'American Idol' Season 11 St. Louis Auditions: The Best (and Worst) Contestants
The show returns to the city where season 4's Carrie Underwood was discovered. Will a future winner emerge from a sea of hopefuls?
Missouri is known as the “show me” state, and American Idol certainly wanted to show off in St. Louis by reminding everyone that this was the city that gave birth to the career of season 4 winner Carrie Underwood.
Thankfully, the “Gateway to the West” was also the final night of auditions, since the show reportedly scrapped an entire episode featuring rounds held in East Rutherford, NJ. In a season that has so far given us Magic Cyclops, planking, awkward moments with Steven Tyler hitting on teenagers, Bikini Girl, the sequel, Madonna’s new video (was that supposed to be an ode to Glee? More on that later...), and sinking ratings, would St. Louis be the city that turns it all around makes the viewing journey worth it?
“I hope they all have great success,” said Walter the Cab Driver of Missouri’s would-be pop stars. Then, in a Simon Cowell-worthy-moment, Walter let it rip with possibly the truest words ever spoken on this show: “It ‘aint going to happen.”
That being said, Thursday night’s episode featured some real contenders and a few clunkers, including a fake Elvis warbling Garth Brooks, yet another massacre of an Adele song, and singers so bad they were shown in a mock silent film clip.
Out of the 46 Golden Tickets awarded last night, did American Idol find a star? Since the show only featured five good auditions, we're skeptical, so let's bring on Hollywood Week and get on with it! But until then...
Johnny Keyser: It's a classic a sob story -- his parents divorced when he was three, Keyser was raised by his father, who he described as more like a brother. Ok, maybe it's not the most gripping story ever told on Idol -- hardly in the same league as this season’s Hallie Day or “Tent Girl” Amy Brumfield -- but Keyser is easy on the eyes and has an affable personality. He immediately charmed the judges before singing a single a note. His choice of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” is soulful, and he has a sweet tone. The Florida waiter’s falsetto voice excited Randy Jackson, and prompted Jennifer Lopez to ask, “You know you’re going to be a star, right?” Is he a keeper? We’ll see how he fares in Hollywood.
Rachelle Lamb: Lamb’s parents auditioned for American Idol during Season Four -- the year of Underwood. Obviously, they didn’t make it, but maybe Lamb could avenge that injustice, or something like that. Lamb is going through a divorce, and has a story very similar to X Factor’s Stacy Francis, where the ex is responsible for crushing dreams. We’ve heard this story a million times on Idol, but Lopez understood where she was coming from, saying “We do things for love sometimes.” Lopez also seemed charmed by Lamb’s little girl, Maddie, who accompanied her mother to the audition. Lamb’s rendition of Faith Hill’s “Find Somebody New,” had her daughter boot-scooting, and Tyler praising the singer’s “moxie.” All three judges said “yes” to Hollywood.
Reis Kloeckener: Aww, this guy reminded me of Kurt from Glee. He was badly bullied in high school, and considered dropping out, then was rescued by the school choir director, who heard him singing in the hall. His version of “Lean On Me” was sweet and so beautiful it made Tyler cry. And while Kloeckener desperately needs a stylist, I'm pulling for him on principal.
Ethan Jones: Jones actually did drop out of school, but not because he was being bullied. Rather, Jones made a career decision to join his father’s band -- which is too bad because now his Dad is in rehab. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing his musical dreams. A nervous Jones was given a “pep talk” by Tyler, but he still managed to scratch his head until it bled. That is something he needs to work on if he wants to be a star. That said, Jones impressed the judges with a solid version of Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.” Jackson said he thinks Jones could be more of a country singer, and this isn't surprising considering Season 2’s Josh Gracin also performed “I’ll Be” before successfully segueing to Nashville artist.
Lauren Gray: Her father runs a “one stop wedding shop” in Arkansas and performs in a Southern rock band, but the Grays clearly have talent as Lopez was moved to tears hearing this hopeful's version of Adele’s “One and Only.” It might be the only time this season when we heard an Adele song and didn’t cringe. To the contrary, Gray is pretty and personable, and was declared the best female singer in St. Louis by Lopez. “I love the way you break, love the way you go up there. You’re fearless about it,” said Tyler. Gray said that this was the biggest thing that ever happened to her, but Lopez reined her in, noting, “It won’t be the biggest thing ever.” Does this mean there are bigger things to come from Gray in Hollywood? We can only hope.
Mark Ingram: Ingram works at the hotel where Idol held the judges round of auditions, and although he is clearly a popular, hard working guy, singing just isn’t his thing. His version of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” was a joyous trainwreck of cracked, missed notes, and why, oh, why did we get treated to an encore of “Part Time Lover?”
Oliver McCrary: His gurgling “Kiss From A Rose” was enough to send Heidi Klum straight to divorce court if he were Seal -- oh, wait!
For the Water Cooler: Madonna’s return
The talk of the episode was not the auditions so much as the premiere of Madonna’s new video for “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. Part Glee, part Friday Night Lights with a splash of Avril Lavigne thrown in for good measure, Madonna's journey to the fountain of youth never fails.
And that’s a wrap on auditions! Are you ready for Hollywood Week, worshippers? Let us know who are your favorites so far...