Good news: it appears American Idol and I (us?) are on the same page. We want a righteous woman to win the competition, carthweel in confetti in late May, and go on to have the career of Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, or Jordin Sparks. All of those women have either won a Grammy or charted multiple Top 10 hits. It’s time for the tradition to continue, and for now that means: No Boys Allowed. No matter how much Seacrest begs. (Kidding. I actually hate when people suggest that Seacrest is gay. Have you ever met a gay person like him? I have not.)
Wednesday’s top five auditions were all females with real chances at duking their way into the Top 24. Here they are, twangy and swingy as ever.
5. Janelle Arthur
Well-earned confidence is basically catnip to me, so Janelle Arthur’s flawless, radio-ready version of “Where the Blacktop Ends” had me rolling on the floor in a moaning fugue state. The only “country” artists I tend to care about are The Dixie Chicks and Olivia Newton-John in ’75, so whenever a new lass lassoes her way into my heart, I’m intrigued and doubly impressed. Janelle qualifies, and I hope we see her vault even beyond her down-home trappings in the coming weeks.
4. Summer Cunningham
As a man who — on principle — supports artists who have to the nerve to name an album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, I am apt to side with Mariah in the epic (and fraudulently overblown) Nicki/Mariah rivalry. But when it came to auditioner Summer Cunningham, who belted a twangy rendition of “Lean on Me” that really ruled, I sided with Nicki once their bickering erupted in a nonsensical fight. Fact is, Nicki was right that Keith, Mariah, and Randy were forcing Summer to recant an inoffensive comment about country music to satisfy Keith’s clear bias for country artists. Who cares if she only sings country? Or if she wants to? Her yodel-y voice would make even “Super Bass” sound like a Loretta Lynn jam, so there’s no sense making her verbally commit to country when she clearly emanates a Southern vibe.
3. Seretha Guinn
Look, I want to sit here and sigh about Seretha’s fine (and lyrically overhauled!) rendition of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air‘s theme, but I’m sorry, I have more imporant things to do. Like talk about HER ILLEGALLY ADORABLE DAUGHTER. A daughter that CALLS NICKI MINAJ “DUN-DUN” and then hands her a stuffed animal ALSO NAMED DUN-DUN. I am literally clutching my couch like it’s a big stuffed animal right now. I am overcome with “feels,” as the kids say. Nicki was just as adorable in talking to the child, no? Her sincerity and guilelessness really make for some wonderful interactions. Hard to believe such earnest energy can come from someone who is often dressed like Sailor Moon’s kid sister, but there you have it.
2. Ja’Bria Barber
I’m writing this in tears, but not because Ja’Bria Barber drove me to them. Her version of “Pride and Joy” — a take on Bonnie Raitt‘s cover, not Stevie Ray Vaughan‘s original — was both quaint and saucy, but what’s getting me upset is the fact that I not only agreed with Randy Jackson, but found his comments brilliant. Note: This goes against everything I understand about Randy Jackson and myself. Let a homo weep. Randy was right that Ja’Bria was self-assured and, more specifically, not scared. Yes. Yes, Randy! And when he added, “I believe this girl,” I clasped my hands over my mouth. Because Ja’Bria teemed with legitimacy, using that IMAX-wide grin and slinky swaying to prove she belonged on that stage. You weren’t just listening to her pitch or fitting her into a genre; you reveled in her very organism, her one-of-a-kind sweetness and sensuality. Professionally super fun. That’s what she was.
1. Candice Glover
Yes to this dame, a rejectee from season 11’s Las Vegas round. Candice Glover stormed back into the audition room, stared Randy Jackson in his cartoon amnesiac face, and crooned “Syrup and Honey” like a lady with a plan. An unbelievable showing, and I wasn’t even surprised or annoyed when Randy and Mariah sprang to their feet to dub her the greatest audition of the season thus far. They were right, is the thing. I do fear that her jazzy, impassioned bleat is more suited to wowing in a cappella than in front of a bombastic arrangement, but I’ll reserve judgment. This girl can saaaaaaang. And she hones, controls, and ignites that voice like a legend. And we’re running short on celebrities named Candice, so her pop culture presence is mandatory.