1) Johnny Keyser, 22, Pompano Beach, Florida, sang "A Change is Going to Come" by Sam Cooke. A water skier, he wore a rust-colored T-shirt and jeans, and looked every bit the water skier with his spikey dark blond hair and tan. He was surprisingly soulful, injecting a lot of flavor into his rendition of his audition piece. The judges were clearly loving it, cheering and making exclamations. Rather than cut him off, like they do with many hopefuls, they encouraged him to keep singing. In this city, there was a monitor in the hallway (at least for this particular audition), and his family could watch as the judges gave him three yeses. He was through to Hollywood.
Following the commercial break was a short piece with rejected contestant David Coleman, 28, St. Louis, Minnesota, done in black-and-white, silent film fashion, reminiscent of the Oscar-nominated film "The Artist."
2) Rachelle Lamb, 26, Mountain View, Missouri, sang "Find Somebody New" by Faith Hill. A mother of a young girl, Rachelle is going through a divorce from her husband, who held her back from singing. For the audition, she wore a simple black top with silver necklaces and her shoulder-length reddish-brown hair hanging loose. She brought her daughter, Madison, into the audition room with her, possibly to win the judges' sympathy but perhaps because the little girl is young and insisted on staying with her mommy rather than waiting with the supporters (toddlers do that!). Her singing had a country flavor, and her cute little daughter tapped her toes while listening. The judges seemed to enjoy it. Steven Tyler liked her "moxie." Jennifer Lopez liked the passion, and Randy Jackson was impressed by the pure tone. Three yeses.
Then we saw another montage of bad contestants, this time highlighting the horrible singing and a few strange costumes.
3) Reis Kloeckener, 20, St. Louis, Missouri, sang "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers. He wore a red plaid shirt, jeans, and red tennis shoes, and he had a Justin Bieber haircut which wasn't the best shape for his roundish face. Reis has dealt with bullying at school because he was small. Once he joined choir, he found friends who gave him support and confidence. His voice was very pure, but he has a bad habit of closing his eyes. Steven said it was so beautiful it made him cry. Three yeses.
4) Ethan Jones, 27, Pontoon Beach, Illinois, sang "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. He got a little pep talk from Steven before the audition (who talked to a number of hopefuls). Ethan's father was in one of the biggest bands in St. Louis and has recently been through rehab. Ethan, himself, dropped out of school to pursue music. A good-looking guy with a Shaggy-style chinstrap beard (lose it!), in a button-down shirt and black blazer with jeans, he had great stage presence. Again, Randy said that he sounds nothing like he looks (which apparently means he needs to change up his look). Ethan was raised on country music, but his heart is soul (then why'd he audition with a pop song?). Never mind: he got three yeses.
5) Mark Ingram, 28, Conninsville, Illinois, sang "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder. A staff worker at the hotel, he actually brought in some of the other employees to listen as he auditioned. All of his coworkers pushed him to audition. A big guy with a coffee-and-cream complexion, he wore a white button-down shirt and a white jacket that looked like a woman's wrap-around sweater, with scallops at the bottom. While he started promising, he fell apart on some of the big notes. Awkward. Steven told him his tone was lacking. Jennifer also pointed out that his voice was giving out on him. Steven said, "I love everything about you but the melody." He told them he could change their mind, and he launched into another song, "Part Time Lover," which was just as rough. Three nos, but the judges tried to cushion the blow by telling him they loved him but he's just not ready.
6) Lauren Gray, 22, Hardy, Arkansas, sang "One and Only" by Adele. She performs in a southern rock band with her father, and she said they share the dream of her getting on the show. She wore a brown ruffled sundress with a leather belt and had dark blonde hair with highlights spilling over her shoulders. Her voice had an interesting character to it: definitely a sort of a raspy, bluesy quality. Randy commented that she'd cracked on the top a little bit. Steven liked her fearlessness. Jennifer told her, "You're one of the best female voices we've heard." Three yeses.
In all, 46 hopefuls got golden tickets. Next week, the Hollywood rounds begin.
Either this year's audition rounds were dull or I'm just jaded.