Writer's note: Post updated with Portland & St. Louis auditions. On to Hollywood!

It's finally here! After 8 long months, which included the United States debut of The Voice and the lackluster disaster we politely refer to as "The X-Factor Season 1", Good ol' American Idol is finally back with the returning panel composed of Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson. and we begin this year's journey in Savannah, Georgia. I will be updating this post as more audition episodes air so stay tuned. Who will be sent to Hollywood and given a shot at this year's Idol crown? Keep reading! This... is American Idol!

Recap and videos after the JUMP...

Along with American Idol coming back, your *favorite* reviewer is back too. For those of you that don't know me, I'm Charlie. I have previously written articles on MDS for different X-Factors and the MDS Sound of 2012. I'm also part of the spoiler team for TIP (TheIdolPad) and a frequent chatter there, so if you hate my AI reviews, you may harass me there. But above all, I'm an avid listener of music. Always looking for something new and fresh, which leads me here. Assuming I don't lose my internet connection or the battery in my laptop finally croaks, recaps should be posted within a reasonable time. I hope you all enjoy reading my opinion for 4 months because the fun is just starting. Mwahahaha!

Also, I will be skipping the lulzy joke contestants... Sure, you may laugh at these poor people now but in a week's time, they will be forgotten. It's a waste of space and time to write about them. So, onto this year's talent pool...


So, the very first audition of the season is that of David Leathers, Jr. He is 17 years old but looks 12. I can already see people going gaga because "he's so adorable!!1". Idol trivia, he beat Scotty McCreery in a local contest in 2009. He sings "Remember the Rain" by Century 21. He has a nice tone and range and he's quite likable. The Judges say he reminds them of a young Michael Jackson and ask him to sing an MJ song. He sings "Never Can Say Goodbye" and nails it. One can only be so good at singing when the voice is undeveloped and not matured yet but this is his thing and he killed it. He is sent to Hollywood with massive approval. R&B's Beiber?

Next is Gabi Carruba (16). She's a champion tap dancer! She enters the audition room and asks to hug Nigel Lythgoe and we get to see Nigel off the set in his producer's chair, where he plots to get another White Guy with Guitar to- err... Finally getting a girl to win! She loves him on SYTYCD. Onto the performance, she sings "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5. Her rendition is simple but that's what makes it so beautiful. Her phrasing is very enjoyable. The Judges impressed, send her to Hollywood.

Next is a montage of 4 singers that make it to Hollywood. Brianna Faulk (15) is first in the montage singing "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston, her part sounds good but just good. Neco Starr (20) is next and does "Grenade" by Bruno Mars. Honestly, I don't care for the way he sings it at all. Quite annoying, actually. The jazzy Molly Hunt (15) is next singing "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt and sounds really nice! I like it. In these montages, there's always at least one contestant that I wish we got to hear more of. This time, it is soulful and jazzy Elise Testone (28) performing "Get It While You Can" by Janis Joplin. WOW. The first really impressive performance of the season! Love the tone and style of this one. Go girl!

After a few lulzy auditions, the next contestant we see is Shannon Magrane (15). Her dad played baseball for the Cardinals in the World Series. She brings her family in to say hi, Steven says something stupid that you will just have to watch. Most hilarious moment of the night for me. They finally break the awkwardness in the room and Shannon sings "Something's Gotta Hold On Me" by Etta James. She has several good parts and a few more that were obviously straining, especially the last note. All these people in the room remind me of Lauren Alaina's audition. The Judges send her to Hollywood. She's a bit bland overall but with a bit more training and the right songs, this girl could be really good.

Next up is Amy Brumfield (24). Due to hard times, her and her husband are living in a tent in the middle of the woods. We see their humble residence, which is quite amazing to see. "I'd rather be outdoors and happy than indoors and miserable" she says. She sings "Super Woman" by Alicia Keyes. Her vocals are raspy and nice but really nothing special. I wish her voice was better because I really liked her audition but oh well... She is sent to Hollywood. Out of the tent and into Hollywood!

Up next is Stephanie Renae (15), an Idol tard that cannot believe she is finally auditioning. She loves Carrie Underwood. Which is why her audition song is "Inside Your Heaven", she has a rough part before the high note and it's nasally at times but overall, it's pretty good. This probably isn't a good season for people like Stephanie to enter after last year's Country showdown. Randy says no but Jennifer and Steven send her through.

Next, we see two familiar faces from last season: Schyler Dixon (16) and her brother Colton Dixon (19), who was eliminated right before the live rounds. He's not auditioning and Schyler looks forward to branching off on her own this season. Upon walking in, the Judges recognize her and go into a Colton frenzy, they tell her to drag her brother in there. Schyler auditions first with "Breakeven" by The Script, she sounds a lot better this year. They finally get Colton to go next, he does "Permanent" by David Cook. It doesn't bring justice to the original but this is probably the best he has ever sounded on the show. Still Lifehouse-ish but less whiny than last year. The Colton love continues, Schyler seems kinda pissed. Maybe it's just me. They're both sent to Hollywood. Auditioning without a number sticker, is that a first?

Lauren Mink (25) goes next. She's a director for a program involving adults with disabilities. They film her at her workplace... Whenever they travel to film someone at work or home, that's usually a good bet they're going to Hollywood. Is that the Janet Devlin (XFUK) rendition of "Your Song" I hear in the background?? She sings "Country Strong" by Gwyneth Paltrow. She's solid but bleh... Another female Country singer. The judges love her. Off to Hollywood as predicted.

We see Ashlee Altise (28) next. Inventor of the "joy hop", which just might be the next big thing. She comes in dancing like the crazy person she is and shows them the "joy hop". After that is over, she sings "Come Together" by The Beatles. She still sounds out of breath from joy-hopping all over the damn place. They send her to Hollywood, which sends her into another joy-hopping episode. I like the joy hop, it reminds me of the Raptors from Jurassic Park. We then go to a shot of 10+ people doing the joy-hop.... rofl.

W.T Thompson (25) is up next. He quit his job as a prison guard to audition, his wife is 6 months pregnant and stands by him completely.. Oh God, I hope this guy is good. He sings "Boondocks" by Little Big Town. He sounds pretty solid but it's just not interesting. Like Steven said, I hear his voice but I'm not sure it sounds like the next American Idol. W.T. promises to make them proud, the other 2 send him to Hollywood. I'm happy he made it, he deserves to at least get that far.

Auditioning next is NBA dancer Brittany Kerr (24). She sings "Spoiled" by Joss Stone, pretty weak but she's on-key. Jennifer says no, Steven tells her to try and push her voice more and Randy says her voice could develop into something good. Steven and Randy send her to Hollywood. Jennifer predicts she won't last a week in Hollywood because her voice just isn't strong enough and I have to agree.

Last but not least is Phillip Phillips (20), who TPTB have been hyping about for about half the show. Judging by his name, his parents lack quite a bit of creativity. He's definitely got that southern charm and likability about him. He sings "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder. He lacks quite a bit of range, his voice sounds too forced and he's obviously straining. The Judges just flove it. Randy then tells him to play something on the guitar, which is usually a NO-NO in audition land. Yeah... This guy's going to Hollywood. Why they are pimping this guy I don't get, I expect him to get cut off before the Top 24. Anyway, he plays "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, same vocal result as the previous song. He breaks a guitar string. lol. He is sent to Hollywood! *shock and awe*


We start things off in Pittsburgh with Heejun Han (22). He seems nervous and really geeky... but in a good way. After he's done complimenting the Judges and making them laugh, he sings "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" by Michael Bolton and pulls the surprise of the night, he's a great singer! Raspy yet very smooth. I'm really enjoying this! Wow, an Asian male on American Idol that doesn't suck! He ain't no John Park or Paul Kim. Randy is shocked, Jennifer thinks he's adorable and Steven thinks he can win... They send him to HOLLYWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!

Next is Reed Grimm (26), who's been featured in the Idol promos quite a bit. he talks about performing with his family since he was two years old. Instantly, he comes off as very likable. He chooses the Family Matters theme song as his audition song. He has the jazzy feel of Casey Abrams and the beatbox vibe of Blake Lewis, he's pretty entertaining. The Judges all love him and so do I. He's sent to Hollywood.

We see another montage... We see Aaron Marcellus (27) perform a solid version of "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke and Chase Likens (20) sing "Love Don't Live Here" by Lady Antebellum, he's alright, nothing special. Sooooo tired of Country singers. Then we move on to Samantha Novacek (19) who brought her sister Patty the Pittsburgh Planker, who goes on to plank on floors. tables, etc. at the auditions. She planks on the floor while Samantha auditions with "We Never Loved At All" by Faith Hill, she does a pretty good job. I like it, not sure it could win American Idol but I did enjoy it. The Judges like it too and send her to Hollywood.

Up next is Creighton Fraker (28), he couldn't decide on a song to sing so he wrote an original song while riding to Pittsburgh and sings that. It's catchy and it interests the Judges, Steven asks him to sing something with a beginning, middle and end. He sings "Who's Loving You" by Smokey Robinson. I love this guy, he's like a Adam Lambert/ Paul McDonald/ Matt Giraud hybrid. The Judges are completely wowed and intrigued and call him beautiful and genius. I really enjoy Creighton's tone but I'm worried he'll oversing the hell out of everything ala Jacob Lusk last season. He is sent to Hollywood!

We see Eben Franckewitz (15) next. His parents are very supportive. He sings "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers, his voice is very theatrical but bland. I'm bored and not interested. Bad name, the Bieber haircut isn't helping me like him either. He's not ready for this but the Judges slightly over-hype him and sent him to Hollywood. He screams fodder to me, but I'd like to see him cover Greyson Chance before his time on Idol ends.

Next is Travis Orlando (17) from last season. Since then, his mom left with another guy, he dropped out of highschool and his family is living in a homeless shelter. He sings "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder, he has a nice voice. Again, not very special though. The Judges think his voice is still lacking something. He sobs about how much this means to him, the sobbing kinda seems fake to me. The Judges put him through. It's depressing to me how he thinks this can fix everything and his voice isn't that great. I hope he seeks more realistic options to deal with his family's troubles.

Wedding singer Erika Van Pelt (25) is up next. I love the way she looks! She sings "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by Carole King. She has a really nice deep alto that is pleasing but also this over-singing that is not so pleasing. The Judges really like her and unanimously put her through to Hollywood. I like her but her chances of surviving Hollywood could be 50/50. If she holds back, she can come off as really bland. However, if she belts like I know she can, she could shake the competition up.

Last for Pittsburgh is Hallie Day (24). At 15, she quit school to join a girl band in New York. After that didn't work out, she went to drugs and eventually attempted to commit suicide. Then she met her future husband, who she says has changed her life and encouraged her to sing again. She auditions with "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor and belts it out nicely, although she doesn't seem to have much personality. I agree with Jennifer that she sounds like Debbie Harry. The Judges are very impressed and send her to Hollywood unanimously. J-Lo thinks she is looking at a star. I see potential, can't wait to see how she does in Hollywood.

San Diego

The first good audition of San Diego we see belongs to Ashley Robles (26), she comes to the audition with her five year-old daughter. She sings "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston. The lower notes are a little weak but the higher she goes, the more I'm impressed. She nails the chorus, probably straining at points but really powerful. The Judges send her through.

Next we see Jayrah Gibson (26), after seeing a very funny and confusing explanation as to why he only has a Plan A, we get to see him sing "Just Friends" by Musiq Soulchild. He has a solid R&B/ Hip-hop vibe in his voice that could be marketable. The Judges, highly impressed, send him to Hollywood. He is hyper and speechless, which is entertaining.

Aubree Dieckemeyer (20) is next. After accidentally saying she wants to be America's Next Top Model and other cute bloopers, we move on to her audition. Her personality is adorable. She sings "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone. Her tone is so simple and pretty, very natural vibrato and runs. I loved this, very relaxing. Randy does point out that she should work on her upper register but they all love her and send her through.

Up next is Alexis Shields (19), who was on the Ellen DeGeneres show (wearing the exact same thing) and got sent to the American Music Awards to interview celebrities. She's slightly crazy and lulzy. We see her rap and sing "Like a Star" by Corinne Bailey Rae. She's a decent singer and not bad at rapping. She is sent to Hollywood.

Next is frat boy Kyle Crews (19), he sings "Angel of Mine" by Monica. He has a surprisingly pleasant R&B tone with nice runs and vibrato. I like him but the Judges go absolutely batshit over him, and compliment him to the point of him getting emotional. Steven says it's the best male voice he's heard so far. Off to Hollywood, as expected.

Next is the most odd audition yet, Jim Carrey's daughter Jane Carrey (24). Who is out to make a name for herself. She sings "Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt. She has a really nice singing voice, not anything special but I do see potential. The Judges give her some nice constructive criticism and send her to Hollywood.

Last for San Diego is Jason "Wolf" Hamlin (24). He sings "Midnight Special" by CCR, I'm not really a fan of this. It's pretty boring and doesn't go anywhere. The Judges ask him to sing something else... with his guitar. He sings "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash, it's better than the first time. The only part I really like is the part with the upper register, which was surprisingly strong, maybe a little shouty but whatever. The Judges send him though, I'm not sure what to think of all of the rule breaking going on this season.


First is Jenni Schick (24), who is very energetic and hyper, she works as a music teacher for Kindergarten through Sixth Grade. How fitting! Looks like this is going to be a bad audition, she sings "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar. It's surprisingly not terrible, she can sing but doesn't have Idol potential. The Judges like her and send her to Hollywood.

Next we see is Curtis Grey (28), who plays in a 5-piece band, singing "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Boyz II Men. He's a nice singer but really boring. The Judges, however, love the hell out of him and unanimously send him to Hollywood. Next is a montage of a few more singers that make Hollywood. First Richie Law (19), who is basically another Scotty McCreery, only more boring. Then Devan Jones (26) singing "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" by The Script, really nice voice and excellent falsetto. Kinda makes me think he's like a Javier Colon- lite but I really like him. Then Mathenne Trego (25) singing "Hey Jude", he looks like a joke contestant but actually sings pretty nicely, especially the high parts. Unfortunately, his look is annoying.

Up next is Haley Smith (18), her personality and 1970's look is cute but again I think this is a joke contestant. She's a vegetarian working in a meat factory. She sings "Tell Me Something Good" by Chaka Kahn. Her voice is amazing, lovely falsetto and phrasing and a really interesting spin on Chaka Kahn. This is one of my favorite auditions of the entire season, Steven recognizes her talent, saying she's right out of his era and he is honored to be there listening to her. The Judges quickly give her a golden ticket.

Now we see Shelby Tweten (17), she has bipolar disorder and has struggled with depression since 4th Grade (wtf). Lulzy quote of the season: "American Idol has given me a reason to stay on my meds." Okay... Wow. Singing makes her symptoms go away. She sings "Temporary Home" by Carrie Underwood, she has a nice voice and can definitely sing but it's nothing incredibly special. The Judges rave and approve her to Hollywood.

Next is Jairon Jackson (19), who is taking a risk and auditioning with an original song called "So Hard". "I have a lot of faith in this song" he says. The song is really nice for being an original, he has a great R&B sound and reminds me a bit of Chris Brown. The Judges give applause for his song. They love him and his song and send him to Hollywood. On the way out, he breaks the light above the door. rofl

Last is Angie Zeiderman (25), who is a strange cross between Lady Gaga and vintage musicals. "It's time for a vintage glitter queen on Idol" she says. She sings "If You've Got It Flaunt It" from The Producers, I will never understand why she thought this was a good choice for an audition song. She sounds nice but again, she's singing Show Tunes. Randy does not like it, J-Lo does and asks her to perform a second song. She sings "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt, it's a lot better and she makes a complete turnaround. Randy changes his mind, they all love her now and she is quickly sent to Hollywood.


The first good audition of the episode is Skylar Laine (17), who is a bit of a backwoods tomboy. Flooring ATVs through mud and shooting deer. Her family runs a restaurant in Jackson and has done so for 71 years but the recession gave the store a rough year in 2010. She sings "Hell On Heels" by Pistol Annies. I am all countried out from last year... or so I think. This is really good! Obviously, some may want to compare her to Lauren but Skylar is a lot more confident and mature as an artist and as a person for this game. Skylar has a strong voice, while it has it's country roots, I can see her being surprisingly versatile. The Judges send her to Hollywood.

Next is Baylie Brown (21) from season 6 and ended up being a casualty in group round. She comes back after 5 years with a lot more maturity and she's definitely improved her voice, she's definitely ready this time around. She sings "Bed of Roses" by Bon Jovi. Again, I think I'm countried out from last year but I like this quite a bit. What is wrong with me? She has a great voice, the high notes are strong and the performance is just entrancing in general. She's definitely advancing.

Now we see Kristine Osorio (28), who put her singing career on hold to raise a family. She is now a newly-single mother of 3. She took out a loan that was supposed to be for the divorce lawyer but instead bought a plane ticket to audition (omg). She sings "One and Only" her high notes are a bit shrill and raspy but I really like it, she seriously reminds me of Pink. She could use some work but definitely deserves a ticket, which they give her.

After seeing 3 singers J-Lo really likes get axed, Linda Williams (24) is next to enter the audition room and sings "Falling in Love" by Alicia Keys. This starts off really bad, get's pretty good in the middle and then falls apart again toward the end. The runs are very sloppy and not even in key but I do like the middle part, which showed the potential. J-Lo hates her, the other 3 overrule her and send her to Hollywood.

Next is Cortez Shaw (20), he grew up in a single-parent household and he was homeless for 2 years. He chooses to sing "Someone Like You" by Adele, he starts uptempo and fast like the dance remix. My first thought is why the bloody hell would you sing this version of this song? I unfortunately recall Melanie Amaro's clusterfuck version of SLY and think this is going to be really bad. Thank God I'm wrong, this is great! His voice is awesome, pitch is good and he makes "Someone Like You" work in his favor. They unanimously send him to Hollywood.

Last of the day is Ramiro Garcia (28), who, of course, has a sad story. He was born without ears and the doctors told his parents that he was not going to be able to hear or speak but after several surgeries, he has beaten the odds. He sings "Amazing Grace", he's a good singer, there is no doubt about that. But it's uninteresting and not really what Idol is looking for. His vibrato sounds a little strained and forced. Obviously, the Judges are not going to turn down this one. He gets the Hollywood stamp of approval.


I finally muster up enough enthusiasm to write the last remaining audition cities, we begin with Brittany Zika (21), a.k.a. Tripster the Hipster. She holds true to the name and immediately trips on the audition platform. She sings "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. She's got a bluesy/ indy vibe, decent tone but nothing special. The Judges LOVE her, she's put through to Hollywood.

Next is Jermaine Jones (24), the 6'8" mama's boy sings "Superstar" by Leon Russell. He's incredibly nice and gentle. He has a strange baritone, the lower notes are good, higher notes are straining. Again, I'm not crazy about it but the Judges love it and put him through.

Britney Spears lookalike Britnee Kellogg (27) goes next, she is now a single mother of twin boys. Her husband never supported her dreams so now is her chance. She sings "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt, she has a nice soulful voice with raspiness but not much of a range. Totally on-key though, 3 yeses to Hollywood.

Next is Romeo Diahn (22). His family fled the civil war of Liberia in the early '90s and spent a few years in a refugee camp in Ghana before they finally arrived in America. Romeo has great appreciation and gratitude for making it here and being given another chance. He sings "Is This Love" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. He has a great reggae sound, his voice is simple but it captures my attention. I agree with Jennifer that he may have issues being versatile in Hollywood. The Judges put him through.

Next up is Naomi Gillies (22), she sings "Cryin" by Aerosmith. Quite the feat to accomplish in front of Steven Tyler, she has a nice, smooth, belty voice and stays on key. Really good job on the high notes. The Judges all immediately say yes.

Last of Portland is Jessica Phillips (25), who has a really sad story. Her boyfriend suffered a massive stroke last year, after he woke up from a long coma, he did not remember her and has mental disabilities now. One of the saddest stories I've seen on this series, she sings "Again" by Faith Evans. She's got a really nice tone, the falsetto, vibrato, runs, everything is done really well. The Judges put her through to Hollywood.

St. Louis

First up is Johnny Keyser (22), it's just him and his dad. He's a server at an Italian restaurant. After the background story, he sings "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke. It's very soulful and smooth, nice falsetto and runs. The Judges don't want him to stop singing, combined with the charming personality, he just knocks their socks off and he goes to Hollywood.

Next is Rachelle Lamb (26), who has a similar sob story of my husband held me back, I'm a single mom, etc. Same story, different girl. Getting a bit exhausting. She sings "Find Somebody New" by Faith Hill, and to my surprise, she's really good. Great Country voice and "a great sense of melody" like Steven said. The Judges, impressed, give her a golden ticket.

Now we see Reis Kloeckener (20), he was bullied in highschool and almost dropped out. One of the teachers heard him singing and suggested he sing in the choir, which helped him tremendously in the long haul. He sings "Lean On Me' by Bill Withers, he has an interesting tone. Perhaps best described as similar to Season 7 runner-up David Archuleta's. I really enjoyed it, it almost makes Steven cry. The other two judges love him too, Reis is overwhelmed with the positive response. They send him to Hollywood immediately.

Next up is Ethan Jones (22). He cut his forehead by accident because of nerves. lol. He dropped out of school to become a full-time musician with extended family, which included his dad, who had to go on a hiatus and receive drug rehabilitation. He sings "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. Nice raspy tone, a bit generic but I really like him. The Judges send him to Hollywood, he calls his dad to tell him the news. Touching.

Last of the auditions but certainly not least is Lauren Gray (22). Employee at family owned wedding shop by day, singer in southern rock band with dad by night! She sings "One and Only" by Adele, she has a nice bluesy tone, the raspiness in her voice needs some work, her voice cracks at a point or two in an unpleasant way and she seems to be straining throughout the song. I see the potential but I don't think she was that good. The Judges, however, go completely batshit for her, saying she is one of the best voices they have EVER heard. And so, they send another overrated girl named Lauren to Hollywood and the auditions are officially done with... Good riddance! See you all in Hollywood, where things shall get very interesting...

Next stop: Hollywood, CA

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