Keith Urban rocking a wide-collared red polyester shirt and white textured vest. J.Lo sporting a dark, curly bob, fingerless gloves and a baffling choker/triangle charm necklace combo. Harry Connick, Jr. in a striped Izod polo with rumpled collar and a shaggy bowl cut.
Tonight’s “Before They Were Household Names” footage on American Idol proved that, among other things, the new and improved (and universally lauded) Season 13 judges’ panel is capable of making mistakes. Unfortunately, that vibe permeated through the entire episode — with questionable call after questionable call, along with the sense that Harry Connick Jr. woke up on the wrong side of the piano.
Which is all kind of a long-winded way of saying…Jessica Bassett, the girl in the floral print blouse and polka-dot pants who sang a song that might’ve been called “Russian Girl” — wuz robbed! (In J.Lo’s defense, she voted “yes” and grumbled that her fellow panelists had “let a good one slip away.”) And several contestants who were as underbaked as cake dough in an oven set at 40 degrees somehow scored trips to Hollywood. Could it have been Utah’s relatively high altitude playing games with our judges’ ears?
Then again, at least executive producer Per Blankens made the bold and very welcome decision to show extended footage from 25 of Salt Lake City’s 30 Golden Ticket recipients. (That’s a ratio about which I can get excited.) And yes, some of ’em were seriously talented.
My personal Top 10 is as follows (with reviews kept mostly to a Twitter-esque 140 characters or less, because really, it’s too early to get too attached) (#jessicabarrett4eva).
10. Laurel Wright, an original song | Pretty brunette’s lilting voice had an almost bird-like delicacy, and from what little we heard of her self-penned tune, she’s not a half bad songwriter, either.
9. Alex “world’s most obnoxious guitar player” Preston, an original song | Use of “obnoxious” to describe self had me worried, but college dropout showcased a sweet tone (although I’m not sure I love-loved his original track).
8. Blake Branscom, “I’ve Always Been Crazy” | I’ll admit: He got me with that mid-song wink at JLo. But the twang and playfulness in his delivery were dang pleasing, too.
7. Keith Sanders, “Use Me” | “Rethink yourself w/ regard to confidence,” said HCJ. And I concur. Dude’s lucious, soulful tone made a big impression despite limited screentime.
6. Casey Thrasher, “Believe” | They laid the “hardscrabble/doin’ it for my kids” backstory on a little thick — opening and closing the show with him, come ON! — but Casey is nevertheless a talented fella. I felt like his emotions almost got the best of his vocal control, but he ended with the kind of control and intensity that plays well with voters.
5. Kassandra Castaneda, “Chasing Pavements” | Color me irked that Harry dismissed Kassandra’s sweet, restrained Adele cover with a complaint about her throwing in too many riffs. OK, yeah, maybe giving her uncle’s phone number to JLo was a tad presumptuous (or even creepy), but Kass was eons better than at least six or seven singers who scored unanimous “yeses” tonight.
4. Austin Wolfe, “Radioactive” | One of those voices that cuts through the living room like a hot knife thru butter. A couple of Adele-esque runs added unexpected flavor.
3. Tiquila Wilson, “Someone Like You” | Admittedly, this chica’s guffaw-inducing “HEY! WHAT’S UP?” shock at seeing Ryan Seacrest made me j’adore her. But the shred in her voice and her flawless pitch were equally enticing.
2. Dexter Roberts, “I Like to Drive” | Farm-hand/dog trainer seemed a little low-wattage at first — but his light shone very, very brightly once he started singing. He’s country, yeah, but was I crazy or was there a little bit of Elvis in his tone, too?
1. Paisley Van Patten, “When the Lights Go Down” | One of those rare vocalists who doesn’t wield her powerful, muscular voice like a blunt instrument. The subtle shading and meticulous phrasing hinted at a mature artist who means every word she sings. Can we send her straight to the live shows?
And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of Episode 5 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!