St. Louis was the Gateway City both literally and metaphorically last night. As the final stop on the "Idol" audition tour, the St. Louis auditions were the gateway to a better place: Hollywood Week. And after three weeks of (mostly) lackluster episodes, a change sure could do "Idol" good.
Former "Idol" Carrie Underwood  came from this very city's auditions in 2005, but this season's contestants seemed to lack the star power Ms. Underwood commands.
Still, there were some interesting auditions -- five, in fact. Oh, and as Ryan pointed out, Randy Jackson was wearing what was basically an Astropop shirt for one day of auditions. Is he right, or is he right?
Read on to find out who was sizzlin' in St. Louis.
We'll call this smoky-voiced Arkansas native the St. Louis contestant most likely to go far in the competition. Admit it -- you were transfixed at her highly unique tone, even during the vocal cracks at the apex of Adele 's "One and Only." Her higher notes were iffy, but her lower register was bluesy enough to keep me intrigued. The best part of the audition was seeing her father, a rocker in image, say that he works as a florist.
The 22-year-old was the first of two contestants who 1.) focused on their fathers in the footage leading to up their auditions, and 2.) looks quite similar to Nick Carter . I mean, REALLY! The University of Central Florida student brought the soul with Sam Cooke 's "Change is Gonna Come," and it was a nice little audition before J.Lo decided to make some bold claims -- "You know you're gonna be a star, right?!" I don't know about that, but homeboy can sing for sure.
The other daddy-lovin', Carter-lookalikin' competitor, Ethan started his audition off on a rough note -- he came in bleeding from his forehead (apparently, the stress got to him and he reopened a cut... oops!). It's the hundredth cover of Edwin McCain 's "I'll Be" we've heard (though to his credit, the first we've heard this year), but Ethan has enough of a voice to go far, and the looks to please the ladies. Most interesting? He claims he's a country singer. So, we'll see if that side of Ethan comes out during Hollywood Week.
First of all -- that name! And I thought it was gonna be hard to remember the spelling of Eben Franckewitz's name. Reis, it should be noted, belongs to an esteemed few: he actually made Steven Tyler cry. The hometown boy was bullied in high school, and didn't catch on with singing until he joined choir in his senior year. His performance of "Lean On Me" had runs galore, but his small voice causes concern. He's good, but he'll need to project a bit and show more range in order to stay in the competition.
Well, we've already heard this story before -- in fact, last night! 26-year-old Rachelle is going through a divorce, and her song choice reflects her feelings toward the situation (see: Britnee Kellogg ). Judging by her performance of Faith Hill 's "Find Somebody New" (as well as her accent while speaking), Rachelle will do best in a country format. But will she get that far? Tough to say. She's got the sound down, but she'll need some extra oomph to go far.
Also worth checking out: Once it's on YouTube, take a look at hotel auditor Mark Ingram's rejected performance -- by far the most entertaining of the evening.
What do you think? Will any of the contestants shown in St. Louis make waves come Hollywood Week? Tell us in the comments, and we'll see you next Wednesday at 8 p.m. when "Idol" begins its always-dramatic second round in L.A.
- Reality Check