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'American Idol' recap: Auditions trip through Portland, Ore.

February 2, 2012 |  9:31 am

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Are the "American Idol" auditions over yet? Alas, no. We won't reach Hollywood until next week. Until then, the parade of the strange and wholly untalented and pretty and somewhat talented will continue, with a few compelling back-stories tossed in to keep things interesting. I'm holding out hope (but not holding my breath) that Steven Tyler will lose interest in his handheld sound-effects toy before then. Love the guy, but watching him giggle over that gadget, it's hard not to conclude that his rock-star lifestyle has taken its toll.

So Wednesday night, it was Portland, Ore. And we got …

Brittany Zika, a young woman who decided to pursue her dream of a singing career after she literally dreamed about dueting onstage with pop star Sara Bareilles and then made that unlikely dream come true. Stumbling on her way in, she joked that her friends called her "Tripster the Hipster" –- "Did you just fall for me?" Tyler quipped –- but then surprised everyone by singing quite prettily. Apparently it was her deliberately nerdy hat and glasses that threw the judges off, so she ripped them off in a sort of librarian-turns-sex-bomb reveal and made it safely through.



Ben Purdom, an 18-year-old Philadelphia teen who hawks cable TV and happened to have a cold and an unfortunate naivete that prevented him from realizing he was becoming "Idol" cannon fodder. Seriously, the producers treated this poor kid shamefully, focusing the camera on an unsightly nose-blow and showing him belch loudly when he didn't realize he was on camera. Uncouth or not, the kid was earnest and well-meaning, and focusing on his worst moments really felt like a cheap shot, almost bully-ish. Not nice, guys.

Jermaine Jones, a 6-foot-8-and-a-half-inch church singer with a deep soulful voice and a close relationship with his momma. He declares, "It's my time. It's my turn," before wowing the judges with his rendition of "Superstar" by Luther Vandross. Jones was nervous, sweating profusely, but Tyler told him he "heard the song through your nerves," calling Jones' voice "really spiritual." We'll see Jones in Hollywood.

Britnee Kellogg, a single mother of two little boys who's a dead ringer for Britney Spears and had the strongest voice of the Portland auditions and perhaps one of the best in the competition so far. She talked about getting ditched by her boys' dad, a basketball player who played more than basketball, and resurrecting her neglected dreams, then amused and impressed the judges by singing "You're No Good." After her audition, she asked Jennifer Lopez about balancing motherhood and a music career. Lopez told her she could keep her kids close and still make her dreams happen and that her kids would be "only better for it." As Kellogg left, Tyler noted that the contestant's mom was wearing a T-shirt that read, "My daughter's the next American Idol." "And by the way," Lopez said, "she just might be."



Sam Gershman, a peppy woman with a show-tune delivery who didn't connect at all with the judges.

David Weed, a sweater-vest-wearing fast food worker whose dreams were crushed when the judges declined to love his take on "Tom Sawyer" by Rush.

Romeo Diahn, a Liberian war refugee whose family lived for years in a refugee camp in Ghana before making it to the United States. "There's no pot of gold in America," Diahn's dad told him, "but if you have patience you'll make it." At the very least, he makes it to Hollywood.



Naomi Gillies, a sultry-voiced 22-year-old who impressed the judges by putting her own powerful spin on Tyler's "Cryin'." "If you've got it, you've got it. You've got it … See? That's how you do it. Yes!" said Randy Jackson, stringing together some of his favorite exclamations. 

Ben Harrison, a mildly frightening Kewpie doll contestant whose version of Queen's "Somebody to Love" prompts Jackson to yell, "Why, why, why, why?" But even though he left without a yellow ticket, Harrison emerged triumphant. "I didn't puke or pee in my pants or any of the stuff that I was scared about, so it wasn't that bad," he said on his way out.

Jessica Phillips, a singer from Brooklyn, N.Y., whose back story echoed that of last season's Chris Medina. Not long ago, her longtime boyfriend had a massive stroke, and she has dedicated her life to helping to rehabilitate him. "He was in hospital for a month and a half. When he did wake up he didn't know who I was," she said. "The entire relationship itself has changed. Now I'm really a caretaker, and there's a different type of love I feel now and a different type of responsibility that I have now to him and life in general." Phillips and her beau, who seems to be making strides, met through music, and the ticket to Hollywood she nabbed Wednesday night "will kick the music back into gear for us," she said.



What did you think of the Portland auditions? Any favorites?

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-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Contestants line up for a chance to become the next American Idol at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland on Wednesday. Credit: Darryl James / Fox.

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