American Idol XIV – Live Blog and Recap – Auditions No. 4 (VIDEO)
Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol 14, “Auditions No. 4”! The search continues for the next American Idol!
The auditions stop in J-Lo’s hometown of New York City, as more potential contestants step up for a shot at a Golden Ticket to Hollywood! And, as an added bonus, former Idol finalist and current Queen frontman ADAM LAMBERT is on the judging panel! How will he do as a judge? And will there be any standouts tonight? Could the winner come from this batch of auditioners?
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating the post with live, running commentary and analysis.
Let’s get this show on the road!
-We open with the judges arriving in New York, and Ryan Seacrest interviewing Adam Lambert on his radio show. I love Adam simply for how down-to-Earth he is. I still can’t believe he hasn’t managed to snag a permanent judging spot yet. If this show gets another season, I’d love for him to become the fourth panelist. I make no bones about enjoying this panel as is, but I think Adam could bring a lot to the table.
SAL VALENTINETTI, 19, is up first!
-Sal is an authentic New Yorker, and I can’t believe he’s only 19. Dude comes across as an old soul. He gets on Harry’s case for doing a bad Noo Yawk accent, but he claims that since his mother is a native New Yorker, he can make fun. Sal will be auditioning with “Fly Me To the Moon” by Frank Sinatra, and Harry makes an offer to Sal, saying he’ll give him $100 if he knows the real title of the song. He gets it right (“In Other Words”), so Harry forks over the money. He offers $200 if he knows the little-known opening verse, but Sal settles for the Benjamin.
-His voice sounds pretty great on this, and he has loads of charisma that helps in how he conveys the song. I still can’t believe he’s a teenager. He sounds so much more mature than his age. I love it.
-Unfortunately, Harry doesn’t. He doesn’t feel this is the right platform for Sal. When Sal jokes that he can do country if that’ll satisfy them, Harry says Sal just confirmed why he’s saying no, since you need to come into this competition with a point of view. Sal says he isn’t trying to step on Harry’s toes, since he knows they’re both in the same genre. He makes a good point when he notes that there’s a market for this sort of music since, after all, Harry’s albums sell. But it’s still a no from Harry. However, Adam thinks America will really like Sal, so he says yes along with Jennifer.
SAL VALENTINETTI is going to Hollywood!
-I’m glad he made it through. I can appreciate Harry’s high standards, but considering some of the people who’ve been put through already, I think it would have been ridiculous for Sal to have gone home at this point.
J. NONE, 24, is up next!
-J. None comes in with a teddy bear named “Mr. Crispy,” which he’s had since he was 3-years-old. His mother got it for him when he was first admitted into the hospital for asthma. Mr. Crispy has served as both a comfort and a reminder of what he’s had to overcome to become a singer. Harry plays with the bear a bit, and then gets Jennifer to give it an Eskimo kiss, making J. None jealous but disappointing Harry, since it wasn’t much of a kiss, really.
-J. None sings “My Prerogative,” and it’s really good. Harry has the bear dancing along, although it gets kind of creepy when he gives his entire critique as the bear, with high-pitched voice and all. “Adam Lambert is so freakin’ handsome!” he says, prompting Adam to respond that “Sorry, I’m just not into bears.” (Adam is great.) Ultimately, the judges all love him, noting his likability and the tone in his voice. They’re unanimous.
J. NONE is going to Hollywood!
-J. None says “Mr. Crispy” is coming to Hollywood with him, since the bear really came through for him today.
JAX, 18, is up next!
-Jax is originally from New York, but grew up in East Brunswick, NJ. Her father was a NYC firefighter, but he was forced to retire due to injuries sustained during 9/11. He’s still dealing with the aftermath, since he tragically lost a lot of his fellow brothers that day. Jax believes her singing has been therapy for him, and she feels blessed that he’s even still here with her. It’s a really touching opening package.
-Jax hops on the piano and does a mellow, balladeer’s version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. It’s absolutely stunning, and is right up there with Joey Cook as one of my favorite auditions of the entire season so far. Her vocal control is impeccable, and her tone is unlike anything we’ve heard yet this season. She has a great look too, although a bit too sparkly.
-Harry asks when she decided to audition, and she says she grew up with the show, watching since she was really little, and making me feel old as hell in the process. She tells Adam that she even voted for him during Season 8, “Not to kiss butt.” Harry says they haven’t heard anybody so far who sounds even remotely like Jax. J-Lo adds that she has a quality that really drew them all in, noting that she might be the real deal. Adam agrees, saying he was immediately drawn in by her. All three judges are in agreement.
JAX is going to Hollywood!
-She gets a big hug from her father, and fights tears as her family swarms her. Her brother even gives Ryan a huge hug. It’s an adorable moment, capped off with Ryan dipping her mother. It looked cuter than it sounds, just trust me. I love Jax and I’m rooting for her to go far.
JOHNNY ARCO, 28, is up next!
-Johnny is a street violinist, and talks about being interrupted by a cop while playing in the subway. The cop misinterpreted his irritation with rebellious attitude, and arrested him. He wound up spending nearly a month in jail over it. Before auditioning, he thanks David Brewer for the violin he’s auditioning with. It was made in 1790, which is worth half a million dollars. However, he strums it like a guitar, which Harry believes causes it to depreciate in value as the song goes on. That said, they do love his laugh.
-Johnny sings “In Rainbows” by Radiohead, and it’s a super intense audition. But his voice is actually fantastic. I loved it, and found it to be one of the better male auditions of the past two nights.
-However, while the judges absolutely love him and think he’s insanely talented, they don’t think Idol is the right venue for him. Dude, let AMERICA decide! I mean, okay, I can kind of get why they cut him, but if he can sing and he’s talented, why not take a shot on him? I don’t see why it would hurt. It’s not like putting him through would tarnish the brand or anything, or diminish the value of a Golden Ticket. I’m really disappointed Johnny didn’t get through.
-But now, we go from one subway musician to another…
NAJAH LEWIS, 20, is up next!
-Najah mostly plays guitar in the subway. She adores music, and grew up watching American Idol. She feels this is her calling, and says she isn’t sure she could do a 9-to-5. In essence, there is no Plan B for her. There’s only this.
-She sings “Telephone” by Maroon 5, and I LOVE this. Her slower, acoustic rendition makes it sound like something out of a coffeehouse jam session. I’m not as in love with her vocals as the judges were, but I love her artistry and the subtlety of her charisma, as she was captivating without having to do a whole lot other than stand there and sing.
-Harry makes note of how compelling she is without having to jump around or be overtly attention-grabbing. He loves her, as do Jennifer and Adam, who note her genuine artistry. It’s another unanimous decision this time.
NAJAH LEWIS is going to Hollywood!
-I’m interested to see what Najah does in Hollywood. Hopefully, she doesn’t get montaged.
-Back from break with J-Lo visiting all her old haunts in the Bronx, including her school. She interacts with students, and talks about how proud she is of being from the Bronx, since it’s very much a part of who she is. We then get a pair of auditions centered on men who’ve been crushing on J-Lo for as long as they could remember. They are…
TION PHIPPS, 20, who sings “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. He has a really smooth, sweet R&B voice, but it’s not all the way there yet, in my opinion. But I like him, mostly because he somewhat reminds me of DeAndre Brackensick.
JAMES KILLIAN DUNN, 21, who sings an impressive version of “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith. Of course, he’s trying to do the Sam Smith solo version, so Harry deciding to deliver accompanying percussion on his desk kind of kills the slow jam vibe James is going for. But that doesn’t matter, since J-Lo and Harry say yes (Adam says no, but Harry sings a song about how Adam’s “no” doesn’t count, in a silly little moment).
TION PHIPPS and JAMES KILLIAN DUNN are going to Hollywood!
-And we keep things moving along with our next audition…
SHI SCOTT, 19, is up next!
-Shi is a bit nervous, since she isn’t used to singing in front of people like this. She tells the judges that her name is actually Shaina, but she goes by “Shi” since “Shaina” means “beautiful,” and she doesn’t feel comfortable having strangers call her that. Um…okay? Harry seems puzzled by this as well, since he’d LOVE to have strangers call him beautiful. But being hounded is a lot different for women than it is for men, so I can see where she’s coming from.
-She sings Amy Winehouse’s version of “Valerie,” and I was NOT expecting that voice! She sounded almost EXACTLY like Amy Winehouse. I was really impressed by this, as her tone is just gorgeous.
-However, while Harry does think she has talent, he feels her audition bordered a bit too close to being an outright Amy Winehouse impression. I can definitely understand what he means by that, although I’m not necessarily sure why that would be a problem. At the risk of being horribly insensitive, it’s not as if there’s an Amy Winehouse currently on the market. I can understand the desire for singers to forge their own paths, but it’s hard for any artist to be 100% original. Everyone is influenced by what came before, at some level, whether consciously or unconsciously. Ultimately, we got to commercial as the judges, particularly Adam, wonder whether or not this is something she’s actually ready for. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a cliffhanger like this where the person didn’t end up going to Hollywood, so I’ll be stunned if Shi doesn’t go through.
-And we’re back with Adam saying no, that she needs a few more years to find herself as an artist. J-Lo disagrees and says yes. Harry, meanwhile, says he just doesn’t know how he’s supposed to wait four or five months to hear her sing again…….he wants to hear her sing again sooner than that! It’s a yes!
SHI SCOTT is going to Hollywood!
-J-Lo stresses that Shi is talented, but Adam nonchalantly says, “She’s not ready though.” Adam does admit that he feels like he’s being kind of an a-hole though. We get a montage of Adam’s rejections, including his rejections of people who did end up getting golden tickets anyway. Hey, somebody needs to bring the real.
ERIC LOPEZ, 19, is up next!
-Eric is nervous because his audition song is “The Show Must Go On” by Queen, and Adam fronts Queen now. HE’S PUERTO RICAN! J-Lo is surprised, since he doesn’t look like a typical Puerto Rican. Oh, you haven’t met me yet, honey.
-Eric sings, and honestly, while he has a good voice, he was WAY too theatrical. He also kind of rushed through the song too, which made it a bit of a mess. Adam describes it best when he calls it “disjointed,” but he does feel there were notes of power and tone. Harry isn’t sure how far he can go, but also feels he has talent. J-Lo ultimately says no, saying she isn’t sure where he fits in the context of the competition. Adam likes Eric but says he doesn’t feel Eric is ready.
-For his part, Eric makes the argument and says Adam, of all people, should know how hard it is to sing Queen. Eric goes on to plead with Adam, saying being an Idol is about more than selling records, since you can be an opera singer or a Broadway crooner, as we’ve seen in the past. Eric’s passion is enough to convince Adam to give him a chance, but he says he’ll need to come up with material if he plans on making it farther. And now I’m kind of sad that Adam won’t be there to see whatever it is Eric does/doesn’t come up with, since I’m assuming this guest judging is just a one-time thing. Harry, meanwhile, is impressed with Eric and shakes his hand, saying he just hustled the hell out of Adam Lambert. That he did.
ERIC LOPEZ is going to Hollywood!
-With all that having been said, I wouldn’t have put him through.
-Back from break, and we meet a trio of blondes who are looking for a golden ticket to match their golden locks…
MADDIE WALKER, 16, sings “Suitcase” by Gwen Sebastian.
COURTNEY ZAHN, 21, sings “Classic” by MKTO.
JACKIE NESE, 17, sings “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga.
All three girls sound very solid, particularly Maddie, who is returning from last year. Jackie has a very high voice, but the tone was on point. Courtney was probably my personal favorite of the three though. Her version of “Classic” had rhythm.
MADDIE WALKER, COURTNEY ZAHN and JACKIE NESE are going to Hollywood!
-We keep the auditions rolling along…
QAASIM MIDDLETON, 18, is up next!
-Qaasim’s father was in the cast of Stomp!, and his mother was the first black woman to win Miss Mississippi. He plays a bunch of instruments, raps, sings, and has a natural sense of rhythm, saying everything he does is set to some sort of rhythm. His mother then embarrasses him by gushing in front of the camera, talking about his Michael Jackson-esque dance moves. Classic mom stuff, and it’s absolutely adorable. When meeting the judges, he notes that he’s actually going to college for music, studying Jazz.
-Qaasim sings “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder, and while it’s not perfect, this kid has SO much swagger, accompanying himself with stomping percussion and beatboxing, and even doing some popping and locking. His voice has a lot of character to it, with a raspy, easygoing quality with hints of soul. I totally dug it.
-J-Lo feels he has a lot of vocal talent, while Harry notes Qaasim has hints of rhythm and soul in his voice. He also likes that Qaasim is going to school and working on his craft. Adam notes that some of the falsetto bits Qaasim hit were wonderful, implying he had shivers. The judges are all in agreement.
QAASIM MIDDLETON is going to Hollywood!
-Qaasim says, in his confessional, that this golden ticket means a lot to him, since it tells him he’s doing something right. Meanwhile, at the judges’ table, Harry reenacts Qaasim kissing J-Lo’s hand, noting that he let out a pre-kiss moan. It’s an amusing little segment, but the real story here is Qaasim. Dude is just plain talented. I enjoyed the hell out of his audition.
-We return from break with BRIDGETTE GUERETTE, 19, singing “Uninvited by Alanis Morrisette. I like it, but the judges don’t feel she’s ready. No golden ticket for her. However, Harry follows this up by saying Adam is the only person on the panel who has auditioned for this show before, and says he feels he missed out by not seeing Adam audition. So he asks Adam to audition, which leads to…
ADAM LAMBERT, 32, is up next!
-Adam endeavors to recreate his audition. We get some flashback clips, and man, Adam has so much more style now than he did then. He says some of the same lines he said back in his original audition, and it’s deja vu. He breaks into “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and it’s every bit as good now as it was then, although imbued with a certain poignant quality, since he’s now the frontman for Queen. Loved it, loved it, loved it. And so do J-Lo and Harry, who says, “That was so cool!” Then why don’t you audition, Harry?
ADAM EZEGELIAN, 20, is up next!
-He’s a student who has a fixation with toys. He feels he’s drawn to toys because he never really grew up. He notes he’s been singing his whole life, but lost touch with singing because of school. He says he’s reconnecting with singing because it’s his passion, and states he’s excited to audition since he feels he and Adam Lambert have similarly unique styles. He’s in school for art, and displays his talent by making a caricature of Ryan Seacrest. He’s auditioning now because he feels his personality is too big to contain. “I need to expand my audience!”
-Adam presents some pretty awesome caricatures to the judges, with Harry in the Iron Giant, J-Lo with a prodigious booty, Keith looking playing guitar, and Adam Lambert looking handsome — at least according to Harry, who says Adam is still handsome even in caricature.
-Adam Ezegelian sings “Born to Be Wild,” and he actually does sound a bit like Adam! I think he’s trying a bit too hard with the rock music affectations, but I think he has a voice, and a lot of potential. Adam Lambert notices that he used some of the affectations Adam himself used when he performed the song on the show, and Adam E. admits to being influenced by Adam L.’s take on the song. Still, Adam L. wants to hear another song, so Adam E. sings “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz, and it’s a pretty audition. Not a blowaway, but good nonetheless.
-Adam thinks Adam E. has some skills, while Harry wouldn’t change a thing about him. However, he does want to see Adam E. do something a little more serious in the future. J-Lo said she wasn’t sold on the first song, since she wasn’t sure if this was a joke or not. But she loved the second one, with Adam L. adding that Adam E.’s natural musicianship came out in the second song. The judges vote, and it’s three yeses.
ADAM EZEGELIAN is going to Hollywood!
-So sue me, I liked him.
-Back from break with KATHERINE WINSTON, 18, who immediately wins me over by singing one of my favorite songs, and doing it beautifully. She performs “If I Didn’t Know Better” by The Civil Wars (although I wonder how many people know the song instead through its prominent use on Nashville instead). The judges quickly reward her with a ticket to Hollywood.
KATHERINE WINSTON is going to Hollywood!
-Her audition serves as accompaniment for a montage of rejected contestants, as we then transition to our next contestant…
TRAVIS FINLAY, 20, is up next!
-Travis is a music producer who was set to go to the Berklee College of Music, but his family needed him, since they were going to lose the house, so he decided to pass up the opportunity. Adam says you don’t need a degree to succeed, noting that he never went to college himself. Travis takes the encouragement and performs his audition song, “Stay” by Rihanna.
-I think he oversings it a bit in places, but otherwise, it’s one of the very best auditions of the past two nights. Adam is transfixed by his talent, and Harry immediately notes that Travis is insanely handsome. I’ve been trying to figure out who he reminds me of, and I just now realize he looks like Leslie Odom Jr. from Smash. Harry feels that the right producer can take the combination of looks and talent that Travis brings to the table, and make a real star. J-Lo says that the audition sounded pretty, but wasn’t perfect. However, it doesn’t matter, since all three judges give him a golden ticket, leaving him with three tickets to bring out to his family.
TRAVIS FINLAY is going to Hollywood!
In an amusing moment, Travis makes it rain golden tickets out in the holding room.
-Back from break with a montage of joke auditions set to “Happy”. We then follow it up with our next contestant…
YANNI G, 23, is up next!
-A lot of stage names this season. I dig it though. Yanni is a cover band singer, and brings her boyfriend, Nick, who kind of looks like a cross between Alex Kinsey from Alex & Sierra, and Canadian Idol winner Brian Melo (how’s that for esoteric references?). He has a guitar, implying that he’s going to play along with her. But instead, she sings “Cups (When I’m Gone)” by Anna Kendrick, complete with cups and a chair. J-Lo isn’t sure about Yanni, but she gets some time to think it over, since apparently, Nick is auditioning too, hence why he’s standing here…
NICK FRADIANI, 28, is up next!
-Nick sings “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, and it’s pretty good. Not great, but he has cool, raspy tone that’s fairly unique for the competition so far this season. Harry says the most interesting thing about the performance was watching Yanni watch him. We don’t see the judges’ deliberations, but we learn only one of them made it through when they come out to meet their families. The result…
NICK FRADIANI is going to Hollywood!
-However, to her credit, Yanni is 100% supportive, allowing the rejection to just roll off as she embraces Nick and flashes the most gorgeous smile you’ll see this side of Blake Lively, who she actually looks like quite a bit.
-Off-topic, but this new Jennifer Lopez movie looks terrible.
HOLLYWOOD ANDERSON, 22, is up next!
-Hollywood is a true New Yorker, since you’ll usually find him on the subway. In lieu of a regular 9-5, he busks on the subway. He says he’s made people cry on the train platforms with his music. He’d love to get to Hollywood, since this is his dream.
-Hollywood brings his guitar and performs an original called “My Best Friend,” which he wrote about a girl he went to college with whom he fell hard for. I admit, this was NOT a voice I was expecting. It’s absolutely gorgeous, in a way that I can’t exactly place. I’ve never heard a voice like this before. I NEED this guy to go through to the next round. And on and on. J-Lo feels the same way, whispering that she needs to record him now. Really, the only thing better than this guy’s voice is his songwriting skills. This could be a hit RIGHT NOW. Easily the best original song I’ve ever heard from a contestant on Idol. Easily.
-:I want that song. I want to record that song tomorrow,” J-Lo says, but adds that she’d rather hear him sing it. Adam says he was full of emotion in his performance, while Harry says Hollywood was easily the best audition of the day, of their time in New York, and possibly of the entire competition so far. Hollywood thanks a friend of his for giving him the guitar, since that’s the reason he’s here. Hollywood apparently only just learned to play the guitar a year ago. That’s AMAZING! The competition NEEDS this guy.
HOLLYWOOD ANDERSON is going to Hollywood!
-Hollywood breaks down when going to shake the judges’ hands, and he turns and hugs his friend, who is with him. It’s a lovely moment. Even J-Lo is fighting back tears. It’s fitting that we end on the best of the night. This competition is really shaping up.
-And that’s a wrap! What did you think of tonight’s performers? Are there any contenders in this bunch? Did anyone get cut that shouldn’t have? Did anyone get through that shouldn’t have? Sound off in the comments! Until next week, thanks for hanging out!