"American Idol" headed to Austin, Texas for Wednesday night's (Feb. 2) episode, and the show's third-ever trip to the city paid off, with 50 hopefuls getting tickets to Hollywood and contestants John Wayne Schulz and Janelle Arthur bringing their country charm.
Schulz, a 23-year-old cowboy who gave the cameras a full tour of his employer's cattle ranch, brought an earnest simplicity to Brooks & Dunn's "I Believe," while 20-year-old Arthur breezed through Duffy's "Syrup & Honey." Both appeared fully at ease performing in front of the judges -- and it Schulz's case, that may be because he has experience. As Billboard.com confirms, Schulz released an album entitled "Ropin' Dreams" as a teenager on the independent label BSW Records.
As the first contestant without a tragic backstory to close out an "Idol" season 10 episode, 19-year-old Casey Abrams' audition was a much-needed relief from the drama. The California native sang Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor" and came equipped with a melodica, which he played as judges cheerfully strolled out of the studio and danced along. Abrams, who admitted he bears a passing resemblance to funnyman Seth Rogen, has the "unassuming" appeal that Randy Jackson spoke of last week -- though without Simon Cowell bringing a little skepticism into the "Idol" process, Jackson and fellow judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez might do well to remember that the show's original unassuming talent, Taylor Hicks, is also considered one of its most disappointing winners.
Simon Cowell appears to be a distant memory on "Idol," though -- Tyler is the new standout judge, and the show is clearly milking his appeal for all it's worth. " 'Idol' would like to apologize for last week's outrageous behavior by Steven Tyler. Mr. Tyler has been warned and assures us it will never happen again," read a title card at the beginning of the show -- only to be followed by Tyler making another off-color joke. Inappropriate? Maybe, but it was also good TV, and on "Idol," that's what counts.