The judges head to Harry's hometown to find more contestants.

By Stephanie Schomer
Updated March 19, 2015 at 05:44 PM EDT
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Credit: Michael Becker/Fox
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Ah, New Orleans, the land of Harry Connick Jr. Tonight better be good, Idol. I hope that, for the occasion, you readers all have some kind of libation in your hand while you’re watching this hour of Southern charm. It seems only appropriate.

Seriously, I know Harry’s a ham, but how much do we love him?

Harry gives us a nice speech about how NoLA (yep, it saves time, I’m doing it) is full of superstars, and I gotta tell you guys, I recently returned from a trip to this city, and the music—as I was promised—blew me away. In the bars, in the streets, literally everywhere. We’re in good shape tonight. Where Harry is prince, nothing can go wrong. New Orleans, please make Harry proud.

The first gentleman we see doesn’t look quite like the embodiment of NoLA swagger, but you know, we’ll see what happens. He’s got on a suit, which is counterintuitive, but he’s also got on that fleur-de-lis tie, so to a point, he knows what’s up, right? (This man’s second cousin also used to babysit Harry, supposedly, which should be a charming anecdote but feels kind of creepy.)

OH YOU GUYS. This is a prank audition, right? What are they doing? This is the kind of garbage we used to see incessantly when Paula and Simon were at the table. But we don’t get this anymore, and that’s good. This man was horrible. He’s obviously a plant that just wanted to get on TV. Thanks to the Idol producers, he got his wish, and we, as viewers, were punished for it.

I guess NoLa sucks, initially? That’s a bummer. Though, let’s remember how easy it is to pull together a bunch of terrible audition clips, and let’s NOT BE FOOLED. New Orleans, I’m with you! Just give us something.

Enter a fab gal named Jelly Joseph. Best name ever. Miss Jelly performs a killer version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and it’s both original and wonderful and her name is still Jelly Joseph so SHE WINS. All of the judges love it. She’s baller, you guys. See you soon, Jelly.

Spunky Tiffany (of course) Stringer, at the age of 16, throws some Cher Lloyd at us with “Want You Back,” and it’s a really brutal song to hear a cappella, but the judges seem into it, enough. Harry’s not biting, Keith was entertained—“at least,” he says—and J.Lo is a sucker so this tiny cheerleader-type is through. She’s got spirit, yes she does. Her energy makes me want to take a nap.

Precious baby and America-loving guitar player Greyson Turner (15!) sings an original song named “Chasing Shadows.” (Quick aside: Men should never wear flip-flops, can we all agree on that, please? Thanks.) Anyway, I’m digging this teen’s song like crazy, and he is way more intense than I remember 15-year-olds being, but in a great way. This little guy might be our Sam Woolf of season 14. (Remember Sam Woolf? God, loved him.) He just might not have such crippling stage fright, which is excellent.

NEXT: Short suits and Garth Brooks.

Sarah Quintana, 28, does a jazzy “St. James Infirmary Blues” and is accompanied on the piano by Harry. She’s maybe the best human being we’ve seen all season because when Harry tells her she’s not right for Idol she simply says, “I appreciate your honesty, but I still want to go to LA.” Loved her. She sounded great—Keith and I totally think she should have gone through, and I’ll never understand how J.Lo’s brain works and why this girl was dismissed.

Next up: Quentin Alexander, who has a wild-looking short-suit thing going on, sings Lorde’s “Royals” for us. Truth: His voice is great. I love him. He will not be well received by this competition. He’s too risky, he’s too far from the mainstream, and voters will be confused by him. Which is a shame, because he’s excellent. The judges want to hear even more quirk from him, which is a fair though maybe selfish request. I’d love to hear more from him, too, I just struggle to see America embrace him. Though hopefully, they will.

Separately: I’m curious to know who your favorite Idols—winners, losers, and runners-up—have been, historically. Readers/folks who participate in the comments, let me know what you’re looking for from these contestants. God knows I have an Idol type, and I’d love to know what yours is.

Remember Ryan Seacrest? Our brilliant host who’s received no screen time this season? Well he’s here, talking to a lovely young man who went to the same high school as Harry, and who also looks identical to Harry, right down to the blue eyes. “My Demise” is an original song by this young 19-year-old Mikey Duran, who is some magical brand of a coffeehouse-style singer-songwriter. First, the voice is great. Second, the song is FAB. I can’t remember the last time I liked an original song as much. (False. Angie Miller.)

For what it’s worth, I’m ignoring these “Hollywood or Home?” segments on purpose. They’re manipulative and not about the contestant, so I don’t want to waste our time on them. Godspeed to the contestants, though.

Young young young’n Ricky Dale Hendricks—he’s 17 but looks like a baby—does Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” (one of the best songs ever, for the record), and he’s so excited! He looks so happy I just want to send him through. Truth, though? Not strong enough for the show. In a couple years, for sure. But not now. Keith says he’s like a guy with a phenomenal car that he doesn’t know how to drive it. So he’s obviously going through, right? We’ll see him in Hollywood, and hopefully these judges and Mr. Scott Borchetta can toughen up his voice, which has an insane amount of potential.

NEXT: Drag Queens and Jimmy Fallon.

Next up is drag queen Dakota Suarez. (Drag queen name Bianca Jade.) Dakota’s doing a little Florence + the Machine, which is wildly ambitious. He’s good, not great. Harry is excited by the idea of having a drag queen on Idol and does a TERRIBLE job of communicating this in a PC way, but appropriately points out that Dakota’s voice just isn’t good enough. I’m ready to write Dakota off, but J.Lo and Keith, ever the softies, send him through. Dakota, who promises to “step on people,” is going to get trampled (!!!) during Hollywood week.

Jimmy Fallon lookalike Adam Lasher is 27 (thank god for a normal-aged person) and has one of the more mature voices we’ve heard this season. He’s great, and truthfully looks so much like Jimmy Fallon it’s really distracting. He’s a hip Jimmy Fallon! We will see him in Hollywood. I’m writing his name down, primarily because I find him (and Jimmy Fallon) to be incredibly attractive, but also because his voice is wonderful. See you soon, friend.

Last of the night is beautifully-coiffed Erica Washington. The 24-year-old ambitiously takes on Bey’s “Halo.” Girl’s got soul. She’s all strength, power, and has such depth to her voice. It sounds nothing like Beyoncé, which is wild. Erica is all her own—can’t wait for more of her.

And that’s a quick wrap! As we predicted yesterday, Thursday continues to be the stronger audition night, and I’ve got three names jotted down: Jelly Joseph, Adam Lasher, and Erica Washington. Despite all my complaining, I think we’re in for one hell of a Hollywood week. Next week, we hit San Fran, the final stop (what?!) on this audition tour. See you kids then.

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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