"American Idol" handed out a few final golden tickets -- 21 of them, to be precise -- as it wrapped up its Season 13 auditions on Thursday in Omaha. Along the way, Keith Urban reconnected with an old pal he hadn't seen in years, Harry Connick Jr. had his first "Idol" moment of self-doubt, and Lopez showed off her bright yellow fingernails by gesticulating whenever she could.
The talent sneaking through under the wire included …
--Quaid Edwards, 21, whose mom, Jolie Edwards, apparently performed with Urban back when she fronted a country music band called Jolie and the Wanted. The judges weren't terribly wowed by his take on Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," but he won them over with his apparent earnestness and avowed willingness to work hard and grow. Quaid's success made his mom cry, which in turn made Lopez tear up. Pass the tissues.
--Madisen Walker, 15, who flowed in to sing what Urban called a "perfect karaoke version" of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." Urban's description didn't bode well, but he and Lopez sent Walker through anyway. Connick demurred, predicting the heartbreak in store for her down the line would outweigh the fleeting joy of having made it through.
--Alyssa Siebken, 20, who failed to impress Connick with her acoustic version of Waka Flocka Flame's "No Hands." "I just don't think your voice is strong enough," he said. But thanks to the other two judges, she was handed a ticket anyway. "I'd like to see where you go," Urban said. Ryan Seacrest further rewarded Siebken by posing with her for a "victory selfie."
--Tyler Gurwicz, 25, who sang Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" as if he might very well go out and fling a match into gasoline any minute. "You look angry when you sing, and it's hard to watch," Urban said, not to put too fine a point on it. The other judges liked Gurwicz's intense delivery, though Connick was torn as to whether to let him through. After Gurwicz sang another song at Connick's invitation (and Lopez's urging), Connick apparently relented and gave him the second "yes" he needed to make it to Hollywood. Almost immediately, though, the normally hard-to-please judge suffered pangs of regret. "That may have been my first slip in judgment," he said. "Everything else has been very clear to me. That's the first time when I second-guessed myself."
--Omaha club promoter Tyler Marshall, 23, made it through easily with his rolling take on "Rolling on the River." "You look like a happy guy," Connick suggested, the sort that "even if your world is crashing around you, you have that happy face." Then he made Marshall happier by handing him his ticket to Hollywood – without even waiting for the other judges to vote. They didn't seem too bothered, though.
--CJ Jones, 20, who sang "Stand by Me" solidly even though Connick got up and actually stood by him, dancing. "I like the sound of your voice …. It's a pleasing voice to hear," Urban told Jones before the judges put him through.
--Dajontae Lenear, 16, and Dylan Becker, 17, who each delivered the goods vocally, charmed the judges thoroughly and collected their golden tickets.
--Paula Hunt, 20, a Nebraska resident who sings for our troops as part of the U.S. Air Force Heartland of America Band. The judges were moved by her supple take on Etta James' "All I Could Do Was Cry" and perhaps even more so by her backstory: Her mom, an R&B and gospel singer, had had some record deals lined up, but lost her voice when multiple sclerosis struck her in 2007. "I get to finish what she started," Hunt told the judges, through tears. "The reason we have the best military in the world is because they get to listen to people like you sing," Connick said, adding that her style was "tasteful" and elegant. "I love your flow," Urban said. Lopez declared her to be one of her favorites. Hunt had made her mother proud.
--Andrina Brogden, 18, a North Dakota native who also made her mom proud. Though her rendition of Beyonce's "Halo" wasn't exactly rousing, Urban and Lopez attributed her vocal shortcomings to nerves and saw enough raw talent in her to put her through.
--Casey McQuillen, 21, whose "Skyscraper" the judges found to be "angelic," restrained and "smart."
--And Tessa Kate, a 25-year-old Arkansas native who plays and performs in Branson, Mo., and has a way with a descriptive phrase. "I was feeling really calm and now I feel like I grabbed an electric fence -- the kind that holds the cows back, not just the little animals," she said before taking her turn before the judges. Kate electrified the judges -- and the rest of us -- with her high-pitched take on Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Connick was reminded of his childhood crush, Barbara Mandrell, and the Mandrell Sisters' TV show, which he said he could see Kate on. "You just have a classic sort of timeless sound to you," he told her. The other judges were somewhat less effusive -- Lopez said something about Kate nearly veering into Chipmunks territory -- but they both gave her yeses. "I loved it. I think you're great. I can't wait to see more of you. It's a yes," Connick said, as Kate nabbed the season's last ticket to Hollywood.
Hooray! Which singers do you think will go furthest in this year?