The auditions head to New Orleans, so Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler take their shirts off
American Idol Recap
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Deep down in the celebrated music town of New Orleans, 6,500 young creatures gathered on the banks of the Mississippi. Not all of them could sing, but if each one hummed, even slightly, something resembling a song could waft up from the river, an oily beacon of hope. Instead, the hideous vocal box attached to a single lost soul croaked out the final few lyrics of Nat King Cole’s “Smile,” then promptly burst into tears. Just another day at the American Idol auditions, where dreams go to die.

Mardi Gras! Masks! J. Lo’s got a fresh weave! It was party time in the excellent South, and a very promising batch of singers emerged from the murk. So who got a golden ticket? Who got a golden chance to make my day?

First, there was Jordan Dorsey, 21, a piano and vocal teacher who comes fully endorsed by an adorable 6-year-old. My oh my is he a tall drink of chocolate milk. I’m thirsty. Is anyone thirsty? J. Lo was. A few lines into “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Jordan decided to “change it up” and began snapping it out. If I had time and artistic talent, I’d draw a chart mapping the progression of J. Lo’s goosebumps against Jordan’s playful melodic twists. Surely the biggest outbreak would hit at “That’s where you’ll find me,” but Jordan’s verbal stylings, like “loll-ibye” and “where trouble smelt like lemon drops” were so endearing (problematic?) that J. Lo’s G. Bumps could have spiked there as well. This kid can really jump, by the way. I hope he makes it to the finals based on sheer athletic ability and height. Imagine him next to Ryan! Oh yeah. You want this.

Meet Sarah Sellers, a pillow-lipped 28-year-old “marketing analyst by day, aspiring singer and a food and music blogger” by all other hours. Finally. An adult. With bangs, to boot. Louisiana is shaped like a boot. Sarah’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” ping-ponged seamlessly between strong and soft, prompting some major love from Steven. But had she even needed to sing? “You had me sold from the moment you laid eyes on me,” said the wise old loon from an alternate reality in which this is actually a dating series and he is its knight-in-shining-cheeks star. (And there’s a twist: They’re related!!!) Bachelor Tyler snapped out of it, though. “Your voice, mostly. I like your voice.”

NEXT: Randy and Steven disrobe. Apologies to Marc Anthony.

Jovany Barreto, 23, is a ship builder, which has to be one of the best jobs on American Idol ever. If this were Dating in the Dark, Jovany would be up for the coveted Best Euphemism for Unemployed Award in a heartbeat. Jovany sang in Spanish for a few seconds, giving Steven the perfect chance to ladle out some of his tasty word soup: “From my melodic sensibility, it was really delicious.” But what is really important about Jovany is that he idolizes Marc Anthony instead of J. Lo. — how dare he — and that the climax of his audition was not a soaring high note but rather a shirtless summit featuring Randy Jackson’s baby bump and Steven Tyler’s not-shabby over-60 washboard situation. After the three reached climax, Jovany and Steven hugged, because they both had great abs. Randy got a hug too. “What the heck just happened in here?” wondered the all-but-forgotten J. Lo as a HUGE BOAT drifted by behind her. God, I love when there are boats.

24-year-old cosmetologist Jacquelyn Dupree made it through despite what I thought was a shaky-at-best rendition of The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You.” But her uncle was Randy Jackson’s football coach, so it’s all cool. Not. “So, coach, did you ever paddle his ass?” wondered Solid Gold Steven. “He was too big to paddle!” chuckled coach. Har, har, har. “I did the paddling!” Randy insisted. He was sooooo cool and handsome in high school, y’all. A shotputter, yo. What’s up. I liked how as soon as Randy’s playtime was over, he flipped the switch so suddenly from jolly high school jock to stone-faced VIP adult, demanding to know what Jacquelyn was about to sing. “All right, then do it,” Randy seethed. So handsome.

I loved Brett Lowenstern, a self-proclaimed “red apple in a pile of green apples, you know?” Oh, do I ever. I’m a Gala girl myself, a nice red/yellow blend. You see me coming, you best be screeching to a halt. Speaking of Screech, thanks to reader Janine for pointing out to me that Brett appears to be a long-lost cousin of Saved by the Bell‘s Dustin Diamond. (Please don’t be true!) Brett’s edit was tricky for a few seconds — his exchange with Steven about a post-elevator wave (Steven could neither confirm nor deny being in an elevator that morning) was just out-of-control nerve-wracking to the point where you had to wonder if the whole segment was a put-on (despite the time spent arranging Brett’s family members around a Brady Bunch-tiled monitor and having his hot mom confessionalize about his difficult childhood). But then he started singing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and good God in baby oil heaven, this boy can sing! He can sing so well that I ended up feeling almost foolish for having bought into the idea that anyone else who had received a golden ticket thus far was talented whatsoever. That’s a major overreaction, I know. Jovany had ripply muscles. But this kid Brett is something special. Of course, all the girls in the convention center adored him, swarming upon their scrawny, well-conditioned hero after he darted out of hell.

NEXT: A 15-year-old! We’ve got another live one. “You are so sweet and SOOOO CUUUUUTE!” Raise your binoculars, everyone. Safari hunter Jennifer Lopez has tracked down another of that rare season 10 species — the 15-year-old with Top 12 potential. Pubertinus americana. A stunning breed. Jacee Badeaux sang Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” so sweetly, so Bieberly, that J. Lo had nearly wriggled out of her chair in delight by the time Jacee pointed to his watch to designate the wasting of time. D’oh! A literal move! No matter. The Dawg really responds to the literal interpretation, yo. He gets it. You’re telling time. Steven topped off the judges’ rave sundae with “a double helping of oooooooooh yeah.” I love this adolescent — he seems shy when not singing, but I’m hoping it’s just a mellowness that might translate into confidence instead of nerves if he goes further than the Hollywood Round. Best part of the segment (sorry): the enormous canvas bag on Jacee’s dad as the family walked away. It overpowered him!

Just like Wednesday night, they saved the most tear-jerking, hardscrabble contestant for last. Meet Autumn Reeser lookalike Paris Tassin, 23, whose daughter Keira must wear hearing aids. She is such a pretty mom, surely ranking in the top percentile of facial symmetry and whitened teeth. “Oh, I love to sing,” said Paris, who belted out Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” because it “has meaning.” As J. Lo began to quiver in tears, Paris arched her back and arranged her arms in nearly the exact same position as the huge-haired “generic contestant” silhouette to her left! Oh, it was magical. “When you sang, I felt it,” assured Ms. Lopez. “Hold your baby girl tonight,” advised Steven. “OH YEAH!” proclaimed a man in a tan vest (Daddy?) as soon as Paris burst through the doors. And then, long after you thought they’d wrapped, Hark! What was this divine apparition of lip gloss and serenity, floating down the hall having thrown on her Louboutins for a long, fully secure walk to the limo? Ah. Of course. ‘Twas J. Lo in a camel trench, reaching to engulf Baby Keira in an aura of power and glitter. And so mama’s Idol journey began. “Thank you,” Paris said gravely. “It means everything.”

And with that, Ryan Seacrest bid us farewell from a big-ass boat called the Creole Queen. Just let it sink in.

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

EW’s TV INSIDERS PODCAST: This week, Dalton Ross, Annie Barrett, and Tim Stack discuss and debate the new American Idol. Is the new judging panel better or worse off without Simon? What’s with all the teenagers? And burping? Plus: Tim was on the set of Glee for filming of the musical’s big post-Super Bowl episode and offers intel on what to expect. (Good news! It includes dancing zombies and flaming boobs.) Finally, we’re taking sides in the big Jersey Shore house feud. Are you on Team Sammi or Team JWwow? We make our picks . To join in all the fun, just click on the audio player below. Of course, we’re now on iTunes! So you can also subscribe for free right here and take the TV Insiders with you on the go. And to send a question to the TV Insiders or learn about upcoming editions, follow us on Twitter @TVInsiders!

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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