American Idol's premiere week continued on Thursday night (Jan. 7) as the judges and the entire show's cartel moved on to Little Rock and San Francisco. This episode, logically, had less of a nostalgia factor and less hype surrounding it than Wednesday night's proper premiere, but the talent was far more consistent and impressive. There were plenty of Top 24 contenders in the mix.
In promos for this show, the focus was on the ladies, and women did shine in this round of auditions. From the Kelly Clarkson idealizing Olivia Rox to the compelling Kayla McKinnen to the soulful La'Porsha Renee and Melanie Tierce, this show was not wanting for big talents...
This show lacked something like a Kanye West cameo, but it really only needed the music to carry it through, which is what has always made Idol a superior show to the often-gimmicky The Voice. But, we can't get in to that now. Let's break it down with the top five singers from Little Rock and San Fran.
05. Dalton Rapattoni, "Phantom of the Opera": Dalton Rapattoni looks like he could be a member of 5 Seconds of Summer, complete with bleached-out hair, guyliner and flowery Doc Marten boots (holla, yo' girl has some too). What made Dalton unique is his total makeover of the Andrew Lloyd Weber classic "Phantom of the Opera." With an acoustic guitar in his hand, Dalton injected a lot of soul and just a little bit of rock to this song. The voice had a nice, mildly silky quality to it. But what made Dalton really stand out was his whole package thing. With those baby blues and those flowery shoes, he could be a proper contender.
04. Brandyn Burnette, "Lost (Original Song)": Original songs on American Idol can be really risky - you're putting yourself out there enough by auditioning, but doing something all your own adds an extra layer of vulnerability. Brandyn Burnette took that chance and performed his own composition, a piano ballad entitled "Lost." The result was highly emotional, almost reminiscent of one of Bruno Mars's ballads, and his voice was just the sort of tenor that works well with poppy R&B song. Brandyn is an artist and seems like he'll do well in Hollywood.
03. Trent Harmon, "Unaware": Trent Harmon is one of many who works on a farm at the Little Rock auditions, but unlike most of those singers, he's not a country guy. In a total 180 movie, Trent is one of the smoothest R&B singers that has walked through the Idol doors in the last two days. With this Allen Stone song, Trent proved that you really cannot judge a book by its cover (or a singer by their backstory). His unique personal blend and his beautiful range and control makes him feel like a real contender.
02. La'Porsha Renee, "Creep": First of all, HOLY CUTE BABY ALERT! La'Porsha brought along her baby girl to help bond with Kris Allen and Jennifer Lopez, and it was incredibly endearing. Smiley bundle of joy aside, La'Porsha took this Radiohead classic and gave it a big ol' injection of soul and R&B. Some people rely too heavily on vocals runs, and maybe La'Porsha does too, but she executed them flawlessly and her interpretation of this single's lyric didn't feel contrived or like a way too much - it was just right.
01. Tristan McIntosh, "Why Baby Why": Tristan McIntosh has more soul and life experience in her 15 years than you have in your... however old you are. This teenage is soulful, heartfelt and, as Jennifer Lopez pointed out, channels a young Alicia Keys both musically and personality-wise. Her take on "Why Baby Why" was fairly straightforward, but with a clear tone and an endless artistry to her, her simple performance was one of the most compelling. Her audition was also compelling because her mother, who had been away overseas in the military, came back to Little Rock for her audition. Cue endless tears.