At the very start of Wednesday night’s “American Idol,” we were reminded right away that Charlotte was the site of that infamous fight between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey several months ago … and TMZ showed up so many times in her you’d almost think they were a paid sponsor. This fight was obviously something that Nigel Lythgoe wanted to publicize, but since it was ultimately rather stupid, it doesn’t deserve that much time or attention save for the audition that it actually happened in.
With that in mind, we’re going to be putting the focus instead on what actually matters from the great state of North Carolina: great singing. Luckily, there was plenty of it this week, and we may have even met a few favorites.
Brian Rittenberry – When this guy came out with his sad story of his wife battling cancer and his southern drawl, we were expecting something different than a booming performance of The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” It was not the best audition ever, so consider this one put through for the story.
Jimmy Smith – This guy is a serious contender this season. He’s good-looking, has a serious country voice, and even has a likable personality to boot. This is the sort of grown-man singer that could pull a Taylor Hicks and develop a quick fanbase very quickly: after all, the country vote (and the good-looking white guy vote) is always strong.
Isabel Gonzales – Thankfully, this was an example of an Idol being nominated by a family member who was actually smart to do so. Isabel has a little bit of a nasally quality to her voice, but from her style to her bluesy sound, this was a ton of fun. Totally not we were expecting from Charlotte.
Taisha Bathea – It’s a rocker! We’ve been begging for a new singer to fill the role left open by Elise Testone … and we’re not fully convinced that she’s it. However, she does have some spunk, and maybe she’ll work super-hard moving forward to win the judges over.
Summer Cunningham – Poor Summer. She went in to the show in order to try to impress the judges, and then she had them engaging in World War III over an offhand comment that she “tried the country thing” for a while. In a sense, we actually agree with what Nicki said here: Randy and Mariah were almost trying to pigeonhole Summer into being a country singer, and she was not necessarily interested in being just that. With that being said, this was really a ton of hype for something that was very silly at the end of the day, and the show edited out most of the juicy stuff anyway.
Brandy Hamilton – She had the unfortunate distinction of being the first singer to perform after the Nicki and Mariah fight, and this enough could have caused her to shake in her boots a little bit. Luckily, she had enough of a voice to shine through the tension and could go pretty far.
Ashley Smith – Our surprise of the night! We honestly felt that this was going to be a complete mess based just on the way in which she was edited before she started to sing, but these are the moments that we live for: when “American Idol” manages to completely trick us and give us an audition that makes us smile. We hope she goes far, just as we did last year with Heejun Han.
Janelle Arthur – Odds are, you have heard Janelle a few times on this show before. This is far from her first time auditioning on “American Idol,” but she has consistently been one of those people who gets lost in the shuffle in the later rounds. Will this be her year? The only thing we don’t understand was how the show completely ignored her history during this audition.
Rodney Barber – Another singer there mostly for the story. It’s great that he helps out homeless people in Charlotte with his singing, but the pitch and the tone was just not that impressive. We see this as a Hollywood Week exit rather than a top 40 berth.
Candice Glover – Thankfully, Candice has air time last year! She totally deserved to go to the live shows last year, but maybe she needed that experience to just work it during this adulation She’s worked hard, gotten even better, and she has to be an undisputed favorite to go very far this year.
Ja’Bria Barber – Another Barber! Nicki didn’t love that she was a “frog killer,” but had nothing but positive things to say about pretty much everything else.
Seretha Guinn – She seriously auditioned to the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and it was good! She did have a sad story like some of the other contestants as her boyfriend was in a terrible car accident, but there was a voice and a level of creativity to back it up.
Naomi Morris – She had a pretty funny demeanor about her, and Nicki was completely in love with her fashion. It’s too bad that she eventually opened her mouth and proceeded to shout Aretha Franklin at us.
Joel Nemoyer – So what was the point being made here, that you can lie on the ground like a crazy person and people will like your performance more? Quite frankly, the best part of the entire audition was when he came outside of the audition expecting his dad to be there … but he apparently realized that he wanted to bolt from this trainwreck as far as possible.
Matthew Muse – This actually started okay … and as soon as this slightly-confused country singer, who seemed to want to go only by his first name, made it to the chorus, it turned into a disaster.
Brad Harris – His rap name was bacon with a k. This should tell you everything that you need to know.
We’re surprised to hear ourselves saying this, but we’re actually enjoying this season much more than what we saw last year. There is too much attention of the judges, but they are at least entertaining. Plus, the contestant pool has produced some good talent, and we can see some of these people actually performing in the live shows.
Who did you love this week, and how badly did you groan during the much-hyped “fight” midway through this two-hour spectacular? As always, we want to hear your picks below!