'American Idol' recap: Some spirited auditions in St. Louis
After Wednesday night's underwhelming auditions in Portland, Ore., "American Idol" kicked back into gear Thursday in St. Louis, finding some seemingly solid talent under that giant arch. The show also reminded viewers just how much these singers stand to gain from this competition, beginning with a look back at a singer who turned up at "Idol" auditions in St. Louis a few years back: Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, who went on to become one of "Idol's" most successful contestants ever. Would another Underwood turn up in St. Louis this year?
It's too early to know the answer to that question, really, but there were some promising candidates. In addition to an opinionated taxi driver named Walter, who expounded at length about the auditions and life from behind the wheel of his cab, we met: David Coleman, a contestant who we saw (in old-timey black and white) but didn't hear, and Mark Ingram, a worker at the hotel in which auditions were being held, who impressed his fellow staffers, but not the judges, with his take on Stevie Wonder. Also, the St. Louis auditions brought us …
Johnny Keyser, a 22-year-old student and server at an Italian restaurant from Pompano Beach, Fla., sang a gorgeous, fluid rendition of Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come." He looks like a teen heartthrob and we learned that he was aised by his devoted dad. "You know you're gonna be a star, right?" Jennifer Lopez told him. After he left with his golden ticket, she noted: "He was sexy."
That and his voice could take Keyser far on "Idol" and beyond.
Rochelle Lamb, the episode's requisite single mom, has a little daughter and an ex who'd held her back from pursuing her singing-career dreams. She sang Faith Hill's "Find Somebody New" as her adorable little girl danced. It's not clear which of them to credit with earning the ticket to Hollywood, though the judges did seem to focus enough on Lamb's singing to compliment her on her tone, energy and "moxie."
Reis Kloeckener, a baby-faced 20-year-old student, recalled how singing in his high school choir saved him from being bullied (hello, "Glee") and then moved Steven Tyler to tears with his take on Bill Withers' "Lean on Me." "I tell you what, man, that was so beautiful you made me cry, that's how good that was right now," Tyler said, damp-eyed. "You made me tear up and get all crazy inside. I haven't heard anything like that." A gold ticket for Kloeckener, natch.
Ethan Jones showed up with talent -- and a bleeding cut on his head. Jones, to whom Tyler had randomly given a pep talk before his audition, told the judges that his father, a musician, was currently being treated for drug and alcohol addiction, a fact that seemed to further endear him to Tyler, himself a recovering addict. The contestant impressed the judges with his radio-ready rendition of Edwin McCain's "I'll Be." He made it through to Hollywood, but not before Randy Jackson bestowed upon him one of his favorite backhanded compliments this season: "You walk in. You look nothing like the way you sound." I'm ready for Jackson to retire that phrase as he has reportedly pledged to retire last year's oft-repeated "in it to win it." Prediction: This year's "in it to win it"? "That's the way you do it." Jackson's already showing mad love for that one.
Lauren Gray, a singer in her dad's wedding band, blew the judges (and the rest of the competition) away with a bluesy, gritty, remarkably Adele-like take on Adele's "One and Only." So is she the next Carrie Underwood? Who knows? But she might just be the next Lauren Gray.
What did you think of "Idol's" St. Louis auditions? Any favorites? And who do you like, from all the auditions, going into Hollywood week?
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Contestants line up in St. Louis for a chance to become the next American Idol. The episode aired Thursday on Fox. Credit: Whitney Curtis / Fox.