Within the first five minutes of Wednesday’s episode, Mariah’s dagger-like eyes are fixated on Nicki. And it’s clear she is already annoyed by the rapper’s focus on the first contestant’s outfit.
Wednesday’s episode centers on building up an impending brawl that halts production; presumably, THE brawl that caused all the pre-season chaos and cat fighting. Footage of what looks like a fight between Mariah and Nicki is spliced with snippets of the resulting media backlash before we’re jolted back to reality with a prompt “6 HOURS EARLIER…” as a lead in to the day’s first audition; very Bad Girls Club.
While we’re left hanging temporarily, producers managed to squeeze in some of the magic that makes Idol great before bringing it back to the feisty females and their squabbles.
The town that brought Season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery, 19, to the competition did not disappoint by way of talent. Country cuties from all walks of life turn out to audition for a trip to Hollywood.
I’m instantly reminded of the magic that makes Idol great when contestants like Brian Rittenberry, 27, turn up. The bookkeeper from Jasper, Ga. is there with his wife, who was given two years to live after a cancer diagnosis in 2009. The fervent father dazzles judges with his rendition of The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” earning him a golden ticket, and his wife a face-to face with her idol, Keith.
Country Cuties (and a F-bomb-infused meltdown).
Janelle Arthur, 22. This southern belle from Oliver Springs, Tenn., is a fitness instructor who had the gall to sing Keith’s hit, “Where The Black Top Ends,” before breaking into a medley of other country songs. She’s got a sweet face and a sweet voice, making her an early favorite for country cravers.
Jimmy Smith, 25. The cute cowboy from Waynesboro, Tenn., coasts through his audition with Rascal Flats’ “God Bless The Broken Road,” prompting Keith to comment, “I wish I could sing like that!”
Summer Cunningham, 20, has an amazing voice, with a twang suited for country music. When she tells Keith she “did the country thing already,” he’s a bit miffed, and compares country music to brain surgery, “either you do it or you don’t.”
Randy tells the sweet-faced singer her yodel makes her a country artist, and Mariah continues to question if she is or is not a country singer. After a seemingly reluctant “yes” from the three judges, Nicki is noticeably annoyed.
“Thank goodness. For a second, I thought this was a country music debate,” she says. “Why are we picking her apart over a country comment?”
Both Mariah and Randy are clearly working Nicki’s nerves, but Mimi seems to take the tussle to the next level.
“That’s what I do Nicki, I sing. So when I’m making comments, I’m trying to help her as opposed to just talk about her outfit.” Ooh.
By this time, Summer is still standing there and the judges send her out amid their bickering. Randy’s still balking at Nicki’s comments, rambling that his thirty years in the business make him qualified to give such advice, and that’s what seems to set Nicki all the way off. Literally, off, as she walks off the set while dropping a few F-bombs and production shuts down for the day. Watch the whole torrid affair again above.
Cut to Day 2. After she impresses judges with a powerful performance of an Etta James classic, Brandy Hamilton, 22, pleads with the panel, “Please don’t fight. It makes us sad.”
All four judges are moved by her sweet sentiment, and appear remorseful for their bad behavior. Host, Ryan Seacrest, wraps the ensuing montage of tabloid clippings with a sugary, sweet sign-off: “People will talk, but we’ll keep singing.”
Does that mean FOX is done playing up the battle of the divas? Let’s hope so, because the second hour is full of promising moments that suggest the judges have actually found some formidable contestants.
Rodney Barber, 27, is a street performer who sings on the streets of Charlotte every day. Formerly homeless, (as soon as four years ago), he now donates his earnings to his homeless friends. His story and his version of Edwin McCain’s, “I’ll Be,” moves the judges and gets him a ticket to Hollywood.
Seretha Guinn, 26, of Charlotte, N.C., is a hair stylist and mother to 3-year-old, London, who comes in to audition with her. Her boyfriend was injured in a severe accident last year, and has undergone eight surgeries with two more to go. She’s auditioning secretly and hopes to surprise him with good news. She will, as her truly unique turn at The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, drew tears from Nicki and earned her a golden ticket. Watch it again below.
JaBria Barber, 16, comes from Clover, S.C., where she loves catching frogs and forcing her mother to fry their legs. While her eccentric hobby and funny, frog-hunting video makes her seem like a spoofer at first, her version of Bonnie Rait’s “Pride And Joy,” surprises the judges and gets her through to the next round.
Isabel Gonzalez, 16, is a student from Alpharetta, Ga., who was nominated to audition by her aunt, who figured her niece’s nerves would keep her from entering herself. Her bluesy turn at Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Could Ever Change This Love,” gave the judges goose bumps.
Candice Glover, 22, is the Southern songstress from St. Helena Island, S.C., who was inexplicably sent home in the Hollywood Round last season. One year later, she’s back with a vengeance, and ready to stake her rightful place on the Idol stage. Mariah called her audition, “The best singing we’ve heard thus far.” And Nicki gushed, “I’m not even worthy to critique you.”
Despite a lengthy lead up to an underwhelming blow up. Tonight, I’m reminded again what this show is all about. Compelling contestants with inspiring backstories who America wants to root for and undeniable talent peeking out from the most unlikely competitors.
Now that American Idol has confronted the drawn-out, distracting judge’s drama head on, will it return to its star-finding formula?
No changes are to be made to this player