"American Idol" hit the bayou on Thursday, visiting Randy Jackson's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to see what talent awaited them. And whether tensions have eased between the judges since Nicki Minaj walked off the set in North Carolina or the season's first hour-long installment simply didn't have enough time to spend on the Nicki/Mariah feud, aside from a few shifty glances, the judges played nice with one another during the episode.
Several contestants stood out among the 35 singers who graduated to Hollywood, chief among them 19-year-old Burnell Taylor of New Orleans. Taylor's stunning version of "I'm Here" from "The Color Purple" received a standing ovation from three out of the four judges — Nicki Minaj didn't get up — and had Keith Urban raving, "Good lord, you can turn an atheist." Carey said Taylor made her cry — it should be noted that no tears were actually seen on camera — while Nicki told him his voice "is what we came for." "I feel like we've been flying all around this country for that," she told him. "That thing that can't even be put in words. That thing that gives everybody chills and goosebumps." She added that while everybody else auditioned for them, "you just entertained us." Taylor sailed through the auditions and is one of the singers to watch come Hollywood Week.
Thursday's episode opened with 22-year-old Megan Miller, who came into the room on crutches after getting into an accident just days before the audition. But her spirits were high, and during her performance of "Something's Got a Hold On Me," she even flipped around one of her crutches mid-song and used it as a microphone. Minaj, after exclaiming "yeah boyee!" called her an "undeniable superstar." Mariah Carey called her "endearing" and saluted both her personality and her talent, and Miller was given a Golden Ticket as she shipped off to the emergency room to undergo surgery.
Charlie Askew, 17, sang the intro to Queen's "Breakthrough," and the unique style of his voice was compared to that of David Bowie by Urban. "It's your own thing," he explained. Askew's personality seems just that, askew, and the way he uses music to normalize himself in society struck a nerve with Carey. His not-quite-ready-for-TV looks were reminiscent of an early Clay Aiken, and Carey told him, "I think there's an opportunity for you to really shake things up in this competition." Askew breezed through to Hollywood.
As did Maddie Assel, who delivered a knockout performance of the Beatles' "Oh Darling" and explained her influences are Adele, Beyonce and 10th season "Idol" finalist Haley Reinhart. An odd trio, perhaps, but Urban complimented her by saying she didn't sound like any of them, and saying she had her own thing going for her. The 17-year-old received four "yes" votes and cruised through to the next round.
And if "Idol" hasn't had a singing doctor before, it now has one in 27-year-old Dr. Calvin Peters, a physician whose version of Maxwell's "Whenever Wherever Whatever" earned him a quick pass to Hollywood. (Let's hope in Hollywood he's in a group with Brandy Hotard, a 26-year-old nurse from Louisiana who was also sent through to the next round.)
Dustin Watts, a 27-year-old firefighter, also made it through, and his version of Garth Brooks' "She's Every Woman" caused Nicki to tell him he already looks and sounds like a country star. Meanwhile, Paul Jolley was feeling jolly after he slid through his audition with his version of Rascal Flatts' "I Won't Let Go," which was called "effortless" and "honest" by the judges.
Next Wednesday, "Idol" returns to two hours as the judges head to San Antonio and Long Beach. And we're guessing there will be more between Carey and Minaj than just a few side-eyed stares.
What did you think of Thursday's "Idol" episode? Let us know in the comments!
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