Some of us complained that the level of talent featured in last Thursday’s episode of American Idol just wasn’t as on par with what we’ve come to expect from season 13. Fortunately, that turned out to be an anomaly because when the judges headed to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, talented singers were out in full force.

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But there were a couple singers in particular that I wasn’t as on board with as other fans were. Those two are C.J. Harris and Casey Thrasher. C.J. doesn’t have the best voice around, but what does make him stand out is the fact that when you listen to him sing, he sounds like a storyteller, like there’s a message he’s trying to get across when he performs. And not everyone can do that. But he was flat at times, and because of that, I don’t consider him one of the best of the night.

And as for Casey, he bookended the episode, so obviously the producers want us to pay attention to him. Unfortunately, the only things that make me remember him are that he met Keith Urban at the CMA Awards and he’s a father of two. His voice? It’s decent, but I can’t even remember what he sounds like now.

So who did I like? There are plenty to choose from. I’ve split them up into three tiers, so let’s start at the bottom and work up to the best of the night. First, we’ve got Paisley Van Patten and Dexter Roberts. Paisley had a second chances type story, and you can’t help but want to root for her to succeed after losing a record deal because of a struggle with alcohol. Even without all that, there’s still something to root for — her voice, which sounded great on “When the Lights Go Down.” (Plus, she topped it off with a Cher impression.)

Dexter is a country guy through and through, and here’s an Idol connection: he performed a song by season 9’s Casey James. There’s something about him I like; his whole vibe and style and presentation is completely authentic to who he is, and his voice is much better than I thought it’d be, for some reason.

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In the middle tier (and competing for title of runner-up) are Austin Wolfe, Alex Preston and Emily Rottler. I think I might have to just make it a three-way tie for second place because I loved all three of their auditions. With Austin, who sang Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” I wasn’t sure at first, but it wasn’t long before she proved why she should be in this competition.

Alex Preston performed an original song which, again, is a trend that seems to be in abundance this year, almost as much as the number of guitars making their way into the audition room. Alex is kind of an awkward guy, but he has a beautifully unique voice that I loved listening to and I want to see him do well on the show.

And Emily Rottler not only has a great voice, but her tone is very beautiful. And I like her audition even more because she sang one of my favorite songs, Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” It’s hard to go wrong with that song, am I right?

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The One singer to Watch: Kenzie Hall

But as much as I like Austin, Alex and Emily, there’s no question that Kenzie Hall is the one singer to watch from the Salt Lake City auditions. When FOX released preview videos earlier in the week, I pegged her as my favorite from that batch of contestants. She was very natural during her performance of John Mayer’s “I’m Gonna Find Another You.” Nothing felt forced or over the top. She managed to display both soft and powerful notes without compromising the impressive level of control in her voice.

What did you think of the Salt Lake City auditions? Were you impressed yet again by the talent coming out to audition this year? Who are your favorites? Take the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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

(Image and videos 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.