American Idol Recap: Some Wails in Two Cities

rachel hale american idol auditionAmerican Idol doesn’t get everything right all the time, but let’s give the lumbering old beast a round of applause — or as J.Lo likes to call it, a standing ovation — for trimming back the Season 12 auditions to a succinct, three-week affair.

If I’m being completely honest, the sometimes uninspiring Golden Ticket recipients from tonight’s two-city, two-hour extravaganza had me wondering if maybe Nigel Lythgoe & Co. should’ve considered additional cuts. But ultimately, the episode was not without its charms: “The great Randy Jackson” ridiculing Shubha Vedula’s name in front of a national TV audience (how dare she not change it to something Dawg-friendly like Mary Smith…I kid, I kid…Mary has two syllables!); skipper Mariah Carey’s breasts frantically scrambling from her dress (negligee?) in search of one of the Queen Mary’s life boats (srsly, girlfriend gives The Voice‘s Christina Aguilera a run for her cleavage); and Keith Urban nailing understated punch line after punch line after punch line. (Dude is giving The Voice‘s Blake Shelton a run for his funny!)

Anyhow, the good news — in all seriousness — is that we got extended footage of 15 more Golden Ticket recipients tonight from San Antonio, TX and Long Beach, CA. The bad news, of course, is that most of them will go the way of a Corey Clark interview segment — which is to say embarrassingly and with little or no interest from the general public — by the time they get to Hollywood Week. With that in mind, I’m gonna weigh in on the episode’s advancing vocalists in a Twitter-esque 140 characters (or close to it):

Vincent Powell, “Rock Me Baby” | Don’t recall him from S11, but love his fine croakey tone & deep well of soul. Plus he made fun of Randy’s sipping-while-judging idiocy. #WIN

Savannah Votion, “At Last” | Docked 2 pts for illegal use of sequined tube top, but displayed patience, timing & nuance on “At Last.” (That breath before “my lonely days”…j’adore!)

Cristabel Clack, “If I Ain’t Got You” | Can’t lie: “IIAGY” has been rendered meaningless for me by too many reality competition covers. Still, Cristabel’s voice is strong and informed by experience.

Ann Difani, “Stronger” | Seems sweet, but tone is as common as hashtags on Twitter. Plus: Hubby’s excitement upon meeting Randy Jackson oddly depressing.

Victoria Acosta, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”/a snippet of Mariachi | San Antonio beauty hit more rough patches than a Kardashian marriage on her Fergie cover. Spanish-language number was better, but still not Hollywood-worthy.

Papa Peachez, an original track called “Gypsy on the Rise” | Peachez writing his own audition song is like me trying to change a tire: Messy, unprepared and ultimately going nowhere. Sorry, Nicki, not sure his voice was better than average, either.

Sanni M’mairura, “Who’s Lovin’ You” | Cute kid, but too much gesturing, too many embellishments and a final run that stumbled like a coed running for her life in the woods in a horror film.

Adam Sanders, “I’d Rather Go Blind” | I expected Uncle Nigel was setting up this weepy Mariah addict as a joke, but surprisingly, Adam hit most of his notes — even if his phrasing was rushed and the whole enterprise eventually imploded into a pile of discarded shrieks. Not for my Coca-Cola cup, Idoloonie Nation, but the judges will apparently have what he’s having.

Shubha Vedula, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” | Definitely channeled Xtina: The Early Years (Mariah: “What’s an Xtina?”) with massive vocal horsepower, a dash of sweetness, and no assless chaps. Liked that she brought a little finger-snapping rhythm to the proceedings as well.

Matt Farmer, “A Change Is Gonna Come” | Recovered from a traumatic brain injury he got while serving in Iraq, has a ridiculously adorable daughter, and possesses rugged good looks that caught Keith’s attention. Alas, though, Matt doesn’t have enough vocal control to maximize his natural gravel-y tone. Four “yes” votes from the judges represent a triumph of backstory over talent.

Jesaiah Baer, “Settle Down” | Her jazzy phrasing and stellar scatting on Kimbra’s “Slow Down” were well beyond her 16 years, but so was her composure in the face of a fire alarm that interrupted her audition. These kids nowadays!

Micah Johnson, “Chicken Fried” | Shocking how nerve damage from a tonsillectomy left him with a lisp that disappears when he sings. (No, Randy, that’s not called a “fake out,” it’s an unfortunate medical condition, you asshat!) As Mariah noted, Micah’s lively delivery and sweet tone would’ve been stirring without any backstory.

Rachel Hale, “People Get Ready” | Rachel appears to be one of those rare singers whose voice can transition from the delicacy of a kitten’s cough to the roar of a lioness standing over a fallen wildebeest. In what was certainly the episode’s best audition, this fast-talking Arkansas cutie took her sweet time with a classic melody and made me feel like I was hearing it for the first time. This is what Idol‘s all about (for me, for you).

Briana Oakley, “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” | Brought an otherworldly maturity to a Patty Griffin song that always reminds me of Crystal Bowersox’s awesome Season 9 performance finale. Maybe that’s a result of the bullying she suffered after appearing on a Maury Povich talent-search episode back in 2009. That said, is it wrong that I felt like Briana could use another year or two to grow into that big ole voice and find the ability to fully live inside a song rather than simply rent it out for big occasions?

Matheus Fernandes, “A Change Is Gonna Come” | Urgh, I remember this fella from Season 1 of The Glee Project — and not too fondly, I might add. But it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new reality show…so I’ll try to judge him on Idol evidence alone (and also not by the hideous argyle sweater/plaid shorts/neon-trimmed sneakers he erroneously mistook for acceptable audition attire). Matheus sounded solid — better than he ever did on TGP, I might add — but I’m not sure he dazzled in the way you need to dazzle when you’re beating a horse that stopped twitching somewhere around Season 9. Which is my roundabout way of saying: Please, no more “A Change Is Gonna Come” on Idol. (In fact, I’ve got 20 other suggestions for banned songs you can read about by clicking here.)

And with that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of Night 5 of the American Idol Season 12 auditions? Was it weird not having Mariah and Nicki there part of the time? How funny is Keith? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? Take our poll below, sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!


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