‘American Idol’ in St. Louis: Lauren Gray (and Carrie Underwood?) dominate

Lauren Gray closed the show.

Welcome to “American Idol” in St. Louis — otherwise known as the city of Carrie Underwood! The spirit of the season 4 winner loomed large in the first few minutes of the show, as Nigel Lythgoe was desperate to remind you that there was once great talent on this show (versus the underwhelming snoozefest that we saw in Portland).

So yes, there were still plenty of disasters during this episode — including a chubby Elvis impersonator, someone who bombed Adele, and a group that appeared lost on their way to “The Sing-Off.” Thankfully, we at least had some reason to sing out from on top of the Gateway Arch — there was no Carrie, but we could least smile about some of the talent that showed up.

Johnny Keyser – The best male voice we’ve seen since Phillip Phillips earlier this season — except his was more of John Legend and less of Kris Allen. Keyser’s voice is one we wish could have been dubbed over the vast majority of “Idol” this season — now, if only we could find a way to make his personality a little bit more interesting beyond just a waiter / student from a single-parent family.

Rachelle Lamb – Didn’t we see her last night courtesy of Britnee Kellogg? When it comes to her story, she’s pretty much the same person — but the difference is that she has a voice more suited for country music. As for her bringing her daughter into the audition with choregraphed dance moves … it was sort of cute, but what if she had been terrible?

Reis Kloeckener – Outside of having a name that is incredibly difficult to spell, Reis comes from the Jaycee Badeaux school of being bullied at an early age — and he also had a voice that made Steven Tyler tear up versus babble some poetry that he knows gives him some airtime.

Meet Ethan Jones.

Ethan Jones – Ethan was actually lucky enough to get a pep talk from Steven Tyler, and he may have needed this thanks to his rather sad story. Ethan’s the second guy this season to have dropped out of school, but the saddest part of this story was that he did so to take part in a band that his father ended up leaving due to drug and alcohol abuse. (On a different note, does anyone else find it weird that the judges have opinion at all on people dropping out of school?)

Ethan luckily had a voice that reminded us that rock on “Idol” still exists — even though this is one of the first times we’ve heard it this season.

Mark Ingram – The guy literally works in the same hotel the auditions were conducted. In other words, he did not have to travel far.

Unfortunately, the best thing Ingram had going for him was that he seemed to master the same flubber dance that Jacob Lusk performed to perfection during “Man in the Mirror” last season. There’s nothing more embarrassing than inviting the entire hotel staff in to watch your audition only to have the judges say “no.”

Hey … at least he can go back to work right away.

Lauren Gray – In closing out the show, Lauren rocked out another Adele song that made Jennifer Lopez (in the midst of some deep personal struggle) a little bit teary-eyed. Gray does have a strong southern rock voice, but it’s also not perfect and she shouts a few too many notes. However, the bridal-store worker by day, rock star by night does have a great deal more potential than just about any other female rocker in this competition — and if she learns some control, we could see her deep into the live shows.

Carrie Underwood – Okay, she really wasn’t there — but the show managed to name-drop Carrie again at the end of the show, thus making her the most-talked-about contestant to come out of St. Louis on two separate seasons of “Idol.” Congrats?

Thanks to everything from a tribute to “The Artist” to a preview of Madonna’s new music video, we really didn’t get to see as many auditions on this show as we have in some of the others. Then again, we much prefer watching a few good singers than sitting through a guy trying to start a “Revolution” or some dude trying to audition for a job as a Ryan Seacrest impersonator.

The audition phase of “Idol” is thankfully over, and we’re admittedly a bit confused about what sort of strategy was at play here. Why only show a tiny handful of auditions, especially when not all of them were great? There must not have ultimately been as many perfect storms of inspiring stories and great voices this year … and in order to make up for the lack of excitement, Hollywood Week better do more than just showcase people passing out.

Photo: Fox


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