Yet again, I do want to reassure everyone that Dan is fine. He will be back to recap "American Idol" very soon, and he's just asked me to help out this week and next week, as he's very busy in Park City, Utah. I do hope he gets to see some of these early episodes, though, just so I know I'm not hallucinating these Mariah vs. Nicki encounters, which don't always make much sense (I blame editing) but thankfully don't seem too heated. Yet.
8:00 p.m. ET A woman has everyone on speakerphone, waiting for her sister to emerge from auditioning for the judges. She's so excited! This is so great! Oh, the sister didn't make it. Waah-waah.
8:01 p.m. We are now giving the Nicki-Minaj tension old-school Batman wham-pow cartoons. Oh, come on.
8:02 p.m. First contestant is teenager Mackenzie Wasner. Her dad is a keyboardist for Vince Gill, and Vince Gill let her perform onstage. This is a given -- she's insanely good, and she's going to Hollywood.
8:11 p.m. Randy declares that the other judges are his family. You know, the kind of family that fights with one another during Thanksgiving and gets into screaming matches. Austin Earles, 19, sings, and not entirely well. Mariah cuts him off, but Nicki would love to hear him every day. Nicki clearly likes getting messing with Mariah. I am still not convinced these two are actually fast friends and decided to make this season fun by bitching at one another. Or maybe I just want to the fighting to stop, I don't know.
8:12 p.m. Kiara Lanier, 21, sang for friggin' President Obama. And he hugged her! I'm pretty sure she can sing. Nicki loves this little ladybug. But then Kiara gushes all over Mariah, being multiracial. Mariah thinks she has huge potential. It's four yes votes, but it's a quintuple something or other from Nicki.
8:15 p.m. Stephanie Schimel, 20, is next. She apologizes for being shaky, but Mariah liked her tone. Keith thought it had some Gwent Stefani, but Nicki wasn't wowed. She thought her voice was pretty and she's pretty, but nothing jumped out at her. She's not feeling it. But everyone else votes for Stephanie, and Nicki starts babbling about matching eye make-up.
8:18 p.m. Nicki and Mariah argue over Keith. Keith should talk to his agent about getting an end chair.
8:20 p.m. Melissa Bush, 27, is a massage therapist. And wears an Elvis-inspired catsuit. Is she nuts? I think she might be nuts. She brings Randy a "Get Down, Dawg" T-shirt. Nicki wonders if she's related to the president, or Kate Bush, or Reggie Bush. Oh, oh she sucks. She's singing "Downtown," badly. After everyone groans and hems and haws, Nicki says, "Bush, you'll always be my Bush, but the answer is no." Melissa looks confused but quickly leaves. Mariah says, "you guys are all vulgar, and I'm really not going to tolerate this much longaaaaah." Oh, the fake English accent is back! I much prefer Ghetto Mariah, as Ghetto Mariah seems to be a lot more fun. But you know what? Either Mariah is pretty fun.
8:35 p.m. There was a small town Idol bus tour, which is how Gabe Brown, 21, came to the show. He brings cookies! Because he's a baker, and he's not afraid of bribing with treats. He's been making noises and humming since he was a little teapot. He'll be singing the Rolling Stones. I like him! Mariah wants to hear something softer. Softer is better, honestly. The belting was a little screamy. But the softer becomes screamy. Randy loves the whole rock thing. Nicki believes his rock thing. I liihak it. There's that English accent again! He's going to Hollywood.
8:31 p.m. Kevin Nabity, 25, loved Vanilla Ice! And the Ninja Turtles! Oh, come on. This is a joke, right? Oh, wait, no. I think he's serious. These auditions bum me out. And his version of the Barenaked Ladies breaks down into babbling. And then he sings "Sailing Away." Badly. Nicki asks Mariah what she thinks, daahling. Mariah shoots him down. So does Keith and Randy. Everyone says "no" on the count of four. I can tell these new judges are getting tougher as we go along.
8:35 p.m. Nicki hugs rejects. Mariah hugs rejects. There is crying and hugging.
8:39 p.m. Isabelle Parell, 15, loves country, and she loves Keith Urban.. and she loves his wife Nicole Kidman even more. She wants Keith to sing with her, because she's chosen to sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside." And now she can say she's sung with Keith Urban! Keith likes her voice. I do, too. Mariah was happy to hear a Christmas song. She thinks Isabelle has a sweet quality about her. Nicki thought she was poised and thinks she has a thing about her that's like a star. Keith didn't get to speak! But he did speak. Nicki loves her, daaaahling. Keith is a yes, Mariah is a yes, but Randy is a no. She's still going to Hollywood.
8:43 p.m. Keith has to do stuff, so Randy is the only guy on the judges' panel. We think he'll be serving as referee in keeping the gals apart, but it's more about Mariah and Nicki getting excited about hot guys. Or I should say, Nicki getting excited about hot guys. Griffin Peterson, 22, is very cute, and Nicki wants to know if he has a girlfriend. He doesn't! Nicki is very pleased. Griffin sings, and it's in tune, but his voice isn't strong. But he's cute! Nicki thinks he looks and feels like a star. She isn't touching him, by the way. Randy thinks he's barely average. Mariah sees what Nicki's excited about, and she thinks he has potential. Nicki gives him a yes, Randy says no. Nicki begs, gasp! Mariah to give him a yes, so we know she really wants this guy to come to Hollywood. Mariah says… nnnnyes. Huh.
8:51 p.m. Curtis Finch, Jr. , 24, is a tutor at a charter school. He's excited to be here and he's very positive. I really want him to be talented, because he's instantly likable. Nicki dubs him Finchy. His friend wants to meet Mariah. He's going to sing Smokey Norful, which is thrilling for Randy, because he just called him last night. And yes, he's REALLY good. It's a group yes.
8:54 p.m. Ryan seems really tired. Like, old man tired.
8:54 p.m. "You did not like me when you met me," Mariah says to Nicki. "You are so mental," Nicki sighs.
8:55 p.m. Mariah Pulice, 19, is auditioning. Mariah feels bonded to her because they have the same name. "It's the 62nd most popular name!" Mariah chirps. Which she would know, because her kids are fairly new. I know it seems like she's self-absorbed, but you know these things when you're trying to name a couple kids, so I totally give her a pass. Mariah (the auditioning one) is recovering from anorexia. We get a sad clip story about her battle, which was long and painful and involved one slice of American cheese a day. Music saved her life. And now she's going to cry. I know this is a serious moment, but I love her nails. Anyway, she does a beautiful rendition of "Let It Be," and Mariah cries. Nicki loves, Mariah loves, everyone loves. Love, love, love.
9:06 p.m. Day Two! First up, Brandy Neelly, 17, was adopted by her aunt. She's starstruck by Keith. She's wanted to be the next American Idol since she was nine. She's going to sing a Hank Williams song, "Your Cheatin' Heart." Nice! She has a real shot. Beautiful, big, strong voice. Keith loved it. Nicki thinks she's super-super special. Mariah says A+ amazing. Randy concurs. She's going to Hollywood.
9:08 p.m. Josh Holiday, 24, has a lovely voice. I feel like Mariah, but nice tone. Nicki thinks no one in the competition thus far sounds like him. Goin' ta Hollywood.
9:12 p.m. Courtney Williams, 18, is another beautiful voice. Andrew Jones, 28, has a Motown sound. Love them both. Both going through. I guess they didn't have great stories, just great voices.
9:13 p.m. Clifton Duffin, 22, doesn't sing in front of his family. Hmmmmm… Nicki declares him Secret Squirrel. And he is a great singer. That almost NEVER happens. Good. Mariah is touched. She would sing by herself, too, to get through the pain. I think Clifton just didn't sing in front of his family; we haven't covered personal pain, Mariah. That may be all you. Keith lost it watching Clifton's mom seeing him sing for the first time. Nicki reveals she doesn't rap in front of her mom. Her mom shouldn't be listening to no damn rap music! Oh. I don't think she can be grounded anymore, so maybe she should let her mom download her stuff.
9:20 p.m. "Perhaps this is a Mariah kind of town." Ieisha Cotton is a professional dancer and she LOVES Mariah. Hmm... We see some dance moves. Not very professional, unfortunately. And then she sings. And it's baaaad. Mariah suggests she stay more with the dancing. Randy keeps it real and says she can't sing. Mariah says yes. And then blames Nicki for saying yes. But she meant no. Nicki and Keith say no. But they LOVED the dancing. Oh, please. She says she'll be back next year. Did she not hear any of what was said to her?
9:25 p.m. Johnny Keyser, 23, is verrrry cute and he's gotten a yellow ticket in the past. Nicki wants to know if he has a girlfriend. Nicki, this is a competition, not "Millionaire Matchmaker." Randy hopes he has done some work since the last time he auditioned so he doesn't crash and burn this time, but he's still good. Mariah and Nicki bicker, then Mariah says he has a gift and star quality. "Thanks I-won't-say-it-because there might be little kids watching the show," Mariah says to Nicki. What? It's a lot of yes for Johnny, and Mariah busts out her English accent.
9:31 p.m. Kez Ban is 27 and a fire performer and balloon animal maker. And she doesn't want to be on the blooper reel... in a way that would embarrass her mother. Oh, no. She would like to go to Hollywood. She burned off the hair on her chinny chin chin. Keith makes an old flames joke. The laughter is already starting to bubble to the surface on the judges' panel. But Kez can sing! And play guitar! She doesn't expect to win, but I would love for her to win, just to shake things up. You could tell the judges were expecting a gag reel performer, and she's good! Love that! Randy likes her and think she's interesting. Mariah loves her original song and can feel the realness in her. Nicki thinks she's captivating. Keith likes her voice a lot. She's going to Hollywood. If she makes it far enough, I will vote for her. She can't stop talking to Ryan. Oh, that wacky Kez Ban!
9:40 p.m. I keep wanting to fast forward through the commercials, because I think that would give me an hour to do something useful, like laundry.
9:42 p.m. A montage of bad singing called "The Miserables." I think Randy's purpose is to tell people they suck.
9:43 p.m. Always amazed by how many people flip off the camera guy.
9:43 p.m. Ashley Curry, 19, is a musical theater student. She's not a confident person. Maybe she shouldn't be, because she's loud but off-key. Randy can't stop laughing, so I'm sure he's not helping matters. Nicki thinks she could do a lot with the right vocal coach, which appalls Randy. Ashley asks for a second chance. She starts singing again, and the judges feign passing out. Randy thinks she has shocking vocals, and shocking is not good. He tells Ashley the singing thing isn't working and someone should have told her before. Mariah and Nicki tell her she's pretty. Mariah suggests she do a scene with Nicki. What? Wait, Mariah has an idea and everything! Ashley and Mariah are sisters and won't let evil Nicki go to the ball. What? Okay, everyone's punchy. And damn, Ashley won't stop singing. She walks out and her mom assures her singing is for her. She's just not right for "American Idol." She has a golden ticket in her heart! Oh, man.
9:54 p.m. Finally, we come to the Really Big Story. You know, the one that's supposed to make us cry and will touch us and is GOING TO MAKE IDOL HISTORY. In fact, it's just going to make history, period. High school students will study this. Hey, I'm just basing this on what Ryan tells us.
Lazaro Arbos, 21, is from Cuba and he moved to Florida when he was 10. He stutters. A LOT. And he wears a little pink bowtie, which is very cute. He had no friends because he stuttered so badly. So, music is his life. Of course, he can sing perfectly. I don't love his voice, but he's in key and, well, he has a great story, right? Keith tells him to sing all the time. Randy thinks he's very pleasant. Nicki thinks he brought a great vibe into the room. Keith is so happy he sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Mariah wants to vote, and he's going to Hollywood. He cries, then hugs Mariah.
That's it for Chicago! Oh, and 46 hopefuls made it through with golden tickets. And Nicki didn't cut Mariah, so it's all good.
What did you think of Chicago?
Everything: American Idol
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