Coming up at ten o’clock: 212 wannabe music superstars get trapped in an airplane hanger — but only two-thirds of ‘em will walk out alive. Will your favorite be turned into ground chuck and washed out onto the tarmac as seagull chow?
OK, OK, maybe the next phase of American Idol Season 13 isn’t quite so Mad Max-ian — but dangit all, the promos for the start of Hollywood Week next Wednesday sure promised a lot of tears, side-eyes and pointed fingers. In other words, after tonight’s ho-hum audition outing from Omaha, Neb., I’m ready to press pause on Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” and let Per Blankens & Co. bring this competition to a boil.
Before that happens, however, we’ve got to dive deeper into Season 13’s final hour of tryouts, which featured the ever game (and charming) Ryan Seacrest getting tackled by an overenthusiastic hugger, a retro-looking blond kid showing off an America’s Got Talent-level knack for presidential impressions and another liberal serving of Harry Connick, Jr. hilarity.
Among my favorite HCJ zingers? Harry’s rejection of a Ben Afflect lookalike, softened by this kicker: “But your work directing Argo was phenomenal!” And, of course, there was his response to a square-dance caller’s explanation that an “allemande” requires the man to grab the woman by the forearm: “Where I come from, they call that domestic abuse.” (OK, OK, maybe I shouldn’t have laughed at the latter bon mot, but I cannot lie to you in an Idol recap — especially not in an episode that finally, sorta acknowledged Season 12 champ Candice Glover by playing a snippet of her addictive cover of “Lovesong.”)
My personal Top 7 is as follows — and doesn’t include Andrina Brogden (I agreed with Harry this stunning North Dakota native didn’t seem ready based on her rushed phrasing and wobbly pitch) nor Tyler Gurwicz (whose exaggerated mid-performance facial expressions bothered both Keith and yours truly).
7. Madisen Welker, “Before He Cheats” | Keith was right that the 15-year-old — Side note: OMG, is this what 15-year-olds look like nowadays? — gave a “perfect karaoke rendition” of Carrie Underwood’s chart topper. But while Harry argued that Madisen’s inevitable Hollywood heartbreak was reason enough to end her journey, I can’t pretend I’m not curious to see what the kid will do with the judges’ notes about infusing more of her own personality into her music.
6. Quaid Edwards, “A Change Is Gonna Come” | “Girls are gonna scream,” Harry predicted of the handsome college senior with the glistening teeth. But with a little added polish, his clean, clear tone and pretty upper register might give talent-focused viewers a reason to vote, too (though probably not till Season 15 or so…)
5. Tyler Marshall, “Proud Mary” | Tyler’s jubilation just walking into the audition room was as intoxicating as a Long Island Iced Tea. So while the overabundance of cry in his voice made me wonder if his destiny is to play the role of Hollywood Hangar Round Victim No. 17, I couldn’t really be mad at the judges for their enthusiasm.
4. Casey McQuillen, “Skyscraper” | This brunette Jayma Mays doppelganger delivered her Demi Lovato cover with such plainspoken simplicity and impeccable timining, it was like a trip to an organic salad bar after a month’s worth of McDonald’s.
3. CJ Jones, “Stand By Me” | This babyfaced contestant showcased a tone much huskier and richer than I’d anticipated. And the fact that he not only maintained his groove while Harry stomped and goofed off alongside him — the result of the judge literally interpreting the title “Stand by Me” — but played off his A-lister energy, gave me hope that CJ might be ready for prime time.
2. Paula Hunt, “All I Could Do Was Cry” | In a season where back stories have been kept to a minimum, Paula’s tale of fulfilling the dreams of her mom — a Gospel/R&B artist who lost her voice to multiple sclerosis — as a member of the U.S. Air Force’s Heartland of America Band brought undeniable warm fuzzies to the proceedings. Far more important, though, was the way Paula brought slow, aching intensity to her Etta James jam. As Harry noted, the woman simply knows when to throw in a run, and the result is both tasteful and elegant. (There’s still going to be a place for tasteful and elegant in Season 13, right?)
1. Tessa Kate, “Folsom Prison Blues” | I’ll admit that it took my ears a moment to process the juxtaposition of Tessa’s quavery little instrument with the Man in Black’s low, rumbly classic. But when she picked up the pace and jammed out on the second verse, my involuntary head-bobbing and foot-tapping convinced me she’s got the kind of bravado and creativity to help make Season 13 the dogfight that the judges keep promising.
And with that, I turn things over to you. What did you think of Episode 6 of Season 13? What did you think of the judges tonight? Any fave moments or decisions with which you disagreed? Who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? And are you glad to be done with Auditions and on to Hollywood? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!