American Idol recap: Nashville and Kansas City Auditions
Nashville auditions continue before a trip to Kansas City on the Idol Bus.
Welcome to day two in Idol world, readers. Happy to have you back. We kick off the evening with obligatory flashbacks to Carrie, Fantasia, and Kelly’s auditions and various idols’ professional triumphs. Because this is a show that creates success—and they don’t want us to forget it.
While we #TurnUpForIdol (what?), let’s sit in on a staff meeting at a long fancy white marble conference table with the three judges, which I’m going to pretend happens even when the cameras aren’t there. They’re talking, earnestly, about what they want from the season. And what do they want? Keith wants that intangible thing. Harry wants to step up his game and find powerhouses. J.Lo just wants to point out that Idol produced Carrie Underwood. Success, see?
First up for his chance at that potential Idol success: Andrew Annello, a 22-year-old from Alabama who says he has no nerves and can’t even fathom why he would possibly be nervous. His family has a lot of neon poster board signs with them, which typically signals a huge fail is about to happen. Ehhhhh, nervous.
Andrew, a true frustration of a human being, does a little dance in the creepy holding chamber, and enters the audition room to call Harry “bro” and to kiss Jennifer’s hand. Ew, I hate this guy. I hope he’s terrible.
He gives us a little “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and he’s not terrible, but he’s behaving like a cartoon. And the judges, to their credit, tell him as much. So Harry asks him to cut the silly and he does, and gives us a very high school choir performance of “My Girl” (a good high school choir, but not something that I want to hear on the radio). But Andrew gets through because the judges didn’t have to witness his frustrating personality in the holding room like we did. They’ll find out soon enough.
Andrew tells his mother “You boy going to Hollywood, dawg,” then brings her in to meet Harry. She’s really cute, and she hugs Harry really tight and calls him a living doll. I like her a lot. Can she audition?
Our second hopeful of the day is Loren Lott, 21, who’s very pleasant. She takes on Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” (how much do we love the piano accompaniment?). Loren is super cute and well, her voice is not bad, but it’s not particularly pleasing either. Harry tells Loren, who’s an actress, that he’d like to hear her sing something not as an actress. Interesting challenge, Har. Keith echoes: Sing like you’re doing the dishes and no one’s around, because that’s when the best singing is done. Then Harry accidentally implies that J.Lo doesn’t do dishes, and she immediately becomes Jenny from the block: “Why would you assume I don’t do the dishes, fool?” (So we’re having a bit more judges’ time tonight, way more hijinks than last night, but whatever, I dig it.)
Loren takes her second stab at it, and it’s better. If I had her voice, I’d definitely never shut up and would force my friends to go to karaoke all the time so I could be a star; but she’s asking to be a superstar, so I’m on the fence, and so are the judges. (Judges, maybe if you’re this unsure about someone, you should pass on them.) Harry says no, but J.Lo says yes because she’s in a good mood. Loren says “oh my gosh this never happens!” and makes me wonder what exactly she’s doing in her spare time, and how many national television show auditions she’s being rejected from. Anyway, we’ll see her in Hollywood. Sigh. Same mistakes, same mistakes.
NEXT: Ryan drives a rickshaw.
After the next commercial break, Ryan finally appears in his super clean brand new sneakers, and he’s driving people around in a rickshaw. Ryan de-rickshaws and sits down back at auditions with a bespectacled young man who’s trying to relax and not “get crazy.” Trevor Douglas, a 16-year-old, is very excited and performs a lot in the street in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. He just wants to play! He’ll play outside One Direction shows, he says, and notes that the girls have “all their hormones going.” Trevor, you’re interesting, more of you, please.
Oh wait, they’re actually giving us more of Trevor, who wants to be the next Bill Nye if music doesn’t work out. And we’re visiting him in his lab? In his home? Where is this being filmed?
He auditions with Ed Sheeran’s “Sing.” Whoa, Trevs, you’re giving me all the feels. Trevor is doing some rapid guitar work, singing really fast (is that how fast Ed Sheeran sings?), and has really white teeth. We’re getting some good falsetto work from Trevor, and man oh man I like him and his white teeth. Keith and Trevor talk about puberty and then the judges remember how brutal puberty is. Trevs is off. Again, I like him. I feel like he probably does magic in his non-science free time.
But we move right into Piper Jones and WHOA MY GOD I’ve forgotten all about Trevor. Girl. Can. Sing. J.Lo actually says “Thank you god” when Piper starts. She is loud, sassy, and I am grinning as I write this because I want to see her perform in the live shows SO BADLY.
See ya soon, Piper. Next up is single-mom Kelly Kime and her very cute daughter Hope, who is so excited to be on TV with her mom and to be “stars.” She is very cute. If you guys didn’t actually watch this episode, trust that Hope is a precious little angel child. Oh, Hope is singing “Let It Go.” I wasn’t expecting her to sing. She is just so damn cute, and frankly, not a bad singer for being A BABY. J.Lo cried, and so did I.
Hope’s mom, Kelly, sings “Sunday Morning” (such a good song, how do I always forget about it?), and her voice has way more character than I expected it to. She’s a good surprise! Golden tickets for Kelly and Hope! Kids are cute. I’m crying again. Commercial break.
We come back and a girl is standing in front of that weird screen where the producers film contestants either being excited or sad or mad after auditioning, and this girl is crying. She says her dreams have been crushed! Let’s find out what happened.
Cammie Lester, 15, sings Adele’s “One and Only” while wearing sparkly cowboy boots, and the poor thing just cannot find her key. Oh god, this is so painful. She’s just a kid. She’s so upset with herself. I love hating on people on this show when they behave like rude morons, but it’s suchhhhh a bummer to see nice people crushed and full of self-loathing. We get a montage of nice people who are rejected, crushed, and full of self-loathing. Too much. Give us something good, producers, this is too depressing for me.
NEXT: A newsboy cap, a cajon, and a cosmetologist.
So then the producers give us Garrett Miles, who is 25 and blind. He enters the audition room with his dad, who calls himself Garrett’s roady, and immediately we see this pair is great. Garrett looks like he knows what’s up. Be good, Garrett. Please be good.
Creedence Clearwater’s “Proud Mary” is his song of choice, and Garrett doesn’t disappoint. He’s laid-back and confident and the judges adore him. He tells J.Lo that he loves Selena and now he is singing “Como La Flor” while she harmonizes. Obviously not his typical country jam, but Garrett is still good. How interesting. The judges love him. And he has a good story for us all to love to boot.
So because we’re STILL in Nashville (I thought this was all about Kansas City tonight? Guess I wasn’t paying attention), Keith takes us to Tootsie’s so he can “get up with the house band,” and then teaches us about Nashville’s many talented buskers, one of whom is Clark Beckham, a 22-year-old lad who auditions with “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” He’s got some soul and some emotions, this one, and looks to me a bit like Chris Pine when he sings. Thumbs up. Keith, weirdly, says that he wanted more emotion from Clark, but says yes anyway because has Keith said no yet? Harry passes, because Harry is holding himself to a higher standard this season, and J.Lo says yes because Clark checked all of her checklist boxes.
Let’s just take a second and discuss what’s happening. We’re seeing a lot of talented people, and we’re seeing a lot of talented people get golden tickets. But is it just me, or are we lacking a bit of musical diversity here and, to borrow from J.Lo’s lexicon, goosies? We need some goosies-inducing contestants, judges! We’re getting a lot of gentlemen with guitars and a lot of ladies who would have felt relevant six years ago but now, yawn. They’re definitely talented, but mind-blowing one-of-a-kind talent? I haven’t written many names down. Harry, you keep talking about stepping it up, so Step. It. Up.
“I am nothing without my toys.” That’s how we meet Gina Venier, who is playing a cajon and wearing a newsboy cap. What’s a cajon? Beats me. (It’s a percussion box, so says the internet.) She’s a one-woman-band, as Ryan (oh hay girl!) explains, and Gina seems really anxious, but I bet she’s good. She sings “Put the Gun Down,” and this one-woman-band thing is kind of fun. Sure as hell haven’t seen this before on Idol, so that’s nice! I’m trying to think how I’d feel about her if we had just heard her sing and hadn’t been charmed by her portable-band tricks, and I don’t know. I’d definitely talk about how amazing she was if I just encountered her randomly performing at a bar or on the street, but this is not the street nor a bar, so I’m not sure. Honestly, I think I’m distracted by her hat, because her voice has some nice grit and she seems pretty badass. Well, hat or no hat, we’ll see her in Hollywood!
So we’re STILL IN NASHVILLE and we meet another handsome, white, singer-songwriter type with a T-shirt and a guitar. YOU GUYS, COME ON. He’s fine, but give us something else. That’s not a critique of Alex Shier, who’s lovely, but these damn producers.
Anyway, Alex is singing Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire,” which reminds me of the kind of song I would listen to in high school when I was sad or when a particularly upsetting episode of The O.C. had just aired. Alex, who is 19, has that “I just rolled out of bed and didn’t even look in the mirror because I have so many feelings but look how cute I am” thing going on. And he is gonna sing his damn heart out until he feels better. So he sings his heart out, and J.Lo remembers him from last year. (He had long hair last year, and I do not remember this. The short hair is workin’ for me, Alex.) Alex is a little mellow, and Harry mistakes this for complacency. Let’s assume it’s not. Obviously they give him a ticket because he is a young handsome man with a guitar. So.
Next up? SINGER-SONGWRITER WITH GUITAR CODY FRY. Cody Fry, who used to sing McDonald’s jingles with his composer dad (good trivia!), says he’s going to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” to which Harry replies “You should sing it here,” and both Keith and I find this very amusing. Cody Fry is good. You can tell I am getting really annoyed at the sameness that’s happening in this episode, so I don’t really know what to say about him. He’s really good, has a beautiful voice, and is doing some more aggressively artistic stuff with the arrangement than anyone else we’ve seen, so that’s nice. But again: white male singer-songwriter with guitar. Hollywood it is.
So of course the next is cosmetologist Hector Montenegro, who says he’s “the bomb,” plays the guitar, and has a good voice. He’s very excited, which is nice to see. Three yeses (remember when it used to be nearly impossible to get unanimous yeses?), and he’s off. Can we get some ladies up in here? You’re losing me, Idol.
NEXT: A fan favorite returns.
Thanks, Idol! Sarina-Joi Crowe enters for her FOURTH audition. I do not have that kind of patience or perseverance. Sarina seems a little cocky though, so she’s lost me already. Her voice is crazy good, though, and Harry says, “I think you’ve made your point.” She gets a ticket. Prediction: Sarina-Joi will be incredibly entertaining to watch during group night, should she get that far. She is just so confident, she will almost definitely get in a fight. Fingers crossed!
They throw a trio of auditions at us and no one is remarkable (though they get through) so let’s just move on from here.
Savion Wright, 22, who we met in season 13. He went to Hollywood and went really far before he got a really brutal no. But he’s back, he’s looking’ good, he got his braces off, and he seems confident but not Sarina-Joi cocky. The judges are so happy to see him.
A little Eric Clapton “Change the World,” and we’re loving Savion again. His voice is crystal, so pleasant. He’s an example of someone I want to hear on the radio and see in concert. God, I like him. Phew. Fave for the night, so far. Obviously he’s heading back to Hollywood, and asks for critiques after getting his ticket because he REALLY WANTS THIS. He’s humble and awesome and great and perfect for this show. Writing his name down on my ones-to-watch Post-it.
We finally make it to Kansas City, where all the faves from the American Idol Bus Tour (something I still don’t fully understand) have been invited to come audition for the judges. Hilariously, the first bus person to be invited to Kansas City is from Kansas City (and went to the same high school as David Cook—trivia!). Singing “Grenade,” Zack Kaltenbach, 22, struggles to find his note before starting and then gives off a vibe that I find to be wholly displeasing. His voice is the kind that sounds like it’s maybe painful for him to sing, and he has this weird habit of throwing his weight to one side of his body and making a weird hand gesture (like yo, I got this, bro) that makes me cringe a bit. And then he asked J.Lo what she was doing after the audition, which, ick. Well, what do Harry and I know anyway? J.Lo and Keith send him to the West Coast.
He runs out of the audition room and right past Ryan, causing Ryan to look at the camera and say “They’re over me.” ARE THEY? Seriously, he’s still not been on the show at all.
We have a frightening and aggressive entrance from Naomi Tatsuoka, who says she has a squishy face, and keeps squishing her face into the camera. She’s laughing so much at this weird non-joke of hers that my first thought is questioning if she’s on drugs. She also thinks it’s really funny to tell people she’s excited to meet Jennifer Lawrence, knowing full well that it’s Jennifer Lopez. She sings us a bit of “Someone Like You” (anyone know why she’s kneeling?) and what starts as really good ends up being way too much and strange and loud, but I’m chalking that up to weird decisions she made—her voice is pretty killer. J.Lo basically tells her as much, and Keith and Harry echo. But let’s send her through. Curious to see what she does.
NEXT: Two hours of auditions are too much, Fox, I’m just gonna say it.
Jhameel (just the one name for Jhameel) makes some origami for the judges, and then he explains that he has really severe OCD, and he struggles when things aren’t symmetrical. So he’s found other ways to achieve balance, one of which is to enhance the asymmetries about himself, which he’s done with some face paint and some version of a headband. It’s like a sartorial metaphor, a reminder to himself, to stay balanced no matter what. Hey, whatever works.
So he does some singer-songwriter-y version of T-Pain, which is fun, because I can’t get enough of this sort of thing. We like it, he’s through. I look forward to seeing more of his metaphorical outfits.
Finally, a contestant expresses her love for Ryan, and he gets a bit of screen time. She is VERY sure she will win the show (spoiler alert: she won’t). Jasmin Pinela of the Bronx does “Listen” by Beyoncé and almost immediately goes off-key and can’t recover. She’s also doing an unpleasant brand of scream-singing (please god make it stop). She of course blames her audition on practicing too much and says her voice went out. I’m no professional singer, but is that a thing?
Lovey James is next (it’s her stage name, real-name-Kirsten confesses), and she is 16 and super enthusiastic and wearing some confusing polka dot half jumper thing. She covers Ariana Grande and her voice hurts my ears—I don’t think I’m a pleasant enough person to enjoy all the positive energy Lovey/Kirsten is throwing at us. The judges, however, are on board, so we will see Lovey/Kirsten in California.
Hey, how’d that piano get in the middle of the room?
Jess Lamb, 28, is here in a floppy hat to audition for Idol because, she explains accidentally I think, she’s ready for a real paycheck. No more $100 gigs for this gal. Hats aside, I bet she’s good. Jess Lamb, you ARE good. I love a lady singer-songwriter who can sing like she’s really tortured and maybe emotionally unstable but has complete control of her voice. I will watch her audition again later, probably. The judges are also pretty jazzed about it, and she is on her way to H-wood. OH WAIT, she asks Harry to jam, and we are in business. They are both playing the piano together, and Jess Lamb is SO HAPPY and starstruck about what is happening to her. Her name’s going on the Post-it. Killer place to end, Idol. You lost me in the middle and you brought me right back.
Next week, we’re doing more of the “brightest from the bus auditions” in Kansas City. See you kids then.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.