As we enter the last week of auditions, second chancers and quirky singers make the biggest impression

By Justin Kirkland
January 21, 2016 at 02:52 AM EST
Craig Blankenhorn/Fox

American Idol

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Guys. We’ve reached the final week of auditions. We know that partially because American Idol told us that, but if you’re into context clues and subtle innuendo, you’d pick up on that because of the clock ticking in this episode’s opening. It’s just another rundown of the audition process, and oh man, is time running out. Not just to audition. Not just for Idol. But for your DREAMS. You may think that’s melodramatic, but honestly, none of us are getting younger, which is why, when you can, you drive to an audition city. And when you can’t do that, you pray the Idol audition bus comes to you. And that’s what we’re following this week: the bus (of dreams).

Baltimore

Miranda “Poh” Scott is the first auditioner of the night. We quickly find out that her sister made the top 24 last year, so in essence, she’s a legacy. If you’re wondering whether there’s any connection between her name and the Teletubby, you’d be correct. She literally got the nickname from her favorite Teletubby (I’m a Dipsy man myself, but whatever). She chooses “Fairytale” by Sara Bareilles, and she has a fun, bluesy voice that has elements of very (very) young Adele. But as the song goes on, her raspy tone sometimes sounds like she might actually be battling a cold. Fortunately, the better part of the performance was unique and interesting, and the judges agree. Poh is going to Hollywood, like her sister did one year ago. Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, and Laa-Laa are undoubtedly dancing in the sun (baby) somewhere in celebration.

This week, we’re reminded that old winners (and Clay Aiken) are back for this year’s auditions to say things to would-be contenders. We get another montage of singers who are clearly auditioning to keep the show entertaining. Clay Aiken loses his cool on one poor guy who was just trying to audition with a wrap dress and a wig. He yells, “This show put me where I’m at today!” That’s when I Google whether Clay Aiken still holds office in North Carolina. I find out that not only did he lose his campaign, but that he never actually held office in North Carolina, and with that, I turn on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and think about how life is just a fickle lover sometimes.

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Amelia Eisenhauer, 15,didn’t bring a wrap dress, but she does showcase her katana before auditioning. She leaves it behind for the audition, though, and brings along her fiddle. She’s from Nashville and sings Annie Lennox’s version of “Many Rivers to Cross.” It’s wonderful. Like, I don’t even care that she brought a katana. Honestly, Amelia might be the first girl I’ve seen this season that I would be very disappointed not to see in the top 12. She reminds me of a undeveloped Bonnie Raitt, and admittedly, I’m really down with the fiddle. She gets three yeses, and she takes her gangly self out the door and on to Hollywood. Is she going to win? The odds aren’t particularly in her favor. But I do think she has potential to have an incredible career.

Where Amelia might have been a bit more shy, Joy Dove, 21, is going to the party. No one knows exactly what that means, but she’s going, and that’s what matters. She has big hair and a bigger personality, and before she sings, she says, “Put me in the game, coach.” She’s from Louisiana and jumps into a rendition of “Jambalaya” that makes you realize why she’s so happy and clapping all the time. She stops singing to announce, “PUT ME IN THE GAME, COACH,” which probably sounds really annoying in writing, but I’m sloshing my Diet Coke around, standing on the couch, screaming, “PUT HER IN THE GAME, COACH!!” And they do with three yeses. Joy Dove is officially invited to whatever party she wants to attend. After her is a hipster dreamboat who shows up with a medley of each judge’s music. MacKenzie Bourg, 23, begins with “Stupid Boy,” transitions into “Come By Me” and then “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” He keeps it going with “Making Memories of Us,” and the judges are way into it. His voice is quirky, and I hear you, comments section… At this point, can it be quirky and interesting if everything is quirky and interesting? I think that’s the big takeaway this season. But quirky works, and the Hipster McSkinnyJeans gets a pass to Hollywood.

NEXT: What a difference a year makes

Philadelphia

We get a review of the duos that have auditioned together in the past and how that’s worked out amazingly for some and terribly for others. But his year, Andrew Birdwell and Aaron Birdwell from Cadillac, Mich. roll up with Magic cards and D&D dice. They have some sick ponytails, and I’m here. for. it. They decide to sing “Automatonic Electronic Harmonics” together, which Keith compares to a Gregorian acid trip. I don’t know if anyone has ever made a comparison to a Gregorian acid trip before, but man, that comparison just feels right. They do not get a pass to Hollywood week, but with power ponies like that, haven’t they already won?

The judges take a moment to highlight how great they each are. And then we transition to the contestants who are in awe of the judges as well. And that’s when we stumble upon Jenna Renae, 23, who broke the audition booth door. But that doesn’t stop her from popping a squat at the piano to perform “She Don’t Love You” by Eric Paslay. When her voice is good, it’s rich and full and soulful. When she’s off, it’s throaty and flat. But the emotional content is strong, and isn’t that what we’re here for this season? EMOTIONS? She gets three quick yeses, collects her feelings (which have spilled out all over the floor), and heads to Hollywood. Following Jenna is Mario Bonds, 27. He, too, has fun hipster glasses, but his story is a little more complex. He’s a self-proclaimed sexy, blind guy from Washington, D.C., He chooses Natalie Cole’s “Inseparable.” Maybe I’m being way harsh, but tonight is not my favorite. Contestants are getting rewarded for hitting most of the notes, and that is Mario. His good notes are very strong, but the good notes weren’t plentiful enough. The judges and I aren’t completely disconnected, though: He gets three nos from the judges and then bursts into tears. Through cries, he says, “I blew it.” Being a total pushover, I desperately want to change my meaningless vote to a yes, but the judges don’t feel the same, and Mario goes home.

As our auditions approach the end, we get a look back at those who have auditioned before but returned for a second chance. We even get the montage to “Rivers and Roads,” which is a super emotional song from New Girl and the imaginary melodramatic TV show in my mind. But this is about the second chancers, which includes Adam Lasher, 28, who chooses a “samba version” of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” It was interesting, but I wouldn’t say it’s remarkable. Regardless, Adam goes to Hollywood again for what could be the last time. Emily Brooke, 16, was told to return after a failed Hollywood week last year. Her audition song this year is “Careless” by RaeLynn. She has a classic country lady voice, and I truly believe she could have a career. The judges think that she’s gotten better since last year, and she is one of the few who really pounded every note into the ground. It’s refreshing, and she earned her ticket to Hollywood.

And with that, we have only one more audition episode left before heading to Hollywood. No more William Hungs or new Carrie Underwoods, singing amazing renditions of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It’s a hallmark of January television, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Maybe they’ll come to a particularly outstanding end tomorrow. That’s our last shot.

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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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