(NEW YORK) — American Idol auditions continued Thursday night in Chicago, and judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj seemed to be getting along a little better. There were a few dustups though, and poor Keith Urban found himself in the middle of the two divas’ arguments. At one point, Keith said he felt like a scratching post between Mariah and Nicki.
Thankfully, Idol has gotten back to focusing on the contestants auditioning to be on the show. Here’s what judges Mariah, Nicki, Keith and Randy Jackson found in Chicago:
Mackenzie Wasner is the daughter of country star Vince Gill’s piano player Pete Wasner, so she grew up performing onstage with Vince. The 17-year-old singer tried out with Vince’s hit ‘Whenever You Come Around,” and Mariah said Mackenzie’s performance was “awesome” and “gorgeous.” Nicki said it sounded like Mackenzie was singing on her first single, and Randy said she had a huge road ahead of her. Keith compared Mackenzie to Dolly Parton and Lee Ann Womack. Of course, Mackenzie made it to Hollywood.
Kiara Lanier recently sang for President Obama for his birthday fundraiser, and hoped that presidential mojo would help pave her way to Hollywood. Kiara sang Celine Dion’s “The Prayer,” and all of the judges smiled as she finessed the notes with vocal runs. Nicki loved Kiara’s vocal control, and Randy was impressed. Mariah thought Kiara had big potential, and Keith loved her funky look. Kiara is on her way west for the next round of competition.
Stephanie Schimel sang the standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and Keith said she sounded like a blend of Carrie Underwood and Gwen Stefani. Nicki thought Stephanie and her voice were both pretty, but she didn’t think Stephanie felt like a star. Randy and Mariah both liked her, so Stephanie made it through despite Nicki’s protest.
Gabe Brown brought sweet cookies he made himself for the judges, but he later assaulted them with a screeching take on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” Mariah asked him to sing something softer and more mellow, so he went with Steel Dragon’s “We All Die Young.” Randy liked Gabe’s rock edge, and Nicki said she really believed him when he sang rock. Keith was a fan too, and all four judges put Gabe through to Hollywood.
Isabelle Parell recruited Keith to help her sing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and her smoky delivery had Keith snapping his fingers and Mariah singing along. Keith liked her song choice, and Mariah thought Isabelle had a sweet quality about her. Nicki loved her tone and poise, but Randy gave her a no. Her three yes votes gave her the go-ahead to Hollywood.
Griffin Peterson sang Needtobreathe’s “Washed by the Water” after Nicki made it clear she thought Griffin was a hottie. She later told him he looked and felt like a star, but Randy wasn’t feeling it on the vocals. Mariah thought Griffin had what it takes in the looks department, and she saw some potential in him. Mariah and Nicki said yes and granted the girls in TV land at least one more week with Griffin on their screen.
Curtis Finch Jr. from St. Louis sang gospel star Smokie Norful’s song “God Is Able” and put some really intricate and impressive vocal runs in it. All the judges applauded Curtis’s performance, and he went straight to Hollywood.
Mariah Pulice teared up in the audition room talking about her battle with anorexia, and she credited music and singing with helping her recover. Mariah sang the Beatles’ “Let It Be” for her audition, and she had the famous Mariah in tears. Nicki really felt the song come from the young singer, and the contestant Mariah is going to Hollywood.
Brandy Neelly was adopted by her aunt as a child and was a little star struck singing in front of Keith. Brandy gave a really powerful performance of the Hank Williams classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” Keith loved her song choice, and Nicki was really impressed. Mariah gave her an A+, so it’s on to Hollywood for Brandy.
Josh Holiday chose to sing “Back at One” by Brian McKnight for his audition, and Mariah clapped when he hit the falsetto part. Nicki said Josh had an exciting sound, and he’s going to Hollywood.
Clifton Duffin’s parents never heard him sing growing up, so they were curious to hear their son sing in the audition. He chose to sing Luther Vandross’s version of “Superstar,” and Clifton actually did a good job on it. His mother was in tears as they entered the judges’ room, and Mariah and Keith ended up crying too as they praised Clifton’s vocal performance. His parents will get to see him compete in the Hollywood round.
Johnny Keyser has already made it to Hollywood and gotten cut, so he was hoping for another shot at it with his take on Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” Keith liked Johnny’s performance and style, and Randy liked seeing Johnny back for another shot. Mariah thought Johnny had star quality, and Nicki liked the twinkle in his eye. Johnny’s got another shot at Hollywood.
Kez Ban is an up-and-coming fire performer and balloon animal artist who admits to not being interested in winning American Idol. Ban’s dream is to simply make it to Hollywood. Ban, whose gender was unstated, auditioned singing “I’ve Got No Strings” from Pinocchio, and then sang a funky, original song with a guitar. Mariah loved the performance, and Nicki thought Kez Ban was captivating. Kez Ban’s Hollywood dreams are now a reality.
Lazaro Arbos has a severe stutter that started at age six and has become worse over time. The speech impediment kept him isolated growing up, but it wasn’t an issue when he sang. Lazaro tried out with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and it was absolutely beautiful. Keith said he had a beautiful voice with a great tone, and Nicki said his story was really inspiring. Lazaro got four yeses, and he’s headed to Hollywood.
Ieisha (Eye-e -sha) Cotton was a professional dancer, and she broke out a few moves before her audition with Ashanti’s “Thank You.” Unfortunately Ieisha’s vocal skills weren’t as on point as her popping and locking. Mariah suggested she stick with dancing, and Randy said she was tone deaf.
Ashley Curry is a musical theater major in college, but we’re thinking she should find a new field of study quickly. Her performance of Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best” was absolutely terrible. It was so bad Mariah actually got up from the desk and walked away. Randy said it was “shocking” in its badness.
Are You Kidding?
Student and massage therapist Melissa Bush wore a far-out, shiny, bejeweled pantsuit and presented Randy with a shirt that said “Get Down Dawg.” Melissa delivered a very awkward performance of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” that had Keith asking, “Check please.” Nicki said, “Bush, you’ll always be my bush, but the answer is no.” As Melissa walked out the door, Mariah said she wasn’t going to tolerate the other judges’ vulgarity much longer.
Kevin Nabity seemed a little off as he showed off his spastic dance moves inspired by the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles. He tried out with “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies, and he went so fast with the lyrics, Randy said he felt like he was at a bad auction. His second selection, Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” was equally bad. Mariah told him it wasn’t for him, and Keith suggested he stick to dancing.
Forty-six people made it to Hollywood in the Chicago auditions. American Idol returns with auditions from Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Fox.
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