‘American Idol’ Finds Clay Aiken And Jessica Sierra Look-Alikes — Plus Actual Talent — In Dallas

Simon Cowell's scowl has been mysteriously missing from the season so far, but how long can that last?

The kinder, gentler “American Idol” that debuted Tuesday night (to soft numbers) returned with an equally wholesome second audition show on Wednesday.

The gang stopped in Dallas, hoping to find the next Kelly Clarkson. While we didn’t see any auditions that would suggest success on that front, Wednesday’s episode gave us more than enough fodder for categorization.

Best Unintentional “Celebrity Rehab” Plug: Jessica Brown

The night’s first audition featured a former meth addict who looked a lot like Jessica Sierra. And in a convenient twist, Carrie Underwood’s song “Jesus, Take the Wheel” played a big part in her sobriety. Randomly, her younger sister looked exactly like Britney Spears circa 2008. On a non-cynical note, this girl sang “I’ll Stand by You” really, really well. As Simon said, she “made the song interesting.”

Best Baloo Impression: Paul Stafford

The most “joyful” and/or “enthusiastic” audition ever (depending on which judge you ask), Paul’s atonal rendition of “Wait for You” was noteworthy for another reason. The dude’s a member of the American (Roller) Coaster Enthusiasts. Can somebody please send me a pamphlet about that, ASAP?

Most Likely to Be in My Dreams Tonight: Beth Maddocks

Purely based on the fact that she works as a singing waitress at a fondue restaurant. I would love to shake the hand of whatever genius invented the musical fondue eatery. (And what do you think it’s called? The Belting Pot?)

Best Use of Music: “Right Here Waiting” during Bruce Dickson’s introduction

Where do I begin with Bruce “I’m Saving My Lips for My Wife” Dickson? First, he and his father put the “balls” in “purity balls.” Second, his paternal relationship makes his last name all the more giggle-worthy. But, seriously, big ups to “Idol” for the inspired inclusion of Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” while Dickson explained his vow of chastity. It elicited season seven’s first genuine guffaw from yours truly.

Best Slam of a Former “Idol” Castoff: Kyle Ensley

The politician-in-training reminded Simon and Paula of a former “Idol” runner-up, and Simon let him advance to Hollywood only after he pledged not to “do what Clay Aiken did,” meaning no “weird things with his hair” or “red leather jackets.”

Worst Slam of a Former “Idol” Castoff: Pia “Zpia” Easley

After watching model/musician/ backup singer Zpia audition, Simon quipped, “You haven’t got the demeanor of a backing singer. Most backing singers come in like whipped donkeys.” If he’s referring to whom I think he is, he obviously doesn’t watch “The Soup,” because then he would have said “like a thirsty platypus” instead.

Most Likely to Use the “Nasally Is a Form of Singing” Defense: Brandon Green

Give him a shave and make him ditch that disgusting bag of peeled fingernails, and the guy has the potential to be this season’s Chris Richardson, which then means that I’ll have to suffer through his “nasally” singing for the next couple of months and be forced to endure e-mails from my co-workers about how much they want to make out with him.

The Toccara Jones Distinction for Enthusiasm That Will Ultimately Get Crushed Beyond Repair by a Shallow Reality Show: Kayla Hatfield

You know how Tyra enjoys casting plus-size models for their bubbly personalities but has no intention of keeping them around for longer than a month? (By then, the big-boned beauty will be so depressed about not fitting into any of the designers’ clothing that she’ll stop smiling at judging and be booted for losing that “spark.”) Well, “Idol” felt it necessary to do something similar by letting through Kayla Hatfield. Her singing was way worse than Tuesday night’s deranged Alexis Cohen, yet because she exuded positive energy, the judges kept her around. You know where this is going. I doubt she’ll still be giggling — or even be in the competition — by the end of Hollywood week.

Hey, Creepy Kid From the “Today” Show and “Ellen”, This Is Your Future: Tristan Clements

Incidentally, Tristan sang Aretha’s “Think,” just like that freaky boy did on “Ellen.”

The “If Only Britney Could Sing Like This” Medal: Kady Malloy

Simon called Kady’s “Unchained Melody” “the best so far,” but I was way more impressed with her uncanny ability to sing exactly like Britney Spears. Well, exactly like Britney Spears after Auto-Tune, which is an even bigger accomplishment!

Most Disturbing Trend: Cricket sound effects

“Idol” producers felt it necessary to include a human chirping like a cricket two nights in a row because?

The Congressional Medal of Honor: Renaldo Lapuz

I wasn’t really finding Renaldo’s broken English or wacky outfit or plans to make Simon a saint particularly amusing, but then something magical happened during his performance of an original composition, “We’re Brothers Forever” (which I swear he stole from Antony and the Johnsons). By the 90th time Renaldo repeated the chorus, the song inspired Paula Abdul the Dancer to come out of retirement. And for that, I am grateful.

With ratings slipping, how much longer do you think “Idol” is going to keep this new formula of showing good singers? And is anyone else totally freaked out when Simon and company react to a terrible audition by reassuring the bad singers that they are “sweet”? What happened to the Cowell Scowl?

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