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JAN
30
2 YEARS

'American Idol' Recap: Battle of the Sob Stories

A single mom, a war vet and one "Papa Peachez" are among the standouts from the San Antonio and Long Beach auditions.

Idol season 12 audition Papa Peachez P
Michael Becker / Fox

One of the biggest fallacies of American Idol is that the competition is all about talent. Bwahahaha! As we all know after 12 seasons, it's just not enough to have a good voice. Most contestants now require a solid backstory, preferably one that induces viewers' tears or builds intrigue: OMG, Phillip Phillips is a pawn shop worker! Fantasia Barrino is a single mom! Whatshisface lived in his car!

During Wednesday's auditions in San Antonio, Texas, and Long Beach, Calif., backstories and big personalities reigned supreme while producers trotted out a roster of Singers With Something Extra. Exhibit A: Papa Peachez, a 19-year-old gospel-influenced crooner from Mississippi who performed an original song that sounded as if it was ripped from the pages of the Showboat libretto. Except Papa's lyrics barely made sense: "I'm a gypsy on the rise/Don't you know Papa Peachez don't lie."

"I'm really just a big black woman trapped inside a little boy's body," he explained, like so many Idols past.

PHOTOS: 'American Idol' Season 12: Will It Work?

While Nick Minaj deemed Papa "unique and different," with Mariah Carey following suit, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson voted not to send him to Hollywood. Their critiques: he's too theatrical and needs more training. But Jackson, the tie-breaker this episode, finally caved and gave his blessing. 

Also getting golden tickets:

  • Matt Farmer, a 26-year-old Iraq war vet (one point) with Bradley Cooper baby blue eyes (two points) who recently suffered a traumatic brain injury (three points) and is the single father of an adorable 3-year-old daughter named Cadence (500 points). He nailed his version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," with Urban praising the "Gavin DeGraw-esque thick thing" in his voice. (Huh?). Anyway, FACT: mom voters are gonna love them some Farmer. Time to start polishing his Idol crown now.
  • Matheus Fernandes, 21, also performed the Cooke classic. Small in stature but boasting a strong set of pipes, Fernandes -- a former contender on Oxygen's The Glee Project -- impressed the judges with his rendition and burst into tears at the panel's unanimous approval.
  • Savannah Votion, 24, demonstrated major frontrunner potential: first, she can sing (her "At Last" brought the house down); second, she's telegenic or, as the ghost of Kara DioGuardi might say, a "package artist"; third, and FANTASIA ALERT: she's a single mom. 
  • Briana Oakley, 16, revealed she was "bullied severely" in school after appearing on a talent contest-themed episode of Maury. But the curly-haired cutie had the last laugh when she wowed Carey and company with her effortless, controlled cover of Patti Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." 
  • Micah Johnson, 24, told the tale of how he gained a speech impediment following a botched operation to have his tonsils removed. But then he whipped out a spirited, judge-pleasing take on Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried" that won over the panel faster than you can say "malpractice lawsuit."
  • Sixteen-year-old Sanni M'mairura -- a ray of sunshine, the Keith Urban of auditionees -- waltzed into the room like he owned it, crooning Michael Jackson's "Who's Loving You." Urban praised his "confidence" and "humility," while Jackson dubbed him "fresh."
  • Ann Difani, a 23-year-old Julia Roberts looka-like and former Miss University of Arkansas, was able to skip the line of hopefuls because her husband nominated her (a new Idol gimmick). While her take on Faith Hill's "Stronger" was blander than the original, Difani charmed Urban and drew a guffaw from Minaj for her response to the "Starships" singer-rapper's inquiry: "You're ready to have months of time away from (your husband)?" Difani: "Absolutely!" 
  • Victoria Acosta, 20, who's a mariachi singer. Sells itself.
Honorable mentions include: Rachel Hale, who's smiley and smoky-voiced; Christabel Clack, a worship leader and mother of three; and Adam Sanders, who earned a standing O for his Aretha Franklin-ized cover of "I'd Rather Go Blind" that had Urban reacting all giddy-like.
 
Dishonorable mentions: purple-haired Stephanie "Demi Lovato Before Rehab" Sanson, who shouted Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" to disturbing effect before running into the hallway; the two delusional brothers who fought back after judges panned their insipid duet of "Let Me Love You." ("Help us, this is what we really want!" begged the taller of the two, to which Minaj snapped back: "Your part of the audition is done." BURN.)
 
So many questions, Idol Worshippers: Who was your favorite from the San Antonio-Long Beach edition? Who would win the competition based on backstory alone? Do you think Ryan Seacrest pulled the fire alarm on purpose? Why does Urban resemble an aging member of One Direction: is it the wardrobe choices or the highlighted hair?
 
Here's Papa Peachez, via MJ's Big Blog:


 

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com