Harry Connick Jr. provides a gentle dance assist during the final auditions in Omaha

By Annie Barrett
Updated January 31, 2014 at 06:19 AM EST
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Biggest takeaway from tonight’s final night of auditions? The Hollywood Week previews look AMAZING. So deliciously trashy and intense. I love the new judging panel’s camaraderie, but auditionland has been pretty placid overall, and part of me really misses the drama!

Quaid Edwards, 21, sang way too many runs in “A Change Is Gonna Come” — but did you see his face? That is some face. The girls are gonna scream, concedes Harry, “but if you wanna be a singer who changes the game, you’re headed in the wrong direction.” Don’t worry, Quaid insists he has an amazing work ethic and is as green as they come. Okay, then. Welcome to Amazing American Work Ethic. Oh, and Quaid’s mom, Jolie Edwards, used to sing with Keith Urban with her band Jolie and the Wanted. Even cuter than their double reunion-hug?

“Your folks ROCK.”

Madisen Welker, who likes to eat brownies (I would have given the exact same answer), delivers what Keith aptly calls “the perfect karaoke rendition” of Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”. There’s nothing that makes it stand out, but, she’s also 15. Why is being 15 considered a plus all of a sudden?! Give the child a few years to grow if she’s not there yet. “We wanna see if any of what we said makes any sense to you in Hollywood,” J. Lo warns Madisen — so I guess that’s as good a reason as any to send her through. I suspect she may not know what she is supposed to take from their comments, though. All I heard was Harry raving that Idol is the only competition show that produces mega-stars and Keith telling Madisen he wasn’t wowed. Maybe she’ll wear a crazy hat.

Here’s a preview of Hollywood Week, on the house: “The heartbreak she’s gonna get there is gonna outweigh this moment of joy,” says Harry. Well, that’s part of it, too. She shouldn’t have worn that hat!

Alyssa Siebken tries an acoustic version of Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands,” and I think she’s mostly included here for a dash of different flavor. Cool girl, hearty personality — but gets the dreaded “I just don’t think your voice is strong enough” from Harry. No problem. Two yeses.

Tyler Gurwicz would like to “Set Fire to the Rain”… via ONLY HIS FACIAL EXPRESSIONS! “You just look angry when you sing,” Keith Urban worries. Harry has no idea where a male Adele specialist with a nose ring will fit into this competition. So could Tyler try one more song? No! He can’t think of any! I believe this moment was drawn out much more than it should have been; Tyler switches to Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” without a vocal hitch. He can carry a tune, but I’m just not feeling it.

Do you want to watch this every week?

NEXT PAGE: Candice Glover cover in the background! A goofy blonde kid can impersonate all the presidents except Gerald Ford. His vocal range is impressive, but I need to see more of his personality, and by that I mean Gerald Ford’s personality. Better luck next year.

And now for an immensely likable Big Personality about to explode with happiness out of some fierce electric blue pants: Omaha club promoter Tyler Marshall fearlessly makes his way through Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” My favorite moment is when he jerks his head dramatically to the side on “thinkin’ BOUT! the way things might’ve been.” We can’t see his feet, but I’m positive there’s an accompanying kick involved. “Your voice is killah,” says Keith. “You look like a great guy,” Harry approves. “You grew up in a church, yeah?” J. Lo states/wonders. That’s right, ma’am. “Yeah yeah yeah,” she mutters. She knows everything.

C.J. Jones (pictured, above) doesn’t let the daunting presence of an attention-hogging Harry Connick Jr., who can’t decide which dance style to transition into next, phase him during his gentle cover of “Stand By Me” — to be fair, he was begging for it with that song choice. The combination of a feminine voice and that low of a tone always intrigues me, and C.J.’s white blazer with black piping only nudges him higher in my book.

Quite literally, all I could do was cry during Paula Hunt‘s segment as the U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band singer soulfully covered Etta James with the *good* kind of runs and licks — they do exist, and oh boy do they ever. I just want to hear the whole song! As usual, Harry comes up with the right adjectives before I get the chance: Paula is tasteful, with such an elegance about her. The tears well up when Paula mentions her mom, who had to bow out of record contracts once multiple sclerosis took her voice away. I assume she’d passed away when Paula gushes to Harry that her mom was his biggest fan and that “she would have died twice” if she could see her hugging him right now. (I just love that expression, too.) But no — Yolanda, Paula’s mom, is right outside in a wheelchair. “I can’t sing anymore — my children sing for me,” Yolanda struggles to get out as Paula mouths the words for the camera. I am WEEPING. This entire family just screams Good People.

And hey, speaking of soul singers who know when to throw in a run — it’s the first acknowledgment of season 12 winner Candice Glover Idol‘s made in 2014. Her cover of “Lovesong” finishes off Paula’s heartwarming/aching segment.

DaJontae Lenear gets through on a jubilant rendition of “Nothing Can Change This Love” and I can’t decide which lights up the room more — his smile or his puzzling monochromatic salmon outfit. Major cutie. We hear a snippet of St. Louis shoe caddy Dylan Becker, too, on “Queen of California.” His incredibly soft yet lush guitar-playing draws me in; I’d like to hear more.

Andrina Brogden (the name comes from her Norwegian great-grandmother)’s nerves almost get the best of her, but Keith and Jennifer fight for her following her tentative cover of “Halo.” I can absolutely see the Fargo native fearlessly going for it in Hollywood, but I can just as easily picture nothing, as in we’ll never see her again. I hope she’s a Hollywood Week success story, though — if you’re gonna have a breakout moment, make it then!

It’s always so bizarre to me when Idol follows a Chosen Oddball home to get footage of him at work — in this case, as a square dance caller… even though they already know he can’t sing! Like, who is assigned to that? “Yeah, I go to American Idol rejects’ hometowns and film them ‘thriving’ in their natural habitats.” Eh, it could be worse. Some people never get to go anywhere.

Casey McQuillen, 21, reminds me of Snow White — the delighted “Ooh!” murmur she gives upon hearing the judges’ initial bursts of praise sounds like a sweet, hopeful, crystalline-voiced Disney princess realizing she’s not in danger and that everyone likes her just fine. Keith loves the restraint Casey shows on her cover of “Skyscraper.” And Harry finds a workaround for “I’m not sure yet that you’re very interesting” with these encouraging words: “If all you had was the voice, it would certainly be enough to get you through to Hollywood. I’m excited to see the other aspects of you as you go through.”

Basically everything Harry Connick Jr. says makes me want to put the same sort of positive yet realistic spin on my LIFE!

Vanellope Von Schweetz alert:

I’m so obsessed with Tessa Kate‘s dark orange and turquoise maxi dress, chunky angled bangs, kind ocean-colored eyes, and characterization of The Chamber as “an electric fence, the kind that holds the cows back, not just the little ones” that I don’t even care how she sounds — I already like her. The feeling’s unanimous before, during, and after Tessa’s cheerfully sly, high-pitched cover of “Folsom Prison Blues.” Tessa’s classic ’70s vibe makes Harry wanna run up and kiss the TV (the Mandrell Sisters, specifically) all over again. J. Lo attempts to explain her way out of a comparison between Tessa and the Chipmunks, to partial avail. And Keith half-worries that the other singers will crush her — but Harry and Keith agree, Tessa’s got a great hold on her own little plane. After all, “That’s her space!”

Oh, and she even had an evil twin with a darker guitar! They must have re-filmed her singing with the lighter one later to get the straight-on angle during the song. Weird.

Anyone stand out for you in Omaha? Does having absorbed all six Idol auditions episodes mean that in a way we, too, have “made it through to Hollywood”? Discuss!

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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