Ramiro Garcia Brings 'Grace' To 'American Idol'

Cortez Shaw, Kristine Osorio and Skylar Laine also make an impression on the judges during Texas auditions.

The "American Idol" judges have mostly seen eye-to-eye (to eye) so far this season, with the majority of contestants being passed through to Hollywood or sent back home by unanimous vote. But on Thursday's (January 26) episode, we saw several disagreements between the judges, with Jennifer Lopez giving singers a passing grade while Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson flunked them. It was implied but not explicitly spelled out that the boys were voting on looks more than voices, angering Lopez to the point where she mock-stabbed Tyler in the head with a pen.

The dissension continued with contestant Linda Williams, whose version of Alicia Keys' "Fallin' " seemed shaky, though it was good enough — or her looks were — to earn "yes" votes from Tyler and Jackson.

"Wake up! Honestly, I feel like somebody slipped you something," Lopez told Jackson, as she could sense which way he was leaning. It wasn't enough to dissuade the Dawg, and after Williams was passed through to Hollywood, Lopez moaned to her fellow judges, "That was awful. That was awful!" Let the drama begin!

The latest episode did its best to ramp up the drama factor, taking a detour from the happy-go-lucky vibe that has purveyed over the first four episodes of the season. Even though the Galveston, Texas, auditions gave out 54 Golden Tickets — more than any other audition city so far this season — the show highlighted fewer of those winners than any other episode, instead introducing viewers to oddballs and wannabes, in keeping with years past. Is this the producers' way of reacting to the show's slipping ratings?

The night's warmest story belonged to 28-year-old Ramiro Garcia, a worship leader in Houston who was born without ears and was told he would grow up mute. After several surgeries, doctors discovered his ear canal ,and he taught himself to not only speak but to sing. His husky, smoky version of "Amazing Grace" was a standout. Tyler told him, "I like your insides" — a weird compliment, to be sure, but it was enough to give Garcia a pass through to Hollywood.

Another standout was 20-year-old Cortez Shaw of Garland, Texas, who put a warm R&B twist on Adele's "Someone Like You" and instantly won the favor of the judges, who implied they'd heard far too many botched versions of 2011's #1 sob song. Shaw said he grew up bouncing between his friends' homes while his single mother struggled with homelessness, but he put a positive spin on everything and came out ahead. And he's not lacking for confidence: "I'm gonna win 'American Idol,' " he said after earning his Golden Ticket to Hollywood. "OH MY GOD!"

Kristine Osorio also sang an Adele song — "One and Only" — and equally wowed the judges. The 28-year-old mother of three from Amarillo, Texas, was praised by Tyler for her upper register, and her slick hairdo and tattooed upper body give her a strong, unique look.

Also graduating through to Hollywood were 17-year-old Skylar Laine from Brandon, Mississippi, a deer-killin', ATV-ridin' country gal who was more than convincing singing Pistol Annies' "Hell on Heels," and Baylie Brown, a 21-year-old who made it through to Hollywood back in season six and return this year on the strength of her country-fried rendition of Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses."

"American Idol" is back Wednesday to put a bird on it with a trip to Portland, Oregon.

What did you think of Thursday's "American Idol"? Let us know in the comments!

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