Thursday night's episode of "American Idol" was only an hour long, but somehow it managed to pack in the most talent of any episode so far this season. Maybe it's because producers didn't focus on the constant bickering between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj!
Whatever the reason, it was a pleasant surprise, and the auditions in Baton Rouge turned out talent that was certainly "Idol"-worthy. Here's a rundown on who to keep an eye on in the Hollywood round.
The reigning Miss Baton Rouge hobbled in on crutches, and was headed off to surgery immediately following her audition. She sang Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me," singing into her crutch for good measure. (We like her spunk!) The judges' verdict? Randy Jackson called her "a natural," while Nicki Minaj labeled her an "undeniable superstar."
The self-described "socially awkward" 17-year-old has an undiagnosed syndrome (his mom says it's called "Charlie Askew Syndrome"), but nothing was askew with this kid's audition. He went a little theater on us when he belted out the intro to Queen's "Breakthru," then he nailed Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy." (Take that, Casey Abrams!) Keith Urban gave Askew what may have been the best "Idol" critique ever: "Your tone is not of a gender, and I mean that in a really glowingly, complimentary way. Like Bowie or someone."
This season's new "nominations" twist has been hit and miss, but Maddie Assel -- who was nominated to audition by her Mardi Gras-lovin' grandma -- was definitely a hit. The 17-year-old sang the Beatles' "Oh! Darling," channeling the audition of "Idol" alum Haley Reinhart. (Yes, she's a fan!) And with her Haley-esque raspy voice and blonde ringlets, this girl may just be the darling of the Hollywood round.
This Nashville native crooned "I Won't Let Go" by Rascal Flatts, but he had the judges at hello. Nicki liked his vibe and the sparkle in his eye, and Keith noted the "honesty" in his tone. Good looks, good voice, plus this 22-year-old possesses the secret formula to winning "Idol' (at least for the past five seasons in a row, anyway): He's a white guy with a guitar.
His back story is a tearjerker (he's a Hurricane Katrina survivor who lost everything), but 19-year-old Burnell Taylor gave the performance of the night with his rendition of "I'm Here" from "The Color Purple." (He even made Mimi cry!) Nicki Minaj told him: "This is what we came for. I feel like we've been flying all around this country for that, that thing that can't even be put into words … While everyone else auditions, you just entertained us." And Urban dished another doozy, telling Taylor: "You can turn an atheist!"
The Baton Rouge auditions also showcased a singing doctor and a singing fireman, as Dr. Calvin Peters and hunky firefighter Dustin Watts both headed to Hollywood. Move over, McDreamy and McSteamy!
"American Idol" Season 12 airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays on FOX.
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