Ugh, can you believe it? American Idol is back to giving us hour-long Thursday episodes. I thought these salad days of two-hour, Ben Hur-like installments would never end, but I was wrong. Scott Savol wrong.
But girl, Harry Connick Jr. still found the time to slay us with one-liners, like an actual adult we’d actually enjoy spending time with. The adult-iness of the rapport at the Idol judges’ table can’t be underestimated. Polite puns. Knowing asides. Incisive commentary on each other’s commentary. Remember, it was only a year ago that Nicki Minaj yelled obscenities while Mariah Carey muttered Mean Girls references at no one. I like Nicki and love Mariah, but that was more painful than any Lazaro Arbos ballad. This season is like a sweet, saucy, fun-loving Allison Iraheta take on “Hot Stuff.” You know I don’t say that about everyone.
Thursday’s Atlanta auditions were solid! In fact, overly solid. I almost would’ve preferred more contempt from the judging triumvirate. Nonetheless, here are the best five auditions of the evening.
5. Murder accusation: Caleb Johnson, in the billiard room, with the old time rock ‘n roll.
It’s no surprise that Caleb Johnson was an also-ran in season 11’s Top 40: He sounds like Joe Cocker and Bob Seger welded their larynxes together and coated it with hot bacon. Also, he’s not particularly shy about destroying you with a single note. Killing you with it, bludgeoning you with it. Sam Kinison is like, “Settle dowwwwwn. Please. I am a lady.” I noticed when Caleb got his golden ticket, he yelled “Oh my God!” at his loved ones in feigned surprise like a nutty Jack Black character. A nutty Jack Black character! Not like the one he played in Dead Man Walking. (Did you know Jack Black is in Dead Man Walking?) Anyway: I like this guy and his obvious supertalent, and he’s definitely good enough to qualify for the live shows.
4. Majesty Rose sounds like what you’d expect a “Majesty Rose” to sound like. Yay!
Majesty Rose is not the new fragrance by Jaclyn Smith, which should disappoint you. But hey! It is the name of this girl, who is a tender, pedaled, bloom’d thing. Gentle acoustics. Nice buildup. I did hear some weirdly off notes in the middle, but her calmness and seeming maturity soothed me. (Though when she repeatedly said “You liked me?” to the judges afterward, she seemed a little disingenuous.) I can’t really gauge her potential, but so far I’m tickled by the sparkling topnotes of Majesty Rose. If you didn’t read those last five words in the voice of Jaclyn Smith, we have nothing in common.
3. Ben Briley’s voice just turned 124 years old.
I don’t know that Ben Briley astounds me with singing talent, but his voice is so evocative of older, grittier country music that I can’t help but, like, need it. It’s surprisingly ancient. It’s full of secrets about the prairie. It plays harmonica down by the delta. It had a nasty affair with two members of the Carter Family, and now there’s an illegitimate daughter named Barbara Lou. All from his voice.
2. Jessica Meuse: The Knockout from Slapout
Correct if I’m wrong: Has it been years since a proper female rock act made the Idol top ten? We had pseudo-rockers like Erika Van Pelt and Haley Reinhart in the ranks, but I think Crystal Bowersox may be the last, rasp-and-whiskey-and-fallin’-apart dame who qualified. Jessica Meuse here could break the spell. And I do mean “break the spell,” because she looks like one of The Hex Girls. She is also from “Slapout, Alabama,” and if you can say the word “Slapout” without sounding like Irene Ryan on The Beverly Hillbillies, you are a better man than I.
1. Lauren Ogburn: Red, White, and FANCY
Lauren Ogburn may wear the patriotic bandanna and boots of a diehard American Gladiators fan, but her singing voice is such an unadorned, listenable, even luscious country experience. First of all: “Fancy.” Is there a more perfect song? I haven’t heard it. Secondly, she just breezed through those tricky lyrics without pretense or ostentatiousness, selling us pretty hard on the “outlaw” country girl shtick. I’m excited for this girl and her honest backwoodsiness. I feel like she has some murder ballads in her. Let’s hear about the beatin’ down at Choctaw Ridge! (I don’t listen to age-old country music, so I can only pull country place names from “Ode to Billie Joe.”)
To wrap up: Cute Thang of the Day is clearly Neco Starr. Resplendent, confident, and returning for his second time to claim Idol glory. The pert lip and perfect haircut set off a flawless visage, no?
You dig last night’s episode? How about these LADIES, eh?