked him the best as well. Full of talent. :)

  6. Danny says:

    I wonder how much having the guitars helps in the auditions. I think it’s great that they’re allowed. In addition to the limited brutal joke types, I’m thinking the guitars are helping these auditions a fair amount. Either way, best start to a season since I’ve been watching. I’ve already gotten more enjoyment out of this season than all of last year. I actually said that after an earlier show this year. Every audition is like a bonus.

    • marie says:

      Thanks for using the word “brutal”; you helped crystallize an impression that’s been rattling around in my head that I couldn’t quite grab. That’s EXACTLY it: the snippets we have been shown of the outright poor auditions – very abbreviated compared to the presentation of same in past seasons – have actually NOT been presented in a way that treats these contestants brutally; rather, they’ve been edited to show them in a very matter-of-fact way, without snickering or ridicule, and for only a moment rather than dragging out the torture. It’s as though the new producers feel they need to maintain just a flavor of the Idol tradition of airing joke auditions, but wish to emphasize that that’s not – or NO LONGER is – a major part of an Idol audition telecast.
      Harry, it appears, summed up a new Idol philosophy when he chided one jokester for “disrespecting the process.”

    • karenb says:

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that two guitarists will be in the finale. There sure are a lot of contestants getting through with the guitars. Not that I mind though.

      • Ginger Snap says:

        Not much of a limb. We just finished the 5th season of The Voice and there were 3 guitar playing guys in the top 5. We like it. So someone will be there.

  7. LeahKittyS says:

    Well, I liked Jordan and Bria just fine; age isn’t really a concern for me. But I agree, Majesty and Jess were the best of the night by far. I also really liked Ben, Caleb, Neco Star, Kristen O’Connor, and Emily Piriz. (Those last two girls were shown together, if anybody forgot them.) Man, how do they fit so many good ones into one night? Oh, yeah, by leaving the joke auditions on the cutting room floor and leaving the humor to Harry.
    Speaking of which, I wasn’t blown away by Chris, but I loved the dog. I have a thing for black labs; our friends have always had them.

  8. Danny says:

    Another thing people have brought up is the no sob stories. I’m loving that too. Being in Michigan, I watched the news after the show. They had few Idol contestants back stories. There were chances for sob stories, one guy in particular. but Idol didn’t use them. Props to the new production team.

    • marie says:

      Very interesting to know – and indicative that just maybe, Idol has, in the hands of the new team, finally become a truly class act.

    • Shawn says:

      Yes I’m loving the no sob stories angle they are bringing this season. Some say the backstories help us to get to know the contestants, but I feel that we can get to know them later on we don’t need time wasted away by hearing about how they are doing this because their grandpa died and he believed in them so it is for him, or something like that. Hopefully the Voice does the same when they start for their blind auditions later in the spring as last season on the Voice I almost turned the blind auditions off because it seemed like every contestant had something horrible happen in their life.
      I must say my fav of the night was Jessica, I hope she makes it far into the competition. Loved her original song and liking that they are allowing contestants to audition with original songs.

    • waterbug says:

      I totally agree with you on this Danny…It was very refreshing not to suffer through sob stories. The sob story dampens and diverts the contestant’s talent, I love the uplifting and musicality-focused tone this season.

  9. trimaran12 says:

    Having fun watching the show but all the guitar players are running together for me and reminding me of season 9. I realize they are not going away but I have one request: judges, please stop calling them “original?” Because none of them are. And the one who sang “Natural Woman” hurt my ears.

  10. darcy's evil twin says:

    Hasn’t that Neco Starr (sp?) guy that auditioned toward the end of the program auditioned before?

    • LeahKittyS says:

      Yes. He auditioned in Season 11 and was cut before the live shows. I’m not sure if he’s better now, but I liked him well enough tonight. We’ll see what happens.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        He must have been half-decent because I remembered him. Thanks for the info!

        • My Alter Ego says:

          DET, I don’t know if this is what you remember Neco from, but in Vegas, he was one of the quartet (which included Hee Jun and P2) that sang “I Only Have Eyes for You.” I was stunned when Neco didn’t make it through.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Thank You, My Alter Ego! I knew there was a reason he seemed familiar!

          • darcy the slutty twin says:

            Heejun and Phillip! Ooohhh the mention of their names just got me excited for a little bit. It seems to me that Caleb Johnson and Neco Starr are in Hollywood week every season. And I just cannot get on board with a horrible stage name like Neco Starr. Give me a flipping break. Yes I am that shallow.

  11. JM says:

    I don’t think Jessica should be #1. I think her original song is good, and she has funky (in a good way) ‘tude when she plays the guitar. However, she shouted too much for me.

    Loved Majesty Rose (whose name makes me cringe—who names their kid ‘Majesty’???). However, girl can SING! She was my fav.

    Lauren was good, too. The guys didn’t impress me much, tho.

  12. tealeaves says:

    I feel we are already benefitting from an increased song book. I remember 1 year it felt like about 10 different contestants auditioned with House of the Rising Sun. This year I think we have already heard at least 4 original songs. Then there is a long, long, list of other songs we have heard that that are not normally sung on these singing shows.
    I am loving it. We have seen so many great auditions.

  13. Aeol says:

    Lauren? No, no, no. That girl was so inauthentic – and I’m not just talking about her outfit.

    • danin says:

      Lauren America..i didn’t like her or Blue eyed lie girl. Did like Bria..powerful young singet, like Chris Medina too.Tough tough season this year with all the talent. Hope they don’t whittle it down to crap.And loved Majesty.

  14. Tusk says:

    Something about Jessica Meuse’s clip was very touching, I haven’t decided on her voice, it’s unique enough to give it further consideration, it might grow on me…

  15. Brandy says:

    That nurse tech girl was amazing!!!

  16. Tahoe Mike says:

    I think Jess might be my favorite so far this year. There have been a lot of good people this year, Hollywood week is going to be rough. There will be a few hard cuts at the end.

  17. darcy's evil twin says:

    Caleb Johnson reminded my husband and me of Meatloaf! :-)
    Loved Ben Riley (“Arms of a Woman”) and Jessica Meuse (Blue-eyed Lie).
    I love “Fancy” but my jury is still out on Lauren Ogburn. Harry was absolutely correct about over-accessorizing. I immediately said she needed to lose the bandana.
    There was a guy that sang CCR’s “Have you Ever Seen the Rain”. My husband walked through the room and said, “Holy cow, John Fogerty would slit his wrists if he heard this”.
    He didn’t get a ticket to Hollywood.

  18. J. May says:

    I was not feeling Lauren’s audition. Her tone and delivery was mostly flat and boring and her outfit was pure kitsch/unauthentic. My favorites from tonight were Jesse Cline, Majesty and Jessica Meuse.

  19. Larissa says:

    Michael Slezak lost his seat on his high horse regarding AI producers mocking auditioners’ foreign accents for cheap laughs after doing the exact same thing all.season.long about Paulina Rubio on XF.

    • babs22 says:

      Sorry, I have to disagree. When some unknown young person with an accent shows up to try out, it seems quite cruel to make fun of them. But in the case of Paulina Rubio, a celebrity who was paid a boatload of money to appear on an AMERICAN tv show, it would be great to understand what she was talking about. I watched 1 1/2 episodes of XFactor and gave up due to many reasons, but in no small part due to the fact that I couldn’t understand 1 of the judges. It’s kind of like when you say – pick on someone your own size. Picking on the kids auditioning is mean. But Paulina should’ve gotten some sort of language coach before the show started.

    • Shawn says:

      Not to mention that it was more of the fact that Michael was pointing out that she had trouble remembering her contestants names, or saying that their last name was completely different than what it was. Or when introducing her next performing contestant she instead said the name of a different contestant.

  20. Annie says:

    Are we not going to address the girl with purple lips who butchered the Adele song? yikes

  21. Kim R says:

    What I am finding about this season that is one of the biggest changes for me, is that I am not only PVRing so I can zip through all the filler and judges blathering just to hear the singers. I am actually watching live and have no urge to mute or flip over to another show for a minute or two. Well done PTB! :)

  22. Mel says:

    Last time I checked, Jess Meuse had a very active YouTube channel with lots of original songs AND covers. I just love her. I think she’s going to do well.

  23. Mr. Sunshine says:

    I have a confession. I was so excited when Mariah was selected last year, but she was so not meant to be a judge. Her constant flipping of her hair and general mannerisms were such a distraction. Her feuds and general antagonistic attitude toward Nicky did not help either. I think I watched up until Hollywood week and didn’t watch but a few minutes of the live shows each week. So, this season has been such a breath of fresh air. They should pay Harry a boat load of money to remain as the judge. He just seems like a such a sweet and very nice guy. And, it’s nice that he and Keith has a real knowlege of music too. I so don’t miss Randy say that something is “pitchy”. It’s not even a word! If there is one weak link, I’m sure you can guess what it is for me. Jennifer Lopez basically just parrots what Harry or Keith says. How much musical training does she really have; she was a dancer on In Living Color! Other than her blather some nonsense, this has been of the best seasons ever by far!! Wouldn’t want to be the judges who have to pick from this superb talent pool this year. Can’t wait to see how they winnow it down to 24 for the live rounds. Many thanks to American Idol for rising like a phoenix and giving us hope that there will many more great seasons to come!

  24. Kim R says:

    What I’m finding is that because of Harry and Keith’s knowledge of music, Jennifer sort of looks lost at times when they are discussing something and has little to add to the conversation. I really appreciate the critiques that are being offered by Harry & Keith. :)

  25. jaxguy says:

    I’m so mad…..
    The new producer has injected real life back into this show…
    And the talent is far better this year….
    Now I’m gonna have to watch again…
    It’s almost must see tv again…..
    Maybe they will blow it in Hollywood….

  26. Mary says:

    I saw a few good contestants tonight, but Still nobody wowed me. I usually do not get into the show until the public starts voting. I do not like to get invested then have them go home. Hollywood weeks usually starts separating the (men from the boys sort of speak).
    I will say I enjoy the judges at this stage, but during the live shows I want them short and sweet on the critiques.

    • waterbug says:

      “…I will say I enjoy the judges at this stage, but during the live shows I want them short and sweet on the critiques….” Totally agree Mary!

  27. waterbug says:

    I was very disappointed in the mother who coordinated her daughter to dress up like a street walker with glitter-blinding lips. That child looked 25 and she was only 15…Shameful mom…shameful.

  28. When I was watching AI, I kept thinking, “Oh, Slezak is gonna love Jessica Meuse. (As do I.) And here we are–both ranking her as the best singer from last night’s episode. She’s mesmerizing. Thanks for the recaps. You always make the experience richer by your commentary.

  29. RD says:

    I don’t know how anyone could say that the show hasn’t been vastly improved from last season,(or the few preceding it,for that matter). It’s been re-invigorated in all the right ways that it needed and consequently it’s an entertaining show again. Harry Conick Jr’s acute critiques and natural humour have buried any longing for the over-critical Simon of old. Still dreading Randy’s re-appearance,though…..

  30. J says:

    YAY!! I loved Majesty Rose. I got so excited when she sang. I’m pretty happy so far and most importantly I am invested. Thank you Harry Connick Jr. Thank you!

  31. sybl says:

    I haven’t watched a whole show yet, just bits here and there. On the plus side, I do like the judges’ panel this season so far. Good chemistry, less vamping by them, some bluntness but not for the sake of meanness.

    On the other hand, of what I’ve seen, I’m not super impressed with the talent. It may be talent show fatigue on my part, and often times the raw a cappella singing of a few bars of a song I’ve heard a million times in audition doesn’t allow me to fully appreciate a contestant who grows on me later. I haven’t loved some of the big voices that the judges have swooned over. I will reserve judgment until I watch more closely when the Hollywood rounds get underway.

  32. Jim Welker says:

    I felt the 2 best auditions were Mikes #2 and #6; those girls were great! However, his #1 to me was just ok! To me she was screaming through half of the performance! Also, I agree with Harry 99% of the time but as far as Ben goes, I enjoyed his performance; pretty unique and original sound!

  33. Jim Welker says:

    Want to compliment Sybl’s comments; very intelligent and interesting too!