Thursday's (January 23) "American Idol" opened with Radiohead's "No Surprises," but there were plenty of surprises in the one-hour episode, which flew by in a blur of golden tickets and promising performers.
In all, 44 singers were handed a boarding pass to Hollywood. The show opened up with a winner, with 21-year-old pre-school teacher Majesty Rose singing a cool, restrained version of Coldplay's "Violet Hill." On a show where oversingers tend to hog the spotlight, Rose was the opposite, and her "subtle, elegant" vocals (those were Harry Connick Jr.'s words) were a treat. "So you like me?" Rose asked after she was given three "yes" votes. We'll see how long that modesty lasts now that she's one of the season's frontrunners.
Another contestant with a lot of promise is 24-year-old Kristen O'Connor, a nurse technician from Sebastian, Florida. O'Connor blew away the judges with her strong, powerful rendition of Sam Cooke's "Good Morning, Heartache," which she hoped would kick-start her career in the music industry. And it looks like it may.
O'Connor's screen time was split with Emily Piriz, a 17-year-old student from Orlando who said a Golden Ticket would be "world changing." Well, she got one, after singing Jessie J's "Mama Knows Best" and earning three votes of confidence from the judges. "This feels like a complete dream," she said.
Next up was 24-year-old Ben Briley of Gallatin, Tennessee, whose take on Amos Lee's "Arms of a Woman" made Keith Urban glad he wasn't driving. "If you sang a capella on the radio right now, I might crash my car," he told him. (That's a good thing, apparently.) The baseball capped and bearded Briley earned three "yes" votes from the judges and was on his way to Hollywood.
A pair of returning contestants from season 11 also got another shot at the "Idol" crown, as both 22-year-old Neco Starr and 22-year-old Caleb Johnson got sent through. Both made it to the Las Vegas round two years ago but flamed out, and will try again this season. Johnson, especially, took the judges on a ride with his husky rock vocals, which were enough to blow Urban's hair back. If he wasn't ready the last time around, he seems ready now.
Thursday's episode closed with Bria Anai, a 15-year-old from Lithonia, Geordgia. who came in wearing sparkly purple lipstick that matched her pants. An odd fashion choice, sure, but that slipped away once she wrapped her big ol' voice around Adele's "One and Only" and earned unanimous praise from the judges. "I love the way you sing!" Urban told her, while J. Lo told her she loved her song — as well as the sparkles on her lips. She'll get another chance to wear purple come Hollywood week.
Atlanta's 44 Golden Ticket recipients bring the running season total to 163, and next week, auditions resume in Salt Lake City.
What did you think of Thursday's "Idol" auditions in Atlanta? Let us know in the comments!