'American Idol' Recap: Burnell Taylor, Charlie Askew Amaze


It looks like "American Idol" is finally focusing on the reason it's around to begin with: its contestants.

It looks like "American Idol" is finally focusing on the reason it's around to begin with: its contestants.


After three episodes of cutting away to judge tensions and drama, culminating in Charlotte when Nicki Minaj walked out of the audition room, the spotlight returned to the singing talent in Baton Rouge - and it's a good thing it did, because after a ho-hum first few episodes, there really needed to be a strong audition city, one that produced all kinds of potential finalists rather than above-average vocalists who had some sort of quirk or backstory to get their audition on TV.


Let's waste no more time; the show, clocking in at one hour, certainly didn't. Here's the best Baton Rouge had to offer.


Charlie Askew - "Breakthrough"/"Nature Boy"

Charlie Askew's the kind of contestant you can't help but pull for the second you meet him. A socially awkward teen, Askew uses music as an outlet to both communicate and express himself when, as he said, he "can't do it verbally." His take on "Breakthrough" was raw and had its trouble spots, but he showcased a penchant for some powerful yells on the higher notes. He followed with Nat "King" Cole's "Nature Boy," which showed a softer, more controlled vocal. Does he fit the usual "Idol" mold? Not precisely, but perhaps that's what this show needs right now.



Megan Miller - "Something's Got a Hold on Me"

Megan, known to Baton Rpuge residents as Miss Greater Baton Rouge, wore high heels to her audition, as many other ladies might have. The difference? She was also on crutches, following an accident three days prior that left her needing surgery. But surgery can wait - it's "Idol" time! Megan was a good sport about her situation - turning a negative into a positive, as Pitbull might say - at one point using one of her crutches as a faux microphone, and her take on "Something's Got a Hold on Me" packed a definite punch. She's got some pipes, that one. I'm curious to see if she can tackle some more upbeat material.



Burnell Taylor - "I'm Here"

Taylor didn't strike me as an exceptional talent when he was introduced, but as with Ashley Smith last night, I suppose I shouldn't be doing much judging until the singing starts. And boy, when it started, I didn't want it to stop. Burnell is one of those singers that, I think, doesn't even comprehend how good he is. His "I'm Here" showed definite swagger, but he seems unassuming otherwise. So far, the former New Orleans native displaced after Hurricane Katrina has been the closest to getting a full standing ovation (only Nicki didn't relent this time). He'll be around for awhile.


Maddie Assel - "Oh! Darling"

After being met by Randy Jackson at New Orleans' Café du Monde the night before to audition, 17-year-old Assel impressed with a bluesy take on a Beatles classic. She claimed she had taken some inspiration with her singing style from, among others, Haley Reinhart, the "Idol" season 10 second runner-up who excelled with her signature growl, which you sort of hear in Assel. Also, can she bring her grandma, who nominated her to audition, to Hollywood? Please?



Paul Jolley - "I Won't Let Go"

Make this two straight nights of male "Idol" hopefuls singing country (both Rascal Flatts, no less) that I'm just not sure may be in the right genre, if their audition is any indication. As with Charlotte's Jimmy Smith, Jolley has a fairly strong voice, but lacks enough of the twang that makes a country artist really stand out. It may be an easy fix, and maybe he just sounded a little less country on his audition song for whatever reason and will convince me a whole lot more in Hollywood. Either way, certainly a shoo-in for Hollywood with a voice like that.



Other Observations:


"I want to kidnap you and take you home with me," said Assel to Ryan Seacrest. Two nights, two times I'm reminded of Buffalo Bill from "Silence of the Lambs."

Chris Barthel is your audition to watch if you're into the bad ones. If only for the mushroom puns, at least.

The show featured three singers in quick succession that I'd've liked to have seen full auditions for: Michelle Montezeri, Breanna Steer and Brandy Hotard. I guess there's always Hollywood, unless they're lost to the masses there as well.

"It's OK, because one day a chicken will win 'American Idol.'"


Did Baton Rouge impress you? No? Happy there was a lack of judge bickering? Looking forward to next week's shots of San Antonio and Long Beach? Sound off in the comments.


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