Honestly, American Idol, stop playing with my heart. This is episode three, and we have yet another specialized opening. Does anything stay the same? When this show started, kids, iPods were bigger than a shoebox. Ryan Seacrest was 4-years-old. And we had the decency to choose one opening and run with it. But shows change, and people always leave. Everyone except for Idol favorite and politician, Clay Aiken, that is. Clay is joining the judges in Philadelphia for judging, and he’s just as quirky and lovable as he was in season 2. I’m still sorry (2004) that you lost, champ. But we’re in Philly and it’s time to start.
Gianna Isabella, 15, shows up first to audition, and her mom is Brenda K. Starr, who recorded some songs in the ’80s/really revolutionized what a leather skirt can do for the right figure. Her daughter chooses “House of the Rising Sun,” which causes me to choke on my frozen pizza because this is hollowed Idol ground. Remember Haley Reinhart? Of course you do because she made that song a 21st century Idol crown jewel. Anyway, Gianna nails the song, save a sharp note or two, but I don’t mind because her voice is just magical. J. Lo and Brenda K. Starr have a reunion in the judging room and reminisce about their time in the Bronx (DA BRONX!). She goes through, and her mom cries, and I cry, and Demi Lovato plays in the background, and I’ve never had such an intimate moment with frozen pizza. I hope you guys had frozen pizza, too.
After the commercial break, Brenda K. Starr and I have calmed down, and we’re back with Clay Aiken, who is hanging out with contestants and giving them Clay Aiken trivia. Derek Huffman, 21, waltzes into the judging room in jorts with a boombox. He works at a Dollar Store, and I want him to be good because those jorts are rich, man. Alas, he’s not, but I bet he pulls some serious game at the Dollar Store. Anyway, the judges think he’s fun, but he gets three thumbs down. He walks out with his shirt on his head, and I don’t feel bad because he has abs, and again… I have frozen pizza.
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
But then Isaac Cole, 15, rolls up as Philly’s resident country boy. He four-wheels and loves Keith Urban, which is super convenient because he’s a judge here! He says he’s going to do a song a cappella with a guitar, which is not a cappella, but he’s only 15, so we have to pick our battles. He sings just like a country singer, which depending on your opinion of today’s country music, could be positive or problematic. My opinion is more of the latter. Harry and I agree that his twang just isn’t genuine, but he says he’s a fast learner, and I melt a little bit. He goes through to Hollywood.
We flash back to Jennifer’s first season, and she hated crushing people’s dreams, but now it seems like she’s super chill with it. She’s seasoned at this point, draped in at least two different shades of blue tonight. Honestly, Jennifer is next level. Guess who else is next level? Sara Sturm, 17, who is a tiny little muffin from Virginia. She works at a breakfast restaurant and chooses “Lips Are Movin.” No offense to Meghan Trainor, but Sara is way more endearing and sings it just as well. The judges like her, but they don’t love her. She moves forward.
NEXT: A janitor as fierce as the wind
Next on the docket is Ellis Banks, 25, who seemed way promising based on his opening package, but then he walks into the audition room and the focus is on, well, another package. He’s in bedazzled spandex and a headdress that looks like a hybrid of the headdress Whitney Houston wore in The Bodyguard and a mop, which works because he’s a fabulous janitor. He sings “Born This Way” and brings the judges sparkly headscarves, and then he goes home because he got not a single yes. Not to be melodramatic, but it truly is an American tragedy.
After Ellis is poor Jenn Blosil, 23, who might be on some serious cold medicine. She’s from Brooklyn and chooses “Radioactive.” She’s way flighty and kind of weird, but she handily has one of the most distinct voices that we’ve seen thus far. It’s raspy and folksy, and if anyone in Philadelphia deserves to go through, it’s Jenn. She gets three quick yeses, and she saunters up to the judges’ table, collects her ticket, presumably takes another shot of Robitussin, and disappears back into the City of Brotherly Love. If Jenn can find her plane, she’ll go to Hollywood. Or maybe Fiji. It’s honestly a toss-up.
We have a quick Idol review of the contestants who have inappropriately hit on the judges or Ryan or honestly just any living, breathing human. And that’s how we move into Harrison Cohen’s audition. He’s brought his grandpa who is bullseyeing all the ladies for Harrison, who is a self-proclaimed ladies’ man. He has his eyes set on Jennifer, which is unfortunate because Harrison (who is 17) is extremely illegal. His downfall is that he has aggressive eyes and a Jay-Pharoah-playing-Ben-Carson posture, but his voice is just incredible, and that’s what we’re here for. He gets three yeses and croons his way to Hollywood.
The final contestant of the night is John Arthur Greene, 27, who has relied on music his entire life. He lost his brother when he was 8 — they used to play cops and robbers and had guns in the house growing up. One night, they were playing, and one of the guns was loaded, and John pulled the trigger and watched his brother die in his arms. So he’s here for Idol. I don’t know who’s here for me because I wasn’t prepared for Idol to take such a dark turn. He chooses “Somebody Like You” by our very own Keith Urban. Post-performance, we learn that he’s currently on Matlilda on Broadway. Kind of makes me wonder why we didn’t lead with that story. He gets two yeses, and the guy goes to Hollywood.
And with that super somber tone, we’re done with Philadelphia. Going be honest with y’all — wasn’t my favorite. What do you think? Am I just unusually hard on Philly, or is there an Idol to be had here? The auditions pick up again tomorrow, so why don’t you pack your headdress and meet me there?