It’s only the second night of season 13, and Harry Connick, Jr. already has three nicknames. He was dubbed “Harsh Harry” during Wednesday night’s season premiere, and was also called “Hatchet Harry” and “Dr. No” by Jennifer Lopez throughout the two-hour episode of auditions.
But the panel’s newcomer says it like it is – or, should be. “‘American Idol’ really is like a checklist – can you sing? Do you have charisma? Things like that,” he told one hopeful. “I wouldn’t say you’re the greatest singer I’ve ever heard, but you’re so likeable. It’s a yes for me.”
Austin continued to deliver the high notes with promising auditionees. Jesse Roach kicked off the auditions, singing K.T. Oslin’s “Do Ya” with a rasp while strumming on a matte black guitar and grabbing the first golden ticket of the night. And powerhouse vocalist Megan Miller, who sings four to five shows a week, caused worry with the judges when auditioning with “Last Name” by Carrie Underwood because they feared her voice was so strong, it would potentially blow out. Guess we’ll find out during Hollywood week.
Do best friends who audition for Idol together, make it to Hollywood together? “I’m gonna show you how it’s done today,” soul singer Quiandra Boston-Pearsall told the judges before she sang, while 15-year-old Jamiah Malik rapped an original song over an acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, only Boston-Pearsall earned a golden ticket.
But ladies, feast your eyes on Spencer Lloyd, a 19-year-old worship leader with gorgeous eyes and skin that got J.Lo giggling uncontrollably. “You’re a sweet guy and you’re ridiculously handsome — the part that’s missing for me, is you’re an OK singer,” Connick said, while Urban agreed, saying, “There’s so many ways to entertain.” Another worship leader, John Fox, brought his WGWG act with Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love” with authority, which Urban called refreshing after seeing so many guitarists that day. Unanimously, they sent him through.
Other successful contestants include T.K. Hash, who does a great impression of President Barack Obama, and got Urban singing along to his audition of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark.” Then, 15-year-old Tristen Langley, who was accompanied into the audition room by his mother, season 1 second-runner-up Nikki McKibbin, sang “Santeria” by Sublime. “Second-generation ‘American Idol’ – this is history right here!” said J.Lo, who was sold. Connick, however, was not sold, but Keith Urban let him through.
The second hour brought the “American Idol”crew to San Francisco, kicking off with high school student Rachel Rolleri, who is a massive fan of Urban. She put her textured voice on Sugarland’s “Stay” with confidence, even though her nerves disrupted her chords. Though she has a habit of showing on her face that she messed up, she’ll have to get rid of it before she gets to Hollywood. Former Junior Olympic athlete Remi Wolf was called “primitive” by Urban, and MK Nobilette “authentic” by J.Lo, as they were some of the many given the green light to go south to Hollywood.
Alt rocker David Luning performed a growly original in the audition room, a song that’s much moodier than his in-person charisma leads on. “For being such a happy guy, that’s as misanthropic as you can get!” Connick said. “‘Idol’ is not that … it’s interesting.” Lopez said he’s interesting enough for her, convincing the judges enough to get Luning a ticket to Hollywood.
Twins Selena and Sierra Moreno took turns and auditioned together – Selena performing Janis Joplin’s “Try” and Sierra taking on Beyonce’s “1+1” – and had very different effects on the judges. While Lopez preferred Sierra and Urban opted for Selena, Connick had no problem saying that one was clearly the better singer, giving the golden ticket to Selena. “They know,” Connick said to the other judges about how he noticed how each watched the other’s audition, and that deep inside, they knew only one — and which one — was to move forward.
Returning auditionee Briana Oakley, sent home during Hollywood week last season, showed off her range with Sara Bareilles’ “Stay” and secured herself a spot in Hollywood.
What’s the trick to a golden ticket? Hopefuls Aranesa Turner and Rico Perkins auditioned with songs from the “Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory” soundtrack. Also scoring a ticket was small-town-girl Caitlin Johnson, who almost didn’t make the cut – Connick didn’t think she was ready, but the other two judges gave her a chance.
The final audition of the night was from sound healer Adam Roth – dressed in all white and with a beard and hairstyle that resembled Jesus – who confused with “Hallelujah,” because his voice sounded very pretty, but felt all over the place stylistically and felt a bit forced. While the editing played with his audition reel with special effects, his voice was surprisingly nice.
The most unique entrance came from Emmanuel Zidor, who first came into the room by crawling on the floor singing Beyonce, but then officially auditioned with Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me.” The judges’ approval brought him to tears, since his former music teacher told him he’d never make it.
Unfortunately, those who didn’t make the cut were oddly-operatic restaurant pianist Grace Anne Field, a very fit Gaddy Basil Foster, eccentric guitarist Ronald Reed and LJ Hernandez, who flooded the judges with compliments before pulling glow sticks out of his pockets.
The best bad audition of the night was Rick Rowling, whose plan was to “sing really badly and promote my movie career.” He came in wearing only suspenders and cut jeans (that’s right, no shirt), doing his best Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell impressions. “You’ve disrespected the process – there’s people who wait their whole life for this… how’s that for Harsh Harry?” Connick said.
Nineteen San Francisco auditionees and 14 Austin singers moved forward, totaling the count to 79 for the first week of “Idol” auditions.