Last week's New York auditions for American Idol is a tough episode to follow. We saw some serious talent in the Big Apple because, well ... it's the Big Apple. Minneapolis proved it wasn't up for the challenge. Keith Urban made it back, much to the delight of one contestant, while Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. were up to the same old antics.
This is where the show hits a rough patch. We're five episodes in and finally finding some talent. These are the eps that start to lose viewers. The season premiere and second episode this season attracted 11.2 million viewers while last week's pair brought in 10.8 and 10.4, respectively. Once you've sat through all the fake surprises and build-ups, there's only so much you can do to keep viewers until we get to Hollywood. You can only hear Lopez say, "I think you're great," so many times before you start to question if she really means it.
Quite frankly, Minneapolis was boring. We had a difficult time paying attention to the episode. Even the five contestants below were just OK compared to last week. The crying reel didn't even cheer us up this time around.
Thankfully, Idol heads to New Orleans, Connick's hometown, tomorrow night. NOLA is bound to bring out some talented and unique performers, although Connick was a little down on the area in a recent interview with Variety.
"We went to Bourbon Street in my world. It was sad that nobody came in really representing New Orleans," he said. "There's blessings to accessibility, but one of the great drawbacks is that everything has become melted down. I was hoping to really see people who looked like they were from New Orleans, and they could have been from anywhere."
5. Shannon Berthiaume was "the most raw talent we've seen," as Urban put it. She gave an insanely soulful performance to kick off a rather dull audition show. The contestant really gave it her all and was able to turn on the star factor for her big moment. Awesome pick with "House of the Rising Sun."
4. Vanessa Andrea reworked "Some Kind of Wonderful" into a country/classic rock tune with a bluegrass feel. It suited her well because she made it her own and the performance highlighted her vocal strengths. As an added bonus, the judges confirmed her trip to Hollywood with the contestant's Air Force husband.
3. Zach Johnson caught Urban's ear with his Garth Brooks baritone. "Don't Close Your Eyes" was crystal clear and a complete surprise. Connick made a good point telling the singer not to imitate other voices. Lopez saved him when it seemed like the end of the line by asking for Johnson to sing in his own voice. His "Drink a Beer" follow-up convinced the other judges. Two weeks after the audition, Urban invited the contestant onstage for a duet of Brooks' "Friends in Low Places." That's a good sign.
2. Hannah Mrozak, a 16-year-old, brought the house down with her powerful Etta James. The judges had zero criticism for her, handing the ticket over right at the end of her performance.
1. Mark Andrew came in strong with "Soulshine" by The Allman Brothers Band. He was pro right from the beginning. Urban wisely stopped him fairly quick and asked him to sing another song since the audition was a little too reverent to Gregg Allman. Andrew took on "I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)" from The Jungle Book. Connick dug him, Lopez dug him and Urban dug him. Most importantly, Andrew knew what he was singing for, given that he and his wife just had a child. Look for this guy down the line.
HONORABLE MENTION: Gabrielle Noe'l, Aaron Bissell, Jacob Tolliver.