American Idol Auditions Recap: The Kids Are (Just) A'aight

“Let me feel your fifteen-ness!” cackled Jennifer Lopez, beckoning a fresh-faced American Idol hopeful — one not even eligible for a driver’s permit — to come a little closer during Thursday’s two-hour audition telecast.

Youth may be wasted on the young, but it’s apparently the lifeblood of the House That Jordin Sparks Bedazzled in this, its farewell season.

Several times over this week, we witnessed J.Lo, Harry and/or Keith crushing a youngster with the “you’re not really ready” speech — then turning around and giving ’em a Golden Ticket to Hollywood anyhow.

Yes, I realize that with Fox’s decision to pull the plug on its reality granddaddy at the end of this shortened season, there truly is no promise of “next year,” but you can’t pull a chocolate cake out of the oven after 20 minutes and expect it to support spatula after spatula of frosting. It’s going to collapse, dammit! Heck, even that cake in Donna Summer’s “MacArthur Park” met a terrible fate — and she took so long to bake it. So why are the Idol Powers That Be hell bent on pushing hopefuls who are still all gooey and unformed in the middle?

Sorry, this metaphor ran its course about 100 words ago — but I’m like three hours in to a low-carb diet and Betty Crocker’s already come a’knockin’. Maybe I should just run down the telecast’s 14 non-montaged Golden Ticket recipients in order from least- to most-promising? (I’m not including Kassy Levels or Rhea Raj’s montaged snippets — since we didn’t hear enough actual vocals to form a true opinion). (I’m also skipping extended reviews of each audition this week, since I’ve got a nagging chest infection and have to shoot Reality Check with Melinda Doolittle — see our season premiere below — tomorrow.)

14. Ethan Kuntz, “Stormy Monday”
13. Tywan “Tank” Jackson, “Superstar”
12. Andrew Nazarbekian, “To Make You Feel My Love”
11. Ashley Lilinoe, “Black Velvet”
10. Elvie Shane, “House of the Rising Sun”
9. Terrian, “Happy”
8. Jake Dillon, “Danny’s Song”
7. James VIII, “Sun Comes Up”
6. Jordyn Simone, “Who’s Lovin’ You”
5. Mary Williams, “Til I Can Make It on My Own”
4. Thomas Stringfellow, “Give Me Love”
3. Chris “CJ” Johnson, “Dreams Come True”
2. John Wayne Schulz, “The Dance”
1. Amber Lynn, “Unaware”

On that note, I pass the mic to you! What did you think of Night 4 of the American Idol Season 15 tryouts? Who were your faves? Sound off below!

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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68 Comments
  1. Ginger Snap says:

    My favorite tonight was John Wayne Schulz. Alas, his journey will be cut short again.

    Of the rest, I’m going with Thomas Stringfellow as my favorite. Everyone else is brings the Same Old Same Old to Idol.

  2. Christian says:

    I’m looking through these names and I can’t even remember 70% of the people.

    • JM says:

      I’ll admit it–me too.

    • jakis says:

      I can remember Stringfellow (many people with matching t-shirts, very polite) and John Wayne (lost to Scotty McC, lost his mom), because they had names that stuck with me. And I think James the 8th was the guy Harry told his guitar was jacked up, because that, too, is a weird name. But I don’t remember what anyone sang. I liked the beautiful girl J-Lo said no to… No clue on her name. And the Blue girl was terrible and kinda culty. I don’t know what percentage that is of these people.

  3. Holly says:

    Sadly, I can’t remember most of these. I do remember John Wayne Schulz from season 10, and I was disappointed at the time they passed on his more mature and sincere vocals for Scotty McCreary’s schtick. Oh well, such is showbiz. I hope John Wayne goes much further this year.

  4. Jon says:

    James the 8th is winning this. Basically no chance he doesn’t.

    • S. says:

      With that name, I can’t get over how pretentious he is. He needs to do something about it because that’s so ridiculous. It’s Shi (pronounced “She” aka Shaina-but-it-means-beautiful-and-she-doesn’t-want-you-to-call-her-that ugh) all over again. Besides which try googling it, you end up with monarchs a bunch. A terrible idea for social media reasons alone. It’d be like me calling my pop persona Queen Mary. Also, nobody cares that there were 7 others of your family with that name. People using that formally because it’s their legal name is one thing, but when you tell people who you are, you don’t say “VIII” out loud. They don’t care. Nobody but your family cares.

      • Temperance says:

        I care… but in a bad way. No one in your entire family line can name a child wth a decent or interesting/original name? Dudsville.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Not only that but someone doesn’t understand how this whole Name Game works. He’s not a member of the Royal Family. James Sr.’s son is James Jr.
      James Jr.’s son is James III.
      If James Sr.’s sister names her son after her brother he is James II. If he has a son he is also James Jr.
      *
      When James Sr. dies, James Jr. becomes James Sr. And so on. And so on.
      Unless eight generations of James VIII’s family are alive he’s doing it wrong.

      • Marcie says:

        Yes! But I’m guessing the producers told him to emphasize that for interest.

      • ME says:

        Actually you are wrong about that. It is IV, V. I’m married to a IV. We didn’t name our child the same because we didn’t want a V. So he is James the 8th. He’s not being pretentious it’s just his family. It’s not only the royal family that does that, SHESH.

  5. JM says:

    Couldn’t believe they almost didn’t put Jake through. Really liked him. Also Thomas.

  6. Sandy53336 says:

    Everyone YouTube James Dawson the 8th playing his original ‘leave me alone’. Incredible musician.

  7. 2Blessed says:

    The girl’s name is Terrian, not Jerrian!

    • Lizzie says:

      She wasn’t very good, and they shouldn’t have put her through because she gave a positive spin to what she wants the world to be. So we won’t have to know her name.

  8. Sheldon W. says:

    For shame, Michael! It’s Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park and Richard Harris was its first and best baker! (He also had the bigger hit with it…)

    • Michael Slezak says:

      But Donna baked it better!

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Slightly. That song kind of sucks no matter who sings it.

        • tvlover44 says:

          i beg to differ – in the late 90s, saw donna summer sing it live in london during a late night concert at a gay club, and it was brilliant! it cost like £15 for 8 songs but damn, that was one of the best concerts i ever attended (out of 100s). i went around singing ‘macarthur park’ (badly) all over london for days… that song, and donna, will always have a special place in my heart.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            No one can argue Donna’s vocals and presentation. But the song is ridiculous.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Humorist Dave Barry has a book about the worst songs of all time. “McArthur Park” is deservedly number one followed by my personal favorite “A Horse With No Name”.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            “Hot Stuff” has made it back to the top of the playlist on Sirius XM satellite’s 70s on 7. :-)

  9. Alan Dvorkis says:

    Thomas Stringfellow won the night by a mile.

  10. danin says:

    Michael Michael Michael!! Are you kidding me?? Elvis Shane needs to be way on top there w/Amber Lynn.And Ashley Lilinoe too.

  11. gettingandspending says:

    Just to be fair, MacArthur Park was first recorded and made a hit (#2) in 1968 by Richard Harris.

  12. Smokey says:

    From tonight, ———- Thomas Stringfellow — has the right type of voice and singing style to have a strong appeal in the current Pop market….. . At age 17, he is capable of catching an entry level in the biz where promoters/Labels are not reluctant to invest.

    That doesn’t mean he will go a long ways on Idol, maybe, maybe not — as the average age of the Idol voter is probably somewhere between 35 and 45…………

    But it does mean that there is a strong chance he will get an offer from a Label, if he leaves Idol before the the point where they give him / bind him to their contract, …………………

  13. Michael says:

    My Top 4 (in no particular order) are Mary Williams, Amber Lynn, John Wayne Schultz, and Ashley Lilinoe.

    The rest of tonight’s pack didn’t really excite me. I don’t quite understand the Thomas Stringfellow hype. He was alright and had a certain kind of sparkle, but I was driven up the wall by how many times he let his voice break. So often I just want to tell the singers to pull back a little bit–show some restraint…

    Anyway, overall I agree it was just an okay night, with only a few big standouts. All I know is I’ve still got LaPorshas rendition of Creep still running through my head.

  14. Trent says:

    Get better soon Michael!!

  15. Last night was sooo much better as a whole compared to Wednesday night’s crapfest. That said, I loved CJ, John Wayne Schultz and Thomas Stringfellow.

  16. Jane says:

    I don’t know if I can sit through an entire season of 15 year olds. Most of them were not ready. Some of them still had cracking voices! I guess American Idol wants to end on a youthful note. Kids that young don’t have the life experience to be a real artist and the best they can do us imitate someone they admire.

  17. Mary says:

    A couple were okay but no stand out for me. Usually at this stage I don’t get too invested because the majority won’t make it pass Hollywood. I really start paying attention when it is the top 24. I will say there seems to be quite a few young ones this year and maybe only a couple warrant a ticket.

  18. Tender Puppy! says:

    Is it a requirement that you Iist a femaIe at the #1 spot each week? :P I Ioved Amber though. But I’d say Thomas wowed me more. Even C.J., too, and I tried to resist. Jenn is the best from this entire week, however, imo.

    Not digging James’s FORCED efforts to sound bIack.

  19. darcy's evil twin says:

    I thought there were some good performances last night. I don’t remember John Wayne Shultz from Season 10 but I liked him. I just hope he has the opportunity to demonstrate a little more originality but I liked his voice.
    *
    I loved Mary Williams’ ‘Til I Can Make it on My Own and .disagreed with Keith’s comments. She was my favorite.
    *
    I loved Amber Lynn, Jordyn Simone, and that CJ guy.
    *
    No way, no how should that Ethan kid have been put through.

    • Lizzie says:

      If Keith doesn’t find her to be genuine, Mary Williams will not last long at all.

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        I think someone that trained a Fox Trotting Mule is probably genuine. Now, can she win? I’m not sure. I understood Keith’s comment but I still enjoyed her performance.

  20. darcy's evil twin says:

    I notice in reading comments a lot of people liked Thomas Stringfellow.
    He sounds like every other guy on the radio. And girl. His voice reminds me a little of that blonde chick from last year with one name.
    So he’ll probably win. :-)

    • Christian says:

      You mean Jax

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Yes, thank you. I could not remember her name!

        • Lizzie says:

          Likely because Jax wasn’t a particularly good singer, had a super-bad spoiled brat personality, and the record producer guy seemed to want to sleep with her, but other than that she didn’t have much to offer.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Well dang, if they’d mentioned the record producer guy wanting to sleep with her on the program it might have livened things up! :-)

          • Timmah says:

            Oh yeah, that creepo guy that someone apparently thought would be a good addition to the show. Hopefully he’s not been invited back this season.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Ah, THAT guy. thanks, Timmah. Now I know who we’re talking about.

  21. TD says:

    Is the season really a shortened one? I know it’s ending in April rather than May, but it also started earlier in January than it usually did.

  22. Andrew says:

    I’ve been a Kassy Levels fan for a few years now. It’s a shame she got montaged. Her first album was really good! I highly recommend giving it a listen if you have some free time.

  23. Karen says:

    I think rather than canceling the show, they should have run it every two years. This would have given these not quite ready hopefuls another chance and I think people who are burned out on the show, would be ready to watch it again by then. Some of these people are talented but really not ready and will not or should not make the show this year.

  24. Allie says:

    yikes. Not impressed with anyone enough to actually watch the season so far. If this doesn’t improve fast – and if they don’t start getting some adult talent – I’m out for good.

  25. Mandy says:

    Go Ethan! You may be young but you’ve got a voice that goes a long ways! I pray your dreams come true!!

  26. Lloyd says:

    One of the rare instances when J. Lo gave the only “No” vote.

  27. Temperance says:

    Low-carb diets don’t work, Michael. The science on that was reported last fall. Just eat well and get a bit more exercise.

  28. Betsy says:

    Yay! Reality check is back!!!!!

  29. das.bananas says:

    John Wayne is a great musician, his butt alone could win the conpetition. My favorite tonight was the auctioneer.

  30. don’t know why she would lie but does anyone else believe that Jordyn Simone
    is older than 15?

  31. Ugh says:

    Honestly, Stringfellow is too affected. Having a weird affectation doesn’t count as “artistry.” Don’t sing with a British/foreign accent just bc you think it makes you “unique” and “quirky.” This is the last season of Idol,, for goodness sakes! Let’s get some ACTUAL talent. If you want a young, pretty WGWG with actual musical/vocal substance, you have Dalton Rapattoni (and now Mackenzie Bourg).- both of whom did interesting musical rearrangements that worked (and can both sing without insane affectations). Stringfellow making a MISTAKE and singing in 6 (as Harry pointed out) isn’t musical/artistic/creative. Other than his mistake/weird hiccupy accent, he sang the whole song straight and was deemed “artistic” by the judges. Imagine if he weren’t good looking. You could also hear the weakness in his voice throughout much of the song; it was cringeworthy. If you want just a pretty WGWG you have plenty to choose from this season.

  32. HTGR says:

    Man how did they not put the auctioneer girl through??? She was so much better than so many they have put through. Yeah one pitch bit, but come on, her tone actually didn’t sound strident with the Idol mix, absurd.

    So much better than so many they put through.
    In many ways she was one of my favs of the night. They put too much weight on the wrong things.

  33. HTGR says:

    Jordyn is 15????????? I know lots of 15 year olds look older today but she doesn’t look 18, 21, she looks 28-35! easily.
    Maybe she was over the limit and rather than pretending to just sneak under they figured, go crazy with it and way undershoot.

  34. HTGR says:

    Yeah I’ll go with Amber as the best tonight, BUT I kinda feel like the may have montaged the best! Hard to say but Levels sounded pretty good and Rhea too.