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'American Idol' Looks for a Star in New Orleans

Carlos Santana's nephew rounded out the talent in Thursday's episode.

American_Idol_Quentin_Alexander_Audition - H 2015
Michael Becker/FOX
Quentin Alexander

It was a homecoming night for Harry Connick Jr. in New Orleans, and the affable American Idol judge admitted to being a little nervous about whether or not the hometown crowd would bring the talent.

After Wednesday night’s  debacle in Minneapolis, viewers were hoping to find singers to root for, as well. Connick promised that New Orleans was brimming with “potential superstars,” but for a minute it felt like New Orleans had discovered a new crop of William Hungs, beginning with yet another ludicrous version of a Michael Jackson song and a montage of bad singers.

Inexplicably, the panel sent perky Texas drill team teenager Tiffany Stringer to Hollywood after sort of singing Cher Lloyd’s “Want You Back.” Stringer’s “yes” was questionable, considering the panel later summarily rejected 28-year-old torch song singer Sarah Quintana, who had great vocals and was aided by Connick on piano. 

Read more 'American Idol': Talent Fizzles in Minneapolis

Thursday night’s  auditions, shortened to an hour from last week, had its share of light moments and shades of the Idol viewers know and love. Even the old bit about potential contestants getting confused exiting the room resurfaced (in a cute touch, Jennifer Lopez made her very own exit sign, but initially put it on the wrong door). Connick was especially charming, giving viewers a tour of the Ninth Ward and the homes he and Branford Marsalis constructed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

What New Orleans did deliver was potential songwriters. There was Mikey Duran, who went to the same high school as Connick and was super proud of his 2.8 GPA (that’s a high “C”). Connick said he had a 0.8 average. Duran’s intelligence is in his songwriting, and his original song earned major praise from Keith Urban, who took the time to focus on the lyrics. If Duran doesn’t make it in Hollywood, expect to see his name in some song credits in the future. Greyson Turner, who auditioned in flip-flops a la Phillip Phillips, also earned a trip to Los Angeles with his original song “Chasing Shadows.”

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There were great singers and fun characters to choose from — Jelly Joseph rocked some Adele, Nalini Quintello did a nice acoustic version of “Counting Stars,”  big voiced Erica Washington showed range on Beyonce’s “Halo,” and drag queen Dakota Suarez brought the sass. Who else stood out?

Quentin Alexander: The New Orleans native’s silky smooth audition of “Royals” by Lorde was unique enough to get him a golden ticket. He’s a diamond in the rough, for sure, but let’s see if Hollywood will make him shine like a star.

Adam Lasher: He has a great musical pedigree, being the nephew Carlos Santana. He’s an impressive musician as well, playing guitar despite a broken thumb. His vocals are soulful and lush, and he’s a captivating performer and tight songwriter.

Ricky Dale Hendricks: He’s unpolished, but brought great energy to Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls.” He’s young and cute, too. Urban rightly told him to “rein in and focus,” but he has potential. 

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile, @Idol_Worship