Reviews, Television
Jan 27, 2013


This week the American Idol road show heads to the deep South for auditions in both Charlotte and Baton Rouge. American Idol has a history of finding great singers in the south and I expect more of the same this week. The Charlotte auditions were held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (They really love Nascar in the South) and the Idol producers rolled out Season 10, American Idol winner Scott McCreery to warm up the crowd and get the party started.

While the focus was clearly back on the auditions, it wouldn’t be American Idol if there wasn’t some interesting judging drama. Read on for the details.


Brian Rittenberry after a few “Amateur Hour”, auditions we finally find someone who can sing. Brian, a 27 year old from Jasper, Georgia sings a terrific version of the Beatles, “Let It Be”, and the judges all love it. Keith Urban says “you have a great light and your voice is Husky and cool.” In a unanimous vote he is on his way to Hollywood.

Jimmy Smith is a 25 year old Social Worker from Waynesboro, Tennessee. In a great song choice, Jimmy sings “Bless the Broken Road”, by Rascal Flatts and the judges are all impressed. Before the audition even ends Keith shouts out “You are going to Hollywood.” In a unanimous vote the other judges agree.

Isabel Gonzalez a 16 year old student from Alpharetta, Georgia is nominated by her aunt to try out for American Idol. This is something new this year and I really like the new twist. Randy travels to Alpharetta to invite her to audition and she doesn’t disappoint. She sings a very different version of Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Could Ever Change This Love”, and the judges love it. She is a pretty young girl and with her voice she could be a force to reckon with in Hollywood.

Taisha Bethea is a 21 year old professed rocker from Concord, North Carolina that has been a lead singer in a rock band for a number of years. In a surprise move, the rocker girl sing the Johnny Cash hit “Folsom Prison’. Hmmm, I am still trying to figure out why this professed rocker picked this song to sing, but I like her performance. The judges aren’t sure and they ask for another song and she delivers a good performance of “You Ought to Know”, by Alanis Morrisette. While I am convinced, the judges still aren’t and we are left with a tie. Fortunately for Taisha, with 4 judges there is a new tiebreaker rule and Keith casts the tiebreaker vote and the young rocker is off to Hollywood.

Summer Cunningham a 20 year old student from Georgia sings her version of the great Bill Weather’s song, “Lean On Me.” Once again, the judges can’t seem to agree and the frustration and tension level in the room is clearly rising. Randy, Keith and Mariah all like Summer but they all have a different perspective about what type of singer she should be in the contest. Nicki has finally heard enough and lashes out at the judges for their “unnecessary criticism”, and wants them to judge the contestants solely on their singing ability. This is actually a pretty good idea!!! Unfortunately, it quickly digresses into a non-stop, everybody talks at once, bickering nightmare. Finally Nicki has heard enough and walks off uttering, “Oh maybe your right, I’m sorry, I just can’t help her maybe I should just get off the #$%$ panel.” Wow!!!! Lost in the bickering and drama, Summer is off to Hollywood and probably just as grateful to get away from the crazy judges. It was a perfect way to end day one of the Charlotte auditions.

Brandy Hamilton is the first audition of the day 2 auditions and I can’t wait to see what the judges have in store for us. Brandy a twenty-five year old Navy Reservist from Charlotte, North Carolina sings a surprisingly powerful version of the Etta James song, “All I Could Do Is Cry.” The judges loved the performance. She has a beautiful voice and sang with tremendous passion. The judges appear to be on their best behavior and in a unanimous vote they send the Navy Reservist to Hollywood.

Janelle Arthur a 22 year old Fitness Instructor from Oliver Springs, Tennessee sings “When the Blacktop Ends”, and absolutely amazes the judges. Janelle is a beautiful girl with a great smile and a voice to match. She has real star quality and will definitely be one to watch in Hollywood. She could go a long way in this contest.

Rodney Barber the self-proclaimed “Voice of Charlotte”, was up next. Rodney a former homeless person and a street performer, sings a powerful version of the Edwin McCain hit “I’ll Be.” The judges are truly inspired by both his story and his performance and in a unanimous vote send Rodney for what he hopes is an extended vacation and a new life in Hollywood.

Candice Glover is a twenty two year old girl from St Helena Island, South Carolina. You might remember her she made it all the way to Las Vegas in Season 11. Candice’s rendition of “Syrup and Honey”, earned her a standing ovation from the judges. Randy said “it was the best audition I’ve heard so far this season!” and the other judges agreed. In a unanimous vote she was off to Hollywood and a second chance to become the next American Idol.

Serena Guinn was the final Charlotte audition. In typical American Idol fashion they picked a contestant with an emotional story. Her boyfriend, the father of her 3 year old daughter, was in a terrible accident and was in critical condition. He is now recovering and Serena wants to resume her dream of becoming a singer. In an unusual song choice, she sings the theme song from the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Her performance impressed all of the judges and actually moved Nicki to tears. I am not sure what that was all about!!! In a unanimous vote Serena is off to Hollywood to pursue her dreams.

Thankfully the Charlotte auditions are over. At the end of the day the judges awarded 37 “Hollywood Golden tickets”, in Charlotte.


The next stop for American Idol is Baton Rouge, the home of Randy Jackson.

Megan Miller is a beautiful 22 year old girl who just happens to be “Miss Baton Rouge.” The Ethel, Louisiana native hobbles into the audition on crutches, as a result of a car accident the night before. She sings a beautiful version of “Something’s Got A Hold On Me “, by Etta James. During her performance, to the delight of the judges, she uses her crutch as a make believe microphone. Her winning personality, voice and look absolutely captivated the judges and in a unanimous vote she is off to Hollywood. Unfortunately for her, she is off to the hospital first for surgery to repair her damaged leg. She looks to be the complete package and I would not be surprised to see her in the “Top 24.”

Charlie Askew is a 17 year old student from Little Rock, Arkansas. He describes himself as “socially awkward”. The first thought that came to my mind when I saw him perform was different and quirky. He has an unusual voice. The judges had him sing two songs “Breakthrough”, by Queen and “Nature Boy”, by Nat King Cole. All of the judges really liked him and sent him through to Hollywood. I didn’t feel the same way. I hated the Queen performance and thought the Nat King Cole song was just OK. I hope I am wrong, but I think his trip to Hollywood will be a short one. Hollywood week can break even the strongest of candidates and I thing this kid will be way over his head in that environment.

Maddie Assel is a 17 year old student from Centreville Virginia. Maddie was nominated by her Grandmother to try out forAmerican Idol. To deliver the invitation, Randy Jackson had to travel to the “Big Easy” to surprise Maddie while on vacation. Maddie sang a cool version of the Beatles, “Oh Darling”, and the judges really liked her vibe and immediately sent her to Hollywood.

Paul Jolly a twenty-two year old, Tennessee native tried out for American Idol in a tribute to his recently deceased grandfather. He sang an incredible rendition of the Rascal Flatts’ hit, “I Won’t Let Go” and the judges loved it. He has a great voice and sang with conviction and sincerity. With his good looks and voice he is another candidate that will be worth watching when we get to Hollywood.

Burnell Taylor was the last audition of the day. The 19 year old New Orleans native, sang an amazing version of “I’m Here”, from the “The Color Purple.” His performance was clearly the best of the season. The judges rewarded him with a standing ovation and a unanimous “Golden Ticket to Hollywood.” Unless he gets hit by a bus, Burnell will definitely make it to the “Top 24” and have a long run in the contest.

At the end of the day the judges awarded 34 “Hollywood Golden tickets” in Baton Rouge.


• Season 10 American Idol winner Scott McCreery was on hand in Charlotte, North Carolina to warm up the crowd.

• I don’t know about you but after two weeks and four audition shows I am already tired of the auditions. I can’t wait to get to “Hollywood Week.”

• The next stop on the American Idol audition tour is San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

• I really like Keith Urban. His addition to the judging panel was an excellent choice. He is both funny and caring. His comments are on target and he has shown the ability to connect with the contestants. He has quickly become my favorite of the new judges.

• The trip to Baton Rouge was a homecoming for American Idol Judge Randy Jackson. He was born and raised in Baton Rouge.