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'American Idol': Charlotte auditions recap

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We're in Charlotte, North Carolina this week: the location of The Big Drama. You surely remember - Nicki and Mariah got into it and production had to stop for the day. Oh, and Scotty McCreery showed up to address the crowd and renewed my confusion on what exactly makes a star these days. But enough navel gazing - let's get to it, shall we?

First up tonight, it's Naomi Morris, who has designed all of her clothes, including the rhinestone bra and black skintight skirt she's wearing. She wants the judges to remember her for her clothes, yes, but also her voice. Nicki takes an interest in her - no surprise given their somewhat similar looks - but her singing of Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' is nothing less than atrocious. For some reason, they let her sing a second song, which is just as bad.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Naomi Morris

© Michael Becker / FOX



"Omi, we've got to wrap it up," Nicki tells her, complimenting her clothes but basically saying it's a no go. Mariah tells her not to let it bring her down because she's a beautiful girl. It's a no from the others, as well, and as a tearful Naomi heads off, Nicki shouts after her to continue shining as a fashion designer. Well, that was nice.

Next up, 20-year-old Joel Neymoyer is a bit of a mess - completely clumsy, a bit of a weirdo and framed in such a way that you can't tell whether he's going to be a disaster or a prodigy. He's also obsessed with singing while lying down on his back because he saw Andrea Bocelli and Chris Daughtry do it in previous seasons. His first interactions with the judges are just as odd as he tells Nicki that her hair is like cotton candy and busts out in the most mindboggling "dance" I've ever seen.

Joel lies down and begins singing Michael Bublé's version of 'Feelin' Good', which is not the most awful thing you'll ever hear, but definitely nothing you'll ever want to hear again. Nicki admits that it's "a first" to see someone lie down and sing, so he did make history. Keith doesn't think singing is his thing, and he gets a "definitely not" from Randy and Mariah, as well. Bye, Joel!

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Joel Nemoyer

© Michael Becker / FOX



Moving right along, American Idol wouldn't be itself without a few sad stories, so 27-year-old Brian Rittenberry is here to audition and recount his wife's struggle with cancer a few years ago. Luckily, she's okay now and all clear, which is especially great for their young son. He's singing 'Let It Be' and he's actually got a great voice - very gospel-tinged and soulful. I can't see him not getting through.

Mariah "didn't expect that" and was taken by surprise, which Randy agrees with. Keith thinks he's "husky and cool" and has a great vibe to him. Nicki is, oddly, silent for a while before adding that she loves the commitment he makes to "that genre" as well as his tone. He's going to Hollywood, and his wife is there to give him a tearful hug - and one for Keith Urban, who she loves, as well.

After sharing some trail mix, the judges are ready to see the next hopeful. It's Jimmy Smith, who's inspired by Keith and is singing 'Bless the Broken Road'. He is, of course, really great as a country singer and will probably go pretty far in the competition, but God help us all if another country singer wins this show, because I just can't.

Nicki thinks he's "mad fly" and says that his voice is the one she was waiting to hear for today because it's sweet and "poppin'". Keith feels that he can tell Jimmy's personality through his tone, while Mariah notes that he has something "special and unique". It's a unanimous "yeeeep!" from the panel, so we'll be seeing Jimmy in Hollywood.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Brian Rittenberry

© Michael Becker / FOX

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: jimmy smith

© Michael Becker / FOX



Some others are doing okay, too - Sarina-Joi Crow impresses with a version of Jessie J's 'Mama Knows Best', Hayley Davis sings a country song I've never heard of, Na'Chelle Fullins-Lovell has a range that would rival Mariah's (with that screechy high note)... it's a yes for all three of them, as well.

It's time for lunch for our hungry panel, but after everyone is sufficiently fed, the auditions must continue. Well, after some more Scotty McCreery promo. That leads seamlessly to a performance by country singer Matthew, who seems weird as hell and perhaps slightly drunk. He's singing 'When I Get Where I'm Going' by Brad Paisley.

He's not terrible, but he's not good, either. Keith thinks there was a little something missing - maybe the guitar playing that Brad usually does when performing it - and Randy questions his dancing, which he immediately breaks into again. "You're nowhere near ready for this," Randy tells him after. Nicki thinks he could be a model because he's "tall" and makes him do a runway walk and pose. Full of laughs, but Matthew is going home empty-handed.

Randy has headed to a school to look for Isabelle Gonzalez, whose aunt nominated her to audition for the show. In the audition room, she takes on Sam Cooke's 'Nothing Can Ever Change This Love'. She's got a sweet voice, especially for only 16 - it's jazzy, melodic and she's got a cute, hipstery look. I'm sure she'll get through, and she might even make it to the live shows, but she's no winner.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Sarina-Joi Crowe

© Michael Becker / FOX



Nicki is "head over heels in love" with everything about her and could listen to her riffing all day as it seems so effortless. Keith thinks she's "a natural" and loves her confidence. Mariah calls her "so adorable" and says people will definitely fall in love with her since she's a star. Isabelle is going to Hollywood.

Next up, rock singer Taisha Bethea. She's in a band called Carson and seems awesome already - especially because her band is so supportive of her auditioning. She's singing Johnny Cash's 'Fulsom Prison'. She puts a nice twist on it and has a great voice - sort of reminds me of Hayley Williams from Paramore. Randy wants to hear a second song, though, and so she goes for Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know'.

Mariah finds her "interesting" and thinks she's different, while Keith wants to hear her with her band but he does like her voice. Mariah can't really wrap her head around it because she's confused as to where she's going. Nicki likes her voice and her style and doesn't care if she makes a decision on her style - especially because she's a black girl who's not doing typical R&B runs. Nicki and Keith give her a yes, while Mariah and Randy say no. However, since Keith is somehow the deciding vote today, she's through to Hollywood and we'll be seeing her again.

Before we move on, we're treated to a little clip show of some hopefuls who weren't so successful and the judges' disagreement on many of the acts. But that's enough of that. Summer Cunningham is up and is singing 'Lean On Me'. She's got a strong voice - one that'll get her through to Hollywood, at the very least - but nothing I haven't heard before.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Taisha Bethea

© Michael Becker / FOX



Nicki really likes her and thinks she has a "pretty" and "controlled" voice, adding that she was pleasantly surprised. Keith wants to know what she sees herself as ("soulful country"), where Randy notes that her voice naturally lends itself to country, which he can see her doing more than anything. Keith loves her voice and gives her a yes, as do all three of the others. She's through, obviously.

Nicki isn't too pleased with the conversation about country music as she believes that Mariah and Randy are pressuring Summer to define herself. She gets defensive when Randy says he was trying to help her, exclaiming, "I guess I can't help, let me get off the f***ing panel!" and marching off the set. Well, that was fun. Apparently this is the day the Big Fight broke out, as we're treated to media coverage clips of the Mariah and Nicki drama.

It's day two in Charlotte, however, and it's time to move on. Brandy Hamilton is doing 'All I Can Do Is Cry' by Etta James. She's got a decent voice - a nice tone - but it's nothing unique. She does seem great, though, and someone who can do really well with a little work.

Randy finds her "infectious" and loves that she came in and lit up the room with positivity. Keith agrees, saying that even through the nervousness, he can tell that "it's all in there". Nicki really felt what she was singing in that song and experienced the message of the lyrics. Mariah agrees that she lights up the room, calling it "pimpity pow" and she can't wait to hear more from Brandy. She's through to Hollywood, and tells the girls not to fight as she leaves as it makes her sad.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Ashley Smith

© Michael Becker / FOX



Next up, Ashley Smith, who seems quirky and insists that she's ready "right now" to get in there and do her thing. Nicki takes a liking to her, dubbing her "Blondie" and joking around with her. Ashley decides to sing 'Cowboy Casanova' by Carrie Underwood and does it really well, actually. She's got a lot of soul to her voice and is super adorable. I love her already! Very controlled and totally unexpected.

Nicki starts chanting "I like Blondie!" and says that it sounded really pretty. She also loves that she sang country (since she's black, I'm assuming). Mariah really enjoys her and thinks there's something about her that's very effervescent. Randy insists that she "killed it" and it's four yeses for Ashley. I can't wait to see what else she does.

Time for another video clipshow, this time of Nicki giving hopefuls weird nicknames during their auditions. Once that's over, it's time for the next singer. This time it's Janelle Arthur, another country singer... but a really, really good one. She's singing 'Where the Blacktop Ends', which Keith seems to really enjoy. Again, she's another shoe-in.

Keith thinks she's got a "gorgeous" voice, while Nicki calls her "really special" and says that she already seems like a star because she did a great job without doing too much. Randy compares her to a "young LeAnn" (LeAnn Rimes, I suppose) and Mariah appreciates her "nice demeanour". We'll see Janelle in Hollywood.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Rodney Barber

© Michael Becker / FOX



American Idol needs its share of disastrous auditions, so let's see a few, shall we? There are some real corkers in there, but there's too many good ones to waste too much time on it. Rodney Barber is singing EdWin McCain's 'I'll Be' and is totally adorable. He's not the most incredible singer I've ever heard, but he's really strong and extremely passionate.

Mariah loved it and thinks he's fantastic. She also identifies with his story of having been homeless in the past and now helping others who are in a similar situation. Keith says that he has a "big voice" and Nicki is really inspired by his story as well and thinks he has something really captivating about him. Randy finds him inspiring, as well, and it's a unanimous yes for Rodney.

Hey look, it's a familiar face. Remember Candice Glover from last year who was cut in Las Vegas? Well, no, me neither really, but she's singing Duffy's 'Syrup and Honey'. Randy thinks it's the best audition he's heard so far this season and that she sounds amazing. Nicki is obsessed with her and wants to "skin [her] and wear [her]" because she's what people watch American Idol for. Mariah has no words except to say that it's the "absolute best" singing they've heard so far. She's unanimously through to Hollywood.

Moving right along, it's Ja'Bria Barber, who's 16 and loves catching frogs and eating their legs. That's a true fact. She's singing Bonnie Raitt's version of 'Pride and Joy' and has a voice that's definitely much older than her years. She's got something about her and I'd love to see what else she can do. I'm actually really shocked that she's as young as she is - everything about her is really professional and confident.

American Idol - Charlotte auditions: Ja'Bnai Barber

© Michael Becker / FOX



Mariah loves the song choice as it's a favourite of hers and also thinks she's adorable. Randy enjoys the "little spunk" she has and how she carries herself. He also notes the "conviction" she has going on, which Nicki agrees with, dubbing her a "big dose of cutie pie". She's through to Hollywood.

We're getting towards the end of the episode, which means it's time for a crazy to appear. Brad Harris is 28 and says that he used to wrap under the name Bakon, which sets the judges off on a fantasy about eating crispy turkey bacon. Ha! He decides to sing 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin and it's predictably terrible. Brad... no. Just no.

Nicki tells him that it's "not [his] thing" and they vote all together to send him home. Brad then asks for "a handshake or something" but is sent home without one. Oh, dear.

It's time for the final audition of the night, and it's 26-year-old Seretha Guinn to show her stuff. She's got an adorable 3-year-old daughter called London and is doing a changed, sung version of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song tailored to her own life. She's got a great voice and the panel seems just as impressed. For her second song, Seretha does 'How Do I Live' by LeAnn Rimes and is just as good.

Nicki thinks she's "incredible" and is in tears as she tells Seretha that she's proud of her for coming through so much difficulty. Randy hears "a little Whitney thing" in her voice and appreciates that she's taking time to follow her dreams. Mariah loves her and thinks she's got a lot to her. It's a unanimous yes (and no, I haven't forgotten Keith - he's not there)!

Well, that's it for Charlotte! American Idol continues on Thursday night at 8/7c on Fox!

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