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'American Idol' recap: Texas auditions stir big emotions

January 27, 2012 |  9:06 am

They got me. For the first time this season, during Thursday night's auditions in Houston, "American Idol" made me cry. Just got a little misty around the eyes, really, but that totally counts. And I defy anyone to watch Ramiro Garcia's audition, and his family's response, and not choke up.

"I wasn't born normal. I came out a bit different. I came out with no ears," Garcia, a 28-year-old worship leader from Houston, explained. The doctors told his parents he wouldn't be able to hear or speak. But after a series of operations starting at age 4, the doctors changed their prognosis: With a lot more surgery, he might be able to hear after all. "Luckily, through time and through fate, I have a voice to speak with," he told the judges. "Even a voice to sing."

He then sang a full-throated version of "Amazing Grace," hitting notes solidly and with an appealing undercurrent of gruffness. Outside, his parents glowed, his father saying his voice came from another place, another level. And his mother telling Ryan Seacrest, "It's a big deal for us."

And when Garcia emerged with his golden ticket? The camera found his dad, eyes wet with tears. "I remember when the doctors say he no speak. He's not well. He no hear," Garcia's father said, his accent prompting producers to underscore his emotional words with subtitles. "Guess what? I'm happy now."


So what else did Houston treat us to?

A couple of messages beamed in from the International Space Station (Houston, Space City, get it?), a parade of vocally challenged nut-balls (Phong Vu and Alejandro Cazares, most notable among them – though not to be overlooked were the alarming number of guys trying walk in Scotty McCreery's winning footsteps by singing "Baby Lock them Doors" or whatever that song he couldn't stop singing during "Idol's" early weeks last year is called), and some worthy contestants sent through to Hollywood.

Another first this season, the judges did not always agree on which contestants actually were worthy, with Jennifer Lopez loving a couple of singers nixed by Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson, and then reviling a singer they sent through. ("I'm about to pee myself!" the excited contestant whom Lopez wasn't crazy about exclaimed after Tyler complimented her voice, to which Tyler responded, without missing a beat, "Go right ahead. You were that good.")

Contestants whom all three judges agreed deserved a ticket to Hollywood included …

Skylar Laine, a Mississippi 17-year-old who hunts deer and whose family has owned a small-town restaurant for 70 years, though the business has struggled of late. If she makes it in the music industry, she's going to bolster the family business, she said. And based on her rendition of "Hell on Heels," I suspect she may be in a position to help out her "papaw," her "mamaw" and the rest.

Baylie Brown, back from "Idol" Season 6, when, at 16, she was eliminated during Hollywood Week. She's now 21 and is gorgeous and lush-voiced. She sailed through. Tyler called it a "no-brainer."

Kristine Osorio, a 28-year-old woman who gave up her music career to have three kids and is now going through divorce. The newly single mom spent the money she had earmarked for her divorce attorney to buy a plane ticket to "Idol" auditions. So was the money well spent? Well, her smoky, bluesy voice inspired Lopez to glance upward and give thanks, and it got Osorio through to Hollywood as well.

Cortez Shaw, a warehouse worker and a college student who was raised by a single mom and was at times homeless. He wants to show people that through hard work and determination, you can achieve your dream. After Shaw charmed the judges with his rendition of Adele's "Someone Like You" – Jackson told him he has a certain "je ne sais quoi" –- it looks as if he has a shot at achieving his.

What did you think of "Idol's" Houston/Galveston auditions? Any favorites?


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-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Contestants line up for a chance to become the next American Idol at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Credit: Aaron M. Sprecher/FOX.