American Idol Recap: Stop and 'Frisco

As the fathers of soon-to-be 4-year-old twins, my husband and I have a perpetual fascination with the “Stanford marshmallow experiment.” For the uninitiated, I’m talking about a psychological test from the late 1960s in which children were offered the choice of one fluffy, white confection or — if they were willing to sit unattended in a room with said snack for 15 minutes (and not devour it) — the reward of two tasty treats.

“Oh Em Gee, Slezak, but what does this have to do with American Idol?!” you ask.

See, I’ve got a theory. The producers of The House in Which Caleb Johnson Is Currently Squatting — too mean? too soon? sorry! — might be rewarding those of us willing to delay gratification when it comes to our reality singing competitions.

Too many times in the course of Season 14, our audition episodes have opened with some combination of weak/bleak/unfortunate freak, and saved musically satisfying hopefuls for later in the hour.

It’s a peculiar style of pacing — especially for a show whose ratings dominance isn’t what it used to be. But for those of you who weren’t licking marshmallow residue off your fingers during the first 10 minutes of this Wednesday’s installment — an interminable interlude focusing on a practiced-ly kooky teen — the reward turned out to be significant.

I know, I know… we’re not a bunch of toddlers whose impulse-control needs to be measured to determine future successes. I mean, shouldn’t we have all marshmallows all the time? But in the absence of logical explanations, this is my working theory. I’ll leave it for you to rehash and debate, and in the interim, rank tonight’s nine Golden Ticket recipients from least- to most-promising:

9. Katherine Skinner, “Shake It Out” | Aforementioned teen will be remembered more for her gold lycra pants, “pimp coat” and irksome insistence that her psychic cat told her to try out than her talent-show-level vocals. Why the judges were charmed by the sound of her thin vocals stretched across Florence +The Machine’s vast melody is as much a mystery as Idol grads Katelyn Epperly and Alexis Grace‘s new singles not cracking the Billboard Hot 100 already.

8.Erika David, “No One” | The white ceiling paint of this audition episode — perfectly serviceable but ultimately indistinguishable from so many that have come before it.

7. Andrew Bloom, “Too Close” | Handsome guitar-playing troubadour’s B/B- twist on a frequently covered audition jam got overshadowed by the presence of his pal, Olympic silver-medalist Ryan Bailey*. (*Also a Gold Medalist in hotness.)

6. Reno Anoa’i, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” | J.Lo’s critique was spot-on. Ukelele-strumming teen sounded authentic and haunting when he sang a straightforward melody — but he stubbed his toe, musically speaking, making wonky attempts at R&B-tyle runs.

5. Kellyeann Rodgers, “A Song for You” | Producers only gave us a snippet of this chick and her red Spandex pants, but she showcased great control and phrasing in limited airtime.

4. Chandler Leighton, “New York State of Mind” | If she cracks the Top 24, she might face a copyright infringement lawsuit from Leighton Meester, but this hat-wearin’ blonde’s restraint on an often overbaked ballad was really impressive.

3. Maddie Hudson, “Resentment” | I heard a few imperfections in this high-school student’s Beyoncé cover, but the cry in her voice — and her moody-but-not-melodramatic expressions — really sold the song in a way that not a lot of 16-year-olds can. Did the dramatic lipstick application help, I wonder?

2. Ryan Pinkston, “As” | Got montagedalong with Chandler and Erika, but as Harry noted, the dude’s pitch was “pinpoint perfect” — especially impressive considering he was nailing some tricky rhythms without a second of musical accompaniment.

1. Rayvon Owen, “Wide Awake” | Soulful 23-year-old with occasional Kris Allen-y side-mouth delivery performed a stupendous balancing act: His Katy Perry cover contained some of the breathy tendencies of modern R&B singers without ever losing power or purpose. Plus, he’s got a delectably silky tone and an instantaneous ability to get you swept up in the story he’s telling. OK, Rayvon, I’m wide awake. What are you gonna do next, sir?

On that note, let me pass the mic to you. Who were your faves from Night 1 of the Season 14 San Francisco auditions? Take our poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

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. Tonight brought more characters than great contestants…again. For me, Maddie Hudson was far and away the best part of the show. I liked Rayvon, Reno and Andrew but I think song choice will be key for their distinctive voices. I really enjoyed Chandler but we only saw a small sampling from her. Not the best episode, but at least there were a few solid contestants in the mix.

    • Tina says:

      Rayvon had the most beautiful tone and made me appreciate the song. Maddie was good as well but I hated the lipstick. Loved Harry racing the Olympian, but hated the telenovela segment.

      • Florence+TheMachineRULES!!! says:

        That telenovela was so unexpected. What was funny was when Harry slapped kieth right after the novela acting was over. Lol

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        The lipstick was awful and distracting, but based on the poll I think I need to go back and listen to Maddie again with my eyes shut.

  2. Gailer says:

    I saw one name on spoiler list , good!

  3. Betsy says:

    I don’t know anybody by their names yet. Need pictures. But a lot of good contenders for sure. The girl they said “she could win this thing” actually really could.

  4. Florence+TheMachineRULES!!! says:

    What would you all give this episode on a scale of 1 to 10? :)

  5. Lili says:

    Gosh, I had completely forgotten that Caleb won last year. Didn’t ever remember him. I really, really thought that the current winner was Candice. LOL I was rooting for Jena and Jessica. But it surprised me that I didn’t remember a thing about last year.

    Now I remember clearly when Mariah throw confetti on Candice.

    • Florence+TheMachineRULES!!! says:

      That was right after one the best or maybe THE BEST performance in American idol history!!! I think she is highly underated and I see more in her bright future. I can’t wait for the new EP she will release this upcoming summer!!! :)

    • Jan says:

      I’m smiling because I stopped and said (to myself), “Who’s Caleb?” It took a couple of seconds. [Am I the only one who would like to be adopted by Michael?]

  6. Jaszy says:

    Hey, they played Haley Reinhart as background music! Running, running, running…

  7. darcy's evil twin says:

    Well clearly I didn’t agree with the crowd! After last season I swore I would never want to hear the song “Too Close” again but I totally enjoyed Andrew Bloom. I also liked Kellyeanne Rogers’ “A Song for You”. Didn’t care for the guy with the ukelele at all, and my husband and I were looking at each other when they sent that last girl with the dreadful lipstick through going WTH????

  8. LeahKittyS says:

    Good news: I agree, Rayvon was by far the best of the night.
    Bad news: He was the only one I thought was worth paying attention to. The others I left on in the background while I played games on Facebook. (Although the telenovela scene was pretty funny).
    Unrelated note: I never knew you had kids. Did you ever mention them before?

    • Puchinsmom says:

      I didn’t either.(about the kids I mean). I also liked Rayvon. But I need to rewatch. I can’t even remember who Ryan was!

    • Hillchics says:

      I didn’t know you had kids, either! You never mentioned them and I’ve been reading you for a long time!!

    • girl_3 says:

      Hi Leah…Michael has mentioned being a foster parent in previous posts, so it looks like he is now adopting. Congratulations Michael and family!

      Agree as well on Rayvon. There were a few others I did like as well, but he was very captivating.

    • Dave in Alamitos Beach says:

      Rayvon was the first person I’ve seen all season who really seems to be able to sing, and by “sing” I mean to sustain notes and stay in tune. I am cautiously excited for him and for the show.

  9. Anthony says:

    First time I’ve watched American idol in a long time and it wasn’t a train wreck! I thought Reno did a great job…has some work to do but he’s got a great voice! Rayvon did amazing as well…I actually might keep watching again!

  10. danin says:

    Rayvon&Reno most unforgettable to me.Reno sang that gorgeous song which Rod Stewart covered.Danny Whitten who was part of Crazy Horse(the band who played quite often w/Neil Young) wrote&recorded the song decades ago.I loved Reno’s soulful use of the Uke for the song.And he got constructive feedback on his performance tonight.I did get chills for him,Rayvon(glorious organic voice)& one of the young women.

  11. puck says:

    Rayvon Owen’s, 8ball baby! Maddie was okay, her lipstick was not.

  12. Michelle R. says:

    Congrats, Michael Slezak!

  13. Tara d says:

    Was anyone else annoyed that instead of showing people get their golden tickets they had a montage of ticket holders not able to find the exit? Time well spent, idol!

    • Florence+TheMachineRules!!! says:

      Its not really fair for all contestants. ALL contestants deserve the right amount of TV time and stardom.

  14. RichieRich says:

    DVR…the only way I can watch it…and the whole episode only takes 10 minuets or less.

    • HTGR says:

      and it goes even faster when just hit delete on 70% of what you have built up on the DVR. I’ll delete less once it goes live, but probably won’t really watch until late in the game. No point to get attached when it’s reality TV and all that brings with it, plus it takes way too darn much time and these shows are burning out, even when it’s good, it’s getting hard to be more than meh at times.

  15. J says:

    Congratulations on becoming daddies! So awesome!

  16. sillyemmy says:

    Chandler needed to look into some sort of pants. I did not need to almost-see the undercrackers of a teenager.

  17. acrossthebay says:

    If AI is really going to one night a week for the live shows this year, does anybody know how/when they’re going to eliminate the contestants? Because of the voting, they cant do it the night of the performances, yet waiting til the following week seems awkward in a number of ways too. Guess we’ll find out.

    • Ginger Snap says:

      Think DWTS.

    • Timmah says:

      At this point, I just hope they have someone worth keeping.

    • Puchinsmom says:

      I won’t miss a long drawn out results show. BUT, I used to enjoy when they brought back Idol alumni/winners to perform on those shows. The last few years they had random performers instead of Idol grads. I missed seeing familiar faces.
      The ptb are missing out on so much talent and experience from past years. The resources are endless and being wasted. We all love it when they invite someone like Adam Lambert or David Cook. And how about MELINDA?? Hint hint…

  18. Jessamine says:

    Rayvon’s voice was stupendous. He sounded very untrained and didn’t seem to know exactly what he was doing, but I loved his tone. With some good mentoring, he could go all the way.

  19. Mel says:

    I wish they would have showed more of Chandler! I think she was the best of the lot. Only got a short snippet…too bad…

  20. Ginger Snap says:

    Comments disappearing into cyberspace again.

  21. joey says:

    I was surprised that Harry Connick couldn’t beat one of the world’s fastest humans in a 10 yard foot race.

  22. Kim R says:

    I thought for sure Michael would mention the guy that we only saw for a few seconds with crazy hair that looked EXACTLY like Dexter! :D That’s all.

  23. neaorlean says:

    I seem to be the only one that didn’t like Rayvon… He was OK till he started doing the same runs over and over again at the end, and it seemed he was trying way too hard. Runs are cool and impressive when they bring some sort of a change into what’s already happening, doing it once proves you can do it, doing it on every line is just wrong.

  24. Congrats on being fathers Mr. Slezak!!! Hope you and your family have many more fantastic years to come!!! :)

  25. Jill says:

    Regarding the comment about Chandler Leighton – “might face a copyright infringement lawsuit” – this would apply to EVERYONE that sang a song they did not write.
    AND “New York State of Mind” was written by BILLY JOEL. Never heard of Leighton Meester.

  26. HTGR says:

    Cool side note #2:

    That was cool to see Bailey. Dude is fast. PB 9.88 100m. Not. Too. Shabby. I was really fast, fastest in my town and got into the 10s but damn nothing like 9.88. Whew. And the thing is people just don’t have a CLUE how fast that is. Again, I was the fastest kid in my town and if I walked in a mall crowded with people, chances are I could beat any else there in a sprint and utterly dust most people and yet…. guys of the class of this dude Bailey. Man he’d just utterly erase me. I’d look like I was in molasses. So basically imagine the fastest kid you knew in high and how much he could totally dust most of you and then imagine someone so insanely fast that he could dust that fastest kid you ever knew in high school by that much again, if not likely more. They truly are out of this world.

    • HTGR says:

      Another side note: When they said he sure looks like an Olympic sprinter, he actually isn’t really typical. He is huge 6’4″. Other than for Usain Bolt at 6’5″ (before whom it used to be thought forget it at any sort of a height like that), most have been 6’2″ and under (although also usually at least 5’9″; there is a 5’5″ guy who goes crazy fast, but not fast enough to be in the Olympics).

  27. HTGR says:

    Cool side note #1:

    Haley’s “Hit The Ground Running” prominently featured around Andrew’s segment! Awesome song, one of her best!

    And Slezak, man, how do you not mention it!