After a rather inconsequential stop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a brief look at some mid-range talent, the American Idol audition tour is taking a sharp turn from north to south, headed from one of the Twin Cities to the City that Care Forgot.

After a nice stretch of knock-it-out-of-the-park shows, the land of the Vikings came up lacking. I could try to put it in my own words, but recapper John Kubicek summed it up quite poetically when he said:

“It’s so bad that the ‘good’ singers moving on to Hollywood include a frat boy who sings with a very thick and fake country accent, an all-over-the-place hunter who got in primarily because she killed a bear, a Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator (literally, that’s his job) and a recycled contestant from The Voice” (who still went on to become the episode’s One Act to Watch).

American Idol Recap: A Mediocre Night in Minneapolis >>>

So will Harry’s hometown of NOLA deliver? Or turn the City of Lakes frigid performance into a trend? Growing up around the French Quarter made Mr. Connick, Jr., everything he is today, but is there another superstar in the making toiling around Bourbon Street? If so, let his or her journey begin.

Who Dat Singing Good?

You’ll read about the disappointing beginning as you scroll down, but the first positive performance of note comes from 26-year-old Jelly Joseph. Her “Rolling in the Deep” doesn’t hold a candle to anything Adele could have belted out 45 seconds after the throat surgery that canceled her tour, but it’s such a far cry from the rest of the pack that it gets her through to Hollywood.

Tiffany Stringer is a 16-year-old Texan and 100 percent a cheerleader. In reality, it’s dance team and drill team, but her boisterous personality refuses to be containable. It’s cute and kinda pop-like, but overall I’d rate it as annoying. She doesn’t cut it for Harry, but Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez put her through because she’s loud and likely considered infectious.

Greyson Turner is 15 and plays in a band with his girlfriend in South Carolina, making him the Michael Cera to her Juno. He saunters in and plays an original song called “Chasing Shadows.” Like the other “goods” so far, it’s not terrible. But he lacks any semblance of polish, and the immature holes in his voice shine through at various points. He’s not ready, but it’s three more yeses.

The performances take a quick break so Harry can visit the 9th Ward, which was basically wiped out during Hurricane Katrina. So he teamed up with Habitat For Humanity and Ellis Marsalis to build houses for local musicians and their families. The focal point is the Musicians Village, where Harry pals around with some kids. Then it’s back to the action.

Twenty-year-old Quentin Alexander is from the above-mentioned 9th Ward, and he’s half pilgrim, half tribal and half papa shango, with a hoop nose ring, bare chest and anti-evil amulet around his neck. His “Royals” is quirky and pushes the envelope of what sounds good, but the judges want him to take it even further and just be weird. And they’ll give him another chance to do so.

Mikey Duran went to the same high school as Harry and hope to make his fellow Jesuit alum proud. His original song, aptly title “My Demise,” isn’t going to win any talent shows, but he’s decent enough. Except for the fact that his throaty tone sounds like Kermit the Frog. He’s like a homeless man’s Jack Johnson, and he just keeps singing after the judges stop him, which is always annoying. J-Lo describes his sound as “unique,” and he’s through to Hollywood. 

Nalani Quintello, Tori Martin and Hope Windle all want to be country stars, and they’re all going through without wowing anyone. Meh.

Alexis Chapa is the will she or won’t she singer of this stop, and if you accurately predicted she’d advance, you are a seer of seers. Or maybe you’re just a huge fan of the Univision singing show La Voz Kids and recognized her from season one. Either way, give yourself a golden ticket.

Ricky Dale Hendricks is a 17-year-old clean-cut good ol’ boy, and he’s pop country music in a bottle. It’s sweet, but mediocre. So naturally, the judges love him. Keith purrs about Ricky’s natural talent, which he deems out of control right now. But in this case, that’s a good thing, because he can learn to rein it in and control it, like a youngster with a Mustang who doesn’t know how to drive yet. Harry says Ricky is a kid who sounds like a kid, and the only way to remedy that is time or to put him in the ring with Mike Tyson. Methinks that ends in a knockout, but we shall see.

Dakota Suarez, a.k.a. Bianca Jade, is the drag queen version of Adam Lambert, and his voice is just too theater but without Adam’s power. It’s a no from Harry, but Keith and J-Lo put him through. It’s an Idol first.

Adam Lasher is Carlos Santana’s nephew and has performed on stage with the guitar legend, which would you make you think he’d have his own “in” into the industry. A skateboarding hand injury doesn’t affect his playing ability, and his original song already sounds like a recorded track. He reminds us of the fact that everyone on The Voice is at least a pseudo-pro invited there by producers who saw videos of their performances. If you want, you can check out Adam’s channel on iTunes (no, I’m not linking to it, but there are 14 songs you can buy).

Erica Washington is a young mother who scores the last audition. She gets emotional talking about how having her daughter changed her life for the better but also put her dreams on hold. Her rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo” isn’t perfect, but she oozes potential and garners the first goose bumps of the night. 

Wow, what an immensely anti-climactic end to the show, as the judges chow down on a bowl of crawfish and Ryan Seacrest waves to the camera.

Who Beat Dem Saints

Drew Plaisance kicks off the show, and he strikes me as a weird dude even before he opens his mouth to sing. And that’s not just because I think “Plaisance” sounds like a verb (“He play-SANCED flamboyantly across the stage!”). He got through to the judges because his family grew up with Harry’s (his second cousin “babysitted” for the musician) and he brought pictures. The judges want a funny Harry story, and Drew muses that not only did Harry always run around and play on the piano, he also wouldn’t shut up! Then Drew offers a gut-wrenching (and not in a good way) performance of “Pretty Young Thing,” complete with horrific Jacko dance moves. It’s the type of performance where you hope this guy lost a bet.

Drew begins an elongated montage of the damned, bruising Harry’s ego as Nawlins gets off to a tough start. 

Sarah Quintana is a bare-midriffed elder stateswoman at 28, and she croons along jazzily as Harry tickles the ivories. It’s one of the more pleasant numbers of the evening, probably because she’s the most experienced, but I’m still not blown away. Harry tells her to quit on her dreams, and while she respects his honesty, she still wants to go to LA. Keith’s yes is not enough, though, as Ms. Lopez shoots her down. Urban laments that he just doesn’t get J-Lo at all.  

Then there’s a montage of people not being able to find the exit from the audition room, and it strikes me as representative of the talent.

Wagons West

And that’s it for New Orleans, which was much less impressive than I’d hoped, worthy of an hour, even. Outside of nearly-already-professional Adam Lasher, I don’t see much hope from this group. But that’s why they have rounds instead of just finals, so here’s hoping that someone proves me wrong.

We’re off to San Francisco next for the last set of auditions before people really start paying attention.

See you next week, as we wrap up the preamble.

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays 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