Just when I think I’m out of Utah, they pull me back in.
After a week in Park City covering the Sundance Film Festival (and still doing my “Idol” recaps), I’m back in Los Angeles, but naturally this week’s Wednesday (January 29) audition episode comes to us from… Salt Lake City.
8:00 p.m. ET. Awww. Casey Thrasher has a tiny adorable baby. How did they know they wanted to be following this White Guy With Guitar a full four months before auditions? That’s just madness. And casey isn’t the only guy with a guitar. Everybody has guitars!
8:02 p.m. Yes, J-Lo. We know. “American Idol” produces stars and it isn’t “The Voice.”
8:03 p.m. Everybody’s ready!
8:03 p.m. Our first singer actually comes from Park City. Her name is Austin Wolfe and the judges love her name. She does a solid, but affected Imagine Dragons cover. We’ve heard “Radioactive” a few times this season and this is a good version. It builds nicely. Harry Connick Jr. compares her to the lead singer of Paramore. She’s going to Hollywood.
8:05 p.m. Harry praises the regional differences. Lumberjack Kylee Adamson can swing an axe and she also has a high, pure country voice. Well, the judges definitely aren’t going to say “No” to a girl who can chop them to bits. “I’m not trying to intimidate you,” Kylee promises. She’s going to Hollywood, too.
8:06 p.m. Everybody’s good in Salt Lake City. Keith Sanders has a fine voice and strums well, but he lacks confidence. Michael Simeon has a breathy voice and strums well. Tessa Norman has a big smile and ample sass. They’re going to Hollywood.
8:12 p.m. Well, they can’t all be good. Sorry, Samantha Townsend. You’re weird. Sorry, Guy With Keyboard. You need vocal help.
8:14 p.m. Sporting a Flock of Seagulls haircut and hailing from New Hampshire is Alex Preston. New Hampshire, represent! Alex plays the violin and the drums, but tonight he’s just playing the guitar. He’s playing an original and… it’s good. We’re seen a bunch of reasonably good originals this season. You can definitely imagine this guy making people happy at a coffee shop. Hey, that’s better than making people miserable at a coffee shop. Harry’s impressed with the harmonies. J-Lo likes his tone and his attempts to make eye contact. “I love you and everything about you right now,” J-Lo says. The judges all vote “Yes.”
8:09 p.m. “There’s a lot of talented people in this world and they all come to ‘American Idol,'” Harry observes.
8:18 p.m. It’s another Samantha. This one is Samantha Calmes. She has a fanny-pack containing a makeup brush, a notebook and chapstick. She’s also doing an original. And it’s also good. This one is a bit moodier and more scattered, but I still like it. Asked to sing a non-original, Samantha launches into the theme from “The Jeffersons.” I just became a massive fan of Samantha Calmes. Harry loves the “Movin’ On Up” song choice, though he’s more impressed with that than her voice. She’s going to Hollywood.
8:27 p.m. Many more good names. And some bad names. Poor Julie Offal‘s name either suggests that she’s going to suck, or that she’s an internal organ. Fortunately, she’s really cute. She came to Salt Lake City via the bus tour, which means she’s supposed to be good. She’s not the only one from the bus. LeBryant Crew is jazzy and a snazzy dresser. He’s also a preacher and yearns to be the first preacher to win “Idol.” Laurel Wright is singing yet another original and it’s decent, if less impressive than tonight’s earlier originals. Both LeBryant and Laurel are going to Hollywood. But what about Julie? Have we forgotten all about Julie? We’re moving on to DJ Bradley, who the judges immediately compare to Ed Sheeran. He’s got both vocal and guitar affectations and I’m pretty annoyed by him. “You’ve got like a quirky thing going on,” J-Lo says, correctly isolating why DJ is immediately irksome. I’m not saying he’s awful. I just don’t want to hear him again. “I had mixed feelings the whole time,” Keith says, worrying that there was something about DJ that left him disinterested. J-Lo votes “Yes” and at least one of the other judges agrees. “You may still be wondering what happened to Julie Offal,” Ryan says. Yes. I am!
8:37 p.m. J-Lo thought Julie was cute and voted “Yes.” Keith, however, disagreed. Harry agrees with J-Lo and Julie advances, even if I don’t know how her name is actually spelled.
8:39 p.m. Lots of people travelled from a long way away.
8:39 p.m. I like that Kenzie Hall enters singing. She’s got a terrific voice and an instantly commercial look. And she’s got a lot of different vocal things going on. She’s got a growl. And she played a diminished chord. It’s three “Yes” votes for Kenzie, who is probably my favorite singer of the night. I think she can do lots of things, even if those things ultimately just lead her to starring on Disney Channel musical.
8:41 p.m. Another great name! Paisley Van Patten had a chance with stardom, but alcoholism helped bring her down. She’s two-plus years sober. Keith, who has battled his own addictions, is deeply caring and deeply interesting. Paisley’s got a big country voice with just a little rasp. The judges are all polite and pleased. “Raw’s a good place to be for an artist,” Keith tells her. They vote her through. “I was so worried I was going to have to do my Cher impression,” Paisley says. She does. It’s less impressive, but it gives the producers the chance to play Cher.
8:49 p.m. Day One in Salt Lake City is drawing to a close. Haydn Olsen is missing at least one letter in her name. She’s also really bland and nasally. Harry votes “No.” J-Lo votes “Yes.” Keith votes “No.” Impossibly corny Chase Boyle is annoying, but has fine Michael Bolton hair. Missy Cyclopes is loud. Missy and Chase are gone. Jacelyn Baker and Blake Branscom are a bit better. And they both advance to Hollywood.
8:52 p.m. On to Alabama-based CJ Harris. He had trouble with the law when he was young, but he reformed himself. And his father died last year. Geez. Be good, CJ! Be good! He sings an Allman Brothers song and dedicates it to his dad. Yay. He’s good enough. He’s got nice tone and plays the guitar reasonably well. Yeah. I could root for this guy. Good story. Talent. Good persona. J-Lo and Harry think there are better singers and better guitar players, but they like his vibe.
9:01 p.m. J-Lo dressed up for Day Two in SLC. Again, we’re pretending that the judges carpool. Nice try.
9:01 p.m. Bringing energy, impossible energy, is Tiquila Wilson. She sings in her church and works at a funeral home. Tiquila has some pitch issues. She’s flat for a lot of the song. In the second half, when she gets bellowing, there’s something good there. J-Lo got goosies on her legs. But she doesn’t show off her leg-goosies. Tiquila doesn’t care if the church community doesn’t like her singing secular music. She’s going to Hollywood. And she’s very excited.
9:05 p.m. Male Model Chase Thornton has a bit of a Parker Young vibe. That is to say that he appears to wear clothes well, but he’s also hilarious. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t do is sing. He’s excruciating. “I’m not sure what key you’re in,” Keith says, urging Chase to take lessons. The other judges agree. Chase smiles gamely.
9:07 p.m. Young David Archuleta calls Utah home. Duh.
9:11 p.m. I was right! I was right!
9:12 p.m. Sad people are sad.
9:12 p.m. Jessica Bassett has nice vocal tone and awesome polka dot pants. Harry says “No.” J-Lo says “Yes.” Keith says, “No.” We’ve seen worse people than Jessica. Oh well.
9:13 p.m. Awesome. 16-year-old Keith Urban auditioning on a TV show! Awww.
9:14 p.m. J-Lo as a 22-year-old Fly Girl! Awww.
9:15 p.m. Harry Connick Jr. as a precocious 10-year-old. Awww.
9:15 p.m. With mustard leggings and a blue stars-and-moons skirt, Emily Rottler is yet another guitarist. She’s only 17 and she has a lot of potential. “I feel like you’re the real thing,” J-Lo says. She’s going to Hollywood.
9:17 p.m. So. Many. Guitarists.
9:17 p.m. Alabama farmhand and dog-trainer Dexter Roberts has a thick accent, a confident guitar hand and a great country voice. He could be big with the “Duck Dynasty” crowd. Yeah, I really like his guitar-playing. He’s got a honky-tonk future if “Idol” doesn’t work out. Keith likes all of his influences. Harry loves that Dexter sings to get through the day. He’s going to Hollywood. J-Lo thinks that playing the guitar and singing is a miracle.
9:24 p.m. Weird. Ally Roundy doesn’t have a guitar. She has a good voice and wild curly hair. Keith thinks she needs more time. J-Lo disagrees. But Harry agrees with Keith. Next time, bring a guitar!
9:25 p.m. See? Briston Maroney brought a guitar. He’s only 15, but he uses the guitar that his great-grandfather used. Keith appreciates his vintage Gibson. He does an unexpectedly quirky cover of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I don’t buy the quirkiness, but… There’s still talent for a kid. “I would hope that there’d be other colors that come out from there,” Keith says. Harry worries that he’s going to lose his voice. Briston is going to Hollywood.
9:29 p.m. Carson Henline has a really, unexpected voice. Sabrina Lentini is a bit more expected. And then there’s Fish, who has a great bowtie and a decent falsetto. Sabrina is 15 years and cries about waiting 13 years for this. Sabrina’s going to Hollywood. Carson isn’t going forward. Fish is.
9:36 p.m. Meet Johnny Newcomb. He’s another teen with a totally affected, gruff, Eddie Vedder-wannabe voice. “I just don’t believe that’s your voice,” Harry says. They’re in the process of rejecting him, when he asks for a second chance. The second vocal is better and J-Lo is convinced, but Harry thinks it’s derivative. It’s up to Keith. And Keith goes “Yes.” Johnny’s like a Muppet Babies Phillip Phillips. If he advances, he could play really well with America.
9:39 p.m. Opera-trained Kimberly Tosti does a very, very loud version of “Baracuda.” This is not a good match of voice and song choice. She’s rejected. Harry’s impressed with her loudness.
9:42 p.m. Despite her name, Carmen Delgina isn’t an opera singer. However, her dad is WONDER MIKE from Sugarhill Gang. And Wonder Mike is in the house. I’m not sure that Carmen is all that great, but the judges want to meet Wonder Mike. Harry tells her that she’s talented, but her vocals probably aren’t strong enough. J-Lo thinks Carmen’s voice is God-given, but it’s not consistent. They all reluctantly vote “Yes.” And it’s pretty much entirely so that they can meet Wonder Mike. J-Lo is totally star-struck.
9:45 p.m. Sadly, Kassandra Castaneda doesn’t have a famous father. She does, however, have a relative named Jay who wants J-Lo to call him to hook up. J-Lo cringes nervously. Kassandra has great tone and she does runs very smoothly. She’s also young. Harry says there are people who do the runs better, but J-Lo disagrees and praises her control. Keith breaks the tie and sends Kassandra to Hollywood.
9:51 p.m. It’s been nearly two hours, but we’re back to Casey Thrasher. Or we will be after Kenneth “Woodie” Gaddie sings “Swing Low.”
9:53 p.m. Casey has *two* adorable towheaded children. Casey met Keith at the CMAs. Keith has no memory of this. At all. But he smiles politely. Casey works just fine as a singer, even if he gets a bit choked up midway through. Harry thinks Casey will try hard to get better. The judges all vote “Yes.” Hopefully, Casey will be able to use his children as a prop later in the season.
9:58 p.m. That’s it for Salt Lake City. Several of the White Guys with Guitars were solid. I also liked Kenzie Hall and Samantha Calmes and CJ Harris. It was a decent episode.
10:00 p.m. Tomorrow? Omaha! And then we’re done with auditions.
Who’d you like tonight?