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‘American Idol’ Recap: Charlotte, Start Your Engines!

'American Idol' Charlotte
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Tonight’s round of ‘American Idol’ auditions took North Carolina by storm, sweeping through the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway. The episode was filled with talent, laughter, tears and, of course, a healthy dose of drama.

Nicki Minaj was hard to miss with her cotton-candy hair. Her personality was just as loud as her wig, as was evidenced by her spat with Mariah Carey halfway through the episode. Thankfully, the two women were (mostly) able to put aside their differences in order to focus on the true purpose of the show – the singing.

Speaking of singing, here are the results from tonight’s auditions:

Naomi Morris: “I want the judges to remember me, but not just for what I have on – for my voice, too,” said the 28-year-old Charlotte native who enjoys designing clothes but whose true passion resides in music. Sadly, though, her vocal talents weren’t nearly as strong as her eye for fashion. Ultimately, the judges voted “no.”

Joel Nemoyer: Apparently, it’s a good idea to lie down while singing, a technique that has been promoted by musicians such as Daughtry and David Foster. However, Nemoyer’s attempt to recline while crooning Michael Buble’s ‘Feeling Good’ didn’t exactly have the desired effect on the judges. “I don’t know if singing is quite your expertise,” said Keith Urban. They didn’t send him on to Hollywood, but they were amused by him nonetheless.

Brian Rittenberry: His powerful rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be’ immediately captured the judges’ attention. His wife, who fought a long and grueling battle with appendix cancer and recently made a recovery, was there to support him at his audition. “That’s the real stuff,” praised Randy Jackson.

Jimmy Smith: This 25-year-old social worker submitted his audition video on a whim and decided to sing ‘Bless the Broken Road’ by Rascal Flatts. “Your voice is the voice I was waiting to hear today,” said Minaj. “You have something incredibly special and unique,” agreed Carey. The judges voted a unanimous “yes.”

Matthew Muse: Although he bears a striking resemblance to Brad Paisley, looks can be deceiving. His audition left the judges speechless (but not in a good way) when he broke into an animated dance after singing a weak rendition of Paisley’s ‘When I Get Where I’m Going.’ “You could be a model, though,” offered Minaj as a consolation.

Isabel Gonzalez: Read about her audition here.

Taisha Bethea: The judges didn’t know quite what to make of this self-proclaimed aspiring rock ‘n’ roll singer. Her audition included clips of Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know.’ “You’re doing different songs and I’m getting confused…are you really the rock girl?” asked Carey. The votes were tied, but it was Urban’s decision that ultimately tipped the scales and sent her on to Hollywood.

Summer Cunningham: Afraid of getting trapped inside of the country box, she tried to emphasize her soulful side by singing ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers. Yet as Jackson pointed out, she couldn’t escape her southern roots: “Your voice naturally lends itself to country…you have a yodel every single time you sing.” After much debate – and Minaj storming offstage following a heated dispute with Carey – the judges decided to keep her around.

Brandy Hamilton: Despite having no formal vocal training, she harbored a striking star quality and shined all the way through her performance of ‘All I Can Do Is Cry’ by Etta James. “You lit up the room. That’s what stars do – they’re infectious,” remarked Jackson. “You did a good job with feeling it and being true to you,” Minaj agreed.

Ashley Smith: Minaj was quick to name her “Blondie” because of her platinum-blond ‘do. Smith surprised the judges with a rich and moving interpretation of Carrie Underwood’s ‘Cowboy Casanova.’ Carey said, “I enjoyed you – I really did. There’s something about you that’s very effervescent.” Jackson then remarked, “I always say if you can sing, you can sing anything… Blondie went on and killed it!”

Janelle Arthur: She sang one of Urban’s songs, ‘Where the Blacktop Ends,’ and really made it her own. All of the judges were pleased by her delivery and were happy to keep her in the running. “I think you’re really, really special. You already seem like a star,” said Minaj.

Rodney Barber: A people person through and through, he sings on the streets of Charlotte everyday. He admitted to having been homeless four years ago; the experience made him stronger and inspired him to reach out and help others in need. He won the judges over with his story, along with his performance of ‘I’ll Be’ by Edwin McCain. “You have a big voice, man…crazy big,” said Urban.

Candice Glover: Read about her audition here.

Ja’Bria Barber: This quirky 16-year-old with a penchant for killing frogs might not have made the best first impression on the judges – but they were soon able to see past her strange hobbies and focus on her voice. She sang Bonnie Raitt’s version of ‘Pride and Joy,’ and Jackson was sure to comment on her attitude and swagger. “I like you; you are not scared. You definitely got some conviction going on,” he stated.

Brad Harris: He was the biggest disappointment of tonight’s ‘Idol’ auditions. The judges somehow got sidetracked by a discussion about bacon (which apparently used to be Harris’ rapper name), but maybe it was for the best. His delivery of ‘A Whole New World’ from Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ left a lot to be desired. The panelists were at a loss for words, so on the count of three, they all said “no” in unison.

Seretha Guinn: After walking into the room with her adorable daughter in tow, she immediately won over the judges’ hearts. Her boyfriend was in a terrible accident last year that he almost didn’t survive, suffering a mess of injuries that required eight surgeries. Her performance of both ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘How Do I Live’ proved her strong and passionate spirit. “You’re a superstar,” gushed Minaj. “I was blown away, too,” agreed Jackson. She must be thrilled that she can tell her boyfriend the good news that she’s moving on to Hollywood.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow night for another round of ‘American Idol’ auditions!

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