‘American Idol XIII’ review: Meet Ryan Nesbitt, Marialle Sellars, Jade Lathan, Maurice Townsend

The panel -“I’m doing this for Detroit.” This is what we saw from most of the “American Idol” contestants in the show’s opening in the Motor City, which had quite the impressive crop of contestants given that this is always a city portrayed as going through hell week after week.

This entire episode actually took place in Detroit, whereas the Atlanta portion of the audition round takes place on Thursday. We’ve handily broken this down between the contestants who were good this time (which is luckily the majority of the group), and then the contestants who aren’t. But we also have to give a brief shout-out yet again to Keith Urban for being amazing. Even when there were no contestants in the room, he made a legitimate effort to continue entertaining us at every move.

Advancing singers

Keri Lynn Roche – This is the perfect “American Idol” story. A waitress from Michigan trying to make a name for herself, coming on the show and performing an original, soulful version of the Imagine Dragons hit “Radioactive.” She has a killer voice.

Julian Miller – Another Detroit guy, and a shoe salesman with some crazy fashion sense. Somebody needs to do something with those pink pants, but there was some nice, quirky soul in here.

Paris Premeau – We didn’t see a lot of her, but in between the pink hair and then “House of the Rising Sun” cover, there’s something here that could go far in the competition.

Malaya Watson – One of the younger contestants in Detroit, but also a tuba player! She needed to get tuba the judges (see what we did there?) in order to advance, and she hit all of the right notes.

Bryan Watt – This is the perfect evidence of the dichotomy this show brings at times. Bryan is nearly twice the age of Malaya, and this is the only chance he has to audition (this is his first time at it) before hitting the age limit. But he is great! There’s a great sense of who he is, even if he does need to open his eyes a little more.

Khristian D’avis – We don’t know how in the world she got through to the next round, since this entire thing felt so put-on and artificial, from the accent to the pleas for help. We also enjoyed Keith Urban completely railing on her after she left the room for not paying attention.

Jena Asciutto – Is it at this point okay again to start auditioning to Adele songs? It was older than aged cheese at one point, but we didn’t hate it too much this time. The enunciation was a little bit weird at times, but far better than who we heard before this.

Melanie Porras – Does anyone else feel weird that the show tried to make a big deal out of her having a good relationship with her dad? The first song was okay, but the “Wanted: Dead or Alive” rendition was pretty cool. She also sounds and also looks a little bit like an inexperienced Haley Reinhart.

Jade Lathan – A supremely cool voice, and one of our favorites from the entire episode. She did Amy Winehouse in a way that did not feel like she was just ripping Amy off. Mass applause to you!

Sarah Scherb – What we mostly give Sarah credit for is continuing a nice trend tonight of singers doing songs that are new to the singing world. We don’t love “The Way,” but she is at least worthy of another try.

Sydney Arterbridge – Seriously, we give major snaps to anyone who actually tries to sing “Loving You” this isn’t just a great “do lots of runs” song; it is a song with a note that literally a tiny percentage of the population can actually sing.

Maurice Townsend – Another one of our favorites. An awesome, soulful voice. Plus, he probably needs this show to take care of those four kids. His John Legend cover is soulful and old-school, but also modern. That’s a huge distinction.

David Oliver Willis – Remember David from last year? He didn’t get a ton of screen time, but after watching him here, we have no clue how this guy didn’t move forward in Vegas over some of the terrible guys that actually made it pretty darn far.

Brandy Neelly – Do we really believe that J.Lo remembers everyone that she claims to? We’ll buy that for the time being, mostly because Brandy was a good country singer the first time … and she luckily was again.

Ethan HarrisWe wrote about Ethan much earlier this season, and he has a nice voice. At the same time, it’s very thin. He is probably not going to make it that far in the competition, but he at least has his hero Keith Urban’s love and adoration.

Ayla Stackhouse – It was slightly weird to see Ayla talk about how Detroit inspired her, and then perform a song from British girl group Little Mix. A little bit theatrical, but a pretty solid voice.

Eric Gordon – Awesome hair, in case that matters for you. He has a nice voice, but the dad dance-moves were just a little bit cheesy. He seems like the guy would be performing on a street somewhere, and we’d stop and watch him for at least a second.

Ryan Nesbitt – Yes Ryan, you probably are a hipster … but we would love you so much better if you did not sing “Angel,” otherwise known as the Sarah McLachlan sad-puppy song.

Marialle Sellars – The final contestant that we saw, but the promotional videos have hyped her up for some time with her Miley Cyrus (but cleaner) hair and her awesome voice. She’s going to go very far in the competition, since she’s got a great personality and humor to go with the talent and the guitar-strumming.

Going Home

Liam Newberry – A crooner! Someone who actually is a genuine fan of Harry Connick! (That guy who was cradled by him last week couldn’t have been that serious.) The biggest challenge for Liam is that he didn’t have the support of the live band, and there just wasn’t the energy there. Sad.

Rakita and Carlita – Why do twins’ audition? Here’s the simple answer: These two are awful, and they were told by producers that this was the only way that they were going to get on TV at all.

All in all, a VERY fun episode that proves that Harry’s debut is not a one-time fluke. “American Idol” still is a little longer and sappier than it needs to be, but we can’t doubt that for the first time in years, we’re really excited about what we’re watching. Grade: A-.

Who did you think was the best during tonight’s “American Idol” episode? Sound off for us in the comments, and also click here if you want to read about some other highlights from this season.

Photo: Fox

Love TV? Be sure to like Matt & Jess on Facebook for more updates!