Ashley Smith, 22, is the rare "overwhelming social butterfly" you somehow can't help but love. Fellow pastel wig enthusiast Nicki instantly named Ashley "Blondie" and assured her that "five feet and a blondie -- that's a package right there." Could Ashley be the African-American country star Idol's been waiting for? She could sing in any style, I'm sure, but I swear I wanted her to cover Carrie Underwood's entire discography after that effortless spin on "Cowboy Casanova." Granted, she was totally out of breath, but I still think effortless is the right word here. Her whole segment just had me grinning. My favorite part was when she began her vocal with a big ol' "UM…"
Janelle Arthur made it through to Hollywood Week season 10 and Vegas season 11, so she's definitely one to watch. The 22-year-old fitness instructor made a genius move in singing Keith Urban's own "Where the Blacktop Ends" -- Chest Tat was rapping on the desk, yelping "Oh!" at the difficult transitions, and eventually wailing "Yeahhhh! I just love that song!" after he and the song had climaxed. Randy compared Jannelle to a young LeAnn Rimes, Mariah complimented her "pretty demeanor" ("That means a lot, whispered Janelle in a tiny moment that almost made me cry, WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME), and Nicki called her effort "a really good job without doing too much" -- a perfect summation. Four yeses!
Formerly homeless street performer and bouncer Rodney Barber, 27, was a hometown hero -- "The Voice of Charlotte." He was certainly loud! Keith called his cover of "I'll Be" "crazy big," which was a nice euphemism for "huh." Rodney was excellent auditions-episode fodder, but I'm guessing he's less "the next American Idol" and more "a great and inspiring man who happens to sing well."
Oh joy! Rapture! Someone at Idol's got a brain. The luminous Candice Glover, 22, got the gentle boot from Steven Tyler after really wailing in a Vegas trio with Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick (SIMBA!) The judges righteously stood up following Candice's show-stopping "Syrup and Honey" cover -- well, Randy and Mariah did, while Nicki made up for her laziness by informing Candice of her desire to "skin you and wear you." This is my new favorite audition so far -- I rewound a few times to hear her "Iiiiiiiiiii'm sweet enough" and the powerfully pitched grunt on "makin' a livin'," complete with hand-wringing to match the tightly twisted vocal. Just fabulous. "You are what people in America watch American Idol to hear, to see. I'm not even worthy to critique you," said Nicki. Correct on all counts! Nicki Minaj wants it, Ryan!
NEXT: The Fresh Princess of Charlotte