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American Idol Recap: Little Rock and San Francisco

Last night, auditions for Season 15 of "American Idol" moved to Little Rock and San Francisco, although they were mixed up together throughout the show so that I'm not exactly sure who auditioned where. There were plenty of talented contestants, though fewer joke contestants than in previous years. Previous "Idol" winners Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze put in a little time helping to screen would-be contestants in the first stages of the screening process, which is almost never shown.

• The auditions in Little Rock began with Cameron Richard, 15, who was born with a cleft palate. His doctors thought he would never be able to speak or sing, but he proved them wrong. He sang an Ed Sheeran song, accompanying himself on guitar and wearing a blue and sea green striped shirt and khaki shorts, looking very much his age. His voice was sweet, and Jennifer Lopez praised his passion. Harry Connick Jr. told him he looked like a young Paul McCartney and he had a wonderful gift. He got three yeses to go through to Hollywood.
• Daniel Farmer, 24, was a definite J. Lo fan, as he told the camera in a pre-interview. He sang a romantic song, "How Does It Feel" by D'Angelo, just to her, wearing a camouflage shirt, buttoned all the way up, and orange-yellow pants. Surprisingly, considering his over-confidence, he was pretty good. Jennifer turned to Harry and praised his confidence. She told him he's funny and sexy. Harry asked him if he thought about his runs ahead of time, and Daniel admitted he didn't. Harry said to be sure he nails them every time. Keith Urban agreed, but he still got three yeses.
• Dalton Rapattoni sang a song from "Phantom of the Opera." He's a vocal coach at the School of Rock and is already a member of boy band IM5. He accompanied himself on guitar. Jennifer liked his androgyny. Keith called him an artist. He made it through with three yeses.
• Then came a montage of singers who learned the sad news that they wouldn't be moving on this year, "Idol's" last. Lots of tears.
• The next contestant, La'Porsha Renae, had brought her 7-month-old baby girl, and in the lobby, former winner Kris Allen held the baby, bonding with her over parenting, since he has a 2-year-old. She is a survivor of domestic abuse, leaving to protect herself and her baby, whom she credited for bringing out strength in her she didn't know she had. La'Porsha had a large reddish Afro and wore a black dress. She handed her baby girl to Jennifer while she sang "Creep" by Radiohead. She gave it a very soulful treatment, playing with the timing and melody. Keith said he liked hearing a fresh take on a song. Harry told her she was an "assassin with runs." Jennifer said that she and the baby loved it, and she had the baby girl hand her the golden ticket. How sweet!
• Maddie McAllister, 16, brought a chicken with her, her "state fair baby." She wore cowboy boots, cut-off jeans, and a long fringed vest. She handed the chicken to Keith to hold while she sang "Cowboy Casanova" by Carrie Underwood. A little weird. Despite good pitch, the judges agreed that she wasn't ready, so it was a no.
• Trent Harmon wore a very ugly blue and white shirt with an orange band on the bottom and accompanied himself on guitar as he sang "Unaware" by Allen Stone." Jennifer found it surprising, because he'd talked about cows and had a thick southern accent, so she'd expected country, she explained. But she was "blown away" by his dynamics and his originality. Harry declared it his favorite audition. Trent made it through with three yeses.
• Brook Sample, 28, is a waitress with long pitch-black hair, and she sang a Dixie Chicks song in a floor-length tank dress. Harry told her she hadn't had to apologize so much (for her name, for being a waitress, and for something in her performance). She needed to be more confident. Jennifer thought that "America might love you as much as I do." Keith found her voice "interesting and unique" and thought she was special. Three yeses.
• Olivia Rox, 16, sang "When I Was Your Man" by Bruno Mars at the piano. The daughter of musicians, she had grown up singing -- and watching "Idol." She wore a green military surplus jacket and had pink streaks in her blonde hair. Harry said she was an "extraordinarily talented kid." Jennifer agreed that she would add a lot to the competition. Keith called her singing "refreshing." Three yeses.
• Then was a montage of snippets from various female auditioners: Jessica Clark, 23, who sang the Beatles song "Come Together"; Ameet Kanon, 18; Kayla Mickelsen, 18, all of whom made it to Hollywood.
• Melanie Tierce, 21, sang "Rise Up." Slender and auburn-haired, wearing a floral tank top and lacy vest, she accompanied herself on guitar. Harry thought it was so good that he declared, "I'm done," and walked off a few moments into the audition (though he did stay in the room). They all told her how talented she was, and she got three yeses.
• The next contestant, Malie Delgado, 20, was crowned Miss Alaska 2014, which led to her being hired for a morning show on a radio station. She told Harry that "You are, like, a heartthrob in my house." She sang "Chariot" by Gretchen Wilson. It was an odd selection, because it started out with a very soul-influenced country song and then picked up with some sort of fast rapping before ending with more singing. Harry told her that she was like one shade of blue, but this contest had a lot of blue. "If you go through, I hope you're ready for the long haul, because it's going to be a dog fight. In your case, a huskie fight," referring to her being from Alaska. She got three yeses.
• Host Ryan Seacrest sat in for Harry, at his urging, to judge the next contestant, Brandyn Burnette, 29, who sang an original song, "Lost." Harry met Brandyn in the hallway and gave him a tip to mention loving black Labs and to congratulate Ryan on his sister getting married. Brandyn did so, but admitted the message came from Harry. He accompanied himself on piano. With dark curls falling over his forehead, he was so focused that he had no idea that Harry was behind him and didn't even get distracted as Harry gave him a hug. "I had no clue. I literally for a split second thought that was my mom." Harry told him he'd liked it: "You did a pretty good job." Ryan liked him, too. "I felt the emotion; I thought the tone was great." Jennifer agreed, as did Keith and Harry. Keith said, "I'd like to think that you're the first guy that's ever had four yeses." I guess Keith was forgetting about the season where Kara DioGuardi sat on the panel, expanding it to four judges.
• Kyrsti Jewel, 15, is from a family of "American Idol" fans, who have made a habit of recording shows, collecting memorabilia, and even attending some of the live show. She has been singing as long as she can remember. Ryan invited all of the family to come in, since they were such big fans. The parents gushed over the judges before she sang. She sang "Momma Knows Best" by Jessie J, starting with a very powerful note, infusing it with some jazzy flavor and scatting a little near the end. Harry told her, "You have an incredible instrument: clear and loud and energetic." All three voted yes, perhaps in part feeling pressure from the parents standing in the room!
• Sarah Hayes, 26, was a little too relaxed, on the edge of seeming fake. She wrote a black checked shirt with gray leggings and a black hat. She explained that she doesn't typically sing rock, but normally likes country. Partway into the song she was singing, she forgot the words then asked if she could just sing "Invincible" instead. She interrupted herself again to say, "Sorry" and to complain she didn't know what was going on. Harry said there was a lack of focus, but he blamed the judges for it, because he thought it threw her off. Keith pointed out she was the one at fault, for stopping herself and hesitating. Jennifer said she worried about her, because the pressure won't only continue. Keith said, "You don't seem ready for this at all." It was a yes from Harry but a no from Jennifer and Keith. Personally, I'm wondering if she was in some sort of an altered state.
• Tristan McIntosh, 15, wore what looked like a school uniform and performed at the piano, with a surprisingly rich alto. Her mom is in the military, stationed overseas, but Tristan said she just wanted to make her proud. Jennifer said it gave her "goosies." Harry liked her a lot. Jennifer said she saw something in her very, very special, and that she reminded her of Alicia Keys, not just from how she looks but also her talent. Keith thought she was very talented for 15. Harry read to her an e-mail from her mom: "You always called me your big hero, but today you are my big hero, because you're doing something you dreamed about since you were 10 years old." They surprised her by having her mom come out from behind a divider to hug her daughter. "Do you think I would miss this for the world?" Even the family, watching from the lobby, was surprised. Harry led her do the honors, handing Tristan the golden ticket to move on to the Hollywood round.
• Next week, "Idol" heads to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.
Tags: american idol, music, television

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