The American Idol auditions stop in Detroit this week definitely proved there’s more to this city than depressing headlines. One by one, talents left the stage with golden tickets, set to make their artistic statement. Harry Connick, Jr. had his own Motor City metamorphosis, as “Dr. No” started saying “Yes.”
Keri Lynn Roche is a hometown girl who started off the night, playing guitar, and doing a smoky rendition of “Radioactive,” with a touch of beat-box, before she was asked to do something without the guitar, and broke into Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind.” The panel sure wasn’t deaf, as Harry Connick, Jr. said “I dig that,” followed by two more digs from Keith and J-Lo, leading to the first of many prized gold passages. Julian Miller already has a look and a style that sets him apart, and his audition prompted Keith to say he already was an artist “on the move,” and he’ll be moving to Hollywood, too. Olivia Diamond and Paris Primeau had unique looks and voices to match, too, so on they go. Malaya Washington is a tuba player in her high school marching band, but this young lady has an old voice of rich maturity in that young body, and Jennifer Lopez encouraged her to honor it as “God’s gift” as she continues her journey, sure to be a bud just blooming. The spooky moments in “The Chamber” this season seem to either encourage or destroy the calm and confidence of talents just before taking their audition stage, and Brian Watt already knew his name and his “advanced” age of 29 might be marks against him in Idol terms, but he took on Carrie Underwood’s “So Small” with such ease that Harry called him Superman, and Keith Urban loved his “slinky groove,” so the teasing soon stopped, and he’ll be stopping in Hollywood. Khristian Davis is a very complicated young lady. She began her audition in a very affected voice and an even more affected accent, that came and went, confounding the panel, but her pleas proved enough to let them “see you try” in Hollywood.
For yet another season, some auditioners never learn that the need for props is never a good sign for a future, and some dreadful attempts at distraction trotted out. Luckily, Jena Irene set the next lovely tone with her lovely turn on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” and the judges delighted in how she made it her own. Melanie Porras took the panel on a journey from “Fever” to Bon Jovi, but they loved the ride, and she’ll be riding on, too. Keith had some fun with Harry, playing judge as Harry auditioned to “The Star-Spangled Banner” deliberately awful, as they waited for Jennifer to have a potty break. At least he got an ankle autograph from Keith, but the wording had to be bleeped. Speaking of Harry, he had a real fan in Liam Newberry, who offered “The Way You Look Tonight” with love, perhaps, but absolutely “no swag” according to his Idol, and “no sexy” according to Keith. He departed, saying “I’m more than they think they are,” whatever that means. Jane Lathan did Amy Winehouse, and won the “adorable” title along with her trip forward. Keith even played guitar for one yearning talent, and Sarah Scheto had the perfect mix of sound and sultry looks, even doing the “Delta lady” voice from the airlines with Harry, who teased Jennifer about not being familiar with those who fly commercial. Sydney Arterbridge dared to go where few succeed, nailing the Minnie Riperton soaring high note on “Loving You.” No doubt, she’s got the chops. Maurice Townsend is a worship leader and already a father of four at 26. He sang John Legend’s “So High” so well that Harry praised that he “shoulda recorded that.” David Oliver Willis was part of last season, making it to Vegas. He tried again this year, with an infectious folk-soul vibe, as Keith exclaimed “I’m so glad to see you again,” and viewers will be seeing David for a long while. Twins Carlita and Rakita really tried hard, maybe too hard, since their audition sounded like “screaming” to all the judges. Brandy Neally did Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” as the panel debated whether her “throat thing” was a blessing or a curse, but they decided it didn’t stop her from being good.
Ethan Harris said he was 20, but he looked 12, with boyish looks and a smile that could blind any Colgate marketer. His adoration for Keith got him an autograph on his drawing, and his “You’ll Think of Me” diamond ticket to Hollywood. Ayla Stackhouse already is living in Hollywood, but she’s from Detroit. She sang “Wings” with soul that would impress Berry Gordy, and it impressed the panel, too. Eric Gordon was perfectly fine on John Mayer’s “Perfectly Lovely,” and the panel love the casual look of Zach Day’s flip-flops, and his voice even better. Tony Dellario screamed his way through his song, then kept pleading for his second chance, to no avail. Ryan Nesbitt was sick, but never told anyone, and his delicate vocal on Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” combined with his “nerd chic” look stole everyone’s hearts. One could say that Marrialle Sellars had her debut on the very first episode, when a splash of her audition was featured, but after seeing her full profile, rich with her inspiration and aspiration, and the judges calling her an already “formed Idol” after hearing her perform “Grenade,” it seems that no one can see enough, or hear enough, of her talent.
Forty more took gold tickets in Detroit, and American Idol moves on to Atlanta Thursday. The show airs Wednesday and Thursday on FOX.