American Idol Recap: New York, New York… A Helluva Town [Updated]

“I’m goin’ to Hollywood!” — the preferred battle cry of the American Idol audition rounds — may take on a whole new meaning after Season 14’s New York City tryouts.

I mean, if soulful troubadour Hollywood Anderson — who stunned the judges (and moved J.Lo to tears) with a radio-ready original called “My Best Friend” — becomes the franchise’s next Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, any future contestant who shouts that phrase might sound more like they’re auditioning for CBS’ Stalker or another “this isn’t gonna end well” installment of 48 Hours: Mystery than Fox’s venerable singing competition.

Magnificent as Hollywood was, though, he’s no shoo-in to inherit the crown of that retro-rock dude whose Season 13 performances always got interrupted by J.Lo’s meticulously rehearsed, “I love your mother’s cookies“-inducing fits of headbanging/hair-flipping/sexyface.

Yep, start spreadin’ the news, Idoloonies, the sublime New York Auditions — with a tough and funny but always sweet Adam Lambert filling in for Keith Urban at the judges’ table — might be the starting point for a journey that ends with a confetti shower. As woeful as Wednesday’s Kansas City pitstop was, NYC churned out at least a half-dozen (maybe even more) vocalists who have the potential to still be in the competition when the Easter Bunny comes hoppin’ to town.

With that said, let’s jump straight into ranking tonight’s 17 Golden Ticket holders in order from least- to most-promising.

AI14_Brooklyn-Auditions_1263_hires117. Eric Lopez, “Show Must Go On” | As I said on Twitter during the episode, dude’s Queen cover was “as messy as a Sloppy Joe served on a paper towel.”

16. James Killian Dunn, “Latch” | Aggressive flirting with J.Lo + thin, reedy tone = me agreeing with Adam’s righteous “No” vote.

15. Jackie Nege, “Born This Way” | I’d have loved this Lady Gaga cover — if I was on my fourth sauv blanc on a Thursday night river cruise. Otherwise, girlfriend needed more depth and emotional force to make her solid voice resonate.

14. Shi Scott, “Valerie” | Harry’s note that this stunning chica was doing a near note-for-note Amy Winehouse impersonation said it all. Plus, her “oh I’m so shy!” face-touching shtick seemed too rehearsed by half.

13. Courtney Zahn, “Classic” | I have no recollection, your honor!

12. Tion Phipps, “When I Was Your Man” | He had some pretty runs in there, but this montaged contestant betrayed a few too many pitch issues in his brief time on screen.

11. Sal Velentinetti, “In Other Words” | Hammier than a Croque-Monsieur — but I don’t think he missed a single note, so I wasn’t mad when J.Lo and Adam overruled Harry with their “yes” votes.

10. Adam Ezegelian, “Born to Be Wild”/”I’m Yours” | Adam (Lambert) proved his awesomeness as a judge when he asked Adam (Ezegelian) to show a different side of his voice after a Steppenwolf cover that bordered on parody. The dude’s take on Jason Mraz was far more grounded — and quitely lovely, actually — but I never want to see him in flip-flops again, K?

9. Qaasim Middleton, “Sir Duke” | Brooklyn fella with an outsized personality infused his Stevie Wonder cover with palpable rhythm, a bit of beatboxing and some entertaining dance moves. Still, there were some questionable moments in the vocal that left me wondering if he could be headed for a Hollywood Week meltdown. (Side note: I’m pretty sure I could’ve lived without Qaasim’s mom’s newsflash about his enduring virginity. Save that kinda stuff for… the 12th of Never!)

8. J. None, “My Prerogative” | You bring a little Bobby B. (even “Glasses“) to the audition rounds, and you’re halfway to Hollywood in my book. Thankfully, dapper and dashing J. had the tone and control to complete the mission — and add to the strongest roster of black male contestants Idol has seen in years.

7. Nick Fradiani, “In Your Eyes” | I liked the way Nick took risks with Peter Gabriel’s melody without renedering it unrecognizable — and the weathered, smoky tone of his voice was as beautiful as a ramshackle, abandoned barn one might encounter on a hike through the country (if one were inclined to hike, that is). Still, I wonder why his “Cups”-playing girlfriend’s totally solid vocals didn’t at least land her a Golden Ticket — at least for some added Hollywood drama.

6. Maddie Walker, “Suitcase” | Returning Season 13 contestant — “but she’s only 16!” says Randy Jackson — nailed the pitch so perfectly on a tune by Voice grad Gwen Sebastian that Harry said she sounded Auto-Tuned. Super-young vocalists have a spotty track record on Idol, but Maddie’s massive growth over the last 12 months could make this kid one to buck the trend.

5. Travis Finlay, “Stay” | Between the leather pants and the five extra layers of emotions this handsome specimen brought to Rihanna’s best ballad, I’d almost have gone out on a limb and called him a Season 14 front-runner. J.Lo, though, confirmed what my ears didn’t quite want to admit: That his showy runs weren’t 100% on point — and that he either needs to scale ’em back by 10-20% or find a way to hit ’em all square on the nose.

4. Katherine Winston, “If I Didn’t Know Better” | Katherine’s gorgeously understated, bourbon-soaked vocal played underneath a montage of rejected contestants. Thankfully, though, this young lady’s slinky twist on my favorite Nashville soundtrack cut (originally by the Civil Wars) set her apart from the parade of the damned — and put her right through to Hollywood.

3. Najah Lewis, “Payphone” | I never really cared for Maroon 5’s 2012 jam — not until Najah gave it an impassioned, acoustic jolt of energy. The richness of her lower register — and her understated confidence — could be a lethal combination, should the judges advance her to the voting rounds. Think Majesty Rose — with a more solid sense of musical identity.

2. Hollywood Anderson, “My Best Friend” (original song) | I found myself once again nodding along with J.Lo — much to my surprise/horror, I know — I’d download “My Best Friend” tomorrow if Hollywood had a version on iTunes. But beyond the charismatic dude’s way with a lyric — “we’ve got the kind of love that could make a blind man see” — his evocative, craggy tone and lilting upper register gave the impression it could easily wrap itself around rock, soul, jazz  or whatever genre Idol throws his way.

1. Jax, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” | This is how you make an impression when fate (or Per Blankens) hands you a two minute audience with Adam Lambert & Co.: Jax got behind the piano, took the romantic essence of The Beatles’ boppy love song and reinvented it as a ballad filled with romance and longing. Her Norah Jones-y delivery and that little crumbling note right at the end left me wanting to hear a lot more from this 18-year-old Jersey gal — hopefully we’ll get that chance in Hollywood.

On that note, I pass the mic to you. Who was your favorite from Night 4 Season 14 auditions? Take our poll below, then sound off in the comments!

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. Chris says:

    Jacob honestly made me 100% excited for this season of Idol,

    • Chris says:

      I mean Jax! Stupid Auto Correct

      • Angela says:

        I thought it was really sweet that she got to be praised and sent to Hollywood by Adam Lambert, who she voted for when she was watching the show as a mere fan :). Kind of a nice “full circle” sort of deal. She was great, and I loved seeing her so happy.

      • deedee says:

        I can already tell that Jax is going to be the thorn in my side this season. Everyone’s gonna go mental over her and I’m going to grit my teeth.

        It’s early days, so I could still be wrong, but I really didn’t like that plodding, overwrought version of IWHYH.

        • Yah I think she may be the blonde version of Jena Irene. Watch out for Middleton! Great singer with braids that can also dance. I know its not about dancing, but it always makes a performance look better! Also, I liked the big guy “Adam”. He is so likeable, and a great singer!

          • And of course Hollywood was the best. Jax is not number one. Hollywood is.

          • I just, I just…. cant! Try to compare some of these peoples talent( like Jax) to someone say, like Melinda Dolittle! Sorry i just dont find Jax that great. Do you guys remember that season? Holy crap Melinda blew me away!And Haley Rinehart? She was awesome on her season! Jax doesnt hold a candle to them.

          • deedee says:

            Yes, the blonde Jena Irene! That’s exactly it.
            My picks from last night are: Adam the big guy, and Hollywood. Also enjoyed Nick, Travis, and Maddie. Actually, the whole episode was packed with talent. Felt like the old Idol last night, especially with Adam there.

          • A fan says:

            I didn’t hear the awesomeness everyone else seemed to hear in Hollywood. He seemed ordinary to me. Maybe in the next round he’ll sound more impressive but so far, meh!

          • Puchinsmom says:

            Sounds like it’s his braids that can dance!!

          • Puchimsmom, I dont even know what that means, his braids dance? maybe you shouldnt judge until you see the u tube video of him dancing, which I posted about in one of the other comments below. you will then eat your words!

          • Jill Moy says:

            You mean MISS DIAPER REAR END…LOL?

          • Jill Moy says:


            You mean diaper rear end Irene???LOL! Jax wasn’t very good at all….What are peoplelstening to?

        • Agree, but if it is between her and Lovey getting in the top 10, I would rather see Jax get it over Lovey

        • Yes DeeDee! i absolutely love Adam (big Guy) and some of the others you mentioned. Not impressed by Jax. I was more impressed by Jess that played piano with Harry! Qaasim kinda has it made over the other guys because of his knowing how to dance! But I also loved his voice! Poor guy with his mom telling everyone he is a virgin. LOL Hey I also liked the girl with blue hair that played accordian better than jax!

          • Hey I have been waiting to see “A Walk In The Tombstones” with Liam Neeson and Astro from x factor. I was a huge fan of Astro. It came out on demand and I ordered it. Great Movie. Really dark , rainy and mysterious. I thought he would have a small part, But he plays a huge part as a homeless kid that Liam Neeson buddies up with. I love the music too. Some female artist did Soundgardens” Chris Cornell” “Black Hole Sun” which was amazing! Very Good!

        • Jen says:

          You can read spoilers (who makes the top 24) if you can’t bear to wait to find out if she will continue to be a thorn in your side. :)

        • Jonathan says:

          You are not alone! I am so tired of that vocal affectation that’s been going on for YEARS now and appears to show no signs of stopping. It isn’t original when everyone is doing it.

          • Thank you for saying this!!! I have tried to make a post about it, but for some reason it was taken down. I hated all of the runs when Idol started, but I think this might be worse. And, the judges say “oh, you’re SO unique!”

        • kierankramer says:

          Agreed! I was hyperventilating in the middle hoping she’d get it over with!!! I can’t stand when a Beatle song is “reinvented” to that extent. Her stylized singing, to me, at least, sounded contrived, almost painfully so.

        • TheOriginalLemon says:

          I don’t get the focus on Jax either. I thought she was trying a little too hard to be like Jena, who is much, much better.

          • Paul says:

            She took a Beatles song, then took Chris Colfer’s stripped down version of it. Let’s hear it for nancy nose ring. Pass

          • deedee says:

            LOL! Thank you, Jonathan, The Other Leah, and Kierankramer! Always good to have support for an unpopular opinion! Also, my I say that I’m bummed that Michael put Jax at #1. Michael and I have shared favourites for many years, but the streak ended last season with … *gasp* I can’t even remember any of last year’s contestants names. :-(

      • Loved Jax. Favorite of the night. Possibly of the season so far. Her voice is so distinct and beautiful. I really liked Hollywood, Travis, Adam(on the second song) and the under utilized Katherine Winston. Some great performances that weren’t even marred with the fact that people like Eric Lopez, Shi Scott and Qassim made it. Or the fact that they packaged those 3 white blonde girls together as if they were one person. It was so weird. But tonight was 100 times better than yesterday’s episode.

  2. Tarasa says:

    Adam Lambert was awesome. I really like the current crop of judges but I wouldn’t cry if they found space for Adam.

    • Jobless says:

      He really was fantastic! I think four judges is overkill but I hope he’s on the shortlist if they ever need to replace a Judge.

      • OKAY NOW, LISTEN! If you rewind and look when Ryan Seacrest is interviewing Adam at his radio station (this is at the beginning of the show), they have clips of J-lo dressed in a white skirt talking to Harry in the vehicle! GROSS! Didnt notice before but you could see right up her dress! Didnt the cameraman notice? HAHAHAHAHA LOL What? What will the show do next to put her in the limelight? Nice black underwear J-lo, if that is what it is. If wearing a “short skirt” pull down over crotch area, even if your legs are crossed! LOL LOL LOL Please do not advertise j-lo’s crotch area

    • Angela says:

      He was excellent. Honest yet very fun and lovely with the contestants. He had some fun banter with Jennifer and Harry, too-I got a good laugh out of his comment about not liking bears :D.
      And it was a kick to get a chance to see clips from back when he auditioned. God, hard to believe it was so many years ago already…

    • A fan says:

      He was terrific!

    • theschnauzers says:

      They’ve gone with four judges before, but it would have to be Adam Lambert, or another past Idol winner or runner-up who has the same sort of honesty chops if TPTB ever do that again. I think the fact that the current Idol judges’ panel of three successful singer/performers is one reason why in terms of quality of the group headed to the Hollywood rounds has been so much better with season 13 and now 14.

      But I agree they really do need to find a way to add Adam Lambert as a judge; he was terrific last night!

  3. Jeff Marley says:

    I really liked Najah, Jax, Hollywood, Travis, nick and adam!!! 😃😃😃 Shoutouts to Shia and Maddie though!!! 😃😃😃

    • Timmah says:

      I think we saw a bunch of the finalists tonight. I liked Shia too, not sure why everyone is hating on her.

    • Temperance says:

      I wanted to like Nick, but his arrangement wasn’t ‘interesting’ or ‘risky’ – he recut the song and made choices to hide his six note range. Cute and decent, I doubt he’ll be going much of anywhere. Jax, Najah, and Adam launched themselves into the top 20.

  4. Jobless says:

    Best of the night was Jax, Hollywood, and Adam in that order.

    When Adam was singing Born to be Wild I kind of rolled my eyes a bit thinking we were in for a Caleb Johnson wannabe. Which is to say talented but a bit much and a bit overdone after last year. When he switched to I’m Yours it was like a totally different artist. That 2nd guy has serious contender potential.

    • Jeff Marley says:

      What about najah, Travis, and nick?

      • Jobless says:

        Najah was just ok for me. I’ll have to watch her again because I wasn’t sure they were even going to put her through and then everyone loved it. Must be something I missed. Travis and Nick were good, there were a ton of good contestants tonight so nothing against anyone who picked others as their favorites.

      • S. says:

        Nick was more good looking than he was a good singer. He was singing well enough but in terms of tone it was just a step above average. Glimmers of something interesting were so fleeting. You’d never notice him on the radio. He’s not unique, so I don’t get why you put him through other than the visual. He’ll drag along while many others with better voices get cut and JLo will flirt with him. It turns out he was in a group that competed on America’s Got Talent. Guess he wanted to go solo.

    • will says:

      Did anyone else have the thought that Adam is the afro guy from the end of the Top 20 Feelin’ Good shadow video?

  5. Larc says:

    Worse part was seeing Adam Lambert. He is so over rated. Not a fan.

  6. First of all, bye Shi. I’m done with your contrived manner of singing and everyone else who sings in this way.

    LOVING najah! Holy cow I can’t wait to see more from this girl. Liked Jax, too.

    And yes to Travis, qassim, and Hollywood!

  7. JB says:

    Shi – I did not believe anything she was selling. None of it. Not that this was the 1st time singing, the reason she goes by Shi (which is ridiculous). I can understand being nervous, but that seemed phoney to me, too.

  8. Kevin Williams says:

    Wow Hollywood Anderson. Where can I got that song?

  9. DarkDefender says:

    I no longer watch American Idol.. I prefer The Voice. But I will always LOVE reality check.
    Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

  10. Marjorie says:

    Replace Keith Urban with Adam Lambert!!!! Adam is a far more interesting and original judge than Keith…. Now I want to watch the show.

  11. Puchinsmom says:

    Is anyone else getting sick of Harry’s interruptions and constant attention getting behavior? He’s funny and knowledgeable and committed, but he jokes around at inappropriate times. Takes attention away from contestants who are in the middle of doing something incredibly scary and important. I think all the attention should be focased on THEM.
    Also. It seems like some contestants get a piano accompaniment, and some do not. Which is not exactly fair. Unless it has to do with editing…

    • Mytake says:

      Hard to explain, but the vibe I get from Harry is that of a young boy with a girl he likes in the area and is trying to get her attention or show off. I seriously feel like he’s got a crush on JLo. I think he knows his stuff (music) and offers occasional great insight, he just needs some salt peter lol

      • Lyn says:

        IMO Harry has a “class clown” personality. Needs to be the center of attention and likes to talk down to anyone he perceives as less erudite than himself musically. That works in a teaching situation but not on a TV competition. He comes off as snobbish prat one minute and an ADD poster child the next. I could do without him.

    • Yes I was wondering that too? About piano accompaniment. Was the piano player guy not available in New York? Kind of not fair to the other contestants.

    • Montavilla says:

      I think the piano is available if the contestants want it. The ones we see singing without piano probably didn’t want it. It surprised me when on the first episode, but it makes sense to allow some accompaniment. Otherwise, the ones who play instruments have an advantage.

  12. Ginger Snap says:

    Not gonna be many comments if this site doesn’t accept them.

  13. KarenC says:

    Like Jax, Najah, Travis and Hollywood Anderson the best. Shi needs to develop her voice and who she is and Eric was terrible. Enjoyed Adam as judge.

  14. kcostell says:

    Jax’s tone felt every bit as authentic as Olive Garden.

  15. Lois Benton says:

    Adam! Terrific judge! Right on point and still kind. My favorite was Qaasim. He was so entertaining and his voice was excellent. Tion has quite a nice voice; I was fond of him. Jax had a lovely interpretation of the Beatles song. We’ll see how she holds up over the weeks ahead. I rather suspect she won’t. Hollywood was very good as well, but he may not have the endurance for the show. And it is a show. My bet on this lot is for Qaasim.

  16. 'A' Has Spoken says:

    Qaasim from The Naked Brothers Band! Man, that was my show back then (just a few years ago haha). Haven’t seen him in SO long. So glad to know he’s still trying to thrive in the music business. But his mom, though. Wow haha. That was so messed up lol. Overall, I enjoyed tonigh. Some really great singers! Jax, Hollywood, Najah, and Qaasim were my favorites from tonight. Hope they all make it past Hollywood week. I need them all in the live shows! It was also great seeing Adam on the judging panel. If one of the guy judges ends up leaving, I hope they replace whoever that is with Adam. He was great tonight.

  17. Hollywood is my sentimental favorite, but I think Jax could do very very well.

  18. Alan Dvorkis says:

    A beatles song made better, much much better. Those words do not seem possible. Yet nothing could be truer. A brilliant take that makes an average Beatles song, transcending. One of the more remarkable performances I have heard, since Dean Rays Crying on this years Australian X Factor or Aiden Grimshaw’s Mad World X Factor Uk 2010 or Matt Corby’s Blowers Daughter, Australian Idol 5. Breath taking and memorable, hours later, it still resonates.

    • Beatles song made better? Not to often! Please someone refresh my memory! What season and what was her name. Simon cowell loved her. She was blonde and did Let it Be, while playing piano. Sometimes she played piano barefoot. I think it was the season they had the blind guy on there. Anyway I thought she did a great job with a great Beatles song!

      • deedee says:

        Brooke White.

      • Puchinsmom says:

        I’m replying to an earlier post of calebswackofans. I was kidding. I’ve never seen the contestant dance, and wasn’t passing judgment. It’s just you wrote: the guy with the braids that can also dance. Get it? Sounded like the braids danced. Only joking. Not meant as a criticism of comment or guy’s ability. I come in peace. I just have a weird sense of humor.

        • Puchinsmom. Omg im really sorry! I see what you mean now. The way I wrote the comment about Qassim does sound like that. Thats what I get for being an insomniac and commenting on here late at night when im tired and not thinking straight. Lol very sorry! I come in peace too and I also have a very weird sense of humor! LOL

    • deedee says:

      Those words do not seem possible because they’re absurd. I couldn’t wait for that girl to finish that dirge. Talk about sucking the life out of a fun song!

    • MAB says:

      Brook White sang let it Be, Season 7

    • neaorlean says:

      It wasn’t an original take though, it’s an 100% Glee cover. I liked Jax a lot, but the credit for the song shouldn’t go to her.

      • A fan says:

        I don’t think she ever claimed to have originated that version of the song. Usually at some time somebody else has done any version anyone could come up with.

        • neaorlean says:

          Oh, absolutely, I know she didn’t claim it to be her original version, but a lot of people here were talking about “the blonde Jena Irene” and how original she was, and I thought the credit needs to go to somebody else. Good for her for choosing it, though, it’s a lot better than the original.

  19. sue says:

    Jax’svoice was beautiful, but not original. I’ve heard this version before.

  20. I hope Adam and Qassim make it to top ten!

  21. Linda says:

    Weekly TV Line is the best part of American Idol, but please more commentary, less clever movie clips. Want to see/hear more of you guys.

    • A fan says:

      I agree! I don’t watch the videos because the movie clips are so distracting and annoying. I would just like to hear what they have to say without all the interruptions.

  22. Fan says:

    Jax’s version of I Want to Hold Your Hand was sung exactly that slow, stripped down way by Chris Colfer on Glee two or three seasons ago – he was singing about his father.

  23. chistosa says:

    Did anyone else find it odd that they edited out the judges comments and voting for Nick? Except the Harry comment about his genre being crowded, there was no other comment from either JLo or Adam.

    • JM says:

      Yes, that was odd. But equally odd was the fact that they didn’t give his girlfriend a chance to sing another song without the distracting cup. It’s not fair to give Adam a second chance but not her–especially since her first song was much better than Adam’s.

  24. dman6015 says:

    Jax was definitely the winner last night.

  25. donna says:

    saw it just because of adam, and he was fab.

  26. Lyn says:

    Did anyone else think that Sal [Ratpac x 2] looked enough like Adam Lambert to be his chubby baby brother? IMO Sal is what Michael Buble wants to be. I don’t think he has a chance on Idol, but he’d do well in Vegas.

  27. Cheryl Dixon says:

    Why didn’t they ask cup girl to sing a second song? I think she sang well enough if they didn’t think the song was a good fit or the cups over-powered her….

    • Puchinsmom says:

      I wondered that too. I was waiting for them to ask for a second song after her boyfriend sang. I really liked his voice btw. I suspect they edited out some of that Whole segment. It was missing too much of the usual stuff.

  28. duttenhofers says:

    Jax’s version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” might have impressed me if I hadn’t heard it already in repeated viewings of “Across the Universe.”

  29. TheOriginalLemon says:

    Top three for me are Najah, Katherine, and Anderson Footman, (Hollywood). Crossing my fingers for all 3.

  30. Mel says:

    The verdict is in. The ratings for Adam Lambert’s Thurs American Idol judging was worse than Wed’s show and worse than last year this time.

  31. David E says:

    I hope Jillian Jensen is back this season. Because I liked her last season.

  32. Song Plugger says:

    When the piano appears and / or special little skits involving the Judges are involved – a few are just for entertainment, most are because the producers want that contestant highlighted and advanced. Also, I don’t think Hollywood will make it too much further than Hollywood.

  33. Jan says:

    I love Melinda SO MUCH!! “I don’t care if she stole it from Jesus” Hilarious! Keep it up, Michael & Melinda!

  34. Lyn says:

    I agree 100% with you that Adam Lambert was a wonderful addition. His “re-audition” was fantastic. So much talent at the NY audition. I look forward to this year’s Idol. Here’s hoping for more Adam Lambert!!

  35. Gail Clark says:

    I loved Jax but everyone is saying she reinvented the song. No. That arrangement is straight up out of Across the Universe, where a young lesbian character is singing it to the straight best friend she loves. Poignant and subdued, it’s my favorite song in the whole movie. Jax didn’t reinvent this song, but she did a beautiful job on it and it was a great song choice for her.

  36. beth gowdey says:

    Hollywood Anderson is amazing…he is one of a kind…he has heart..he has soul…he has talent …and he can make it all the way…god brought him to this show for a reason!! May God bless him.

  37. Footman Williams says:

    He’s brilliant, I’m a little biased, but that’s to be. Incredibly talented and a fierce work ethic will keep himself busy. I have never known of him to be a half doer, if he’s in he’s ALL in, something Donny A. King taught him. Very proud, rightfully so. DFW