heads to Detroit this week, the home of Motown and crippling
bankruptcy. While I don't believe that Detroit is the gem of a city American Idol
tries to make it look like, I do believe in the talent. Of the 40
golden tickets handed out, we see and hear 23 of the singers going to
This episode features some of my favorite voices of the season (Keri Lynn and Jade) and my favorite people (tuba-playing Malaya and Maurice's kids). It also marks the return of Marrialle Sellars, that random chick who was the very first thing we saw in season 13. Well, it's not really her return as much as a repeat of the audition we already saw, now with a super sad backstory.
The best moment of the episode, however, has nothing to do with the contestants. When Jennifer Lopez goes on a bathroom break, Harry Connick, Jr. pretends to be a contestant. He pretends to be nervous and in awe of Keith Urban, then sings a flat version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." To top it all off, Harry asks Keith to sign his calf, which he does (complete with his phone number). This replaces Harry cradling that dude last week as the new best moment in American Idol auditions history.
The Good from Detroit
Kery Lynn Roche: Detroit opens strong with this waitress who gets two songs, one with a guitar and one without. They're both great and she has a confident, natural tone that seems to be able to do anything. I could see myself really loving everything she does.
Julian Miller: He plays a guitar, but I can't focus on his voice because of his wool cap, jean jacket and bowtie. It's so artificial and he's trying way too hard.
2 Out of 3: In what's becoming a trend this season, three auditions are lumped together, but only two make it to Hollywood and the other is rejected. This group features Samantha Furtwengler, Olivia Diamond and Paris Primeau. Based solely on their names, it's obvious which two are stars and it's not Furtwengler. Olivia sings "And I Am Telling You" and pink-haired Paris sings "The House of the Rising Sun," both on my overused list of songs, but they move on anyway.
Malaya Watson: She's 15 and plays the tuba in the marching band. She's spazzy in the coolest, most awesome way possible. And damn, she's got a big, powerful voice to match the power it takes to carry a tuba. She ends by adorably telling Jennifer that her band teacher is gonna call her in five years.
Bryan Watt: He's 29, which makes him a member of the A.A.R.P. in Idol terms. He has a nice voice, as pleasant as his face, but it's all a little too low-key for me. He's like a box of puppies.
Khristian D'Avis: Her name is pretentious and her vocals try too hard without having any natural flow. Keith finds her inconsistent. When she tells the judges that she used to do beauty pageants, it explains everything about her style. Harry points out that her Sicilian accent vanished as soon as she started begging. Against all odds, Jennifer and Harry both give her another shot and say "Yes." That makes no sense, especially since Harry basically called her fake.
Jena Asciutto: She was in a band for four years, even though she's only 17. Her personality (or lack thereof) is boring and dull, but her voice is big and strong, though Harry points out a few technical bad habits.
Melanie Porras: She was raised by single dad who gave up his own musical ambitions for her. Her make-up and hair are overdone and it detracts a bit from her cool, strong voice. It's like she comes pre-packaged, complete with the small hometown in Georgia and a music-loving single dad for a great personal narrative.
Jade Lathan: She has flowers in her hair and sings Amy Winehouse with some very impressive tricks to make it unique and adorable. The judges love those "whistly notes" in the back of her voice, which is the best way to describe what she does.
Sarah Scharb: Her voice is overshadowed by Harry's obsession with her dad working for Delta as he geeks out over Deltalina, the woman in the safety videos who Jennifer and Keith don't know because they don't fly coach.
Sydney Arterbridge: She's a 15-year-old girl with the audacity to sing "Loving You" with its insanely high notes. But she does it, much to Harry's delight.
Maurice Townsend: He's 26 with four kids and he's the Minister of Music at his church. His kids are super cute and the show makes sure we see them being adorable talking about how their daddy is gonna be famous. They come into the room after the audition and Jennifer immediately grabs the baby before they make the kids give their dad his ticket to Hollywood. I can't even remember what his voice sounded like, but his kids are all superstars.
David Oliver Willis: He auditioned last season and was cut in Vegas. So obviously he can sing and is pretty darn awesome, especially since in the past year he opened a coffee house with his wife. Harry thinks he relies too heavily on the guitar.
Brandy Neelly: Somehow Jennifer remembers that this girl auditioned before. She has a little country vibe, but I find her face way too pale, like a porcelain figurine. The judges give differing opinions about a guttural sound in the back of her throat.
Ethan Harris: He looks like an Osmond and sings a Keith Urban song. He even drew a picture of Keith and asks him to sign it. He's super dorky and it's one of those auditions where I assume he's going to be terrible, and then he's pretty good.
3 Out of 3: It's another three-person combo, only this time they all get tickets to Hollywood despite some criticism for all of them. Still, Leah Guerrero, laid back Zach Day and Symphony Howlett all move on.
Ayla Stackhouse: She's a bubbly girl originally from Detroit who is now living in Hollywood. She's sparkly and talented and the judges like her a lot. The judges expect her to "explode," though I don't really hear it.
Eric Gordon: After Keith makes an inappropriate joke about using a blow dryer for this guy's impressive pompadour, he delivers a nice, laidback kind of soul. Harry also loves Eric's Member's Only jacket.
Ryan Nisbett: He has a giant bouffant hairdo with a very thin devil goatee. He lost a whole lot of weight (by cutting out gluten and dairy) and looks like a hipster. The judges love his voice, and while it is unique, I have no idea what they're listening to because at one point his voice cracks and it sounds really weak to me. He has a cold, which probably explains my confusion, so I guess the judges hear something that I don't.
Marrialle Sellars: The Detroit auditions end with the girl we first met at the very start of season 13. Her dad drilled music into her and made her learn a ton of instruments, and then he died in 2008, three days after Christmas. Before he died he wrote his daughters a letter telling them to use everything he taught them about music. Between her backstory and the fact that her audition was shown twice, I feel like the Idol producers are pushing her on us way too hard.
The Bad from Detroit
Fake Montage: Much to the credit of the new American Idol, they lump three bad auditions together in a quick montage pointing out how they're fake and trying to be "bad" on purpose. The worst is a guy in a wig and lipstick claiming to be a former Fly Girl with J. Lo. I'm so happy Idol isn't wasting a ton of airtime on this nonsense. We don't even hear them sing.
Liam Newberry: He's a sweet, jazz-loving kid with turquoise pants. I'm sad to report that one of the few auditioning singers who actually loves Harry's music is awful and tone-deaf. The judges give him some good advice, namely to forget everything he's ever been taught.
Rakita and Karlita Gulledge: They're twins, but unlike the ones from San Francisco, neither of them have any talent. If two cats were placed in a sack and tossed into a river, the sound they'd make would be roughly similar to this performance.
Facial Hair Montage: There's another quick bad montage, but the only featured singers are bearded Xavier Calvillo and Weird Al lookalike Tony Delbarrio, both of whom deserved to be rejected based solely on their questionable facial hair.
(Image courtesy of FOX)