Welcome to the live blog and recap for night two of the season premiere of American Idol Season 12!
A quick note: This is a SPOILER-FREE recap. That goes for the comments section as well. If you want to know who the top 40 are for this season, you can easily find the spoiler list on this site. But please respect others who might not want to know who gets through and who doesn’t. We want to keep this discussion safe for everyone. Thanks!
Here we go!
-We start with a fairly amusing bit in which a woman congratulates a loved one on making it through to Hollywood, before realizing that the contestant in question didn’t actually make it through, at which point the production cues the Price Is Right fail horn, which will never not be comedy platinum.
-Nerves are kicking in as the holding room in Chicago is packed with nervous hopefuls.
MACKENZIE WASNER, 17, is up first!
Her dad played piano for Vince Gill, who used to let her come up and sing with him, in front of thousands. She’s immensely close with her father, and we see her sing a bit at the piano with him, in a rare instance of showcasing a contestants’ voice before her actual audition begins.
Of course, from that bit, we transition directly into her audition, singing Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around.” She’s like a more confident Lauren Alaina.
-The judges are floored by how beautiful her voice is, complimenting the richness of her tone, and what a total package she offers. Randy, in particular, feels she has a hell of a road ahead of her in the competition.
-She gets four easy yesses.
MACKENZIE WASNER is going to Hollywood!
And we’re already leagues ahead of last night’s premiere, kicking off the night with a golden ticket instead of a rejection.
-We’re back with Randy extoling the virtues of his fellow judges. (“THIS here is my family!” Wonderful, Randy) We then transition into a young man’s disastrous performance of Mariah’s “Fantasy” that’s over almost before it starts, thankfully.
KIARA LANIER, 21, is up next!
-Kiara is a multiracial beauty who sang for President Obama and, like seemingly 80% of all auditioners this season, idolizes Mariah Carey, telling her as much before singing.
-She sings the Oscar-nominated Celine Dion/Andrea Bocelli song, “The Prayer”. It’s nice, but it’s not exactly setting my world on fire, given the amount of build in her package. But it’s certainly lovely enough to get her four yesses, which is precisely what happens, after the judges praise her for her vocal control.
KIARA LANIER is going to Hollywood!
-By the way, Nicki is persisting in the British accent, which I personally adore, but is probably going to put her on some hit lists among viewers.
-And we waste no time going into the next audition.
STEPHANIE SCHIMEL, 20, is up next!
-Stephanie immediately becomes my favorite audition of the past two nights so far, singing an absolutely gorgeous, subtle rendition of “Dream A Little Dream of Me”, and then apologizing for her shakiness.
-Nicki doesn’t see star potential and says no, but the other judges vehemently disagree, giving her three yesses.
-When Stephanie says that she doesn’t love Nicki any less for her “no”, Nicki jokes that she only said no because they have a subtle fashion rivalry. Somehow, this turns into Nicki and Mariah getting into a serious argument that feels like it came out of absolutely nowhere. They really snipe at one another with passive-aggressive assertions that “No one was talking to you, honey!” and “This is what I deal with everyday at my job!”
-We then move on to a montage of Nicki and Mariah quarreling with one another throughout the Chicago auditions, and while none of those interactions are as ugly as that first blow-up, it still portends a bigger rivalry to come. But anyway…
STEPHANIE SCHIMEL is going to Hollywood!
-The episode keeps up its break-neck pace, going right into an audition from a woman dressed in a pink tracksuit, who comes bearing a t-shirt for Randy. This can’t possibly end well.
MELISSA BUSH, 27, is up next!
-Melissa sings a flat, lifeless version of “Downtown” by Petula Clark.
-Surprisingly, the judges actually let her finish the whole verse and chorus before lowering the Axe of No.
-Continuing in the surreal nature of the episode so far, now Mariah is affecting an English accent, for reasons that escape me.
-We return with a tone deaf kid practicing in the halls to the adoration of his mother.
-We then get a shout-out to HALEY REINHART! The Chicago native hypes up the audition crowd, and my heart skips a beat.
-Next, Seacrest explains that this season, Idol is taking an audition tour of small towns across America, stopping first in Iowa City, Iowa.
GABE BROWN, 21, is up next!
-Gabe is a heavy-set, curly mop-topped rocker, and his enthusiasm is apparent from the first.
-He sings “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Well, okay, he screams it. But it’s actually kind of great. He has an authenticity about him that pours through in his performance, even if it isn’t as pretty or mellifluous as we might expect from an Idol audition.
-Mariah wants to hear something softer, so Gabe offers “We All Die Young” by Steel Dragon as his alternative choice. He starts out soft, and it’s actually pretty smooth. Of course, he then transitions into rock belting, which perks up the judges.
-Nicki comments on his authenticity and uniqueness, and the other three judges agree.
GABE BROWN is going to Hollywood!
-We go onto our next audition, a fanatical Ninja Turtles fan named KEVIN NABITY, 25, who doesn’t seem terribly confident about his shot at becoming the next American Idol. Nicki tries to encourage him, but this doesn’t seem to do much for his performance of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week”, which is barely intelligible (though helpfully subtitled). Randy makes some tired, ridiculous analogy about how Kevin is trying to sell him an motorbike he doesn’t want, or some other crazy Jacksonism. So Nicki gives him another chance, and Kevin sings “Sailing Away” by Styx.
In short, no trip to Hollywood for Kevin.
-And now we get our first montage of heartbreak. I think, outside of Jessica Kartalis last night, no one seemed too devastated to get rejected. Yet we get the full waterworks here, with crestfallen contestants despairing of their lot in life. I’m kind of glad we’re not wallowing in it, the way that Idol tends to in its more uncomfortable moments. We only get pieces of contestants pleading with Randy (because apparently he’s in the Simon role of “judge the contestants choose to plead with), or crying into their upturned palms while Nicki or Mariah soothe their feelings with platitudes. And the show is better for that restraint.
-Seacrest talks with the family of the next contestant, the mother of whom is convinced that cameramen get all the women, in an amusing bit.
ISABELLE PARELL, 15, is up next!
-Okay, I kind of love this girl. She seems completely at-ease and without pretentiousness. She sings “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and Keith joins in as her duet partner, in a cute little moment.
-The judges think she has star quality, although Keith forgets if he’s contributed his opinion already or not, in another amusing bit.
-It’s four yesses from the judges, and I really hope this girl goes far. I love her voice, her style, and her attitude.
ISABELLE PARELL is going to Hollywood!
-And we get a montage of the hunks of Idol’s audition phase, which fluster Nicki (who asks about half of them if they have girlfriends).
GRIFFIN PETERSON, 22, is up next!
-Never one to lay of the flirtiness, Nicki asks Griffin if he, too, has a girlfriend.
-Griffin sings “Washed by the Water” by Needtobreathe, and I think it’s very smoky, confident, and cool.
-Randy, continuing in the tradition of being the most out-of-touch judge on the panel (despite trying to impart credibility by name-dropping all the obscure acts he enjoys and musicians he’s worked with), says he just didn’t get it, that Griffin’s voice is only barely above average.
-Nicki nearly flips her lid disagreeing with him, saying that he’s a total star and that girls will go to see his concert in droves, to which Randy absurdly replies “So he’s the next Bieber then?” Nicki responds, “No, Bieber doesn’t do THIS to me.”
-Randy says no, but his opinions is irrelevant, as the other judges say yes.
GRIFFIN PETERSON is going to Hollywood!
-I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Keith had prior commitments that precluded him from being present for this phase of the judging, so it’s just Randy and the girls. God help us, we’re in a world where Randy’s vote actually carries MORE weight. Ugh.
-Back from break with a super positive tutor from a charter school, who wants to spread his positivity to the world.
CURTIS FINCH, JR., 24, is up next!
-He’s like a huskier-voiced Joshua Ledet, singing “God Is Able” by Smokie Norful (who Randy, again doing that irritating “Check out my credibility!” name-drop, claims to have called the night before).
-He’s actually pretty awesome, absolutely nailing the audition while integrating the judges’ names into the performance.
-He gets four yesses, and if the past two seasons of success for gospel singers is any indication, he might go far.
CURTIS FINCH, JR. is going to Hollywood!
-And we’re on to our next audition.
MARIAH PULICE, 19, is up next!
-Holy hell, this girl is BEAUTIFUL. Which is why it’s all the more confounding that she tearfully admits to her continued recovery from anorexia. I guess being gorgeous doesn’t preclude one from being afflicted with an eating disorder. Poor thing.
-Her sisters talk about how she was a different person while suffering with the disease, and Mariah admits to eating only one slice of American cheese a day, at her worst. If she hadn’t had music in her life, she says, she wouldn’t have made it.
-Mariah sings “Let It Be”, and it starts off pretty average, but gets silkier as the song builds. Mariah (Carey, that is) starts to cry, and Nicki tells Mariah (Pulice) that her spirit is coming out through her song.
-Ryan brings Mariah’s family in to see the audition, and to witness her getting four yesses in one of the most touching moments in recent Idol history, if you ask me (which certainly nobody was).
MARIAH PULICE is going to Hollywood!
-She tells the camera, through a Hoover Dam’s collection of tears, that she’s never felt more beautiful.
-My local FOX affiliate has a commercial in which last night’s golden ticket recipient Sarah Restuccio implores the audience to watch, tonight at 11:00, to see how her life has changed as a result of Idol. That was…random. I thought Fox 29 news was at ten!
BRANDY NEELLY, 17, is up next!
-Brandy has wanted to be a singer since she was nine years old, and she’s especially starstruck by Keith Urban (whose “Memories of Us” plays over her background package, detailing how she was raised by her aunt after her father couldn’t care for her).
-She sings “Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams, and it’s a really pure, nuanced vocal.
-Keith is especially impressed, saying that it was a really good song choice. The judges are all bowled over by her voice and her charm.
BRANDY NEELLY is going to Hollywood
We get packages of other golden ticket recipients, such as JOSH HOLIDAY, 24, a vocal coach who sings “Back At One” and immediately delivers one of the best auditions of the entire day. For a white boy, that’s some crazy-ass tone.
We also get Courtney Williams, 18, a student who sings “Who’s Loving You” by the Jackson 5 and really nails the last note.
In addition, there’s Andrew Jones, 28, who sings “Knock On Wood” and delivers a stirring, soulful rendition.
JOSH HOLIDAY, COURTNEY WILLIAMS, and ANDREW JONES are going to Hollywood!
Up next is a contestant whose parents have never heard him sing before. He kept his entire development as a singer a closely-held secret.
CLIFTON DUFFIN, 24, is up next!
-He sings “Superstar”, the Luther Vandross version of The Carpenters song, which is one of his mother’s favorites. His parents watch the audition from the sidelines and are floored by their son’s ability. It got really beautiful by the end, even though the early moments were iffy in places.
-Keith calls his voice “a real diamond in the rough”, and Randy and Nicki add how surprising it is to learn he’s only been singing a short time. Mariah says she loved it. The parents are brought in for the final vote: four yesses.
CLIFTON DUFFIN is going to Hollywood!
-We come back from break with a professional dancer who is among the thousands who auditioned this year who absolutely worship Mariah Carey (after two nights, I’m kind of over the whole Mariah worship, but I guess it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. And hey, it’s not like it’s not unearned on her part)
IEISHA COTTON, 19, is up next!
-She dances a bit, and she’s actually pretty good. Unfortunately, she then starts singing.
-After she completes her version of Ashanti’s “Thank You”, Randy declares that she should stick with dancing because she’s tone deaf. Mariah says a sentence with the word “yes” in it, and Nicki construes this as Mariah having said yes to Ieisha. Unfortunately, this isn’t actually the case. It’s four nos for Ieisha, who resolves to come back next year.
-Up next is a returnee from season 11 (strange that he gets almost no fanfare or pre-audition video).
JOHNNY KEYSER, 23, is up next!
-Nicki, of course, asks if he has a girlfriend. Someone needs to take that woman out to dinner.
-Johnny sings “Try A Little Tenderness”, and though I preferred his audition last year (even if it was a note-for-note copy of Gavin DeGraw’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”), he really sings the hell out of the song, making it look effortless in the process.
-He gets four yesses, of course, with Randy adding that he hopes Johnny has put in the work so that he doesn’t “crash and burn like last year” (which I really don’t remember happening. At all).
JOHNNY KEYSER is going to Hollywood!
-Back from break and we’ve got a street performer (fire, balloon animals, you know, the usual) who doesn’t expect to win. She thinks it would be nice if some cute, 17 year-old girl whose been “dreaming” of this were to win. But she’d like to at least go to Hollywood.
KEZ BAN, 27, is up next!
-She talks about some of her disasters performing with fire, leading to a pun from Keith in which he asks if Kez has any “old flames”, which would be lame coming from just about anyone else.
-She sings “I’ve Got No String” from Pinnochio, and…okay, hse’s got a voice. Which is a surprise, given how she was pretty much presented as a novelty contestant in the making.
-The judges want to hear one of her originals on her guitar, and…THIS is actually awesome. Talk about your unexpected delights.
-She’s one of the more unique contestants profiled so far, and the judges like her energy. She gets four yesses
KEZ BAN is going to Hollywood!
-In an amusing bit, Kez tries to get out of filing the paperwork necessary to complete her qualification for Hollywood, to which Seacrest responds that he doesn’t have the power to reschedule Kez’s paperwork filing for another day.
-Back with a fake Les Miserables trailer featuring rejects from the audition, titled The Miserables. It’s a lot funnier in theory than it is in execution. (Okay, it’s probably not that funny in theory either). That said, the fake trailer does end with a montage of the rejected contestants losing it on the camera (“If you air this, I swear to f****** God!”).
-Up next is “a true musical theater aficionado” with a twin sister who urges her to believe in herself more, since she has no natural confidence in her own abilities.
ASHLEY CURRY, 19, is up next!
-She sings “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J, and it’s fairly close to excruciating. But the judges let her continue, for reasons that completely escape me.
-Ashley covers by saying she didn’t start at the note she wanted to.
-Nicki, to the complete shock of Randy, thinks that if she got a vocal coach, there would be a lot she could do with her voice.
-She asks to sing the song again, and though the judges say no, Ashley starts again anyway.
-Randy gets his one good line in twelve seasons, saying, “And here I was going to change my mind…and say no again.”
-They ask her to do a monologue, with Mariah portraying Cinderella (just roll with it), since Ashley is a musical theater major…but she just launches into “Mamma Knows Best” again. Security escorts her out of the room.
-Ashley rationalizes that the judges “must have gotten tired or something”, while her mother says “She has a golden ticket in her heart.” That doesn’t get you Hollywood though.
-We’ve got one last voice tonight, and he’s one of the most hyped contestants in several seasons.
LAZARO ARBOS, 21, is up next!
-Lazaro is a stutterer who went through a lot of therapy as a child without ever improving. When his family emigrated to the United States from Cuba, his stuttering actually got worse, leading to him being picked on and shunned by his classmates.
-His father describes how music is his life because he’s “always [been] alone”.
-His mother recalls telling Lazaro to sing the words to her when his stutter made it difficult for him.
-Lazaro sings “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and it’s the rare case where I actually feel like a contestant was worth the hype. He might not actually be the best singer in the competition when it’s all said and done, but he has a very rich tone, he certainly has a good look, and his story is going to carry him far, if he gets in front of America’s vote.
-Nicki loves the vibe Lazaro brought into the room, and Keith thinks he should sing all the time. Randy found his voice to be pleasant while Mariah was similarly impressed.
-The judges decide to say their vote together, on three. It’s four yesses.
LAZARO ARBOS is going to Hollywood!
-We close out the auditions in Chicago with 46 singers advancing to Hollywood. Next week, we head to Charlotte – which is built around another huge tiff between Mariah and Nicki, culminating in Nicki storming out of the auditions. Why didn’t they lead with THAT episode? Hell, why didn’t they premiere with THIS one?
Anyway, that’ll do it for me. Who were your favorites this week? Is our winner in this group?
Sound off in the comments! Until next week!
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