Welcome back you crazy kids — it’s the second night of the final Idol premiere ever. You can’t cry, though, because there are too many opportunities as we recap all these emotional bombshells that Ryan Seacrest & Co. dropped on us tonight. We open up with that old American Idol sound — the one that kind of sounds like you’re saying “wow wow wow” while holding your nose. But as the title splits, there’s a super attractive Josh Turner look-alike, and wait… yes, it is. This is our new, super-dramatic, diverse, and inspirational opening! What a time to be alive. And where are we alive? Little Rock.
Kris Allen is joining us to help judge the contestants. It makes sense because Kris Allen is a Little Rock local, and it’s way more exciting than it sounds at face value. The city is bluesy and wholesome, but also edgy as evidenced by the girl purposefully wearing tights with runs in them.
First up tonight is Cameron Richard, 15. He’s a little nugget with a Justin Beiber haircut circa 2011. I’m obsessed with him. He has braces, but he’s definitely going to be popular in college as long as he stops saying “homeboy.” Like Harry, he’s from Louisiana, so they hit it off. He tells the judges that he was born with a cleft palate — count it, y’all: inspirational roadblock, fun accent, sweet haircut. If he can sing, he’s a four for four in my book. He chooses “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran.
If I’m shooting you straight, he’s definitely not going to win. If I’m speaking from my heart, I’d buy every single he released during the course of the show because I need him to win. Harry says that he looks like a young Paul McCartney. That’s a little strong, but whatever. He gets all three yeses, and just like that, I’m crying Diet Coke tears.
Daniel Farmer, 24, is from Memphis. He came to audition and seduce Jennifer Lopez, apparently. He talks about looking deep into her eyes and grinding. There’s people who you’re in on the joke with and then there’s people you aren’t, and his approach just feels uncomfortable. He chooses D’Angelo’s “(Untitled) How Does It Feel.” The struggle is: He’s stupid good.
He does grind, and his social cues are a bit unique, but that voice is just out of this world. And guess what? Jennifer leans over and says, “Funny and sexy go together.” Y’all. Daniel did what he came to do. He gets three yeses and the most important one of all: J. Lo’s approval.
Dalton Rapattoni, 19, shows up as the modern day reincarnation of Billie Joe Armstrong. He has a strong personality and a fun guitar and chooses “The Phantom of the Opera,” which is way out of left field. But as he begins, it all starts to make sense The performance feels a little Moulin Rouge!, and that’s nothing but a compliment. Mark my words: Dalton Rapattoni will get super close to the top 24, if not in it.
NEXT: The biggest breasts in Arkansas
After the commercial break, we flash back to some winner auditions and then some current contestants who auditioned and failed. I don’t know why, but I get crazy nervous for all these guys because this really is it. Each hopeful talks about it being their final chance, and I’m like, “But college is there, too!” Ryan Seacrest, being heartless, launches into a monologue about being told no and going home, and then we see a whole bunch of kids getting their dreams shattered. I’m devastated. I need to be put back together. Fortunately, there’s nothing like a contestant with a baby to bring me back to my good place.
La’Porsha Renae (and her baby) from Mississippi waltzes into my life, and I’m healed. I know I just gave Dalton the seal of approval, but La’Porsha is in the top 12. She just is. She got out of an abusive relationship, and now she’s auditioning, passing her baby off to Jennifer Lopez while she sings “Creep” by Radiohead. She begins, and every note is perfection — I throw my drink against the wall because I don’t need it. La’Porsha has quenched all my needs. Her runs are purposeful and calculated, and for the first time this season, we have a Carrie audition. A Fantasia audition. An audition that is undeniably worth remembering. She glides straight to Hollywood.
Side note: Kris Allen breaks into a bathroom with a camera (pretty sure that’s not legal) and has a moment with a guy singing Sam Smith. I haven’t felt so conflicted about a moment on Idol since Sanjaya’s mohawk.
Post-bathroom break, we meet Maddie McAllister, 15. Maddie is apparently your typical country girl. She brings a literal chicken into the audition room with her. Fact: A chicken flogged me when I was a child, so I’m immediately checked out of this performance for personal reasons.
According to Maddie, her chickens have the biggest breasts in Arkansas. She is too young for producers to let that joke fly. Anyway, she sings “Cowboy Casanova” by Carrie Underwood. Her voice is good, but not great, and it hurts her when her final big note goes off key. Maddie doesn’t get the approval, but at least she has prize-winning chickens, right?
Yesterday in Denver, everyone lived off the grid, but apparently in Arkansas, everyone lives on a farm. And instead of Laverne & Shirley, we get a Green Acres sing-along. But among all the posers, Trent Harmon is the farm boy you didn’t know you needed. His family owns a farm-to-table restaurant that doesn’t identify as such because they’re not pretentious. They just literally have a restaurant on their farm.
Trent calls Keith “Mr. Keith,” which is the sure sign of a Southern boy. He chooses Allen Stone’s “Unaware.” In a crazy twist, he sounds NOTHING like a country singer. He’s also absurdly talented and has vocal control that rarely graces the Idol audition room. Afterward, with a thick twang, he asks, “Was it ok?” Harry calls it his favorite audition of the season, and the real farm boy is going to Hollywood.
NEXT: A little past Little Rock
Little Rock gave us some intense contenders, but that’s enough there: It’s time for San Francisco. Before we start, we finally get answers about that audition process: it’s a three-step endeavor that takes place in stages. And if you’re lucky, you make it to that main judging room. And on that journey, no one has apologized more than Brook.
Brook Sample, 28, introduces herself and apologizes for being awkward. She proceeds to tell the judges she’s a waitress and apologizes again before telling them that she goes home smelling like ranch pretty much every night. She chooses the Dixie Chicks’ “Cold Day in July.” Her voice is understated, but for me, it’s a few too many notes off for a pass. She forgets the words, wraps the song up, and then apologizes for the performance. Ladies, we gotta stop apologizing, am I right? She gets a golden ticket, and no joke — I have no idea how. Forgetting your lyrics used to be a capital offense, but now it’s hardly a misdemeanor. Simon would have never let this slide, and Natalie Maines? Natalie Maines would not have been ready to make nice after that. SEE WHAT I DID?
Olivia Rox has pink streaks in her hair because Olivia rocks. Okay, I’m so sorry; I’m done. Olivia Rox, who can only be addressed by her full name, is the 16-year-old daughter of two rock stars in their own right. She chooses “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. She hits the piano with an even slower, jazzier version. Olivia Rox is the classic example of a girl who knows a lot about music but not much about herself. If she stops trying to be what the judges want her to be, she could be a contender. If she doesn’t, she’s out by the end of Hollywood week. Olivia Rox is off to Hollywood…for now.
Also, she compliments Jennifer’s “sparkles,” and she says she didn’t know where they came from. Harry responds: “my dressing room.” Oh Harry, you’re so naughty!
But following Olivia, we see a string of girls who dominate the judging room.
Ameet Kanon and Kayla McKinnen provide strong showings, but it’s Melanie Tierce who takes the spotlight with Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” She doesn’t sound like Andra at all, which is usually an insult, but Melanie’s indie vibe and powerhouse voice stands out on its own. Keith literally cries. Jennifer finally says, “GOOSIES!” Harry just leaves. There’s no discussion whether she gets the golden ticket because she locked it down without question.
Malie Delgado, a former Miss Alaska (!!) rolls up next. She takes on Gretchen Wilson’s (when was the last time you heard from Gretchen anyway?) “Chariot.” Her voice is raspy and raw and wonderful, and then she starts rapping. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it, and somehow it never gets discussed. Harry tells her that she’s a beautiful shade of blue, specifically aquamarine, but all the other girls are blue, too. And she needs to be, um, a brighter blue? Regardless, she’s through with the other 49 shades of blue.
NEXT: Bring your parents to audition day
When we return from commercial, Ryan switches out with Harry and becomes a judge for a minute because even Ryan has ~dreams~. Harry steps in the contestant’s booth and coaches Brandyn Burnette on what to do during his audition. He singing an original song called “Lost.” The strength of an original song is that no one knows it. The pitfall of an original song is that no one knows it. But with Brandyn, it’s ultimately a positive because it’s a beautiful song with a relatively strong vocal. Harry sneaks up behind him and places his head on Brandyn’s shoulder and goes in for an embrace. It’s what dreams are made of. With Ryan’s first (and last) official judging vote, he votes yes with the other judges, and Brandyn advances.
This season at the auditions, there’s an American Idol wall of fame. It’s a fun way to remind yourself that you’re old, especially when these children walk up, point at Kelly Clarkson, and say, “I was two when this happened!” Kyrsti Jewel is one of those girls, and she is super pumped when Lee DeWyze comes to hang out with her for a minute. Somehow, her entire family manages to get into the audition room. Her parents are way too chatty, but it’s only because they just want Kyrsti to shine. She chooses “Mama Knows Best” by Jessie J. It’s very screamy, but Jessie J is kind of screamy, too, so it works. The whole family is promoted to Hollywood status.
Be warned, though: San Francisco is a dangerous place. As the night goes on, the contestants start to get a little arrogant, and it hits a peak with Sarah Hayes, 26. When asked what she’ll sing, she just kind of stammers and eventually says that she singing “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler. But then she just launches into how she respects her body as a temple because of Jennifer Lopez. Then she tells Keith Urban all about the country music attitude that she accuses him of not knowing about. And then? She forgets the lyrics to her song. She sings a couple lines and then stops to apologize. It doesn’t shake out as well for Sarah as it did for Brook. She’s cut off and sent packing
As the night draws to a close, we head back to Little Rock and get a nice mom-and-dad montage, but not everyone’s parents could be there. That leads us to Tristan McIntosh from Nashville, Tenn. Tristan’s mom couldn’t be at her audition because she’s serving in the military overseas. She was about to retire but, as Tristan puts it, was called to serve one more time. She chooses “Why Baby Why” by Mickey Guyton. At just 15, her voice is robust and strong, and even with a couple blunders, she sails through the song effortlessly.
Jennifer tells her that she is bursting because she sees something special in her, and the whole team gives her a big yes for Hollywood. It’s the second most exciting thing that happened to Tristan that day because Harry reads her a message from her mom. But that reading is unnecessary because Tristan’s mom isn’t overseas. She’s at Tristan’s audition. A Carrie Underwood song plays, but I can barely hear it because America’s collective cries are drowning it out.
Fortunately, we have a week to let those tears dry. And once they do, we’ll head to Philadelphia for a bite of cheesesteak and a side of talent. Hold the onions and crazy costumes.