With two weeks of season 15 auditions under its belt and one more week to go, American Idol is about to say farewell to the auditions forever. But before we get to that final week (which promises to be quite crazy, if the promo is any indication), let’s look back at episode three, which saw the show zipping back and forth between Denver and Little Rock so fast, it was almost hard to keep up where the judges were. (Fortunately, the view outside the windows helped.)

With Thursday’s episode being two hours, Idol was able to feature quite a few singers, some great, some who were average but still managed to receive golden tickets and of course the truly bad singers (it’s never a good sign when someone says they learned how to sing from Britney Spears).

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Chris “C.J.” Johnson” has a very nice Southern voice and you can tell that he’s been performing for a while. He’s not the only singer who gave me that impression. The final singer of the night, Elvie Shane, was fantastic on “House of the Rising Sun.” There’s a big difference between singers like them and someone like 15-year-old Ethan Kuntz, who is very green and whose voice needs to mature before I can take him more seriously as a performer.

And while John Wayne Schulz sounded very generic-country to me, Jordyn Simone was not generic with her big voice on a Jackson 5 number. It’s hard to live up to the original, and even though there were times she might have overdone it, she was still really good.

So the Denver/Little Rock auditions were kind of hit and sort-of-miss, in a way. But for me, the two best auditions were saved for the end of the night. One of them was Elvie Shane, who I already mentioned. And the other was Ashley Lilinoe, a 20-year-old musician from Kane’ohe, Hawaii.

Something that’s been fascinating to watch this season has been the personalities of some of these contestants. In a previous article, I said that Jenn Blosil from the Philadelphia auditions was so off-the-wall and quirky that it might have overshadowed everything else.

Ashley also has her own unique personality, but she’s the complete opposite of Jenn: very (and I mean very) laid-back. Her video package started off with self-hugging and talking about putting out love energy. When she told Ryan Seacrest, “I love to relax,” Ryan said, “You nailed that.” This is all before she even entered the audition room. And when she did, she walked in super slow, taking her time. It didn’t end there. When asked how old she is, this is what she said: “I am infinite. I’ve been around the sun 20 times.” Yeah, not your typical American Idol singer.

Was this going to be good or bad? I wasn’t necessarily getting a “bad singer” vibe, so I was pleased when she started singing and sounded great.

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I absolutely love the song “Black Velvet,” and I loved when season 1’s Nikki McKibbin and season 9’s Crystal Bowersox performed it on Idol.

“Black Velvet” has an edge and grit to it, and you’d expect it to be performed that way, including with the Idol examples I just mentioned. But that’s not Ashley at all. I can’t see her doing rock unless changed were made.

And that’s exactly what she did for her audition. Ashley infused her laid-back personality into the song, giving “Black Velvet” more of a relaxed, stripped-down feel that I don’t think I’ve heard before with this song. Because she made the song her own and didn’t try to do something with it that’s not her, she definitely succeeded in her audition.

But it wasn’t just the style, it was her voice as well. I’m not exactly sure how to describe her genre, but the tone in her voice is beautiful. There’s something about it that I can’t help but love. At one point, Keith Urban really learned in to listen to Ashley. And I get why he did that. The way she sang, I wanted to listen to every note she emoted.

Jennifer Lopez liked parts of the performance, but she wanted more from Ashley. I don’t get where she’s coming from with that comment. Ashley wasn’t trying to do more with the song; it was done this way on purpose, which is why it worked.

Harry Connick, Jr. echoed what I said a moment ago that she doesn’t really fit in anywhere, musically-speaking, which actually can work for her. And I agree. Some singers may have a good voice but are completely lost in terms of their genre that it hurts them. Ashley might be the opposite, though we won’t know that until we see her perform again. Until then, you can revisit Ashley’s audition below:

Ashley took a rock/blues song and made it her own. I can easily see her taking other songs that don’t necessarily fit her and tweaking them to work perfectly for her voice. She’s already proven that you don’t have to only choose songs that are in your wheelhouse to make an impact; you can venture out without losing yourself. And that’s what was great about Ashley’s audition. This is only one performance, of course, but if she can stay on this path, I’m looking forward to seeing what else she has up her sleeve.

What do you think of Ashley Lilinoe? Was she your favorite singer of the night? Did she succeed with a laid-back/stripped-down arrangement of “Black Velvet”? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments section.

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

(Image and video 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.