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'American Idol' recap, audition episode 2: feelin' good!

Posted Monday, March 12, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The feel-good vibes continue episode two, ending with what seems like a sad story at first but is really warm and fuzzy in that "Idol"-esque way.

Otherwise, I'm not sure if there was anybody here who screamed "American Idol" winner tonight, but I did enjoy Laine Hardy, Garrett Jacobs and Rissa Watson.

The producers also win points by offering up a cute montage of sweet grandparents providing sweetly obvious advice, something they've never done before. (It must be awfully hard to come up with new tropes during auditions.)

And it's amusing you watch some of the videos below because I occasionally catch ads for  ... "The Voice" featuring, um, Kelly Clarkson.

Up first:

Mara Justine (15, Galloway, NJ.) - She was born in 2002, the year "American Idol" started. Yikes! She apparently competed on "America's Got Talent" a few year's back, too. She sings with an odd ugly face and a bluesy soulful vibe. She clearly has the talent to go to Hollywood. She doesn't even get a critique: just three YESSES. Katy has already pegged her for top 10. *

We know youth is the theme this season and they show three young'uns in quick succession, including Bremen's Andrew Weaver (16), Griffin Tucker (15) and Christina Jones (18).

Then we get a relative old timer: William Casanova (26, Washington D.C., retail). It's clearly a stage name. He goes for an "Idol" classic "A Song For You" that season 5 Elliott Yamin made big more than a decade ago. He strikes me as old school which isn't what "Idol" is really looking for this year. Sure, he makes Hollywood but how far will he go? Three yesses.

"Idol" needs a little Latin flair. That's where Michelle Sussett (22, Miami, waitress) comes in. She gets the judges dancing with Selena's "Techno Cumbia." Lionel gets into it. Katy is a little tentative at first but then slips and falls and shows a bit of her bum, too much for the censors. Question? Was she wearing anything down there under her dress? "I'm the best dancer ever," Katy said sarcastically. Lionel likes her sound and style as well as her personality. "You are a force to be reckoned with," Luke said. Katy isn't sure if she is the best vocalist but finds her intriguing. Three yesses. *

Misha Gontar (26, Morengo, Ill., MRI technologist) opts for his favorite Ukrainian band's song. Catchy but come on, this guy has no chance in Hollywood and the judges agree. "You are the Busta Rhymes of the Ukraine," Luke said. Three NO's.

Brandon Diaz (21, Ashburn, VA, college student) - Another person sings "Unaware" by Allen Stone. He is doing this for his Cuban musician dad. He has the looks of a rock star and possesses a very pretty voice with a decent falsetto. He certainly could go far in Hollywood. Lionel loves that falsetto. Katy thinks he's a potential top 10. Three YESSES. *

Trevor Holmes (26,Thousand Oaks, Calif. construction worker, part-time musician) "Good lord you're a dreamboat!" Luke said. But Katy is all smitten. When he says "m'aam," she exclaims, "Don't respect me!" She is thrilled he is not engaged but is faux disappointed he has a girlfriend. Covering Brett Young's "In Case You Didn't Know," he has a decent, emotive singer-songwriter voice. Luke wants him to dig in more into his voice. Lionel likes him. Katy can barely speak. Three YESSES.

Southern good ol' boy Laine Hardy (17, Livingston, LA, high school student) opts for Band of Heathens' "Hurricane." He has a signature bluesy style marinated in swamp water and oodles of charm to spare. "If you ain't careful, you might win 'American Idol,' " Luke said. Three YESSES.

And surprise! ABC brings back joke contestants!

Autumn Woods (27, Katy, Tex, librarian) savages Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" using her ridiculously low voice. She's followed by "Hank the Businessman", a 22-year-old Pittsburgh businessman, then two more baddies Neshia Ruffins and Jonathan Herman.

To cleanse the palette, we move on to Gabii Jones (20, St. Louis, caretaker) She oversings Ariana Grande's "Dangerous Woman." She approaches the judges' table and Luke looks scared. But she definitely wins on attitude. Lionel loves her so much he gives her a hug. "There are things we could tone down but the basic core of you is exciting," he said. Three YESSES. (She gets a Macy's infomercial with Ryan Seacrest, who also has his own line of clothing there.)

Cameron Theodus (25, Shreveport, high school basketball coach) He is a solid singer songerwriter doing his own song. He's very likable but I'm not sure if he will be able to get through Hollywood. "For round one, I would not want to throw you away," Lionel said. Three YESSES.

Thaddeus Johnson (25, Oklahoma) He almost made it to the top 24 in 2010 season nine. They showed clips. He lost 150 pounds since 2010 after realizing the weight was hindering his singing. He said he was suicidal at one point. "Music was my saving grace," he said. He chooses a song that is his mantra: "Don't You Worry Child" by Swedish House Mafia. I'm not sure he is modern enough for 2018 Idol but he has great vocal skills. Lionel hugs a tearful Thaddeus, too. "YOu have an incredible machine," Lionel said. Katy questions his artistry. Three YESSSES.

Rissa Watson (17, small-town Apachee, Okla.): She was super shy at one point. She is trying to move beyond the furniture store her family owns. She opts for Adele's "When We Were Young." She does a lovely imitation of Adele, then hits a higher register. She's promising. "I got full body chills," Katy said. Can she handle the rigors of Hollywood? We'll find out. Three YESSES.

Garrett Jacobs (17, Bossier City, LA): His biggest fan is Honey, his grandma who is "so sweet." He takes on a rather hoary "Idol" song: "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" and gives it that Louisiana kick. The kid could go places. "The quality of your voice is fantastic," Lionel said. And hey, Lionel you stole my line that he could go places! Luke likes his potential. Katy: "You are spectacular to look at that." She thinks the guitar is holding him back. Three YESSES.*

And to close out, "Idol" offers up a two-hankie story: David Francisco (25) moved to Nashville but then got hit by a car in 2016 while riding his bike. He was at first paralyzed from the waist down but is now able to do a little bit of walking. "I don't take anything for granted now," he said. He even has a girlfriend. "I am so happy to stand by his side," she said. He does a sweet "Isnt' She Lovely" with a slight nasal tone that is more pleasant than you'd expect. Katy tears up. It's time for another Lionel hug! "You are an inspiration to us all" Lionel said. "The blessing of life is your spirit." Three definite YESSES.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.