American Idol Final Auditions Recap: Once More, With Feeling

As Porky Pig so famously put it, “Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

OK, not really. For the Idoloonie Nation, we haven’t even gotten to the thrilling parts of American Idol‘s farewell season — the live shows, where the red plastic husk of the jokesters and the delusional are tossed aside, and we get to binge on the delicious goudas and bries and provolones who comprise the Top 12. (OK, sorry… that cheese metaphor went on a little too long, but it’s the inevitable result of snacking primarily on celery and carrots for the last two weeks.)

Nevertheless, if you got a little misty-eyed when Idol producers switched out the lights in the audition room and reminded us that we shall not pass this way again, you’re not alone.

Consider this: If you gasped with delight at Paris Bennett’s “Cowboy Take Me Away/Take Five” combo or got a lump in your throat during Didi Benami’s “Hey Jude” or still remember every detail of David Cook’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” then at some point in time, the Idol audition process has taken a little piece of your heart. So it’s only natural to feel a little wistful that the process is now consigned to the history books, along with Simon Cowell’s withering put-downs, Paula Abdul’s spacey bon mots and the cavalcade of fame-seekers dressed up like chickens, strippers, and even the Statue of Liberty.

To me, though, if Season 15 is going to hold any meaning, Idol needs to stay in the present — and focus on the business of crowning a winner worthy of being etched in bronze alongside Kelly, Carrie, ‘Tasia, Kris and their brethren. So let’s not rehash Idol history — OK, maybe just Briana Davis’ “Phantom of the Opera” —  and instead rank tonight’s 16 Golden Ticket recipients from least- to most-promising:

16. Brian Dale Brown, “Unchained Melody” | Dude’s overbaked growl was reminiscent of a drag-car revving up — and yet still managed a standing ovation from Keith Urban. I know Hollywood Week needs cannon fodder, but surely there were at least 100 singers with more natural talent who went through the cattle-call auditions, no?

15. Usen Isong, “Not the Only One” | I’m not sure what about Usen’s overwrought approach and frequent flat notes made Harry Connick Jr. declare him a Season 15 threat — but if this affable TV extra makes the live shows, the real threat will be to our collective eardrums.

14. Kacye Haynes, “Brother” | Handsome Alabama native who overcame teenage drug addiction was solid — but didn’t do anything that’ll have me remembering his audition a week from now.

13. Lillian Glanton, “Country Boyfriend” (original track) | If this were American Songwriter, I’d tab her as a Top 10 contender, but Harry’s “no” vote — and assessment that the 15-year-old’s voice simply wasn’t ready for primetime — was actually kinder than Keith and J.Lo’s tepid affirmations.

12. Jaci Butler, “It Will Rain” | She’s got big, brassy pipes, but the green-haired diva’s tendency to open her mouth to double-decker sandwich width created weird pronunciation issues and an intermittently strident sound.

11. Chynna Sherrod, “One Last Time” | Put a neat acoustic twist on Ariana Grande, but her laid-back style resulted in too many clipped phrases and wobbly notes for my taste.

10. Bianca Espinal, “Brave” | Momentarily forgot her lyrics during her montaged audition, but hit some pretty lofty notes once she got up and running. Buoyant personality won’t hurt, either.

9. Melany Huber, “Talking to the Moon” | Teenager who survived Stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma brought a sweet, delicate vibe to her Bruno Mars cover, but ultimately, I don’t think her voice is distinctive enough to go past Hollywood Week.

8. Zach Person, “Next-Door Neighbor Blues” | He’s got some tremendous skills as a blues guitarist, but I found Zach’s vocal tone to be a tad croaky and his grasp of pitch to be a tad inconsistent.

7. Rachel Karryn, “Why Haven’t I Heard From You” | Relegated to a three-person montage (not a good sign in Idol’s recent seasons, though it didn’t hurt Lee and Crystal in Season 9), Rachel showcased grit and real soul in her few seconds of screentime.

6. Stephany Negrete, “Who’s Lovin’ You” | Harry wasn’t wrong that the gorgeous San Diego native has enough talent to rival any contestant in the Season 15 mix, but J.Lo’s critique — that Stephany was so focused on executing an abundance of runs that she forgot her connection to the lyrics — wasn’t inaccurate, either. Stephany needs a quick reminder that it’s Season 15 — not Season 2 — and a tidal-wave approach to runs is no longer in fashion.

5. Caroline Byrne, “Unaware” | Another contestant reduced to a snippet — and it’s hard to fathom why. Caroline brought heartfelt intimacy and a buttery tone to her Allen Stone cover, but the lack of screentime means she’ll probably be one of those poorly explained “also going home” roll calls in Hollywood Week.

4. Colette Lush, “Who’s Lovin’ You” | This redheaded nanny’s intro set her up like a joke contestant, but her muscular instrument and pinpoint control — and her ability to resist sacrificing those skills on the altar of oversinging — make her a true threat, as long as she doesn’t overdo it with the quirkiness once she gets to Hollywood.

3. Avalon Young, “XO” | There was something about Avalon’s folksy vibe and loose vocals that took me back to the A.M. radio hits of my childhood. I heard one or two iffy notes in the 21-year-old tomboy’s Beyoncé cover, but her warm tone and meaningful phrasing trumped those tiny errors and made her one of my faves from the episode.

2. Manny Torres, “This Love” | The season’s — and series’ — final auditioner came on a little obnoxious with his “hot for J.Lo” declarations, but once he put a Latin twist on Maroon 5’s jam — and infused it with a gruff tone and an abundance of swagger — I held up my white flag and surrendered. I just hope Manny limits his future on-camera interviews to his love of music, and spares us his audition reel in an imaginary season of The Bachelorette starring Jenny From the Block.

1. Jessica Cabral, “Brand New Me” | Her warm, lush, Pink-esque vocals were as potent on the song’s delicate moments as they were when she was belting — and she proved she knows how to take her time with a lyric without ever verging on dirge-y. I’m with Harry: I’ll be shocked if this extraordinary talent doesn’t make it far in the competition.

On that note, I pass the mic to you! What did you think of Night 6 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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53 Comments
  1. marie says:

    Hmmm. No one really got to me tonight. How disappointing. But I’ve already picked my early favorite from a couple weeks back, Trent Harmon, and no one since had impressed me as much.

    • Lyn says:

      I haven’t been watching because I have the top 24 list and I don’t want to fall in love with someone and have them not make it. During commercials, I’ve switched over a few times and am amazed at how self deluded some of the contestants can be. WOW!

  2. Stacie says:

    It was sad to see the audition process end. I know many people only started watching Idol because of the auditions and Simon Cowell’s brutal honesty 15 years, and for all those crazy performances. So it was a nice touch that the last audition episode was amazing. There were at least 7 different singers, probably more that were great. Jessica Cabral, Melany Huber, Chynna Sherrod, Zach Person, Collette Nash, and Stephany Negrete. Just really great talent there. Great end to the auditions for sure.

  3. Sushi says:

    “Carry”?
    You typed this out too fast bro.

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

    My faves were JESSICA!!! 😍😍😍, Avalon, Chynna, Colette, Manny, and Zach!!! Now kinda sad that the auditions are over for good, but pumped up for Hollywood week

  5. Christian says:

    Going into Hollywood I already have my picks. La’porsha, Olivia, Trent, Dalton, Emily, Jenna, Mackenzie, and Tristan. Hoping all of them will survive Hollywood week.

  6. Ethan says:

    Wow really gonna miss watching these auditions! The producers have done a nice job with this season so far and I hope it continues into the live shows.

    • I agree, the Producers have done a nice job overall. So glad they got rid of Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe. Hope they do the same for So You Think You Can Dance. Would be nice to see SYTYCD refreshed.

  7. Stacie says:

    It was sad to see the audition process end. I know many only started watching Idol because of the auditions and Simon Cowell’s brutal honesty 15 years, and for all those crazy performances. So it was a nice touch that the last audition episode was amazing. There were at least 7 different singers, probably more that were great. Jessica Cabral, Melany Huber, Chynna Sherrod, Zach Person, Collette Nash, and Stephany Negrete. Just really great talent there. Great end to the auditions for sure.
    idolbethejudge.blogspot.com

  8. Jillette Razer says:

    Manny Torres is hot.

  9. Ginger Snap says:

    Already know who should be top 12. Just biding my time until we get through the next two weeks.
    Glad it’s the final season.

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

    Really looking forward to Hollywood week!!! Emily, Laporsha, Lindita, Trent, Jenna, Jessica, and Tristan are probably gonna dominate

  11. Sk says:

    Rachel Karryn was great! Even though they showed a small part she had a really soulful voice. Good luck Rachel!

  12. kevstar says:

    How in the world did they not let the blind guy through, and yet Unchained Melody guy gets 3 yeses? That’s some BS.

    • Angela says:

      Yeah, I did not get their letting that “Unchained Melody” guy through, either. His version of the song felt like nails on a chalkboard to me.

  13. Andrea says:

    I liked Chynna Sherrod and Kacye Haynes from tonight, and do not agree with their low placements on your list, but these are minor details… :)

  14. arizzle says:

    Jessica Cabral, top three. You heard it here first.

    • Puchinsmom says:

      That was not nice, Pinkissima. You are not supposed to post spoilers. Most of us want to watch this unfold. Please keep this stuff to yourself.

    • Timmah says:

      It wouldn’t surprise me. These judges (or whoever is pulling their strings) have proved time and again that they have no idea what they’re doing.

      • Pinkissima says:

        Exactly. The producers pull the judges’ strings. The judges just enjoy the exposure and the money it gives them. Especially Jennifer Lopez.

        Whomever wins this season is going to be treated as an afterthought.

        • Michael Slezak says:

          Pinkissima, I’ve deleted your spoiler-y comments from this thread. Please refrain from doing it again.

          • Puchinsmom says:

            Oh, Michael! Thank you for making the deletions. Really wish I hadn’t seen the posts. Break my loyal Idol loving heart. Glad they are gone.

          • Bonnie A. says:

            There’s one left near the top of the comments that really upset me. I read it before I realized what I was reading. I like the anticipation of who will be in the top 24

    • Florence+TheMachineRULEZ!!! #TeamMariah says:

      I hope so too cause out the of the voices that I heard throughout the competition, her voice was the most collected

  15. danin says:

    There were a good handful of good people.Zach Person,Melanie Huber,AvalonYoung,Manny Tires were some of my faces.

  16. Larc says:

    Maybe a few B+ performances tonight, but nothing any better, IMO. And several really poor singers got through, which I can’t understand. I know they need some fodder for Hollywood Week, but some who got Golden Tickets don’t even rank that high.

  17. Lois Benton says:

    Chynna Sherrod was great–one of the three best of the night, along with Jessica Cabral and Avalon Young. Several were good or very good, but nothing distinctive, such as Colette Lush and Stephany Negrete. Melany Huber was better than either of them; she’d probably be number 4 in my book. Maybe in this contest situation Chynna and Melany won’t be flexible or focused enough, young as they are. If the producers don’t railroad her, Chynna seems chill enough to get through it. Don’t diss Chynna!

  18. S. says:

    You just know they’re gonna let someone go in Hollywood Week at some point that’s gonna make us mad because there’s enough girls deserving to go far to cause some sort of heartbreak. The question is only which one(s)? It’s not like they got another year to come back and try it again. On one hand I can’t take the suspense. On the other, I don’t want it to wrap up just yet.

  19. Tahoe Mike says:

    Here we go again, one more time..
    ~
    A lot of good girls this year. Not so much with the guys. There were some guys who don’t suck, but nobody I’d remember if I didn’t see them again. There are going to be some rough cuts on the girls side.
    ~
    Just too early to comment on the singing, but there were a few personalities I liked. It took me fifteen years to learn my lesson, but I’m just not willing to get attached this early.

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      Oh, and was that a Candice Glover sighting in the waiting area talking to the blues guitar kid?

    • marie says:

      Au contraire, go ahead and get attached early! I used to feel like that, but in 2016, most contestants have already established a web presence, so you can watch their videos and follow their careers (if they’re lucky enough to maintain same) regardless of how far they do or don’t advance in the competition. I’ve enjoyed several of Trent Harmon’s beautiful YouTube performances (not to mention that his audition led me to discover the wonderful Allen Stone, but that’s another story – and actually, I think Trent’s voice is the better one). So don’t be afraid to get attached, because Idol is no longer the only platform for these young talents: more than likely you can find their work online.

    • Timmah says:

      The guys are terrible this season. Most of them have that same whiny, rambling voice accompanied by mediocre guitar playing. But that’s what won last season so what do I know.

  20. Maria says:

    I thought the most enjoyable part of the show was Harry’s birthday celebration with the little finger monkey.

  21. Mary says:

    Some good singers last night, but nobody got my attention, like wow. I might be in the minority but I wasn’t impress with the last singer Manny. I will say I felt a lump in my throat when they turned out the lights. As frustrating as this show can be, I will miss it. It has introduced me to many of singers that I follow to this day.

  22. Mmex says:

    My wish for this final season, and I’m putting it out there now so hopefully someone will pay attention, is that the performance shows only have songs that have never been performed on the show before. I don’t want to be comparing people to those-who-came-before. I don’t want Celine/Whitney/Aerosmith rehashes. There is too much song fatigue. Please, please, please make it all fresh!

  23. Kim R says:

    16. When you strip away all the theatrics he was putting into the song with his voice, he can definitely carry a tune. I hope he listens to the advice of the judges.
    6. I found the song was totally lost due to her singing like she was getting paid by the note. I may have said that to the television.
    1. A stunningly rich, full voice. No tricks required.

  24. LizzyB says:

    I can zip through a 2-hour AI in about 20 minutes, thanks to the DVR and the FF button. I have very sensitive hearing, so the majority of singers get the fast-forward treatment after about two notes. (I only watch this show as an inexplicable ghoulish pleasure.) For some bizarre reason, I stuck with Brian Dale Brown’s entire rendition of “Unchained Melody” and began to laugh till tears were welling up in my eyes. My jaw dropped when he received the Golden Piece of Card Stock–I mean–Golden Ticket. As I recall, Simon Cowell said “Unchained Melody” was his favorite song of all time, so I can’t imagine him letting this chump finish the song, let alone go to Hollywood. “Unchained Malady” was more like it.

  25. Kathy V. says:

    My early favorite is Jessica Cabral. What a gorgeous voice, tone and delivery. I’m keeping my eye on her.

  26. lorie says:

    I agree with the top 4 but I also really liked Melany Huber and Kacye Hanes. And I see a LOT of potential for Lillian Glanton.

  27. Bill Wright says:

    Jessica Cabral,Please! Are you kidding me!?? Unfreakingbelievable! Wow. That is the new American Idol folks,,,,The best new voice I have heard in a very long time. This girl is going straight to the top,without question.Whitney,Stevie,even some Karen Carpenter! Aretha,,, I haven’the been this blown from a singer,in a very long time,,wow,,loved it,,,

  28. Bdbrown says:

    Yeah, that “Unchained Melody” scooby doo guy was weird!

    *shifty eyes*

    Yeah… That was me…

  29. mark says:

    It felt to me as if Stephany Negrete was showing off her voice rather than enjoying the moment. Great voice tho and her strategy worked for her. That said I can look forward to future performances.

    Outstanding tone from Jessica Cabral who deserves Michael’s number one spot this week. So good on the ear. Can’t wait to hear what Melinda says about her in the upcoming video.

  30. HTGR says:

    Wow, JLo can actually hate on a ‘finger’ monkey??!? THERE is your proof.

  31. HTGR says:

    Jessica probably tops. Avalon.
    Caroline, Rachel, Chynna, Colette showed promise
    Brian seemed pretty rough and not nearly as good as a number of they have dumped off so far during auditions so I don’t really get it.
    .
    “that Stephany was so focused on executing an abundance of runs that she forgot her connection to the lyrics — wasn’t inaccurate, either. Stephany needs a quick reminder that it’s Season 15 — not Season 2 — and a tidal-wave approach to runs is no longer in fashion.”
    .
    But how can you say the quote above and be so mad over the contestant who sung 99.9% runs and 0.1% melody?

  32. jcabral11 says:

    I don’t think you know what the top 24 thing because that’s very false LOL

  33. tvlover44 says:

    i thought this was a spoiler-free zone! geez… keep it to yourself, will ya? some of us like to find out in real time…