American Idol‘s fourth night of auditions featured two big events. First, they took place in Jennifer Lopez’s hometown of New York, allowing Jenny to return to her old block. Second, for the first time ever, a former contestant showed up as a guest judge. American Idol season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert filled in for absent Keith Urban as the third judge.
Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. have a lot of fun with Adam, jokingly pointing out that he can sometimes be an a-hole to the singers and even asking him to audition for them. I appreciate that Adam isn’t a blindly nice guy. He says “No” a few times and, at the very end, he announces that he saw maybe six genuine artists. He knows the difference between someone who can deliver a great audition and someone who can actually go far in this competition.
As for the singers, there are some really great talents, but they only serve to emphasize how bad some of the other decisions are. Of the 17 people to make it to Hollywood, there are only three who I’m interested in seeing again: Jax, Maddie and Qaasim. And there are others (Sal, Shi, Eric) who I still can’t believe are going to Hollywood.
The Good from New York
Sal Valentinetti: He’s a full-blown New York Italian cliche, with the thick accent and the threats of mafia-style violence. He’s a Sinatra crooner who wins a bet against Harry for $100. Harry doesn’t like him, but J. Lo and Adam do so he’s going to Hollywood. I’m 80 percent certain Harry will find a horse’s head in his bed tomorrow.
J. None: He brings his teddy bear into the audition because it reminds him that he had to overcome asthma. Harry is more interested in playing with the bear and making it flirt with J. Lo than listening to him sing. It was more creepy than funny, though it did prompt Adam to announce that he’s not into bears, which was genuinely hilarious.
Jax: Her dad was an NYC firefighter who retired due to injuries from 9/11. Ah, so we’re reaching the emotionally-manipulative backstory portion of the auditions. Despite that, she’s very good, sitting at the piano and singing a soft, emotional, beautiful song. She also has a 6-foot-tall kid brother, and if she makes the live shows, I imagine he’s going to become a thing.
Najah Lewis: She plays a very unusual arrangement of Maroon 5’s “Payphone.” The judges love her inventiveness, but I find it kind of annoying. Her voice is too gravelly and affected.
The Boys Next Door: 20-year-old Tion Phipps and 21-year-old James Killian Dunn get lumped together as two younger male singers who shamelessly flirt with J. Lo. James gets a “No” from Adam, but they both head to Hollywood, possibly to live out a real-life version of Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming thriller The Boy Next Door, in which she’s a teacher who sleeps with a younger guy who turns out to be her new student and an obsessive stalker. It was originally titled The Dangers of Cougardom.
Shi Scott: She (which is how you pronounce her first name) sings “Valerie” and sounds too much like Amy Winehouse so it’s a copycat, not original. Adam thinks she needs more time to grow and says “No,” but gets outvoted by the others. That’s twice in a row that Adam was the lone “No” vote, which is quite odd. Usually guest judges are overly nice. That leads to a montage of Adam Lambert being an a-hole to contestants, which is kind of cool.
Eric Lopez: He’s a Puerto Rican who looks white and he sings Queen, which is now fronted by Adam Lambert. It’s a weird trainwreck that the judges love for some reason. J. Lo says “No,” but the guys say “Yes.” Ugh, he gives me nightmare flashbacks of Emmanuel Zidor from last year.
Three Blondes: We get a montage of three blonde chicks. Maddie Walker auditioned last year while Courtney Zahn and Jackie Nese are newbies. They all go to Hollywood, but the highlight is Harry stomping a cockroach.
Qaasim Middleton: His dad is in Stomp and his mom was the first black Miss Mississippi. She also tells everyone that her 18-year-old boy is a virgin who wears a purity ring, which instantly makes her the world’s most embarrassing mom ever. He’s a cool kid with an interesting voice, doing a little beatboxing and scatting too. I’d keep an eye on him, because it’s pretty obvious that he’s a star.
Adam Lambert: Harry asks Adam to audition for fun, so Adam recreates his “Bohemian Rhapsody” audition from season 8. Not surprisingly, he’s even better now than he was then. But seeing clips of Randy, Paula, Kara and Simon listening to Adam is weird.
Adam Ezegelian: He’s a big, toy-loving guy with big curly hair. If you watched the Top 24 from that performance on the premiere, you probably recognize his hair. He has a very distinctive silhouette, so we kind of know he’ll be going to the live shows (unless there’s another guy who looks like him). He’s a crazy rocker with a sensitive side, so he fills the Caleb Johnson role.
Katherine Winston: She gets a “Yes,” but then we flash back to see her actual audition of a sad song over a montage of rejections.
Travis Finlay: With his leather pants and story about not being able to afford music school, he has one of those big, soulful voices we see from guys every season. Sure, he can sing, and Harry is obsessed with his handsomeness, but I prefer something a little more unique. Even J. Lo criticizes some of the mistakes in his excessive runs.
The Couple: Girlfriend and boyfriend Yanni G. and Nick Fradiani walk in together to audition. Yanni does the Cup song and it’s just OK. Nick does “In Your Eyes” and it’s much better than his girlfriend, which is probably bad for their relationship. Even worse? He’s going to Hollywood, but she isn’t. AWKWARD!
“Hollywood” Anderson: He’s a NYC busker and hustler. He sings an original song about a girl he loved in college. His voice is rich and soulful, and the judges love it. Harry says it’s the best audition of New York and the season. It’s a great performance, but I’m not sure if he can do more or if this is a one-hit wonder situation.
The Bad from New York
Johnny Arco: This violin-playing singer tells a story about getting sent to jail for 20 days for playing Bach in the subway. But he claims to be in possession of a violin worth half a million dollars that he plays like a ukulele. The judges treat him like a wacky character who they politely reject, but he strikes me as more of a dangerously unstable potential serial killer.
Next week on American Idol: The show heads to Minneapolis and slims down to one-hour episodes on Thursdays.
(Image courtesy of FOX)