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'American Idol' Season 14 Recap & Review: Series Looks to Bounce Back from Last Week's Low Ratings

by Shawn Christ   Jan 14, 2015 21:38 PM EST

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Last week's American Idol premiere was an all-time low for the series. The first audition episode, held in Nashville, scored 11.2 million viewers with a 3.2 percent rating in the 18-49 demographic. In comparison, 15.2 million people watched Season 13's premiere last year, earning the show a 4.7 percent rating. The safe, family friendly format is slowly killing off the once powerful series. 

Idol isn't the hit-making machine it once was, and that's to be expected. The market has become saturated with other singing and talent competition shows since Kelly Clarkson took the crown in 2002. And say what you want about Simon Cowell, but his Big Bad Judge routine was a major reason people came back week after week. Now the series banks on the pretty, white smiles of Harry Connick Jr., Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez — none of whom even try to cut down contestants who have no business singing. 

Yes, it looks like Idol is on its way out. If you really enjoy the show, savor this season. It could be its last, or, at the very least, there may be major changes on the horizon. 

Big Ron Wilson's audition was the perfect example of what Idol is all about nowadays. During the episode's lead-off, Connick and Urban talked to each other and walked out on him, essentially missing the singer's entire performance. The show's all about the judges, the contestants matter very little. This is the same show that made William Hung a star (briefly), for crying out loud. Wilson scored three yeses with only one judge hearing his entire audition. Congrats?

The ep was billed as a small-town-singer-makes-good, with Idol being the vehicle to stardom. The crew stopped through smaller cities like Reno, Albuquerque and Tallahassee to find singers who would audition in KC. As Ryan Seacrest pointed out, contestants looking to make waves in the country genre are all over the United States, and they came out in full force this episode. 

5. Alexis Gomez shined in the country category. She was talented, but not spectacular. Connick was the deciding vote and he gave the young singer a yes (Urban surprisingly did not enjoy the performance). She hasn't been the best country audition, but she was up there. 

4. Serious props to Stephanie Gummelt for performing an original tune. She sang with way more maturity than her most contestants despite being 18. J.Lo hit it — she's a natural singer. Connick is all about experience, so he voted no, but Gummelt said she wrote the song a few years ago, so obviously she's been at it for a while. 

3. Ellen Petersen managed to impress the judges with her banjo and melodic yodeling. Urban labeled her a pro, but added that "there's so much more." And everyone agreed. She then performed the Beverly Hillbilies theme song with Urban and Connick. It was a nice moment that finally wasn't just about the judges.

2. Kohlton Pascal, a homeless youth, travels around the country to beat depression and boredom. He hitchhikes, camps and plays guitar. He did his best Tom Waits, putting every ounce of passion he had left in his voice. Sometimes these auditions with outlandish backstories seem a little sketchy, but Pascal's voice overflowed with originality. America will never choose him, but good on him for giving it a try.

1. Joey Cook and her squeezebox won tonight's episode. In addition to the accordion skills and Marcus Mumford timing, Cook's old-timey voice blew us away. At just 23 years old, she has what a lot of these contestants lack — a sense of self. It was Urban's favorite voice of the day because it was unique. Connick really dug it too, but he offered some wise adivce: don't become a novelty act. 

Shoutout to country crooner Anton Bushner as well.

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