‘American Idol’ in Portland: ‘smoky weeds’ and Chris Medina memories

Who made it through this time?

American Idol” has arrived in Portland! The show is continuing its tradition of visiting some different spots than they typically stop in, and the hope here seems to simply be discovering new talent.

Did it work? Not entirely — the show was a bit lacking on the talent standpoint at times, and even some of the token “crazy auditions” really weren’t that crazy outside of a guy having a munchies-approved last name.

Brittany Zika – We’re still not sure whether or not Brittany was singing or wailing during her audition. We didn’t love her audition as much as the judges, but she does look a little bit like Bernadette from “The Big Bang Theory.” Now, she needs to find someone to dress like Wolowitz.

Brittany also apparently likes to dream about Sara Bereilles — and she can dream about her in Hollywood. (Or, she could have found herself a vocal group and went on “The Sing-Off.”)

Ben Purdom – He claims that his co-workers told him to audition because they “knew talent.” We’re betting that they did it because they knew that this would be funny when they watched it at home. We really just find it kind of sad that a guy comes in for a serious audition singing “Super Bass,” and then blames a bad performance on his illness.

Jermaine Jones – Jermaine was the first auditioner of the night who showed some sort of genuine promise to go far on the show. He had a fun personality as a 6’8” gentle giant that also happens to be a mama’s boy — but he also has a lovely deep voice. This is the kind of singer that people will vote for — but his challenge could very well be standing out in a way other than his height.

Britnee Kellogg – Introducing the “Idol” version of Stacy Francis! She was held back at times thanks to her husband not wanting her to pursue her career in music. (He was a professional basketball player who apparently cheated on her on a number of occasions.) The difference between Britnee and Stacy? We much preferred the former’s energy level here.

Sam Gershman – If you thought we saw some theatrical contestants earlier this stage, Sam may have been born on stage, doused in glitter, and then forced to read the script for “Jersey Boys” during history class.

David Weed – This is this guy’s last name. Seriously. We don’t really know what else to say about him outside of the fact that Steven Tyler’s joke about his first name being “smoky” was at least a little bit chuckle-worthy.

Here art thou, Romeo.

Romeo Diahn – This one totally made us smile. He grew up in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana, trained his voice as a way to keep his family going despite tragedy, and he finally made his way to America following the turn of the century. His performance of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” reminded us a little bit of Sean Kingston, and he may be the first male contestant of his kind ever. On a show that contains dozens of guys with guitars and girls who want to sing the same Whitney Houston songs over and over again, we welcome people like Romeo.

Naomi Gillies – We groan whenever a contestant kisses up to a judge by auditioning to one of their songs, so we did this almost like a gut response (as we do whenever Randy says the word “pitchy”). Then, Naomi actually sang Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” like it wasn’t a desperate plea for attention, and we were impressed.

Ben Harrison – Ben proved something during his audition  — Even if you have an okay voice, being incredibly annoying completely trumps whatever talent you may have. He did look a bit like he was 14, and his kiss-blowing to Jennifer Lopez was one of the creepiest things we’ve ever seen. (J.Lo, pick up that restraining order!)

Jessica Phillips – After so many subpar and rather dull auditions, we finally arrived at a moment that actually started to melt our cynical heart. Jessica, much like Chris Medina last season, is trying to make a career for herself as a singer while taking care of someone she loves. In her case, it just so happens to be her boyfriend, who is still recovering from a stroke.

As sad as her story was, we’re pleased to report that she does have a solid voice. With the right lessons in control, it could be great — but it’s going to be tough to see her improve enough by the time the latter rounds happen.

The biggest issue that we’re arriving at when it comes to this season is that, for the first time in a few years, we really don’t feel confident at all in the level of talent we are seeing. Is the pool this dry, or were all the good auditions so boring that we’re not going to meet any of these people until Hollywood Week?

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Photo: Fox

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