American Idol recap: Motown Hits

Detroit's got it all -- fragels, an airline salesman's daughter, and a dozen or so potential standouts
Ep. 03 | Aired Jan 22, 2014

TUBA GIRL Ain't no way Malaya Watson will fail.

Fox

Here's another returning contestant -- Brandy Neelly, 18, who sings a clever and self-assured cover of Hunter Hayes' "Wanted." I'm personally not a fan of the nasal quality to her voice (Harry said yay, J. Lo said nay re: whether she should keep that), but I might just need to hear another song. I am very distracted by the amount of ghostly foundation on Brandy's face… and how the thick streaks of shiny blush match J. Lo's light pink lipstick.

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My thoughts exactly.

Ethan Harris, 20, completely wins me over as a character with the drawing of Keith Urban on his guitar, his new job at a (long pause…) oh that's right, copy and print center, and especially his dazed real-time commentary on how weird it is to be talking into the TV screen. This long-lost Osmond brother, Ronny, is a genuine delight. I don't see him winning any vocal competitions with that high-pitched instrument of his -- there's nothing objectionable about it, but it's not likely to be an Idol Moment generator. Maybe I'm way off.

Power Chord: Leah Guerrero, 21, strikes me as someone with more entitlement than talent.. before she starts singing, that is. Really powerful voice. J. Lo is into 19-year-old tram driver Zach Day's whole vibe -- and his flip flops, which he thankfully removes in order to execute a cartwheel and toe-touching kick outside. Harry finds the break in Symphony Howlett, 24's voice "incredibly annoying and distracting," but would like to hear it again without it. I'm surprised he didn't ask her to lose it immediately and just sing again right there. She has a lot of drive and she's not gonna stop!

Ayla Stackhouse, 17, showcases a strong, conversational style of singing on "Wings" that could really draw a stage or TV audience in. I dig her bravery in general and agree with J. Lo (again!) that she's got a star quality in that she's not afraid of the lights. We see so many spotlight-starved "finished product" divas show up 'round these parts, whereas Ayla basically just has to sing and make eye contact to establish her star power. There's a big difference.

Thanks to Eric Gordon, 27, we can all spend some quality time wondering just what Keith Urban does with his hair dryer. (You can't achieve such a stunning flat-ironed mane by aiming that volumizing heat jolt anywhere near your head, silly.) The Richmond, Kansas lab technician sings John Mayer's "Perfectly Lonely" with competence and a groovy sense of timing, but I'm not blown away. Harry seems more intrigued by Eric's James Dean-esque pompadour and Members Only jacket than anything else. I think what I'll remember most about Eric is that he's like a taller version of Travis Wall from So You Think You Can Dance.

By the end of the auditions, the judges seem so desperate for any trace of human decency that they might have given Ryan Nisbett, 24, a golden ticket based on his politeness alone -- the formerly 300-pound but now scrawny art student refuses to shake hands after coughing into his own, and he doesn't start out his audition by bitching that he has a cold. You'd think an elegant lady was singing during Ryan's cover of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" -- it's a lovely voice in general, but the intrigue of a "so high guy" could wear off quickly against powerful singers. If Idol doesn't work out, I think Ryan could find work as a "Johnny Depp losing weight for a role" impersonator at a theme park. Not Disney or anything. Something regional.

Marialle Sellars, 17 -- wait, didn't she open the show last week? This time we get her backstory: Her father, who always insisted she study music and learn how to play all sorts of instruments (she still seems unclear on why), passed away in 2008. There's a scratchy quality to her vocal on "Grenade" and Harry insists she looks like Miley Cyrus. "You are gonna be a nightmare for the other competitors," he tells Marialle. Well, if she was Miley, that would definitely make sense!

Who were your favorites tonight? Discuss!

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