'American Idol' recap, auditions, night 2: not blind to talent

By RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com, filed January 8, 2015

Can "American Idol" actually create a superstar (a word that is used a lot on the show) or even a star nowadays? It's hard to say if that's even possible given the shrinking buzz and audiences.

But "Idol" opened tonight's show saying that yes, the show can still find another Jennifer Hudson or Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Or is it merely riding on its past laurels? And J Lo makes a pointed note that it's not about the judges, a clear slap at "The Voice," which has not created any big stars yet.

The season 14 debut episode of "Idol" last night drew 11.2 million viewers, down 25 percent from a year ago. Just five years ago, the debut episode of season 9 of "Idol" drew 30 million viewers. Those were the days!

"Idol" wants people to see the show by any medium possible now. For the first time for those of you who miss the show live or fail to DVR it, it will be available on demand the next day for the first time online at AmericanIdol.com, Fox Now, Hulu or on demand for most cable subscribers.

MJ has also noticed that "Idol" used to have contestants minimize or wipe their social media accounts clean during the competition. Not anymore. Any publicity is good nowadays. You can find info on virtually all contestants on various sites now.

Night two featured singers from both Nashville and Kansas City auditions. One contestant we see has Altanta ties. We see 21 go to Hollywood over two hours. Here are the notables, with those in bold face going to Hollywood:

Andrew Annello, Springville, Ariz.: He is one of those classic over the top personalities who is too confident for his own good even while calling himself "humble." "They tell me I have ADHD but I like to say I have a 'positive' personality," he says. But will he be awful? His "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" is way too theatrical. "A caricature," Keith said. "Silly," HCJ said. He asks Andrew to dial it down and he pulls of a passable "My Girl." "You have to be judicious" when to be silly, HCJ said.

AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Loren Lott performs in front of the judges on Thursday, Jan. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

Loren Sharice Lott, actress, San Diego, with ties to Atlanta, having graduated Clark Atlanta University last year. "You look like a superstar," HCJ says when she enters. She is super excited during her audition and sings a very energetic "Treasure," even encouraging the judges to sing along with part of the chorus. As JLo says, "She's so cute." But HCJ says, "You're an actress. You sound like an actress who is singing." He asks her to sing something that is more her, not an interpretation by an actress. Keith wants Loren to pick a song she'd sing while doing dishes. She pantomimes washing dishes while crooning Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love." I'm not sure if she can completely get rid of that "actress" feel but she's a good singer. Keith, after some thought, gives her a yes. HCJ says she has "star quality" but isn't buying it and says no. J Lo is the tie breaker and Loren goes through.


Trevor Douglas, 16, Fort Worth, TX. The self-proclaimed science geek has a quirky singer-songwriter vibe with positivity and a surprisingly good falsetto. "I love a good geek," J. Lo said. HCJ lauds him for his confidence. He's an easy pass through to Hollywood.

Piper Jones, Nashville. She's very... loud. But she gets a golden ticket.

Kelley Kime, 23, Fairfax, Va. single mom, teacher, with 3 year old Hope, who joins her for the audition. "Hope and I are a team," she said. She has a decent soulful voice ("Sunday Morning") but not a lot of charisma. This was more a heart tugger audition thanks to Hope, who sings "Let It Go." I don't think she'll make it to the semifinals.

Cammie Lester, 15, struggles with her audition, can't get the right key.

AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Contestant Garrett Miles (center) celebrates after getting his Golden Ticket to Hollywood on AMERICAN IDOL XIV airing Thursday, Jan. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

Garrett Miles, Phenix City, Ala. He has the back story of the night being nearly blind. Fortunately, like Scott McIntyre a few years back, his back story doesn't saddle him. He's incredibly good with CCR's "Proud Mary." I am rooting for him to make the final 24 just to hear more. "I like your style," Keith said. "It sounds like you." He even does a bit of "Como La Flor" from J Lo's film "Selena" with charm and grace. "That guy was cool!" HCJ exclaimed.

Clark Beckham, White House, Tenn. A street performer, he isn't half bad but J. Lo said he has a sweet, bluesy tone but he ran out of breath at one point. Keith felt it missed the grit "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" should have. He gets a yes from two out of three (minus HCJ) but it's hardly a ringing endorsement. I doubt we'll see much more of him.

Jeanna Vaneer, Dixon, Ill. She has a gimmick! She plays multiple instruments - at the same time. Fortunately, she's good. She's bluesy, easygoing and likable. I hope she goes far.

Alex Shier, musician, Port Huron, Mich. The cool thing is we see his very initial audition on the floor of the Nashville arena, then segue to his audition with the judges. He is a decent singer but there isn't much special there. J. Lo remembers him and feels he has grown. HCJ wonders what makes him different from, say, Ed Sheeran, and was leaning to no. But Keith likes the rasp and J Lo does, too. So he gets through. Neither Keith nor HCJ remembers him from a year ago. I don't believe he'll make the final 24.

AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Contestant Cody Fry shows off his Golden Ticket on AMERICAN IDOL XIV airing Thursday, Jan. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

Cody Fry, the jingle guy and touring musician. His "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is uber charming. "I like your vibe," Keith said. HCJ said he may not have worked ten eyars earlier but his style is now hot. I hope he goes far.

AMERICAN IDOL XIV: Hector Montenegro celebrates after getting his Golden Ticket to Hollywood on AMERICAN IDOL XIV airing Thursday, Jan. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX. © 2014 FOX Broadcasting Co.

Hector Montenegro, master cosmetologist from West Palm Beach, Fl. His Alex Clare is good, good enough to get him through. HCJ isn't sure about his rather dull presentation. "You sing really really well but there's a piece of it missing from me," he said. J Lo likes his "innate swagger." So he moves on.

Sarina-Joi Crowe, musician, Columbia, Tenn.  We've seen her before. This is her fourth try. She's adorable and has a solid R&B voice with some great runs doing OneRepublic. It was an easy go from all three judges.

Three quickie  yesses: Alison Peritikos, Jake Black, Steffi Ledbetter

Savion Wright, Jasper, TX. Another returnee from season 13 who I remember liking a year ago but just missed the final 24. The judges naturally remember him and treat him like an old friend. "I bettered myself," he said. "I wrote more. I've been touring, doing shows like crazy."  He does a touching version of Eric Clapton's "Change the World." I smell top 24 this time.

Zack Kaltenbach, Lee’s Summit Missouri, same high school as David Cook with crazy tall hair. Unfortunately, he is merely okay with "Grenade." HCJ isn't buying him and felt it was a "flat" audition but he gets two less-than-enthusiastic yesses from the other two judges. Hollywood fodder?

Naomi Tatsuoka of Portland, Ore. She is a wee bit nutty and has a warped sense of humor. She begins her song on her knees and starts strong, then goes nuts. But it's clear she has vocal skills and personality so she gets in. A star? I doubt it.

Jhameel, 24, freelance content creator, Oakland. He has makeup on his face to help him "balance" himself and admits to a lot of anxiety. He gifts the judges paper origami shapes, including a rose for J. Lo and a turtle for HCJ. Fortunately, the man can sing, too, doing a surprisingly cool version of T-Pain's "Buy You a Drank." Keith said he doesn't have the best voice but he has originality and was engaging.

Jasmin Pinela, Castle Hill, N.Y. She's from J. Lo's 'hood and starts strong with Beyonce's' "Listen." But when she tries to hit higher notes, she goes flat. The audition stumbles quick and she's out.

Lovey James, 16, student, Portland, She was a competitive dancer for seven years but is now a pop singer. She is super adorable and channels Ariana Grande quite well. "You sing like pop singers on the radio sing now. You add your own thing to it," HCJ said.  Top 24? Quite possibly. The producers are hungering for a pop star from this show. Maybe she can do it.

Jess Lamb, 28, Cincinnati. The show is now old enough that she was 15 when "Idol" began. Now she's a grizzled vet in comparison to, say, Lovey James. She's well established as a musician for 10 years playing Motown and old soul songs but needs that big break. She hits the piano with very Jena Irene-ish enunciation while doing Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Keith said if she was an open mic singer, she'd catch his attention immediately and that's a compliment. "You have presence, very interesting talent," HCJ said. "You're an artist," J Lo said. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of her in Hollywood.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.