Contestant Reis Kloeckner and his high-tops. (Fox )
The episode opened with one of the biggest stars to come out of American Idol: Carrie Underwood. Carrie documented her journey to her audition in St. Louis—and guess where tonight's audition city is?
THIS! Is St. Louis!
The city that introduced us to Carrie Underwood produced two awesome singers who bookended the episode: Johnny Keyser and Lauren Gray. But first, let's hand out awards...
Best Support: The staff of the hotel where the auditions were held. A number of them came to see the audition of hotel auditor Mark Ingram, who delivered an off-key version of one of my favorite songs, Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed." They clapped and smiled politely for their co-worker, which is why I called them "best support"—truthful but polite. (Verdict: Go home)
Best Pop Act: Reis Kloeckner, with the fly high tops, was bullied in school until music saved him. He joined the choir and found supportive friends who gave him a lot of confidence, which brought him to the audition. As he sang "Lean on Me", I thought his voice sounded clean and pop-py. If this were the '90s, I would have suggested he join a boy band. (Verdict: Hollywood!)
Best Father-Son Connection: Ethan Jones dropped out of school to become a musician. He was in a band with his dad, but the latter had to take a hiatus to go to rehab. This story got Steven Tyler's attention, as he could relate to it. Ethan sang Edwin McCain's "I'll Be," which honestly was just OK. He can project his voice, but it still sounds ordinary. Nonetheless, all three judges loved him and his story. He got a golden ticket and called his dad, who said he's getting better. (Verdict: Hollywood!)
Best Blast from the Past: William Hung's audition clip. Oh, 2004. Back when the bad auditions were still funny.
Best Male Vocal: Johnny Keyser, a 22-year old Italian restaurant server. I wasn't looking at the TV when he started singing, and when I heard him I was instantly impressed. When I turned to look, I was surprised to find out that he was white. The judges didn't want him to stop singing "Change Is Gonna Come," and neither did I. From all the auditions I heard this season, Johnny's voice is probably my favorite among the boys. (Verdict: Hollywood!)
Best Female Vocal: Lauren Gray, another 22-year-old. She's been in a southern rock band with her dad since she was 18. When she said she was going to sing Adele, I nearly face-palmed. But when she opened her mouth to sing "One and Only" (to which J.Lo made a weird reaction), my jaw dropped. I could hear the texture and fullness in her voice. "You're one of the best voices we've heard," said J.Lo. I see her going far in this competition. (Verdict: Hollywood!)
Next week is Hollywood Week! Are you excited with the end of the audition round? I am!