You want fresh, fragile, raw? Meet Paisley Van Patten, 25, from Salt Lake City. Her performance is perfectly fine -- she has one of those smooth tones I'll need to hear on a totally different song to figure out if I'll remember her for real -- but I'm drawn more to Paisley's story of overcoming the alcoholism that had taken over her life after she'd scored a Nashville record deal at freaking 15 years old. "I really did blow it with my addiction," she gravely admits in a voiceover. All three judges lean forward at her mention of "second chances, really" and ooze light grunts of support for her. It's actually pretty magical to watch. Plus, her boyfriend broke up with her because she wanted to audition for Idol? The story keeps drawing them in.
After Paisley's Faith Hill cover, Harry admitted "What really spoke to me is you seem like a gentle person who's found some happiness. It was nice to couple that with the sound of your voice." Exactly! It was a great TV moment for sure. Are we itching to hear more covers from her? Sure, maybe.
C.J. Harris, 22, is no vocal powerhouse (seems to be a theme tonight) but his relaxed charisma puts everyone at ease as they gaze into his beautiful orange, white, and blue checked shirt, and isn't that really more than half the battle? I don't know everything about music, but I know what makes a likable, therefore watchable reality TV contestant, and this guitar teacher from Jasper, Alabama is it. "There are things you do consistently wrong, but we can fix that," J. Lo sums it up perfectly. Sad but true. With some people, it's just about character. We recognize you as magical. Stay with us.
Wait, and this guy can cry genuine tears, within seconds, and he doesn't even need a cue?
I'm sold. Game over.
Tiqulia Wilson, 24 from Winston-Salem, is the first non-joke HUGE PERSONALITY we've seen -- I'll get to the meat of her segment in a minute but for now can we acknowledge the brilliance and utter absurdity of this post-golden-ticket cornbread reward?!
I'm so excited to hear a big, booming voice -- her "Someone Like You" cover doesn't blow me away, but there's definitely potential here. Harry engages the funeral home singer in a discussion of church singing vs. secular music that seems woefully shoehorned in. She'll be fun to watch in Hollywood -- lord knows she'll have her own camera the whole time. I love her parting words for Harry, post-hug: "Thank YOU! You cute."
Next up: Some amazing footage of the judges as Young Hopefuls themselves.
I vote for 16-year-old Keith Urban to be the next American Idol. (Remember, kids, even Uncle Keith wasn't ready at this age, even though he'd been waiting for the opportunity his whole, minuscule life.)
Ten-year-old Harry Connick Jr. can get it too (work ethic-wise).
NEXT: Learn your Nashville musician relative's name, kid