Judge Randy Jackson asked would-be contestant Darius Thomas, 18, "You can hit high notes, right?" Darius said he could and then began a sustained high note, which grew screechier as he held it. Cut to shots of people outside, host Ryan Seacrest looking up at the window, a glass building falling down, and then Randy looking like he's in pain. Although we didn't hear the answer for Darius, I'm sure it was three nos.
American Idol was back in Nashville for the second time in 10 seasons.
Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin
Christine McCaffrey, 27, is a dental assistant who talks very fast in a high voice. She said she'd make the universe a better place through her singing. Wearing a flowered A-line dress, with a rose shrug and white heels, she started singing as she walked in the door, mostly making weird noises. Judge Steven Tyler rolled his eyes, while Randy asked her, "Do you do voice overs for cartoons?" She launched into a really pinched and painful version of "I Hope You Dance." Afterward, Randy laughed and could only say, "Really? Really?" Steven said no right off the bat, and Christine responded, "Awesome." Randy was still convinced she was playing a joke: "You're not serious, are you?" She responded that she has the ability to write lyrics and sing them. He asked if she could also read minds and she said she could and that his answer was yes. Actually, it was three nos. While reporting her results to host Ryan Seacrest and her mom, she said she'd gotten one yes (from Steven). Maybe that's why she said, "Awesome"? [Christine's audition]
Two contestants then auditioned together: Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin, exes from Nashville. They wanted to sing a duet, which is not much of a surprise, since they previously competed on a show called Can You Duet? Judge Jennifer Lopez told them, "I'm a romantic. Can we fix this thing?" They actually still live together but are dating other people. Rob seems to hope for a change, but says, "In time it will work out." They sang "To Love Somebody," over-enunciating in a clearly rehearsed performance. J. Lo said, "You guys are killing me right now." Then they sang individually, with Rob, wearing a simple blue plaid shirt, sharing a sort of smoky voice that got stronger as he got more into it. Chelsee, wearing a black vest and white shirt, was also good, with a little bit of a honeyed country lilt. J. Lo said, "As beautifully as you both sing separately, you sing really beautifully together." Randy thought they have interesting great voices. Three yeses. [Chelsee and Rob's audition]
Next was scruffy tattoo artist Allen Lewis, 26, who was captured on video joking around in the lobby with some girl, calling her a cow and "herding" her. Gosh. He looked like a biker dude with a vest, short-sleeved shirt showing off tattooed arms, fuzzy mutton chops, and a blue bandana around his forehead. Singing "Simple Man," he got way off melody with a really rough voice. Randy told him he should be a front man for a band, not an AI contestant. He said he's going to go home and practice even harder. At least he has a positive attitude! "There's reason for everything in this life," he said. [Allen's audition]
Beauty pageant contestant Stormi Henley, 19, was Miss Teen USA. She wore a white dress that looked like something from a pageant and sang "Father Can You Hear Me." She had nice tone to her voice but overreached for some notes. Steven said she had "a beautiful, really tight, squeaky little voice." He asked her if she ever let loose, and she said no. Steven thought with a little work she could belt it out, but J. Lo thought her voice wasn't good enough. No surprise: the men put her through, prompting J. Lo to say, "Seriously, you guys. Seriously?" [Stormi's audition]
We saw a montage of nos (without hearing them sing).
Then it was on to Adrienne Beasley, 22, Kentucky, who lives on a farm with her adoptive parents, Carolyn and Freddie Simmons, and is appreciative of what they've done for her. They're white, and she's African-American, which led to some teasing when she was younger. Wearing a patterned boho-style mini-dress/tunic, she sang with a heartfelt, relaxed voice. Steven told her, "I hear something so special in your voice." He said she'd nailed the chorus and "almost made me cry." J. Lo said that she'd surprised her in the middle. Randy said her vocals sounded good in this room, filling it up. Three yeses. When she told her dad "I'm going to Hollywood" over the phone, he chuckled and then joked, "Who's going to pay your way?" Then he added, "I'm tickled." [Adrienne's audition]
Kameela Merricks, 28, was next, claiming, "I have a huge voice, and I'm like 5'2." She sang "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan, wearing a one-shoulder black and navy shirt with jeans. By "big" she must have meant loud and off-pitch, because that's what she delivered. Make it stop, please! J. Lo remarked that "the acoustics work no matter what." Steven told her, "You've got to go back home and practice and get good." Randy disagreed: "Just don't do it... It was horrible. Loud, it hurt." After they all voted no, Steven leaned in to Randy and told him not to tell people they're not good. [Kameela's audition]
Then, another montage of bad auditions, leading off with an unnamed contestant wearing a blue body suit and singing "A Moment Like This." Very strange. One guy took it really hard when he didn't get through. Ryan consoled him: "It's just an audition, guy."
Jackie Wilson, 21, had the jitters but reigned them in to audition. She has been singing since she was a little girl. Wearing a black scoop-neck top with a black shrug and denim miniskirt, she did an Aretha Franklin tune, showing off a refreshingly good voice. She can wail. J. Lo looked unsure about the high notes, though (which were admittedly kind of shouty). J. Lo told her, "You made us clap." Jackie got praise all around and three yeses. Afterward, J. Lo reminded the other judges that's the kind of audition they're looking for. Jackie surprised Ryan by giving a passionate kiss to the gray-haired guy waiting for her. Turns out he's her boyfriend, not her dad... whoa. [Jackie's audition]
LaToya "Younique" Moore, 26, who looked a lot younger, said she's already a recording artist, showing off her CD. She already sees herself as a star, prancing around the lobby. She dressed to impress with a blue sequined dress that looked like a prom dress, paired with silver shoes and dangly earrings. J. Lo remarked, "Somebody's ready for a close-up." LaToya flashed the copy of her album she'd brought for them (one copy for all three). Not surprisingly, her rendition of "When I Close My Eyes" was very harsh and nasal, complete with awkward dancing. Randy made painful faces. Steven deadpanned that she's "definitely unique." LaToya loftily offered: "I would be glad to choose another song." Instead, Randy imitated her singing, mercilessly. Her number fell off as they told her no, but just when she looked defeated, she began singing again as she walked off. Randy called, "Still a no." [LaToya's audition]
A montage of yeses: Paul McDonald, 25, Nashville, Tennessee, with a short beard, dark blonde shaggy hair and white old-fashioned western shirt; Jimmie Allen, 25, Franklin, Tennessee, in horn-rimmed glasses, a red T-shirt, and a black baseball hat; and Danny Pate, 23, Auburndale, Florida, a broad-shouldered tall blonde with a bluesy voice that got the judges singing along.
Matt Dillard, 27, of Cheatham County, Tennessee, comes from a family that takes in lots of foster children, especially special needs kids. We saw video of them at home with the little tykes. Aww! Wearing a straw cowboy hat, overalls, and a black sleeveless shirt, with a chinstrap beard, Matt looked like an old-time country singer but sang a Josh Groban song, "You Raise Me Up" He started a little high but has a nice tenor. Randy marveled that "You're the country boy and you sing Josh Groban." Josh was humbled by being judged by "My favorite actress, favorite judge and favorite rocker." Randy gave him a "very small yes" and said he hopes "you don't get swallowed up." J. Lo gave him a no, saying "You need to have a better audition." Steven hesitated but then said yes, a moment we didn't see on camera because the producers cut away to his family waiting in the hallway when Matt burst through the door with his golden ticket. [Matt's audition]
Seventeen thousand wannabes had auditioned for the show in Nashville. There was one more audition left to see.
Lauren Alaina, 15, started singing because of her cousin Holly, who three years ago was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She needed chemo and radiation, and remembering that time made Lauren cry. She did a fundraiser for her. Wearing a rainbow patterned tunic with black leggings and flip-flops, Lauren greeted the judges. Randy told her to bring Holly in to watch the audition. From the looks of her, she must be in remission. Lauren sang “Like We Never Loved At All” by Faith Hill. She has a nice voice but there was some halting phrasing. Not sure if that was on purpose. Randy gave "mad props to Holly; you saw something." He said Lauren has a "real, natural, God-given talent." Steven said that Holly is "going to make 40 million people cry -- tears of joy." She got three yeses. Because she was the last audition, she asked to bring her family in. Once she did, she told the judges that her parents' song is the Aerosmith song, "Don't Want to Miss a Thing." She launched into it, even getting Steven to chime in. Maybe because she was more relaxed, this seemed to show off her vocals better than her audition piece. [Lauren's audition]
At the close of the day, Steven was walking outside and told the camera, "We found the one today. We found her. Oh, yes, we did." Did he mean Lauren or Jackie or someone else? No idea, but producer Nigel Lithgoe has reportedly been raving about Lauren, comparing her to Kelly Clarkson. Hmm. We'll see.
Next week, auditions continue in Austin.
It's never too early to start overselling the producers' favorites.