Night two of the first week of "American Idol" auditions brought the judges to New Orleans, where the city's legendary party attitude was in rich supply, along with some pretty impressive voices.
After Wednesday night's season 10 debut, which brought modest ratings but a breakout star in Aerosmith singer and judge Steven Tyler, the new panel seemed to settle into their roles: Tyler as the quick-witted jive turkey unafraid to tell it like it is while heaping praise when appropriate; Jennifer Lopez as a less loopy, warm-hearted Paula Abdul type; and sole returning judge Randy Jackson as the cheerleader who sometimes acts like a mean guy with his vicious putdowns.
The night got off to a promising start with 21-year-old piano teacher Jordan Dorsey, who opened the dusty chestnut "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in a traditional fashion and then switched it up into a jazzy, finger-snapping soul swing that gave Jennifer Lopez goose bumps.
Tyler, who knows a thing or two about luscious lips, was also impressed with Texas marketing analyst/ food blogger Sarah Sellers, 28, who put an R&B spin on Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love." The Aerosmith singer quipped, "You had me sold from the second you laid eyes on me," providing yet another one of his soon-to-be-signature jokey non-sequiturs.
Some came to sing, some came to gawk at J.Lo and, in the case of ship builder Jovany Barreto, to croon a bit of Luis Miguel and make goo-goo eyes at Lopez. It must have worked, because he made it to Hollywood and proved his friends wrong by ripping off his shirt for the singer, getting some unexpected help from Tyler and Randy Jackson, who joined him in the skin show.
"What the heck just happened in here?" said a confused Lopez. "You knew this was going to happen when you got people like us."
There was plenty of talent in the Crescent City, including cosmetologist Jacquelyn Dupree, 24, who brought along pictures from Baton Rouge native Jackson's high school football coach and some serious smoky pipes for the Pretenders' "I'll Stand by You."
Social outcast Brett "I Got This" Loewenstern, 16, spoke out against bullies after a lifetime of being picked on and was the first official rocker to take the stage in front of his idol Tyler. He went bold with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and, frankly, he kind of killed it with some sweet soul and a falsetto that wowed the rocker. "You were fabulous," Tyler raved.
But even a Mick Jagger-like mouth couldn't save 24-year-old dishwasher Gabriel Franks from the reject pile when he aggressively murdered the melody of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." That led to the predictable montage of dinosaur moaners, growlers, falsetto glass-crackers, spoken-word screamers and just-plain yellers.
The judges were clearly not expecting what came out of 15-year-old Lafayette native Jaycee Badeaux, the stocky high-schooler who killed Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" with some Justin Bieber-like falsetto sweetness. "You are so sweet and so cute! Your voice is really, really beautiful!" Lopez gushed.
If the case is always solved in the last few minutes of "Law & Order," then "Idol" has its own version of finding the culprit via the tear-jerking final contestant.
Thursday night's show ended with one of the most heartstring-pulling ones in recent memory. It wasn't by chance that 23-year-old Paris Tassin chose Carrie Underwood's "Temporary Home," as its lyrics about being a struggling young mom hit home for the parent of a special-needs daughter. Her rich, deep tones, exotic good looks and emotional delivery brought tears to Lopez's eyes.
"I do that for my daughter because I want to teach her, go for your dreams," Tassin said as the judges put her through to Hollywood and Lopez welled up again at Tassin's conviction and spunk.
Who was your favorite from the New Orleans auditions? Let us know in the comments!
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