American Idol Recap: Penultimate Fighting Championship

If I didn’t know better, I’d guess that Wednesday’s American Idol audition episode — the second-to-last in franchise history — was intended as a subtle advertisement for Second Chance (aka the show that Cookie Lyon will evict from Fox’s 9/8c timeslot at the end of March).

After all, the one-hour telecast featured plenty of auditioners hoping for one more swing at reality-singing glory. Season 14 Golden Ticket recipients Emily Brooke and Adam Lasher returned, as did The Voice grad Mackenzie Bourg. We even got the sister of last year’s unimonkered (and frequently ridiculous) Shi — codename “Poh” — picking up the mantle for her hastily eliminated (but gloriously tressed) sibling.

We also got an unwelcome return to the Land of Joke Auditions — including a particularly trite interlude with Clay Aiken attempting to channel Simon Cowell (emphasis on attempting) when confronted by a cartwheeling fame-seeker in a collapsing pleather dress. Honestly, if there weren’t enough solid-to-spectacular vocalists to fill the telecast, couldn’t producers have staged a concert featuring past standouts like Haley Reinhart, Adam Lambert, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and my Reality Check cohost Melinda Doolittle (just to name a few)?

OK, OK… we’re entering the Land of Great Ideas That Are Never Going to Happen Under the Current Idol Mgmt. So let me instead give a rundown of tonight’s Golden Ticket getters in order from least- to most-promising:

7. Joy Dove, “Jambalaya” | The judges praised this bubbly charmer for her “loud” singing — which, on its own, isn’t exactly a compliment, is it? I get not wanting to say no to her “put me in coach!” catchphrase, but Joy seems too much of a joy to be utilized as cannon fodder.

6. Adam Lasher, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” | Carlos Santana’s nephew gave Bob Dylan’s ballad a quirky, uptempo twist, but while I admired his big creative swing — and his major style upgrade from last year — his reworked melody bordered on unpleasant.

5. Miranda “Poh” Scott, “Fairytale” | I’ll admit, I cringed a little upon learning that “Poh” had learned nothing from big sis Shi’s failed attempt to quirkify herself with a pithy stage name. But despite that — and Shi’s backstage melodramatics — I didn’t mind Poh’s chronic-smoker tone or her loose delivery. Granted, there were notes and phrases that scraped against the guard rail, but the audition didn’t go off the cliff, either.

4. Mackenzie Bourg, medley of the judges’ hits | Mackenzie definitely has a little Kris Allen-esque geek-chic sparkle — and his mashup of judges’ hits hinted he might have some of the Season 8 champ’s creativity, too. I would’ve liked to hear stronger breath control and more oomph on Mackenzie’s extended notes, though, as I heard struggles with pitch and projection on more than one occasion.

3. Amelia Eisenhauer, “Many Rivers to Cross” | Fifteen-year-old fiddle player’s gruff tone was as haunting as it was unexpected — and I thought she delivered the lyric with a maturity beyond her tender years. Yet while Harry’s note about staying in tune wasn’t unwarranted, my bigger fear is that Amelia may be three or four years away from being able to match her voice with the performance skills that are so crucial in a televised singing competition.

2. Jenna Renae, “She Don’t Love You” | Jenna easily takes home the prize for the episode’s most deeply felt vocal performance — she painted such a vivid picture with Eric Paslay’s country ballad that I felt a little miffed when the judges stopped her for critique time. Of course, the lack of tragic backstory or other ridiculous selling point means she’ll probably disappear like a bag of Fritos at a Week One Atkins Diet convention, but let’s hold out hope, shall we?

1. Emily Brooke, “Careless” | I almost flip-flopped Emily and Jenna on my ranking — Jenna hit me harder, from an emotional standpoint — but Emily’s clear bright tone, excellent pitch and aura of confidence made me wonder if she might wind up going deeper into the season than her comparatively more retiring counterpart. Let’s get going to Hollywood Week, shall we!?

On that note, I pass the mic to you! What did you think of Night 5 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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44 Comments
  1. Christian says:

    I actually thought tonight’s episode was really good! Emily and Jenna were the standouts. I think all 7 contestants that made it through were better than 95% of the people that made it through from last week

  2. Dylan Amick says:

    I’m excited you have Amelia and Jenna at 2 and 3, they were my favorites tonight.

  3. Rob says:

    Well it’s good to see that Shi is just as annoying as she was last year.

    • S. says:

      What’s with the Scott sisters not going with their own names? Poh, please. Miranda Scott’s a fine name. I guess she’s gonna insist on Poh. She seems like more of an authentic singer than Shi and I actually like her, but she and her sister were just naming themselves in a ridiculous way. Pet nicknames are fine, but “Shi” should’ve been nipped in the bud as a professional one, it makes her look like a nut. I guess Poh’s not the worst thing. Maybe leave out the Teletubbies mention. There needs to be an insufferable name contest this year. James VIII wins so far unless he tweaks it and adds his last name, but still, the VIII is ridiculous. Unless one of the previous Jameses was famous, nobody cares.

  4. Florence+TheMachineRULEZ!!! #TeamMariah says:

    OMG!!! EMILY FREAKING BROOKE IS BACK!!! I AM PUMPED FOR THIS SEASON!!! 😍😍😍 LUVED HER SO MUCH!!! 😍😍😍 MY WINNER. Also REALLY liked Jenna, Amelia, Mackenzie, and Adam as well. Overall, the best episode this far!!!

  5. jbritt says:

    Mario, the blind contestant, was on The Glee Project. I think that makes 2 Glee Project contestants that have appeared on this show now. There was a trans contestant before, I think.

  6. danin says:

    No no no, Michael…1.)Jenna Rennae 2.)Mackenzie Bourg 3.)Joy Dove 4.)Emily Brooke 5.)Amelia Eisenhauer 6.)Adam Lasher-I think he’s a better guitar player than singer 7.) Poh

  7. Timmah says:

    They sure do like to drag this stuff out. Wake me up when they get to Hollywood.

  8. Michael H. says:

    Poh. #No.

  9. Linda says:

    I thought Mario Bunz was fantastic….I couldn’t believe he wasn’t given a gold ticket, he was the best singer on tonight…was it because he was blind?

    • Michelle Robbins says:

      Gotta wonder…he was as good as some who have made it through. Shame on the judges. I thought his name is Michael Bonds tho.

    • Mary says:

      Really, we must have different hearing skills. Was he better than some who made it through, probably but no way did he justify a ticket. Sorry for saying this but if they did put him through, being blind probably would have kept him on longer then he should be and being the last season I want good contestants.

      • Michelle Robbins says:

        You missed my point, maybe a lot of people who are just sitting back wanting to be entertained did too. Yes, I know that’s what TV is for, but these are real lives on AI.

        I want I want I want I want
        We that have tv’s, other “necessities”, etc., are so spoiled. We have eyes too.

        Doesn’t anyone have a little extra love, empathy, encouragement for others? Thought encouragement was part of this show (they say so anyway). Would have been nice to see these three people (judges) who so many fans “look up to” and immulate show some. After that, let the chips fall where they may, sorry but this was flat out cruel.

        “Was he better than some who made it through, probably” you say?! Have some heart! There was room for one more! Then let the chips fall as they may.

        • Cat says:

          Would have been nicer to let him get to Hollywood and then be sent home? I honestly don’t think the judges expected him to take it as hard as he did, based on his positive attitude. It’s so sad that he was that upset, but I didn’t think they were cruel.

  10. Texas Birdy says:

    Tonite’s winners were talented, no doubt. AI has been such an uplifting show–until tonite. Keith, Jennifer & Harry, one day you may each need what you could have so easily and fairly given to Mr. Bonds. Your lack of empathy (NOT pity) for an equally talented singer–as some you have put through previously-is so very sad. I realize you have a job to do. However, Mr. Bonds was as deserving a chance as several contestants who have made it through previously, if not more so due to his enthusiasm and attitude.
    Maybe he wouldn’t have made it much further, but as “leaders”, you could have shown a higher level of what it means to be so. You are front and center, a little love thrown in would be so hard? The world needs to see love and lots of people look to you.
    This is not meant to be disparaging, but Mr. Bonds showed more character than the three of you put together, and you all see with clear eyes. But then again, maybe you don’t.

    • Michelle robbins says:

      Amen! Especially Keith, thought soooo much more of him. This show always talks about being the encouraging source that shows people they can make it. I guess if the “judges” integrity level allows them to be encouraging.
      Have some heart! Besides, the guy has talent!

    • Mary says:

      Totally disagree with you, his singing did not warrant a ticket. I for one am glad they didn’t put him through. One thing I hated was how singers were put through because of their story, Laronzo, Scott McIntrye comes to mind and lasted way longer then they should have. I want TALENTED contestants for the top 24 being the last season and all.

      • Michelle says:

        Yeh, those other contestants were blind with good voices? There was room for one more…

        I was referring to quality, but my POINT was to the judges and their lack of empathy as they sit in their chairs of total success with the ability to not crush someone who just needed some love. Nothing wrong in ever showing that. if he had been a bad singer, then that would have been a different story. Again, there was room for one more, and room for love.

        • Mary says:

          Not everyone gets a trophy. Would it of made you feel better if they let him through to Hollywood then ditch him? You are totally missing what I was saying, no those other contestants like this guy should never have gotten a ticket.

  11. Loved seeing Taylor Hicks back on my TV screen again, if only for a few seconds.

  12. Lking says:

    I thought Clay came off as an uptight scolding PIA instead of just laughing at the girl whose underwear seemed the biggest attraction of her number. Come on it was kinda funny.

  13. darcy's evil twin says:

    For originality – Mackenzie Bourg. That medley was genius. It makes me wonder why no one ever thought of doing that before (maybe they did and I don’t remember).
    I guess I was more impressed with Joy Dove than Mr. Slezak (liked her song choice – that was different) and I didn’t care for “Poh” at all. While not as annoying as her sister she certainly wasn’t my favorite.
    I personally liked Jenna Renae better than Emily Brooke last night (probably had something to do with a maturity factor) but it was nice to see Emily so confident.

  14. Janie says:

    Everyone keeps saying the judges were horrible not to keep Mario Bonds. I don’t think so. Their critique was SPOT on! When i was listening to him, i kept thinking.. wow he has some really nice spots, but then some really bad spots.. When he was belting out a note, it sounded good.. but then when he tried to end that note with a mini run or whatever it was, it sounded horrible. I think thats why they did not put him through. I honestly think he would benefit from more training and then to go on the Voice

  15. ME says:

    Please NO POH. I could not stand Shi last year. Hope to not have to hear her sister this year. Unless there is just something that is not coming through on the TV, the voice is awful.

    • Puchinsmom says:

      I actually liked Poh’s voice. And believe me when I say that no one disliked Shi more than I did last year. Once she explained why she was Shi, (Oy! Sounds like an Abbott and Costello skit), just saying how she was so beautiful that nobody was allowed to say her name. And she absolutely could NOT sing.
      BUT! I thought Poh had a neat voice. And she seemed way more down to earth. And the name was cutsie, but just more of a little kid thing that stuck.
      But it looked to me that Shi’s waterworks were way over the top, and more about getting her share or attention than anything else.
      And Michael, loved the fritos at a diet convention thing. Made me lol.

    • HTGR says:

      Shi didn’t agree with me, but Poh has a chill vibe and I liked her voice.

  16. HTGR says:

    Emile was my favorite. I remember her from last season and was upset she was cut.
    .
    I liked Poh better than ranked her.