Only two episodes have aired so far of American Idol season 13, and already it’s obvious all of us diehard fans are going to love this season. As everyone’s been saying, Harry Connick, Jr. really is the breakout star this year. He’s already proven to be one of the strongest judges any singing competition show has ever had. I know it’s early in the season to say something like that, and I will add one caveat: I just hope he stays like this even into the live rounds. As we saw with someone like Steven Tyler in season 10, the early edited rounds can be deceiving, and it’s the live shows where we will truly be able to tell what kind of judges they are.

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Aside from the hilarity and honesty that is HCJ, American Idol came full circle last night: one of the auditioners is the son of a finalist from all the way back in season 1. Yep, a full-circle moment right there. Nikki McKibbin came in third place on the inaugural season, and I remember seeing her son (Tristan Langley) on the show back then, and he’s all grown up now! Well, almost — he’s only a teenager, but still. He has a good voice, but I wouldn’t say it was the best.

A lot of times, there are singers who advance to Hollywood because of a sob story or because of someone they’re related to, and I’m interested to see if they try to quietly eliminate him next time or if he’s able to really stand out and last in the competition.

But Tristan is nowhere to be found on my list of the best singers from night two of the auditions. Before I name the two singers at the top my list, these are the other four auditioners who stood out to me: T.K. Hash, John Fox, Rachel Rolleri and David Luning.

Before he sang “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” T.K. did a pretty good President Obama impression. I wouldn’t say it’s fantastic; he’s got the inflections down, but the voice doesn’t sound like him, if that makes any sense. As far as the singing goes, I had to watch his audition twice because the first time, I thought he was just okay. But after seeing it again, I really liked it.

John Fox is a worship leader who performed “To Make You Feel My Love.” There’s something about the tone of his voice that I find really intriguing. And there were times during the song where I thought he sounded like some other artist; I can’t put my finger on it at the moment, but he was good nonetheless.

David Luning, I’m on the fence about. When he first performed his original song, I really liked him — he’s unique and original, with a gravely-kind of voice. But I can see where the judges are coming from, in that the next round will be critical for him. If he sounds exactly like that on every song going forward and can’t learn to adapt, then he won’t make it very far.

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But out of these four, I have my eye on Rachel Rolleri. She had one of the strongest voices of the night, by far, singing Sugarland’s “Stay.” Her weakness, though, was that she had odd facial expressions every time she made a flub. I’m not sure if that’s a bad habit she’s had before now or if she did it because she was nervous in front of the judges, but she has got to work on not doing that. We probably wouldn’t have known she messed up if she hadn’t made those faces. If she can get rid of those tics, then she might have a chance at going far.

My two favorites performed at opposite ends of the episode, starting with Jesse Roach going first after the opening credits. She’s got a strange story for how she ended up auditioning: her neighbor showed up in her garage when she was singing, and ended up signing her up for Idol. Jesse was fantastic on “Do Ya”; she’s got a rocker voice with some edge to it and a hint of a rasp.

The One Singer to Watch: Briana Oakley

As soon as Briana Oakley showed up on screen, I thought, I know her from somewhere; did she try out before? And sure enough, she auditioned last year and made it to Hollywood Week. Jennifer Lopez said that Briana reminded her of Jordin Sparks. Right when she said that, I went, yes! I thought the exact same thing throughout her rendition of Sara Bareilles’ “Stay.” I love her voice, and I think she might be my favorite so far out of both audition episodes this week.

What did you think of Thursday’s episode? Are you enjoying the season so far? And who are your favorites from the Austin/San Francisco auditions? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

American Idol airs Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)

Jeff Dodge

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jeff Dodge, a graduate of Western Washington University, has been a TV news editor for many years and has had the chance to interview multiple reality show stars, including Randy Jackson, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B and John Cena.