Idol routed to Charlotte, North Carolina tonight, hitting the race way, and bringing with it several cringe worthy racing puns. I'm going to avoid those, mostly because the only thing I know about cars is that they have wheels and take me places.
This is also the famed episode where production got shut down due to the lovely feud between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. But, of course, this is television, so while the show teased it at the start, we didn't get to see it quite yet. We'll get there though folks, don't worry!
First up was Naomi Morris, who sang Aretha Franklin’s “Respect." She was, well, popping out in certain places, and her notes were falling all over the place as well. She got sent home, but got more screen time than she really deserved, probably for the, well, as Nicki said, the popping factor.
Next we got treated to Joel Neyomore, 20, who was a giant bundle of nerves. His big claim to fame was...lying on the ground while singing. And yup, while lying down, he sang "Feeling Good" by Michael Buble. He did manage to pull off a deeper and more bass heavy voice than I thought he would, but it came off more like a monk chant. And it really wasn't that good. Randy said never, and got no's from the rest of the group.
Brian Rittenberry, 27, Jasper, GA came out next. He sang The Beatles' "Let it Be" (a popular song this year, apparently). He gave a fairly commanding showing, showing great control as well as a very adept interpretation of the song. Keith called it "husky,” and Brian got four yeses to move on (And his wife got to meet Keith, so everyone in the family is happy!).
Jimmy Smith, 25, Tennessee, came out, very much looking and feeling the part. He sang “Bless the Broken Road,” by Rascal Flatts. He was a mixed bag: He had some really good stuff in here, but took some risks with parts of it that I didn't think really worked. Nicki (her word of the night) thought he was popping, Keith was in love with it too, and Mariah and Randy all approved, pushing Jimmy to Hollywood.
Next up was the flash pan sizzle reel, flashing through contestants really quick. I don't know why they are doing this, as they seem to speed through the really good talent here. Perhaps they just weren't TV friendly backgrounds or something. Whoever the girl was who was up last hit notes that I think only dogs can hear was quite impressive, and it looked like her and a few of the others in the frying pan were off to Hollywood. Hopefully we'll see some more of them there.
Oh boy! Cowboy hat! Matthew Muse, 23, Florence, South Carolina, and his faithful hat (I'm going to name the hat Phillip) were up next. Both Matthew and Phillip were looking forward to meeting Keith, and the pair sang "When I get Where I'm Going" by Brad Paisley. When he first started I thought he might really have it, and he had various pieces of the country star vocal puzzle there, but they just didn't fit together. I'm going to miss Matthew (and especially Phillip. Phillip!), and he was sent home with no votes from all of the judges.
Isabel Gonzalez was up next, and she was another one of those nominated-by-other-people Idol contestants. I'm still not sure how those work-do they people nominating them sneakily tape them singing songs? Anyway, Isabel sang "Nothing Could Ever Change This Love" by Sam Cooke. I don't know why I wasn't feeling her at first, but I'll give it to her, she could sing, and I didn't except that voice to come out of that body. She showed some really, really, strong control over phrasing and certain shifts between vocal singing and quiet almost whisper/talking little sweet vocal bombs hidden in the performance. The judges fell in love with her, and she got four yeses to Hollywood.
Taisha Bethea, 21, North Carolina, was from a rock band, and I was curious to see a female rocker on Idol. She sang Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." I don't know why Randy thought Johnny Cash wasn't rocking (How is Cash not rocking Randy?), but Taisha's take on it wasn't very rock heavy (And there have been rock versions of that song). Randy asked her to move to her second song by Alanis Morissette. I thought she did a pretty decent job on both songs, but neither of them were really rock songs. Why didn't she pick rock songs? Nicki was all about it, but the other judges seemed torn. Nicki gave a yes, Mariah gave a no, Keith gave a yes, so now with a split panel it came to Randy, who also went no. Apparently with a split vote it came down to Keith to break it (I'm not sure why, because they were in the south?), so he voted yes for her to move on. I hope to see her do some actual rock tunes next time, I have the feeling if she lets loose she could pull off some good stuff (Full disclosure: I have a rock bias).
And here we go! Summer Cunningham, 20, from Georgia, sang "Lean on Me." She had a powerful and resonating voice, but there were some mishaps here and there. Nicki liked her, but Keith seemed offended that when he asked Summer said she had "done the country thing," but I thought it was weird that Mariah asked her what kind of music she listened to. Keith picked her apart even more, asking her why she liked country music, which I thought was a little unnecessary. Keith gave her a yes though, Randy did as well, Mariah gave a yes, and then Nicki jumped on her soapbox, and, it pains me to say, she was right on the money: Why are the judges picking poor Summer apart? Nicki got on the defensive, and HERE COMES THE FIGHT. I hate to say that Nicki was right, but she really was, everyone was jumping on poor Summer for no reason. Nicki did give her a yes, her beef wasn't with Summer. Mariah and Randy kept poking at the country comment though as Summer left the stage, which led to the now famous threat from Nicki saying she should just put a gun in Mariah's mouth. I can't believe that Fox censored out gun (Well, OK, maybe I can), and then Nicki stormed off camera. Drama time!
Idol then played up the whole thing, showing a reel next of all the news footage of the event. Somehow the show got all the judges back in their seats, and day two started, with Keith again between Nicki and Mariah, and Nicki back with another hat (I won't name this one). The show didn’t really address the issue at all, which I found odd, but the show must go on.
The first contestant to break the waters of the judges was Brandy Hamilton, from North Carolina, got in trouble while in the Navy for singing too much. It paid off though, she came out and sang “All I Could Do Was Cry” by Etta James, and had great vibrato and tremolo. She is off to Hollywood.
Then we got treated to Ashley Smith, 22, North Carolina who was a ball full of energy, that's for sure. Nicki named her Blondie, and she sang Carry Underwood's "Cowboy Casonova." Phew. More than any other contestant tonight, wow. Given how silly she was being, I didn't think she would bring it, but she brought it and put it on the table. Boy, oh boy. Judges loved her, I thought she did really well, and she's off to Hollywood.
Janelle Arthur, Tennessee, came out and sang "Where the Black Top End," by a certain Idol judge. She killed it as well, and Keith could barely restrain his excitement. She was one of the strongest of the night, if not of all that we've seen so far, and everyone was all for it. The black top won't be ending anytime soon for her, she's off to Hollywood.
The Voice of Charlotte was up next, who was a street singer full of bravado. Rodney Barber, 27, proved he had it where it counted though, singing "I’ll Be." His outdoors singing experience really paid off, as he had a powerful voice and was able to really project. From homeless on the streets to Idol, now Rodney (and his purple hat, which I'm going to name Charley), got the votes to head off to Hollywood.
Candice Glover, 22, South Carolina, was back from being cut last season in Las Vegas. Oh boy, she had some great control of her voice, but I think that previous Idol experience has something to do with it. Time will tell how far she can make it this year (Nicki said she wanted to skin her and wear her, well, OK), but as of now she's off to Hollywood.
We got our lovely helping of southern hospitality with Ja'Bria, who shared with us some lovely frog gigging story. Can't say she's going to convince me to eat frog legs (no way it tastes like chicken). She sang Bonnie Raitt's version of "Pride and Joy." She was another very strong female vocalist. Very strong. She had the judges snapping and bobbing along, and while she may kill Frogger, she's heading on to Hollywood regardless.
Ugh. Next up was headbutter (and I'm not sure if he was a full box of crayons, if you know what I'm saying) Brad Harris, 28, North Carolina, who used to also be a rapper. He sang "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, and aside from almost forgetting the lyrics, wasn't just really all there. I didn't think he was as awful as the judges thought he was, but at least he had his bacon fueled moment in the sun. He asked to shake their hands and they even turned him down for that, which was a little mean. Poor Brad.
Closing off the night was Saripa Gwen, from North Carolina. Saripa brought her adorable little daughter with her, who was a huge Nicki fan. And oh wow, she decided to sing the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song. She pulled it off too, even though I really didn't think she could. She had this great ability to switch between loud and quieter dynamics at the drop of a hat, and I mean, she had her adorable daughter with her? How could they say no? They couldn't (Nicki almost broke out in tears), and Saripa was off to Hollywood. I didn't notice until right now that Keith had been missing again, I'm guessing more concert conflicts?
Anyways, the night closed on Charlotte, with 37 people being given the ticket to Hollywood. Tomorrow the show heads to Baton Rouge (I really want some zydeco performers!), and then next week Eric will return to guide you through the rest of the season. Carry on.
Special Event: If your happy hour is too tame, check out ZooBrew tonight, 5-9:30 p.m.,. at Seneca Park Zoo (2222 St. Paul St.).