With a visit to Charlotte and Baton Rouge, American Idol 2013 was all about Southern hospitality this week. The judges returned in kind, attempting to be as hospitable as possible to those who -- how do we put this mildly? -- didn’t quite meet their standards. There weren’t that many abysmal auditions, though, leaving us to wonder if the powers that be behind the Idol curtain got the memo that many of us have grown bored with the shtick of silly costumes and super bad auditions. Instead, the focus seemed to be on those with stars on the rise.
There were a few real stinkers, though. In the end, the award of “Worst Audition of the Week” has to go to Joel Nemoyer, whose “NickiName” became “Jo-Mangi”. Bless his heart (the classic Southern insult intro) -- he decided to incorporate the singing technique David Foster and Andrea Bocelli taught Chris Daughtry during season five. The unconventional technique involves lying on the floor, which he explained gives the song a whole different sound. Here’s where it got weird -- he actually did his Michael Buble song, “Feeling Good,” spread-eagled on his back. Talk about lack of stage presence. Nicki Minaj took a surprisingly compassionate approach by trying to look on the bright side. “That’s a first for us,” she said. “I feel like, if nothing else, you made history.” Looks like poor Jo-mangi’s singing career, much like him, will never get off the ground.
Now, on to the best. Before we get to that, though, it bears mentioning there were quite a few honorable mentions. Lil’ cutie Isabel Gonzalez, who was nominated by her aunt, showed she has an old soul by taking on a Sam Cooke song that left the judges in awe.
In Baton Rouge, 17-year-old Maddie Assel, also part of the new “nominate me” feature, impressed the judges with her completely unique sound as she took on The Beatles’ “Oh, Darling."
In the end, though, final Baton Rouge contestant Burnell Taylor ran away with the “Best Audition of the Week” award with his amazing and animated performance of “I’m Here” from The Color Purple. The added bonus was a touching backstory of how he and his family rebuilt their lives after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. But his vocals, alone, were what had Nicki saying, “This is what we came for.” And Keith excitedly exclaimed, “You could turn an atheist!” Even Ryan Seacrest seemed stunned by the judges’ over-the-top reaction to Burnell, saying “You changed that panel forever.”
Kudos, Burnell! How far will Burnell Taylor make it in the competition? Only time will tell but, based on that performance, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could win it all.
Who did you think was the best? Who was the worst?