"American Idol" loves it when contestants come to them with a backstory, and they got a whopper of one on Wednesday (February 9) with James Durbin.
The 21-year-old from Santa Cruz, California, explained that not only is he an unemployed father with a young child at home, but he was diagnosed with Tourette and Asperger's syndromes after his musician father died of a drug overdose when he was 9 years old. He was bullied and made fun of at school and described himself as "lost," until he met his wife, Heidi, whom he called an "angel" and who leaves him mini-messages of encouragement around the house ("I believe in my music," "I believe in my gift," etc.).
Durbin has a propensity for crying — he welled up several times when telling his story — and was worried about keeping his emotions in check when going in front of the judges at the San Francisco auditions. "I'm gonna have to keep calm and keep still and keep my mind on what I'm here to do," he said. "And what I'm here to do is to show America who James Durbin is."
He then managed to blow away the judges with a take on Muddy Waters' early '60s blues single "You Shook Me," which was later made famous by Led Zeppelin. The slender-framed Durbin's powerful, bombastic vocals and outstanding range immediately brought to mind season-eight belter Adam Lambert, though Durbin leaned toward gritty where Lambert was glam.
Durbin then asked Steven Tyler's permission to test drive "Dream On," which he performed in front of the Aerosmith frontman while wiping away tears. Tyler closed his eyes and took it in, audibly approving of Durbin a number of times and later exclaiming his "over-the-top" vocals were "so, so good."
Randy Jackson praised Durbin's range, describing it as "crazy" no less than three times. "And that's full voice, that's not falsetto or anything," he raved.
Jennifer Lopez was taken aback by the passion and raw emotion in Durbin's voice, noting, "You sing from a very different place than a lot of the people we see. You sing from where you're supposed to sing from: from feeling, from heart, from your soul. From the need to feel and make others feel."
"That's what my goal is; that's all I wanna do," Durbin said. And with three "yes" votes and a ticket to Hollywood, he's on his way.
What did you think of Durbin's audition? Let us know in the comments!
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