'American Idol': Adam Lambert Shines as Judge as New York Brings the Talent
"This competition puts you through the ringer," the season eight alum advised as he took over his new role on the other side of the judges' desk.
I have seen the future of American Idol — and her name is Jax.
The 18-year old East Brunswick, New Jersey, singer is exactly the kind of artist the Fox competition needs. The second she sat at the piano and delivered a compelling, intricate version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles, it almost felt like we were watching her winning journey begin.
And how fitting that one of this season's best moments thus far was performed for one of most celebrated artists of the show's past — a man she voted for — Adam Lambert.
"I was drawn in immediately," he said. "You have the 'it' thing."
That said, it is too early be calling a winner, and the New York auditions were loaded with talent.
Lambert — subbing for a grieving Keith Urban — was a revelation making history as the first contestant to sit behind the judge table. Lambert was tough, turning people down for being "cookie cutter" or not having the "wow" factor. He brought his wealth of experience as a performer and a former contestant, calming nerves, offering advice and questioning if early favorites like jazzy model Shi Scott are ready for the rigors of Idol.
"This competition puts you through the ringer, and it takes a strong, polished performer to pull it off," he told one hopeful.
As if to demonstrate, Harry Connick Jr. coaxed Lambert into recreating his own audition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, and even though he has grown since that first time Paula Abdul told him he was a "good singer," Lambert's presence serves as a reminder that viewers can sense greatness from the very first note — like Jax.
And score one for Lambert: he had Chris Sligh lookalike Adam Ezegalian do another song to show he is more than a growler. And Katherine Winston was stellar — although her audition was used as the backdrop for a montage of rejected contestants.
And there was a heartwarming finale with Hollywood Anderson, who went straight from Covenant House to Hollywood with an original song and a dream. To echo Jennifer Lopez: It's sad that Urban missed it. But he'll be back next week.
Here are three more auditions that stood out:
Qaasim Middleton: Yeah, they completely glossed over that he was on Nickelodeon's The Naked Brothers Band show, but his audition and smooth moves with Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" were a strong indicator of things to come.
Travis Finlay: Whenever a guy does a song by a girl singer, my ears perk up, and Finlays' "Stay" by Rihanna was the stuff top 10 contestants are made of. "You're the type of person this show is made for," Lambert said. Agreed.
Nick Fradiani: His girlfriend, Yanni, didn't impress with her "Cup" song, but Fradiani has got the WGWG thing down with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Even though Connick said that "genre" is competitive, Fradiani is cute, charismatic and could definitely be a player.
Watch Jax below:
Twitter: @MicheleAmabile @Idol_Worship