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'American Idol' Recap: Standouts and a Few Duds Hit Detroit

American Idol has seen its fair share of joke auditions in its day. Wednesday night, new judge Harry Connick Jr. topped them all.

As Jennifer Lopez excused herself to go to the little girl’s room, Connick decided he would audition for Keith Urban, introducing himself as a lowly piano player. When Urban asked why he didn’t bring his instrument to the audition, Connick deadpanned, “I can’t carry it..It’s too heavy.”

He then delivered the worst version ever of The Star Spangled Banner before poking fun at how auditioners fan girl (or fan boy) the judges.

“You’re so beautiful,” he sighed to Urban, before he got the ultimate prize--an autograph on his ankle.

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This is exactly the kind of fun that is happening on this season of Idol—and it’s only the second week. There is humor, good vibes, and fantastic advice from each judge getting dispensed to contestants (which “pisses off” Urban if it goes ignored). There's also Urban playing guitar for contestants, and a slew of talent that is sure to bubble to the top in the upcoming Hollywood rounds.

Future hopefuls take note: the judges, particularly Urban, were really forthcoming about what not to do in an audition. One singer earned points for not complaining about having a cold, while another got scolded for promising she would “work really hard.”

The Detroit auditions also had its share of nonsense in the form of a singing manicurist, a beyond awful audition provided by two twins in questionable wigs who massacred  Beyonce’s “Listen,”  (“It came across a little bit too much high school talent show,” said Lopez) and a guy who disrespected Lopez by asking if she was fixing her cleavage as she was adjusting her microphone. “Thanks for your concern,” she said, as he was rightly shown the door.

But there were plenty of highlights as the judges looked to find the next Michael Jackson or Eminem,  including the debut of season 9 alum Didi Benami’s new song, “Watching and Waiting" in a hysterical segment that showed the male judges patiently biding their time waiting for Lopez to grace them with her presence on the second day.

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“It’s a girl thing,” Connick said. “Does she know we’re filming?”

Also of note: returning Idol contenders David Oliver Willis and Brandy Neely are back in the fold, each earning Golden Tickets to Hollywood.

The first hour brought out strong auditions by Kerri Lynn Roach, who went all fan girl on Lopez before earning a ticket to Hollywood with a sexy version of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, and Julian Miller, a shoe salesmen who Urban said “looks like an artist that is going somewhere.” Tuba player Malaya Watson stunned with her vocal prowess on Aretha Franklins’ “Aint No Way,” while Brian Watt , who looks like a superhero, sailed through on his acoustic version of Carrie Underwood’s “So Small.” Khrystian D’Avis curiously spoke in an Italian accent, but lost it after an inconsistent version of “Saving All My Love For You,” by Whitney Houston.  Melanie Porris’ gave off a Haley Reinhart vibe with her dual audition of “Fever” and Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive,” which showed off her smoky vocals.  

Liam Newberry, a Connick fan and would-be Frank Sinatra, was promptly shot down for a lack of sexiness in his delivery, while Sarah Scherb inadvertently started a discussion about Delta Airlines and Connick’s fascination with Deltalina, the in-flight attendant on the airline's videos (and another Connick zinger as he teases Lopez for her lack of knowledge of commercial airlines—‘what’s a flight attendant?’).  Jena Asciutto earned her way to Hollywood by singing “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele in a way Lopez said was “different than the singer,” and Jade Lathan shined with a garland in her hair and an Amy Winehouse song on her lips. The first day closed with killer back-to-back  auditions, including Sydney Arterbridge, who hit the high C note with “Loving You” by Minnie Ripperton, and adorable father of four Maurice Townsend, a worship leader whose version of “So High” by John Legend earned him a ticket out of the Motor City.

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The second hour featured several especially strong contenders, including Ethan Harris, who not only has artistic talent as was evidenced by his drawing of Urban, but possessed crystal clear vocals that were delightful as he dared to sing “Think of Me” in front of Urban. Other standouts: Ayla Stackhouse, who brought Motown soul to “Wings” by Little Mix; Ryan Nisbutt, who looked like a pompadoured hipster and had a distinctive vocal on “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan; and featured front runner Marrialle Sellars with an encore performance of her muscular take on “Grenade” by Bruno Mars.

Detroit produced 40 golden tickets, bringing the total to 119. The cuts in Hollywood Week are going to be painful, as we still have more auditions to see tomorrow night.

Who are your favorites, Idol Worshippers?

Twitter: @MicheleAmabile