“American Idol” Recap: Detroit Rock Classy

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I’d hate to disappoint everyone, but we’re at episode three of American Idol‘s thirteenth season and I’m still enjoying it. Scary. Duck under your desks and pray to St. DioGuardi, because this is an emergency, children.

What can I say? Our three barristers J-Lo, Hatchet Harry, and Comely Keith are a joy! Their shiny beige complexions are captivating! And we haven’t seen too many infuriating contestants, if that’s what we’re calling them at this stage. “Laryngeal larva,” perhaps? ”Pop pupas,” maybe? Maybe not, also. But the best thing about this season so far — and I didn’t realize this until I reflected on Wednesday’s episode of Detroit auditions — is we’ve heard plenty of great song choices. No montage yet of contestants who all picked “Fallin’” or “Because of You” or “My Neck, My Back” or whatever the year’s obvious big ballad is. Naturally I still want to see groups of mean girls attempt “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)” during Hollywood week, but that’s because it’s tradition. You can’t have Christmas without “Jingle Bell Rock” and you can’t have Hollywood week on Idol without the criminal Neiman-Marcus adventures of Blu Cantrell.

It was seriously difficult to pick the night’s best quintet of performers. I was inundated with solid options, and that means American Idol is the new Chili’s. (Don’t fight me on this.) Melanie Porras‘ “Fever”/”Wanted Dead or Alive” renditions were very fresh, Jena Asciutto‘s version of “Rolling in the Deep” didn’t infuriate me with redundant, Adele-copycat wailing, and Maurice Townsend is the first performer ever to endear me by introducing us to his family. Mark this date, historians.

But more importantly: Check out these excellent singers.

5. Jade Lathan tears us down like we’re Roger Moore!

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Now, scratchy vocalizing and Liluokalani-style hair wreaths aren’t for everyone, but I don’t think you can come away from Jade’s cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” without appreciating 1) her audacious song choice, 2) her fresh-to-death looks, and 3) her peculiar and wonderful instrument. I’m actively hoping she covers the entire Back to Black tracklist (and “Valerie”) by the time we get to the Top 12.

4. Ayla Stackhouse gets her wings, soars, flaps in victory.

Ayla’s gushy, aw-shucksy demeanor felt disingenuous to me, but I could sense intelligence and coolness shining through her rendition of Little Mix‘s “Wings.” That radiant smile is killer, but her resemblance to Omarosa poisons her a little bit for me, though. She’s got to make up that ground. A Michael Clarke Duncan tribute will be fine. Or she could just flash those Mentadent choppers for hours on end and light up Detroit like a Roman candle.

3.  Sydney Arterbridge is “Loving You” and your resistance is futile.

Minnie Riperton‘s soothing, bizarre-ass squeak ballad is certainly not for every singer, but Sydney Arterbridge owned every warm lyric and celestial high note with ease as Keith and Harry narrated the song’s trickiness. You know what else I like? This 15-year-old charmer looks like a Precious Moments version of Melinda Doolittle, who remains (say it with me!) the greatest contestant in Idol history. Actually, she looked like if Melinda Doolittle were a Peanuts character. Has there ever been a more kickass compliment? Why don’t I get to write Hallmark cards? Is this because I’ve been in several slap fights with Maya Angelou?

2. David Oliver Willis is “too close” to perfection.

“Too Close” is the most melodramatic straight man jam of 2013, but David Oliver Willis invigorated it with fine guitar strumming and a calm, commanding vocal. You just trust this guy. I like a man who forgoes the b.s. and simply entertains without having to assure us he’s “passionate” or “likable” or whatever. I’m on this gent’s team.

1. Ryan Nisbett’ facial hair, unlike his singing, makes me want to break the arms off angels.

What in dastardly-train-robber hell is that wispy-ass ‘stache on Ryan Nisbett? Does he want me to run up to my television and shave it? Because I started whipping Gillette products at the TV like a million discuses, as his chilling mustache sat there and stared back at me with rust-colored pride. He looks like a Jack of Spades or something. I’m trembling!

Thankfully his singing was fabulous. Well, sort of? It’s a personal call on this one, but I thought Ryan’s effete, longing tone made “Angel,” sincerely the last song anyone ever needs to hear again thanks to those Sarah McLachlan commercials about –::puffs long cigarette like Cruella:: — poor little puppies, much more powerful. Even if I couldn’t cope with his broom-fiber ‘stache or Vaseline-slick pitcher’s mound of a haircut, I felt like I gleaned something personal about Ryan by listening to him sing. This is a rare thing. Chirp, little Hoyle knave, chirp!

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