January 24th, 2013
The Baton Rouge audition show for American Idollasted only an hour Thursday and the city produced fewer Hollywood contestants than either Chicago or New York. But if we’ve seen this season’s winner yet, he or she comes from Red Stick.
In a season that so far has been worryingly short on talent that viewers could rally behind, Baton Rouge showed us at least a half-dozen serious contenders. Among them: Megan Miller, who postponed surgery on an infected leg so she could wow the judges with her take on Etta James’ Something’s Got a Hold on Me; singing doctor Calvin Peters, who can probably handle the stress and long hours of Hollywood week without batting an eye; a 17-year-old named Maddie Assel, whose bluesy belting recalls former finalist Haley Reinhart; and country hunk Dustin Watts, who is, of all things, a fireman.
Maybe the show has finally gotten past the character-development phase of introducing the new judges and we can get on with the contestants now. Nicki Minaj and the judges generally behaved themselves tonight (though there was one quick allusion to the Charlotte audition that caused Minaj to blow up at the other judges).
Or maybe the talent just wrestled the spotlight back. Besides the aforementioned singers, three guys stood out, all for completely different reasons.
LIVE BLOG: Baton Rouge as it happened
The self-described “socially awkward” singer Charlie Askew — dubbed “Mystery Man” by Minaj — looks to be the season’s dark horse, with his quiet demeanor, his wild shock of hair and his captivating voice. His audition, using Queen’s Breakthrough and a haunting version of Nat “King” Cole’s Nature Boy — was a thoroughly unexpected pleasure.
Paul Jolley gave what Keith Urban called a “great, crafted vocal performance” of Rascal Flatts’ I Won’t Let Go. He’s the sort of polished singer who could move easily between genres on the show, winning fans across the board as he goes.
Perhaps the most impressive, though, was 19-year-old Burnell Taylor, who laid out the judges with a powerhouse performance of I’m Here from The Color Purple. “That’s what we came for,” Minaj told him, as Mariah Carey wiped away tears and Urban picked his jaw up off the desk. “I feel like we’ve been flying all around this country for that. … Everybody else auditioned. You just entertained us.”
This Idol season got off to a slow start. But it’s finally up to speed.