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American Idol

American Idol Season 2013 Episode 3 Recap: “We Found Some Top Notch People Here Today”

Frog-killers, big fights and medleys of scary auditions, oh my! American Idol 2013, episode 3, took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it wasn’t short on excitement. We have to ask, though, should the show officially change its name to “Country Idol” this season? Simon would be rolling over in his 300 count Egyptian sheets. Perhaps it was just because the show took place in North Carolina, but everyone and his sister seemed to be going country. The fun part was it helped us to get to know the most soft-spoken of the American Idol 2013 judges, Keith Urban.

American Idol winner Scotty McCreery of season 10 was on hand to bolster the spirits of the hopefuls, and he hasn’t lost a lick of that down-home Southern charm. We caught snippets of some personal convos, Mariah Carey did a bit of impromptu singing, and Nicki Minaj was doling out nicknames like Chris Harrison doles out roses. The monikers Nicki bestowed on these folks were -- uh -- interesting. We met a “Bunny,” “Jumanji,” and even a “Collard Greens.” Hey, don’t knock it -- this could be a good memory exercise for those who haven’t upped their ginkgo biloba. Note to self -- compile a list of “Nicki-isms,” as you never know what’s going to come from that judge’s mouth next.

Those of us who don’t appreciate the “funny auditions” had to have been pleased with the Charlotte audition show, as we were mainly treated to stellar singers. Of course, it wouldn’t be American Idol if there weren’t at least a few silly ones. Joel Nemoyer tried to incorporate a technique from season five, when Chris Daughtry was taught to sing while lying on his back by mentor Andrea Bocelli. Needless to say, it didn’t work. His horizontal version of Michael Buble’s “Feelin’ Good” fell as flat as he was.

As we mentioned, American Idol 2013 has gone a bit country this season, and we saw quite a few of them tonight. Jimmy Smith nailed Rascal Flatts’ “Bless The Broken Road,” and even earned a “That’s poppin’” from Nicki. A five-foot-nearly-nothing African American woman who was dubbed “Blondie” by Nicki took on Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova,” and the performance bowled over the judges. But it was Janelle Arthur whose country medley really stole the show, drawing a “young LeAnn” comparison from Randy Jackson (Ouch, sorry LeAnn).

The country climax came when Summer Cunningham took the stage, impressing the judges with a country version of “Lean On Me.l” The judges loved her vocals, but she made a bit of a misstep when she said “I already did the Country thing,” as Keith didn’t take too kindly to that. He even went so far as to make an analogy to brain surgery (Keith, we love you, but country music is NOT rocket science). Other than that, though, the judges would have bronzed her golden ticket if they could have. It was after Summer’s audition that the wheels fell of the diva wagon but, after all the edits by FOX, the much-hyped feud was another case of “much ado about next to nothing.”

It would be nearly impossible to choose the best of the best from the American Idol 2013 Charlotte auditions. As Nicki said, “we found some top notch people here.” In keeping with our prediction that a girl will win this season, however, two people seemed to steal the show. One was Isabel Gonzalez, whose aunt nominated her for the show. She showed up and channeled an old soul for a Sam Cooke song that left the judges *nearly* speechless. And Candice Glover did exactly what the judges hoped she would do after being sent home last year from the Las Vegas auditions. She came back and knocked their socks off. Nicki even said, “I want to skin you and wear you,” but in a much less creepy non-Silence of the Lambs way.

The funniest moment of the night had to go to Ja’Bria Barber, who talked about going “gigging” for frogs at night with friends. As one could only expect, she assured the judges that frog legs taste like chicken. Uh huh. Despite the silly nature of her backstory and the -- ahem -- distaste for leaving what Nicki termed “disabled frogs” all over North Carolina, Ja’Bria’s voice was anything but a joke. She earned that golden ticket. One less leap for frogs, one giant leap to Hollywood for Ja’Bria.

There were plenty of feel-good moments, with Brian Bittenberry managing to get to auditions despite his wife’s recent battle with cancer. He inspired them with his backstory and his beautiful, husky voice. Rodney Barber used to be homeless but now he helps others in the same situation, and his rendition of “I’ll Be” earned him a “captivating” from Nicki.

Alas, we know the Idol formula, and it was the final moment of the night that left us truly touched. Seretha Guinn’s boyfriend had just been in an extremely serious car accident, but she made it to auditions with her daughter, London. Extra points for lil’ London turning the tables on Nicki, dubbing her “Dun-Dun”! It’s a fitting nickname, don’t you think? The hair stylist from Charlotte said she was singing “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” which garnered some looks from the judges, but her unique performance blew the judges away.

Want to see the contestants from the American Idol 2013 Charlotte auditions in action? Watch all the performances from Wednesday night here!

Tune in tomorrow night at 8/7c as American Idol takes on Randy’s hometown of New Orleans.

01.24.2013 / 09:37 AM EDT by Marnie Brodersen
Related: American Idol, Recaps, American Idol Season 12

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