The show returned to Chicago where Jennifer Hudson, Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox and Haley Reinhart successfully auditioned and made it to the Top 12 of their respective seasons.
17-year-old Mackenzie Wasner was the first singer to face the judges. Leiper’s Fork’s favorite daughter performed a beautiful country ballad that would remind viewers of a mix between Lee Ann Womack and LeAnn Rimes. Mariah stated that she has star power potential, while Nicki added that they were listening to her first single. All four judges gave her a “Yes” and a Golden Ticket to Hollywood.
Another singer that received the coveted prize was hometown girl Kiara Lanier, who just performed for President Obama’s birthday fundraiser. She told Ryan that he “hugged her and shook her hand” before going to face the judges. Kiara already won Mariah over by stating that she was her role model and blew the “Hero” singer and her three counterparts after she performed a beautiful version of Celine Dion’s “The Prayer.”
However, the much publicized in fighting started when 21-year-old Stephanie Schimel performed a cover of “Dream A Little Dream of Me” that reminded Keith of a mixture of Carrie Underwood and Gwen Stefani. Unfortunately, the “Super Bass” singer was unimpressed and was her only “No.” Before she left to her Golden Ticket, she engaged with a conversation with Nicki and Mariah butted in multiple conversations that left Keith Urban frustrated.
One of the new features of Idol was introduced during this episode. The show traveled to different small towns across the country to find undiscovered gems. The first singer to face the judges from this activity was Iowa rocker and baker Gabe Brown, who tackled a brazen cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Gabe rocked the house with his audition and received a Golden Ticket.
The judges found another version of Haley Reinhart in 15-year-old high school student Isabelle Parell. She charmed Keith Urban into doing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” into doing the first couple of bars. Even though the seasoned veteran judge said “No,” the three new judges praised her audition and invited them to Hollywood.
While Keith had to leave early to go prep for a concert in Vegas, he left Randy in charge of being the buffer between Mariah and Nicki. While Nicki was looking at lots of eye candy during the audition, one contestant melted the “Starships” singer. 22-year-old Griffin Peterson reminded me why I did like Phil Phillips, he had good looks and a below average voice. However, his audition was one of the only things that Mariah and Nicki agreed throughout the show and they outvoted Randy to send him to Hollywood.
Day two brought high expectations from the judges. 17-year-old Louisville native Brandy Neeley got the judges’ attention with her cover of a Hank Williams song that would remind listeners of a young Reba. Nicki stated that she loved her vocal control and Mariah gave her an “A+ rating.” Brandy’s luck began to rub off on the other contestants as well as the judges handed Golden Tickets left and right.
Every single contestant there was excited to meet and sing in front of Mariah Carey. While some of them made the legendary diva proud, others like Ieisha Cotton made her cringe. Season 11’s Johnny Keyser returned to the show, as he impressed the panel and Mariah loved his cover of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” which caused another mini-argument between the two divas but ended up returning to Hollywood round.
The final audition of Idol’s Chicago trip was from Cuba immigrant Lazaro Arbos, who struggle with a stutter all of his life. He did not know where his stuttering came from and struggled socially. However, when he opened his mouth and performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” he astonished everyone on the panel. Keith loved his tone and Mariah added that she loved his voice. All four of them gave a unanimous “Yes.” Lazaro will join 46 other Idol hopefuls who will travel to Hollywood to face the judges during Hollywood Week.
Next week, the show travels to Charlotte, where talents rise and the origins of the infamous Mariah-Nicki fight will be shown.