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American Idol Recap: Rocking the Big Apple

Just got a chance to finish watching Thursday night's show! Sometimes being the mom of a preschooler is pretty busy.



• This episode featured auditions from New York City, and the show kicked off with Jennifer Lopez walking by the house where she grew up and speaking to a confused current resident, standing on the porch, who had no idea who she was. Then we saw Ryan Seacrest interviewing Adam Lambert, former "American Idol" runner-up who was sitting in for judge Keith Urban.
• First up was a very New York contestant, Sal Valentinetti, 19, Bethpage, New York. Sal was a stocky, bearded guy wearing a gray suit and singing "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra. When Jennifer told him she could see him singing that song, he asked her if it was the accent, the suit or the wingtips that tipped her off. Harry Connick offered to give him $100 if he could tell him the other name for the song, and he said, "In Other Words." It was correct, so Harry paid up. He was very comfortable with this song and has probably sung it a lot. Harry called him a talented guy but said he wasn't what they're looking for in "Idol." Adam said there would be a lot of people who would love him. Jennifer encouraged Harry to let him do a second song. Sal pointed out that Harry's records sell. Harry still voted no, but Jennifer and Adam voted yes and he was through.
• After a short montage of auditioners with their support groups, J. None, 24, Orlando, Florida, was featured, with his teddy bear Mr. Crispy, a toy he's had since he was 3, in the hospital for asthma. Harry teased him, "Have you ever wondered if your asthma is due to the dirty bear you carry around?" Mr. Crispy sat on the front table to watch him audition. He sang "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown. Wearing acid-washed skinny jeans, a white button-down shirt, black tie and sweater vest, J. None was more polished than his bear prop might have suggested. Perhaps that's because he listed his profession as "amusement park performer." Was the bear just a ploy for sympathy? Well, it did give Harry a reason to ham it up, playing with the bear as J. None sang. Harry had the bear speak with him, saying that he liked him from the moment he saw him. Jennifer liked him, and Adam also liked the groove. He got three yeses, and Harry had the bear present him the ticket.
• Jax, 18, East Brunswick, New Jersey, had bleached blonde hair and a tan and wore a black sparkly sweatshirt with a gray camo baseball cap, turned backwards. Her father is a retired firefighter, injured while responding to 9/11. She sat at the piano and sang a heartfelt version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Harry thought it was really strong, that she's lovely and has a lot of confidence. Jennifer said she's both shy and confident. "You feel like the real thing." Adam said he'd been drawn in immediately and that she's interesting, warm, earthy, grounded and adorable. He guessed correctly that she also writes music. Three yeses.
• Johnny Arco, 28, Bushwick, New York, a long-haired, bearded guy, plays violin in a subway station and actually once had to serve 20 days for it. He played some Radiohead for them, strumming the violin like a guitar as he sang. He has sort of crazy eyes when he sings, but there is definitely something interesting about him. Harry called it super intense and told him he's "super talented" but didn't think "American Idol" was the right venue. The others also agreed, and Adam added that he's "fun to watch."
• The next auditioner is also a street performer, bringing her guitar with her. Najah Lewis, 20, Brooklyn, New York, comes from a musical family and was dressed in a tight mint-green skirt and a white sleeveless blouse. She sang "Payphone" by Maroon 5. She was very controlled and had a lovely tone. Harry pointed out that she didn't move and yet, he was captivated, which is a rare gift. Adam liked how she was inventive musically. Jennifer found her style unique. Three yeses.
• After some video of Jennifer visiting a dance center where she used to dance, we saw snippets of two guys who have a crush on her: Tion Phipps, 20, Madisonville, Kentucky; and James Killian Dunn, 21, Brookfield, Connecticut. Tion even brought her a rose. She liked both of their voices and helped them through to Hollywood.
• Shi Scott, 19, Belcamp, Maryland, was a pretty girl with a golden complexion and tight ringlets, wearing a long black dress with slits up both legs. She calls herself "Shi" because she doesn't like her name, Shena. She got really nervous before she sang "Valerie," but Adam told her to calm down. Her version of "Valerie" was very slow and sort of bluesy. Harry told her that it sounded like an Amy Winehouse impression, but he still found talent in there. Jennifer advised her to find a way to tap into the song emotionally. Adam called her cute and very talented. He just didn't know if she was ready. Commercial break.
• After the break, Adam voted no and Jennifer voted yes, leaving it up to Harry. Harry said that he wanted to hear her sing again, putting her through to Hollywood. She told the judges that she'd heard everything they said, which hopefully will help her out in the next round.
• Then there was a montage of Adam saying no to contestants, saying things like they were a dime a dozen and he didn't see them as an artist. Harry was delighted that he was tougher than "Harsh Harry."
• Eric Lopez, 19, who had short dark-blonde hair, horn-rimmed glasses and a striped shirt, sang "The Show Must Go On" by Queen, a band that Adam now fronts. Despite his energy and bravado, it just wasn't any good. Jennifer called him cute. Adam said there were some notes that were pretty good, but "it was kind of disjointed." Harry actually said yes to him for some odd reason. Jennifer wasn't sure how he fit in the competition and said no. Adam told him he was still too raw. Eric begged him, and Adam agreed to give him another chance but told him to figure out some material that would be commercial for him. Afterward, Harry praised him for his "hustle," for talking Adam into changing his mind.
• Next was a montage of blonde female contestants wearing short skirts and heels: bleached blonde (with pink ends) country singer Maddie Walker, 16, Ankeny, Iowa; hot-pink wearing Courtney Zahn, 21, Beachwood, New Jersey; and floral-clad Jackie Nese, 17, Springfield, New Jersey. We heard positive judges' comments about all of them, and they all made it through.
• Qaasim Middleton, 18, Brooklyn, New York, has long braids and comes from a musical family, including a father who's in the cast of "Stomp." He wore a blue jacket, gray paisley shirt, white vest, and white fedora, and his mom felt it was appropriate to announce to the nation that he's a virgin. (Really, Mom?) Qaasim attends college for jazz music. He sang a Stevie Wonder song and was very affected, snapping and clapping. Then he did a little beat boxing in the breakdown, which was entertaining. The judges all laughed, and Harry said, "That was so fun." Jennifer found he has vocal talent and was "super comfortable up there." Harry thought he did really well, the fact that they gave them a little bit of everything. He also liked that he's going to school and working on his craft. Adam liked his scatting and said he couldn't wait to see what he'd do when he had a full arrangement behind him. Three yeses.
• Bridgette Guerrette, 19, Latham, New York, was in the middle of her audition when we returned from commercial break. Her audition was unsteady, and she got three nos. Harry then took the opportunity to point out that Adam's the only one who's done this from both sides. He asked Adam to audition for them. Adam agreed to recreate his audition, walking in and singing "Bohemian Rhapsody." Then they showed Paula Abdul's original reaction, "I think you're a really good singer" before his fellow judges agreed they'd put him through.
• Adam Ezegelian, 20, Wantagh, New York, is a student studying toy design. He called himself an overgrown child with a lot of curly hair. He also draws caricatures, and even gave them out to host Ryan Seacrest, as well as the judges. He sang "Born to Be Wild," in rocker style, complete with rocker screams. This wasn't what you might have expected, based on his very ordinary look; despite the thick halo of curly hair, his button-down checked shirt and cargo shorts didn't stand out. Adam Lambert pointed out he'd borrowed some things that he himself had done on the show when he sang that song. Then, by request, Adam sang another song, without the rocker affectations, showing a good, solid voice. Harry said he was looking forward to seeing him do a tender, serious ballad. Jennifer found he had a pretty voice and did unusual things with it. She pointed out his first song was too over-the-top and had left her on the fence. Adam Lambert agreed the second song had brought out more of his musicianship. Three yeses.
• Katherine Winston, 18, Lenox, Massachusetts, received the news she was going through, just back from another commercial break, and the sound of her bluesy audition underscored a montage of people who got turned down, in tears.
• Travis Finlay, 20, Baldwin, New York, is a music producer who was supposed to go to Berklee School of Music but lost his funding at the last minute. Wearing a burgundy sweater, black leather pants and a burgundy hat, he sang a soulful audition of "Stay" by Rihanna. Harry thought that his musical talent was clear, and it would be good if he could marry that with "a music producer's sensibility." Jennifer thought it was pretty but that he'd overdone it in the runs. Adam thought he would do very well on the show, that he's the kind of person it's made for. He got three yeses.
• Next came a montage of some of the odder auditions, such as Benjamin Farmer, 20, and his over-the-top audition of "Proud Mary"; and some others with unique looks, including a falsetto-singing guy with really long hair.
• Then was Yanni G., 23, Newington, Connecticut, and her boyfriend, an unshaven white dude with a knit cap and a guitar. With dyed pink-red hair and a black fringe vest, Yanni sang "the cup song," a.k.a. "Cups" by Anna Kendrick, using a red cup on a stool to pound out the rhythm. Jennifer called her sweet but didn't think she'd gotten an idea of what she was capable of. Boyfriend Nick Fradiani, 28, Guilford, Connecticut, auditioned next, singing "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel, accompanying himself. His audition was very competent, as he even took a bit of a new turn on the song. Harry told him that his genre "is extremely competitive this year." In other words, white guys with guitars. Cut to the hallway to learn the results. Ryan asked them what happened, and we learned that Nick made it, while Yanni didn't.
• The final contestant, "Hollywood" Anderson, 22, New York City, is a street busker who has often been homeless, sleeping on trains. A big guy with a blue button-down shirt, maroon cardigan, and a guitar, he sang an original love song, "My Best Friend," accompanying himself on guitar. He had a surprisingly high voice, sounding almost like female blues/folk singer Tracy Chapman. The song was actually a good one, with a nice hook. Jennifer said, "I want that song. I want to record that song tomorrow. But I just want to hear you sing it." Adam loved how emotionally textured it was. Harry called it the best audition of the last two days and possibly of the previous cities, too. The producers sent in the friend who had given Hollywood his guitar, for both of them to hear the inevitably good news. After he left, Jennifer teared up.
• Next week, "Idol" goes to Minneapolis.

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