"Southern peaches," Ryan Seacrest said appreciatively of his hometown talent as "American Idol" scoured Atlanta for starry-eyed singers. Certainly Thursday's show, the season's first hour-long episode, brought us a few sweet voices -- not to mention blurry footage of Seacrest being woken by his mom on the morning of auditions and interacting cutely with her throughout his stay.
"What are you doing? You can't spank me on national television!" Seacrest exclaimed after one especially cheeky move from his mom, Connie.
Ahem. Back to that talent.
On Thursday's show we met …
Majesty Rose, a 21-year-old preschool teacher with a flowery headband that evoked her name. "I like that headband. That says, 'I'm cute,'" Harry Connick Jr. told her. After she'd sung Coldplay's "Violet Hill," he called her style "quiet," "very subtle" and "elegant." "The quieter you got, the more I leaned in," Keith Urban said.
Gas station attendant Jesse Cline, 19, who in from Kentucky and impressed the judges with what they termed his "believability." Coming across as a "believable singer … happens within milliseconds," Connick said.
Twenty-three-year-old Army National Guardsman Chris Medina (not the same Chris Medina who memorably auditioned a few years back), who brought his dog, Bubby, with him. Singer and dog, who spent the audition happily snuggling with Connick, nabbed invitations to Hollywood.
Pretty nurse tech Kristen O'Connor, 24, and student Emily Piriz, 17, who has been watching the show "since Season 1 and I was a little girl."
Ben Briley, 24, a server from Gallatin, Tenn., of whom Urban gushed, "If you sang a cappella on the radio right now, I'd pull to the side of the road. I might crash my car. I love the sound of your voice." Connick dubbed Briley "Brother Gumbo," a nickname the contestant said he hoped wouldn't stick.
Nica Nashae, 24, whose "Natural Woman" had the judges hammering out a beat. "Tear it up … win it," Connick urged.
Cherubic 15-year-old Savannah, Ga., high schooler Jordan Brisbane, who told the judges, "I believe I have what it takes to shut the 'American Idol' series down," and then did so with his take on Bruno Mars' "When I Was Your Man." "I couldn't stop looking at his face," Connick said after he'd left, calling it a "perfect, beautiful face."
Sartorial Phillip Phillips-alike and soon-to-be college grad Sam Burchfield, 21, who impressed Urban and Jennifer Lopez, but, for some reason, not Connick. "I don't think he'll last," Connick said. Lopez countered, "I liked it."
Pink-haired, pink-lipped Jessica Meuse, 22, of Slapout, Ala., who performed a song she wrote called "Blue-Eyed Luck." Urban admired her right shoulder, which kept time to the music. And Connick sensed a "Stevie Nicks kind of vibe." Meuse made it through with three yeses.
Nineteen-year-old Lauren Ogburn, who moved the judges with her version of Reba McEntire's "Fancy." "Great pitch … the perfect song," Urban said. Lopez said she'd gotten "goosies." But Connick cautioned Ogburn, who wore an American flag bandana on her head and cowboy boots emblazoned with the stars and stripes, just for starters, that it's possible to "overaccessorize to the point of ridicule." "Americana … we get it," he said.
Season 11 returnees Neco Star and Caleb Johnson, both 22, who each got a second chance.
And, perhaps most memorably, Bria Anai, a 15-year-old singer who'd matched her sparkly violet lipstick to her pants and boasted about her "momager." ("You should meet her daygent," Connick quipped.) Her lush take on Adele's "One and Only" elicited appreciative noises from the judges. "I love the way you sing," Urban enthused. "I love the sparkles on the lips … only because you can sing like that," Lopez said. Connick maintained she had "a thickness to her sound that belies her age," marveling, "She's been on the planet for 15 years."
About as long as the audition phase of "American Idol" usually lasts, but this season, they seem to be flying.
Do you have any favorites?
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