We're starting off in San Antonio, and first up is Vincent Powell, a returning contestant who also happens to be in love with Mariah Carey. Bless him - she was pretty amazing in the '90s, wasn't she? Anyway, he's singing 'Rock Me Baby', and he's doing a pretty good job of it. He's got a great melodic tone to his voice that I could definitely listen to more of - and the judges seem to agree.
Randy remembers him and wonders what happened last year since Vincent had made it through to the end of Hollywood Week, and he remembers Randy taking a big drink from his cup and how it made him nervous. Ha! Keith loves him and thinks he can take what he does and fuse it with what he wants to do. Erm, okay? What a weird bit of feedback. Nicki thinks it's clear that his voice is amazing and that he brought so much joy to the room - she wants him to do a gospel album since his voice gives people chills. Mariah gives him pretty high praise, saying that he sings like an angel and doesn't need any critique. It's a unanimous yes for Vincent.
The boys insist that they're trying to save their future, but Mariah explains the rule of harmonising to them. Nicki tells them to "take it down a notch" as their part of the audition is done - they really don't get it and won't stop talking. It gets a bit awkward, but it's pretty clear: it's a no for the Bacerott boys.
They're followed immediately by Savannah Votion, who's dressed... not great. I know it's summer when these auditions are filmed, but seriously? A belly shirt? She's got a 5-year-old daughter so she hasn't had much time for singing, but she's ready to give it a go now, with Etta James's 'At Last'. She sounds good, but she also sounds like someone who has practiced sounding a very particular way, because it's kind of what I used to do as a kid trying to sing this song. I suppose she has potential, even if she does seem a little crazy. Sometimes crazy makes pretty good art, after all.
Randy thinks that she seems like a natural performer, which is what he likes. Mariah calls her "very strong", while Keith notes the "life" in her voice ("I can hear a lot of life going on"), as well as empowerment. Nicki loves how organic her voice sounds, as if she was born to sing. I think it's pretty clear we'll be seeing her again in Hollywood.
Cristabel Clack is a worship leader, a wife and a mum of three and something tells me she's going to be good. She sings Alicia Keys's 'If I Ain't Got You' and does quite a lot of runs which could be toned down, but she really delivers during the big parts of the song and has a really natural melody. This is someone who's been singing a long time and really loves to do so, that much is clear.
Keith loved it - especially since she puts in her own runs and phrases that weren't too showy and fit right in. It's obvious to Mariah that she's a "real singer" as she sang it the way she feels it. Nicki appreciates some of the different choices she made and thinks a few of them were better than the original. Randy thinks she's what the whole show is about, and Cristabel gets her golden ticket to move through to the next round.
One of the things I really don't get about this show is the whole "recruiting contestants" thing, but nonetheless, Ann Difani's been nominated by her husband for an Idol audition and Randy Jackson goes to tell her as much at the University of Arizona's football field during a game. Clearly she'll be going to Hollywood, but let's have her sing 'Stronger' by Faith Hill first and pretend we don't know what's going to happen.
Her voice is pretty average - she won't make it past Hollywood week - and there's just nothing exciting about it at all. She could get a job on a cruise ship, I suppose. Keith appreciates her tone but thinks that there's a lot of Faith's runs in there (basically, nothing original). Mariah questions whether she wants to be a country singer (yeah, but she could cross over into pop) and loves that she has a place where she's starting. Nicki calls it "kinda cute" that her husband nominated her, and Randy still likes her. It's the least enthusiastic yes I've ever seen. Had she not been nominated by her husband, she'd be going home empty-handed.
It's day two in San Antonio, and Victoria Acosta is a mariachi singer who could be a pretty big star. She performs on the river walk usually, but she's ready to hit a bigger stage, so she's singing 'Big Girls Don't Cry' and while she needs a bit of pop polishing, she's definitely got something about her, so I'm sure she'll have no problems getting through. She sings another song - a traditional mariachi song - which they enjoy even more since she has more of a connection to it. It's a yes from all four judges.
Stefan Jones sings in the most obscene falsetto ever (it's a no, clearly), and Angela Clark-Falkquay doesn't fare much better with her cover of Katy Perry's 'Firework'. Carolyn Jackson absolutely ruins Beyoncé... it's just not good. But we've seen enough terrible auditions for the moment, so let's get back to the good stuff.
Mississippi resident Papa Peachez works with homeless people and describes himself as a "big black woman trapped in a white boy's body". He also loves Nicki, and he's going to sing his own music because he hates doing covers. His voice is pretty good - he has a good range, anyway - but considering he's only 19 and a little bit nuts, I'm not sure how the competition is going to work out for him. The judges seem as confused as I am.
Nicki thinks that he's a superstar and loved the song because it was original and only he could sing it. Keith admits that it's a bit too theatrical and he can't find Papa Peachez in it. Mariah sees him being a quirky artist who has his own thing, while Randy notes that if he got serious about it and got some vocal lessons, he could have something big.
Nicki gives him a yes, but both Keith and Randy give him a no. Mariah seems torn, but she gives him a yes. In this city, Randy's the tie breaker, and even though he's voted no previously, he decides to give him another chance - Papa Peachez is through to Hollywood.
Nicki is reminded of "candy canes, strawberries, whipped cream, rainbows and sunny skies", saying that his runs were pretty and his riffs ended right, which she wasn't expecting. Randy loves that he didn't try to sound like Michael, calling him "fresh". Keith appreciates the balance of confidence and melody he displays, and it's four yeses from the panel for Sanni.
Adam Sanders wants to be an R&B/soul artist and is ready to sing Etta James's 'I'd Rather Go Blind'. He's got a good enough voice - really campy and sort of over-the-top, but if he could learn to tone it down, he'd probably be less annoying and could do something big. The judges seem happy with him how he is, but I'm getting a headache from the way his voice is echoing off the walls of the audition room and how his screechiness is hitting my ears.
The panel give him a standing ovation, so it's pretty good news for Adam. Randy thinks there's not even any need for comment from any of the judges - he gets an enthusiastic yes from each of them, and we'll see him again (and hear him, certainly!) in Hollywood.
Next up, we're heading to Long Beach, California and boarding the Queen Mary (why a boat? Why?) for the next set of auditions. First up, it's Shuba Vedula with 'Good Feeling' and she's got a pretty good voice. She's kind of overdoing it, as a lot of singers tend to overdo in the audition room, but it's a yes from both Keith and Randy. Nicki and Mariah are nowhere to be found, so who knows what they would have thought.
Oh wait, here's Mariah - she's been held up by the LA traffic! Luckily, she's there just in time to meet Brian Martinez, who was heard by a producer signing in the bathroom and told to audition for the show, much to the panel's amusement. He's singing Phil Collins' 'You'll Be In My Heart' and is, predictably, absolutely awful. There's no melody and it's more like sing-speaking... ouch. It's a no across the board for poor Brian.
Randy thinks he has "strong pipes", which Mariah agrees with, adding that certain moments were "so raw and real", which she loves. Keith enjoys the "thick tone" he has at the back of his voice - plus, his daughter is cute. He gets a yes from all three, so he's through to Hollywood.
Next up, purple-haired singer Stefanie Sanson is in a band and ready to go solo, so she's singing Adele's 'Set Fire to the Rain'. She seems to be jumping around a bit before she starts literally screaming like a banshee and giving the middle finger and hopping out of the room, and then out of the building. What in the world was that?
Hey, look, Nicki's back from rehearsals and Jesaiah Baer's ready to sing Kimbra's 'Settle Down' for her audition. She's got a good voice for being only 16, although it's a bit too Kimbra-like. Unfortunately, mid-song, the ship's fire alarm goes off, putting a stop to the audition and sending everyone off. Well, that's fun.
After whatever happened is settled (yes, it's that vague), Jesaiah is back to try her Kimbra song again. She still sounds way too much like Kimbra and doesn't really know her own voice yet, but I'd be interested in hearing her sing something else. Keith loved it within seconds of her starting, which Randy agrees with. Mariah finds her "interesting", and Nicki admires her confidence and was shocked at how well she actually did. She gets a yes from all four.
After a few more awful auditions, we get to meet Michah Johnson, who's been singing since he was a kid. Unfortunately, he recently had his tonsils removed and the doctor who performed the surgery hit some nerves, leaving him with a serious speech impediment. He's been undergoing therapy to correct the issue, but it's clear that he'll struggle with this issue for life. What a shame - it only happens to 1 in 100,000 people.
Michael decides to sing 'Chicken Fry' by The Zac Brown Band and holy smokes, you certainly can't tell he's got a speech problem by the way he sings! He sounds fantastic - lots of melody and joy in his voice. I love this guy! Randy calls this "the biggest fake-out" he's ever seen, as they were worried and yet he sings like a bird. Nicki is sure that he's ready for the competition, while Mariah was moved by his spirit and his story - but she would have loved him even without his story. It's a unanimous yes for Micah.
The next day, Rachel Hale sings 'People Get Ready' and does it incredibly well. She's really unassuming and humble but definitely talented. Keith likes her voice and compares her to Wynonna Judd, while Nicki thinks that she's pretty, striking and has a great energy surrounding her. Plus, she's got a great voice and sounds like someone who's already established in the industry. Mariah applauds her for already understanding who she is and what kind of artist she wants to be. Randy thinks she's the happiest contestant they've ever met. It's a unanimous yes for Rachel.
Moving right along, Briana Oakley is only 16, but she's been through a lot. She was severely bullied by her peers after appearing as a talented kid on an old episode of Maury. Eventually she changed schools and is more at peace with herself now. She's singing Patty Griffin's 'Up to the Mountain' - what a fantastic song, and she's got a really lovely voice.
Keith calls it "fantastic", praising her control, range, look - everything works for him. All Nicki can say is "wow" repeatedly, but eventually manages to tell her that she's "poised and ready for this moment". Randy notes her raw talent and believes this show could be something huge for her. Mariah also encourages her to get past the bullying she's experienced and says that she's proud of her for getting through it. Speaking of through - Briana is going to Hollywood.
Keith says that choosing a song like that, you've got to know what challenge and adversity is, which Matheus does. He loves it and thinks he has a great job. Nicki thinks that he fits the bill of the unique, special person they're looking for. The song is one of Mariah's favourites and she's holding back tears - he can sing anything for her, any day. Randy could tell that he nearly lost it and insists that American Idol won't put up with any discrimination due to his size. It's a unanimous yes for Mateus.
Well, that's it for San Antonio and Long Beach! Tune in Thursday night at 8/7c for more auditions, this time from Oklahoma.