After months of "when will it happen?" tension, Minaj walked out on the judges panel following a disagreement stemming from a singer's choice of musical genre in which to immerse herself. That's right, the Minaj-Carey feud started when a contestant made a dismissive comment about a genre - country music - in which she had dabbled. Understandably, Keith Urban took the comment a bit more to heart than one usually might, and Carey, Urban and Randy Jackson embarked on a long analysis of the singer and how she shouldn't be writing off country when, they believe, the music suits her voice.
Minaj wasn't into the discussion. She believed Summer Cunningham had enough talent to move on, and that the judges were picking apart the 20-year-old a bit too much. Tensions flared from there, and Nicki left the building - at least until the second day of auditions in Charlotte, where everything seemed far more civil.
Frankly, I'm with Nicki MInaj on this one, and it's not because she's quickly becoming my favorite judge on the competition. The questions and comments posed by the rest of the panel are certainly valid, but also have their own time and place. An audition for "American Idol," the lowest point of the show after which contestants move on to rounds of higher importance, should be about the singer's voice as a whole, not the genre into which said singer will most likely fit. Allow a singer like Summer Cunningham to find her voice, so to speak, as the competition moves forward, especially if she makes it to the live shows. There have been plenty of contestants who made it that far and still didn't really have a clue as to who they wanted to be musically, and neither did the judges.
But in other news, there was quite a bit of singing coming out of Charlotte last night. Good singing, at that. We can only hope that, now that the "big fight" has occurred, the focus will be less on the judges and more on them.
Here's a quick rundown of some of the best of Charlotte.
Candice Glover - "Syrup and Honey"
A preface: Nicki Minaj wants to skin Candice Glover and wear her. No, she actually said that. Creepy, dawg! But "Silence of the Lambs' fantasies aside, Glover, a returning contestant who made some waves in Hollywood and Vegas last season, is hands-down the best contestant put through so far this season, and the judges agree, with Jackson giving her a standing ovation and Minaj asking, dumbfounded, "Where have you been?" She's even better than last year, which means that unless the talent pool also got better in 2013, she's a safe bet for the live shows. Soulful and powerful.
Jimmy Smith - "Bless the Broken Road"
I'm not sure how I feel about Jimmy Smith. He has a great voice, so his Hollywood admission is by no means a fluke. But - and I'm about to get slightly Mariah Carey on you here - I'm not convinced his calling card is country music, as it was in his audition with a classic Rascal Flatts tune. Maybe he just needs a little more twang. At any rate, the difference between the judges minus Nicki and I is that I'm not going to tell him to stop singing country yet, nor pick apart his potential. He's good enough for sure, and I'm curious to see where his career goes.
Seretha Guinn - "Fresh Prince of Bel Air"/"How Do I Live"
I choose to talk about Seretha chiefly due to her fantastic song choice - that is, the theme from Will Smith's ubiquitous '90s TV show, which is rarely turned into a non-rapped song. But she made it sound totally effortless and carefree, as if she was just sort of making up the melody on the spot in the shower. Her second song, "How Do I Live" was also good, but she shone when she appeared to be having the most fun. Also, her daughter, who nicknamed Minaj "Dun Dun" (wait, someone gave HER a nickname, not the other way around?! How the tables have turned!), is potentially too cute.
Ashley Smith - "Cowboy Casanova"
Real talk: usually when a contestant comes on the show and automatically makes everything about them in the waiting room, even to the point of calling it the '(Insert Name Here) Show,' you figure things aren't going to go well for our young star/starlet. Ashley Smith proved that first impressions aren't always accurate, doing a commendable take on Carrie Underwood's "Cowboy Casanova," a song I certainly didn't expect to hear from her. Mariah called her effervescent, which is possibly her most spot-on statement of her young judging career.
Taisha Bethea - "Folsom Prison Blues"/"You Oughta Know"
Taisha Bethea is the singer for alt-rock band Carson, and her bandmates are totally fine with her auditioning, before you ask. She begins with a rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" that was promised to vary a bit from the original, but was a little plain. However, her take on Alanis Morissette's signature song showed her personality far more, and was an incredibly raw take on the tune, which I think often warrants best results in its case. Taisha doesn't have a crazy strong voice, but the show has put through singers before that have more character to their voice than are great technical performers. She's one of them.
• Janelle Arthur has been here before, particularly in seasons 10 and 11. This year, she was shown in auditions with a rich country voice that could take her much further in season 12.
• Nicki Minaj's necessity for giving each contestant a nickname might be getting a little out of hand, but Ja'bria "Frog Killer" Barber and Unnamed "Collard Greens" Contestant are her best yet.
• Speaking of Barbers, Rodney Barber, a.k.a. the Voice of Charlotte, doesn't seem to be a top 24-worthy contestant, but his voice is powerful and his backstory helping the/being homeless is even more so.
• The word of the day is 'poppin'.'
• Had Isabel Gonzalez not made it through to Hollywood, that would have been a lot of criminally wasted Silly String on her family's part.
• "Please don't fight. It makes us sad," said Brandy Hamilton. It also seems to be doing something to the ratings -- and not in a good way.
• Joel Nemoyer really took the judges' criticism lying down.
Baton Rouge tonight, y'all! Ready for the crazies?
Who do you side with -- Nicki or Mariah? Do you even care? Who was the best contestant of Charlotte? Did the NASCAR puns make you facedesk as much as I? Go tell it in the comments!