The American Idol Season 14 audition tour rolls on Wednesday, with a bus stop in small-town Kansas City to pick up where we left off last week.

And while I appreciate the increased focus on the quality performances and less time wasted on the weird and rejected, it makes it much more difficult for anyone to really stand out.

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Everyone gets up there and basically does the same thing, so outside of the select few who really knock it out of the park or have a specific personality quirk or memorable backstory, it seems like it would be difficult for the average joe sitting on a couch with an iPad in one hand and a glass of wine/beverage of choice in the other to really latch on to anyone you may or may not see again six weeks from now.

No, the auditions are all about the spectacle and the judges. It’s the visual of tens of thousands of people lining up for a shot at stardom combined with the witty banter and wacky antics of three celebrities who legitimately seem to enjoy and respect each other.

Now, before I start getting hate mail about how much everyone loves the audition episodes, on with the show!

Making the World Series

Big Ron Wilson, a.k.a. Big Sexy, unbuttons his shirt to let the chest hair breath before he cockily walks into the audition room singing “Jenny from the Block” while Big Ron’s mom towers over Ryan Seacreast outside. He sings Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” directly to Jennifer Lopez, so much so that Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr., have a side conversation about the best food in KC before heading out for barbecue. They come back just in time for Big Ron’s falsetto, and he goes through to Hollywood with a bit of advice to balance out the personality and showmanship with the voice. Then Harry asks J-Lo if they hooked up.

Ashley Lusk, Josh Sanders and Casey Thrasher are all going through, but only Josh’s smooth voice gives me goosebumps. Casey looks super familiar, and that’s because Google tells me he’s back from last season after just missing out on the top 30. 

Joey Cook, 23, is a blue haired chick who plays the accordion because she thinks it should be more mainstream than just a polka instrument. She’s good in an Ingrid Michaelson kind of way, but the accordion is distracting instead of complimentary. A gigglefest ensues, forcing J-Lo to shush everyone before Keith declares Joey his favorite of the day. Harry is also in love, but he cautions her to step outside of herself and realize how close she is to being a novelty act. 

Alexis Gomez is a country girl who doesn’t ride horses or need cowboy boots, and she’s looking to reinvent the wheel. Her Little Big Town’s “Little White Church” is good, but not spectacular. Keith doesn’t think it’s quite there yet and gives her a no, but Harry casts the deciding vote to give her a shot. 

Anton Bushner, a.k.a. Slim, is a 19-year-old Keith Urban superfan. But he’s the respectful type, so he offers a hearty handshake before launching into Keith’s own “Tonight I Wanna Cry.” He’s uber country, in the Scottiest McCreery sense of the word, but yet there’s something about it that just works. His voice isn’t even that great, but lock them doors and turn the lights down low, he’s going through with three very appreciative judges. He’ll be exposed in Hollywood, but it’s a nice moment for today.

Some dude named Cedric with a decent voice advances wrapped around a commercial break that asked viewers to vote on whether or not he would advance.

After a montage of singers getting golden tickets, it’s time for 18-year-old Stephanie Gummelt, her high-pitched voice and her original song. She’s quirky, awkward and adorable, and the judges watch in quiet admiration. She lists her influences as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks, with extra emphasis on Steve Perry. It’s a shame the Dawg is gone, as he could probably hook it up, though she admits she’d get sick if he walked in the room. #VomitForStevePerry. “Talk about a journey!” Keith quips. Harry wants more breath behind her voice, so it’s a no for him. But she’s still moving on.

Ellen Petersen brought her banjo, and she wants to be a cowboy’s sweetheart. Her rendition has an ease to it that screams Top 24, and Keith calls her a pro. Harry compliments her for not overplaying her instrument, and it’s three yeses. Then she plays The Beverly Hillbillies theme while Keith and Harry sing along. J-Lo does not know the words.

Kohlton Pascal looks and acts like George Clooney’s daughter’s friend from The Descendants, but he sounds a lot more like Joe Cocker (may he rest in peace). He’s a loner who travels around the country on whatever he can scrape together, but he’s okay because he’s got a tarp and a bedroll. His original song is odd but unique, and the judges love it but have concerns about his place in this type of competition. Harry wonders if he’ll do what it takes to compete, J-Lo doesn’t know if his feelings and emotions will come through, and Keith isn’t visually stimulated, only aurally.

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And They’ll Never Be Royals

New York theater actor Ian Subsara might want to think about a day job, as his rendition of “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” is less than stellar. Still, Harry pushes him to sing higher and higher notes until only dogs can hear him. 

Cue montage of country music loving rejects.

Following a support-from-your-family montage, 15-year-old Ashley Stehle from St. Louis comes out with her deaf parents and the rest of her family. He dad was just recently fitted with a device that allows him to hear her sing for the first time, and I’m a bit teary-eyed even before she launches into Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” Her voice has a pleasant tone packed with potential, but she needs sooooo much work. It’s all over the place, lacking control, technique, structure and, what’s that called? Oh yeah, key. Maybe in the future, but not for now. 

Cue montage of terrible singers, one with keyboard.

On to the Big Apple

And just like that, we’ve wrapped things up in might K-C at the bat. Thirty-seven people are moving on from rib country, and now it’s off to J-Lo’s hometown. No, silly, we’re not auditioning in the Bronx. It’s all New York City.

Any one of these advancing singers tickle your fancy? Anyone you think is in it for the long haul? I know what you’re thinking, that I opened this with a knock on the audition shows, only to have a bunch of memorable folks hit the stage. 

Well I can’t disagree, but I’m also too lazy to rewrite the intro, so we’ll let the poll decide.

You can watch American Idol every Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on FOX.

(Image and video courtesy of FOX)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order