The edited package before Jessica Meuse's audition suggested the hot pink-haired Slapout, Alabama solo acoustic act had a huge chip on her shoulder, but nah. She was just being honest about her low-wattage hometown. "Slap out of it!" said the general store owner (and the cast of Cougar Town in season 2 -- anyone else remember that?). If she's rough around the edges, that just meant there was an even greater reward when the 22-year-old started singing an original tune, "Blue-Eyed Lie." Harry immediately detected a Stevie Nicks quality, and Keith loved the way Jessica let her right shoulder become a supporting character -- that's necessary when there's no one else on stage. It's a rhythm thing.
Vocally, Jessica was my favorite of the night along with Majesty. I can see her making her own choices and having a clear vision of who she is rather than who the Idol machine wants her to be. We need as many of those gems as possible!
All hail the American flag headband! Oh, no, wait, don't -- Harry hates it. "You can over-accessorize to the point of ridicule," Harsh Harry offered Lauren Ogburn, 19, after she practically begged for a hatchet job from the toughest judge. How does Harry keep saying exactly what I'm thinking... but with such elegance?! Enough already with the Americana!
Personally, I'd have kept the headband and skipped the flag tank, belt, and boots. All I'm saying is don't count out headwear forever. The cameras usually hover from the shoulders up, and blondie could use some color. (Why am I so stricken that a 19-year-old could now be forever turned off from bandanas? It's her life.) Anyway, what was remarkable about Lauren's cover of Reba McEntire's "Fancy" was her perfect pitch on all those super-low notes -- and all that tough-girl confidence didn't hurt either.
"It's crazy, I don't cry like this," Lauren sniffed as she wandered away. And now I only want to see her advance further. We gotta keep making this tomboy cry. (The good kind.)
Bruno Mars Neco Starr and Caleb Johnson also moved on from Atlanta. I remember when Caleb totally hosed himself in Vegas by lowering his unnecessary sunglasses and asking for a redo -- and worse, a glass of water! Steven Tyler's no-eye-contact "it's all around you!" in the midst of a floor full of superimposed swirling red lava was one of his finest Idol moments ever. Admittedly, that bar is set pretty low. Anyway, it's fun to see people get second chances, but I don't feel too much magic yet. I didn't think "Someone Like You" was the best choice for Neco. Let's flash back to how good he was on season 11's group night with Phillip Phillips, Heejun Han, and Jairon Jackson:
I always forget how brutal and arbitrary the dozens of cuts are once we get past the Golden Ticket Rush.
"There's a thickness to her sound that belies her age," Harry summed up following 15-year-old momager daughter Bria Anai's booming cover of "One and Only." I grew a little frustrated with the way she'd POWER UP on one note and barely whisper the next. But I can't deny what we all know was really important here: the bedazzling power of a sparkly purple lipstick.
"My daughter Charlotte would love that," Harry knew. But I think we all know he wouldn't let Charlotte wear that sh*t even as a costume, even if she were playing a stripper in a movie.
What did you think of the Atlanta singers? Is anyone craving gumbo? Is Bria a vocal powerhouse or "just nothing but sparkles"?