Season 12, Season 12 auditions

Did talent or torment prevail in Charlotte?

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So, I posted a blog today in which Kristy Lee Cook from Idol Season 7 called American Idol’s bickering female judges “annoying.”

I  saw another quote from Clay Aiken in which he said so much focus is on the judges, he wonders if American Idol remembers it has contestants.

Naomi Morris showed up with a Hollywood worthy look but not a Hollywood worthy voice on American Idol (FOX Photo)And Jennifer Hudson was quoted earlier this week as saying Idol should shut down shop and go out on top.

(Hmm, in other words, deny other artists the stepping stone you used to stardom? While the show is still producing stars like Phillip Phillips and Scotty McCreery? Not one of your finer moments, Jennifer.)

Anyway, my advice to everyone would be: Chill out, folks.

It’s only the auditions. The judges typically get a lot of attention during these episodes. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler certainly did after they joined the judging panel two years ago.

As for those who think bickering judges are annoying, you might want to avoid tonight’s episode altogether.

Because tonight, Idol lands in Charlotte, N.C., the scene of the big throw-down between the enchanting new judge (that would be Nicki Minaj) and the boring and self-obsessed new judge (that would be Mariah Carey).

Meanwhile, if you get bored with tonight’s episode at any point, head here and click on a name. I’ve posted pre-Idol videos of 14 featured contestants from last week’s episodes. There will be a lot more to come.

Naomi Morris, 28, Charlotte: Here’s a lovely young lady who makes her own clothing. What little she’s wearing. And she’s going to sing “Respect.” Oops, Naomi looks a whole lot better than she sings. Nicki gives her a quick breathing lesson. And Naomi starts all over. It’s a little better this time, but not much. Nicki tells her her shoes and bra are “popping,” that she needs some eyelashes, then breaks the bad news. The bartender from Charlotte won’t be Hollywood bound.

Joel Nemoyer, 20, Carlisle, Pa.: Here’s a guy who sings flat on his back. After all, he saw Chris Daughtry do it once. He’s heard of others doing it. Hey, so why not? And he’ll sing “Feeling Good.” OK, another strange audition. Nicki tells him he made history; he’s the first contestant to sing for these judges lying down. All of the judges give him a “no.”

 Brian Rittenberry was one of the first males through to Hollywood from the Charlotte auditions. (FOX Photo)* Brian Rittenberry, 27, Jasper, Ga.: Here’s a guy whose wife was diagnosed with stage four cancer back in 2009. She wasn’t supposed to survive. Three years later, she’s well and at the Idol auditions with the couple’s 8-year-old son. And the guy identified as a bookkeeper on Idol’s blue bar will sing “Let It Be.” His wife sends him to the basement because he sings too much. But he’s the best vocalist we’ve heard so far tonight, even if he picked a way-too-overdone song. And he makes it to Hollywood with four yes votes.

* Jimmy Smith, 25, Waynesboro, Tenn.: We just had a wife who was a big Keith Urban fan. Now we get a contestant who says he’s inspired by Keith. He’s going to sing “Bless the Broken Road,” a Rascal Flatts tune. What, this guy doesn’t get a Nicki nickname? So-so audition. Nicki praises him for the “sweetness” in his voice. He get compliments from Keith and Mariah as well. Mariah says he has something special. Another country singer is off to Hollywood. The next Scotty McCreery?

In rapid succession, we see 17-year-old Sarina-Joi Crowe of Columbia, Tenn., Haley Davis, 26, of Charleston, S.C., Na’chelle Fullins-Lovell, 19, of Charlotte, N.C. — all of whom are Hollywood bound.

Matthew Muse, 23, Florence, S.C.: Here’s a karaoke vet hoping to become the next Scotty. Hey, he’s got a cowboy hat and some dance moves. I don’t recall Scotty having either. He’s singing a Brad Paisley song. No need to get to know Matthew. He’s not advancing. Not with that voice. He dances much better. Nicki has him do a runway strut.

* Isabelle Gonzalez, 16, Alpharetta, Ga.: Here’s one of those contestants nominated by a friend or relative, in this case by an aunt who says she’d be too shy to audition on her own. She’s singing “Nothing Can Ever Change This Love.” Hmm, she’s just 16, and just might have the best voice we’ve heard so far tonight. Nicki says she “loves” her. Mariah calls her “so adorable.” And Isabelle is going to Hollywood.

* Taisha Bethea, 21, Concord, N.C.: This gal sings in a rock band called Carson, I think. And she says she’s thrilled to have the support of the guys in her alternative rock band. She’s going to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison.” Hey, I like this gal’s voice and her attitude. She also sings “You Oughta Know.” Nicki says she likes her sound. Hmm, and the panel deadlocks, Keith and NIcki say yes; Randy and Mariah say no. But Keith is the tiebreaker. So she’s headed to Hollywood.

Summer Cunningham was auditioning when the Idol judging dispute heard round the world broke out. (FOX Photo)* Summer Cunningham, 20, Warner Robins, Ga.: She’s going to sing “Lean On Me” and launches into a very nice version of the song. OK, the chorus might have been a little overdone. Nicki likes her. Keith and Mariah and Randy debate whether she’s a country artist or not. Everyone eventually says “yes,” but Nicki doesn’t like the country debate. She thinks the panel is pushing Summer to proclaim a love of country music she might not have. Nope, say Mariah and Randy, they’re just trying to figure out who Summer is as an artist and help her out. And, after Randy makes a quip about his 30 years of experience, and Mariah tosses a couple snide remarks in Nicki’s direction, Ms. Minaj walks off the panel.

But day two of the auditions begins, and everyone’s back in their seats.

* Brandy Hamilton, 25, Charlotte, N.C.: Here’s a gal who’s a Navy reservist, but got in trouble for singing. She launches into an Etta James song and displays a nice voice, though her nerves are showing. Randy says he “loves her” and “that’s what stars do.” Mariah says she “lights up the room.” And Brandy is off to Hollywood, and it looks like all the disruptions from the day before are forgotten.

* Ashley Smith 22, Charlotte, N.C.: OK, here’s a contestant nearly as flamboyant as Nicki. Same blond hair too. She loves to be the center of attention, Ashley says. In the audition room, she launches into a surprise song selection — Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova” — which I’m pretty sure none of the judges expected. The second surprise is that this gal can sing. Now, her phrasing was off at a couple of points. But Nicki liked it, Mariah called her “effervescent.” No disagreements among the judges on Ashley. She’s off to Hollywood.

* Janelle Arthur, 22, Oliver Springs, Tenn.: Hey, Janelle’s back. She’s been to Hollywood for at least the last two years. She’ll sing “Black Top Ends.” Keith is enthusiastic about the performance and compliments her on a “special” voice. Nicki says she thinks she’s already a star. Randy calls her amazing. Hmm, maybe this will be the year we get to vote on Janelle. The fact that she’s off to Hollywood again should be no surprise.

* Rodney Barber, 27, Charlotte, N.C.: This guy is a street singer in Charlotte and has been for the last two years. He says he provides half of his money to the needy. He was homeless himself four years ago, he says. Oh, and he says he’s been dubbed the “Voice of Charlotte.” He’s going to sing “I’ll Be.” Not surprisingly, the Voice of Charlotte can sing. Mariah loved it. Keith compliments him on his big voice. And Nicki says he’s inspiring. See you in Hollywood, Rodney.

* Candice Glover, 22, St. Helena Island, S.C.: Here’s another gal who advanced to Vegas last year, but got cut. She says she thinks she’s grown in the past year. Candice says people compare her voice to Joshua Ledet. That’s pretty high praise. Randy calls her audition the best he’s heard all season. Nicki says she’s “obsessed with you.” Nicki says she’s “not worthy to critique you.” Wow, really high praise for Candice. Of course, she’s off to Hollywood.

Nicki Minj and Mariah Carey said they'd pass on the frog legs, but not on Ja'Bria Barber's voice on American Idol. (FOX Photo)killer* Ja’bria Barber, 16, Clover, S.C.: OK, now we have a singer who goes hunting for frogs and eats frog legs. Heck, she says she wouldn’t mind inviting the judges to her house to try some out. Mariah wants no part — not the leg, not the middle or anything else — of a frog. Nicki is having trouble dealing with this concept too and tells the contestant now dubbed “Frog Killer” that she needs to promise to stop killing frogs if she goes to Hollywood. She’ll sing “Pride and Joy.” And she can sing, too. Honestly, I like this audition better than Candice’s. Mariah calls her “adorable.” Randy praises her “spunk.” Nicki calls her a “big piece of cutie pie.” Well she’s going to Hollywood. Lots of frogs should be relieved.

Brad Harris, 28, Maiden, N.C.: They didn’t have a wrestling team at his high school, so the kids starting making performance videos. Brad would bang his head into lockers. He used to be a rapper. He should have rapped the audition, because he can’t sing. He doesn’t make it to Hollywood.

* Seretha Guinn, 26, Charlotte, N.C.: Capping tonight’s episode is a woman whose boyfriend was in a serious crash and nearly lost his life. And she hasn’t told him she’s auditioning. She shows up for the audition with their 3-year-old daughter, London. Oh, and this is cute, the little girl idolized Nicki and has given Nicki a nickname, Dun-Dun, I think. And the young woman identified as a hair stylist by Idol’s blue bar will sing “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Another talented female singer. Randy says he’s “blown away.” Mariah compliments her on “a beautiful voice.”

So, torment or talent?

I’d say talent. But it’s really time for these two-hour audition shows to end.

The highly publicized Idol feud fizzled after that little country music blowup.

Meanwhile, Charlotte offered us some very talented singers.

I think my favorites were Janelle Arthur, Isabelle Gonzalez and frog-killer Ja’bria Barber.

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