American Idol has arrived in Salt Lake City, the second-to-last stop on the audition tour searching for this season’s batch of new talent. Perpetually optimistic judge Jennifer Lopez works her charms repeatedly on fellow judges Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. to earn several so-so contestants trips to Hollywood by simply batting those beautiful lashes of hers. By the end of the Salt Lake auditions, 30 happy people have run screaming from the judges panel with golden tickets in hand.
Lots of super-friendly, polite (and quite frankly, forgettable) individuals perform and subsequently find out they are going to Hollywood. We see several instances in which Keith and JLo gush, while calm, cool Harry tells contestants simply, “Yes.” After a time, we are treated to some terrible singers. Unfortunately, all the bad people have all the personality, while all the yeses seems to be boring, boasting voices that are barely palatable.
New Hampshire native Alex Preston is a self-confessed band geek, who shows up with a guitar and a hipster McLovin vibe and sings an original song. Harry and Keith pick up on his music background, based on his mastery of complex guitar chords and before you know it, McLovin’s going to Hollywood.
Samantha has a hippie vibe, sporting a leather fanny pack and holey jeans. She sings her original, “From Birth,” sounding very much like a lady Macklemore as she sing-talks her way through the song. After Harry asks her for a more familiar tune, she opts to sing the theme song from the 1970s television series The Jeffersons. While her voice isn’t the strongest, they all three unanimously support her originality and she moves on up.
At one point, Harry says to a contestant,”You’re a performer. I respond well to performers.” Um, what? To be fair, these poor judges must just run out of things to tell people.
D.J. Bradley looks like he’s wearing a Zack Morris wig backwards. He sings Adele‘s “Hometown Girl.” In her trademark style of nonspecific complimenting, Jennifer tells him, “The sound of your voice, I found to be really pleasant.” She gives him a yes and works hard to earn D.J. a second yes vote to get him on a plane to Hollywood.
Kenzie Hall sings “I’m Going to Find Another You” by John Mayer. The judges love it and she’s another one making it to the next round.
Paisley Van Patten got her first record deal when she was 15. Her sad story is that she lost it all due to drinking, so her storyline is all about getting a second chance. She tells as much to the judges, letting them know she’s two years sober and that her fiance told her that if she were to audition for Idol, the engagement and their relationship would be dunzo. I love this bit of oversharing. Her selection is Faith Hill‘s “When the Lights Go Down.” Everyone loves her story and her voice, so she gets a golden ticket. I’m excited to see her progress in this competition, mostly because I’m looking forward to what other salient personal dramas she plans on dishing to America, if this is what she’s leading with.
Haydn Olsen wears a straw fedora and has her dreams crushed while Jennifer pets her hair throughout her critique. This leads into several crazy, enthusiastic contestants making up in strange hair what they lack in talent.
CJ Harrison has a sad story and a winning smile. He strums his guitar for his rendition of “Soulshine” by the Allman Brothers Band. The trio of judges like his overall image and sound, which includes some pretty remarkable dimples. I would like to note at this point that his girlfriend’s name is Britney Slappy. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he accepts his golden ticket.
Now, guys, Jennifer is sporting the amazing red lace dress and matching lipstick I saw from the promos and she truly is a vision.
Next up is Tiquila Wilson, a church-going bowl of energy who works in a funeral home. She promises to be the most interesting contestant of the entire season and does a great version of the Adele’s “Someone Like You.” All three judges give her a yes. In reaction to the good news, Tequila is briefly possessed by the spirit, doing some spirited stomping before hugging the judges and telling Harry quickly, “You cute!” on her way out. Her shock at realizing that Ryan is the person touching her arm after she runs out screaming, however, is her best moment. Get used to me gushing over Tiquila because she’s clearly already my favorite.
Chase Thornton, an alleged male model, sings “When I Was Your Man” probably slightly better than he male-models. A montage of tearful nos stream out of the audition room. Then we are treated to some vintage footage of the judges looking adorable. Keith was too cute in his audition on an Australian TV show in a ’70s vest and jump suit. Fly girl Jennifer has always looked gorgeous and hasn’t aged a day since the ’90s. And Harry Connick Jr., was an adorable 10-year-old piano prodigy with big teeth and a sweet smile. I vote for more old videos of the judges and less contestants with guitars.
Dexter Roberts is a farmhand from Alabama who sings “Drive” from Idol alum, Casey James. He’s very country and all three judges are on board with his sound. After him, a tearful 15-year-old contestant claims she’s been waiting 13 years to audition, so, yeah, you do the math.
Youngun, Johnny Newcomb does his best Eddie Vedder impersonation. After much deliberation, he squeaks through with two yeses thanks to Jennifer’s relentless campaigning.
Kimberly Tosti is supposedly an opera-trained singer. She takes on “Barracuda” by Heart and is…loud. No Hollywood for this diva.
Carmen Delgina is the daughter of Wonder Mike from the Sugar Hill Gang. She sings “Tainted Love.” Despite her shaky performance, she gets all three yeses.
Kassandra Castaneda hands Jennifer her uncle’s phone number before singing Adele’s “Chasing Pavements.” Harry doesn’t think she’s ready. For the 100th time, Jennifer says, “I disagree.” Keith thinks her raw talent is enough for him. Kassandra is going to Hollywood.
Casey Thrasher is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This father of two has a heartwarming story for the judges and launches into “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn. How I wish it had been the Cher song. All of the judges push him through to the next round.
After Salt Lake City, a total of 193 golden tickets have been handed out to hopeful singers. Next up is the last stop on the audition tour in Omaha, Nebraska. Ryan proclaims, “It’s the best of the Midwest.” Does it live up to the hype? We’ll have to watch and see!
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