Thursday's episode of "American Idol" had something we didn't see on the previous night's season premiere: memorable talent.
The two-hour show featured auditions in Chicago. Compared to Wednesday, we saw many more singers who advanced to Hollywood -- some of whom could be potential finalists.
Which singers will likely generate the most post-show buzz?
"American Idol" producers saved Lazaro Arbos for the end of Thursday's show. That's understandable. He was the highlight of the night. He stuttered while introducing himself to the judges, and we learned he once stuttered so much that couldn't speak. However, his stutter disappears when he sings.
I'm usually not one for extreme back stories, but I got emotional during his performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Learn more about Lazaro in this article from the Naples Daily News. Here's the video:
Also, I can't stop thinking about quirky singer Kez Ban. She's a fire performer who asked the cameraman if she's destined for the "Idol" blooper reel. She said she doesn't want to win -- she just wants to go to Hollywood. She got her wish.
I doubt "Idol" is the best vehicle for her talent, but she was the most unique singer I've seen this season. This is apparently her Facebook page, and here's where you can find her on SoundCloud. Check out one of her original songs I found on YouTube.
Here's a full recap of Thursday's show.
Mackenzie Wasner is from Tennessee. Her dad plays keyboard/piano for Vince Gill and she's been performing since childhood. She performs a nice rendition of "Whenever You Come Around." It's fine, but a little boring. The judges are impressed. "That sounds like we're listening to your first single," Nicki says. Keith adds, "You've got this great blend of strength and vulnerability." She unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Austin Earles performs a rough rendition of Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." Peace out, dude.
Kiara Lanier sang to Obama for his birthday. She delivers an impressive take on Celine Dion's version of "The Prayer." The judges love her. "You have so much control," Nicki says. She unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Stephanie Schimel performs a really nice version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me." She could use a little oomph, but I like her. Nicki says she "wasn't wowed." She says, "You're not giving me that thing." Nicki says no, but all the other judges advance her to Hollywood. Later, Nicki says she has a rivalry with Stephanie because they're wearing the same shade of eyeshadow. What?!?
Time for a joke singer. Melissa Bush is a massage therapist who shows up in a funky jeweled costume. She brings Randy a T-shirt that says something like, "Get down, dawg." She performs a disastrous rendition of "Downtown" and gets unanimously rejected. "You'll always be my bush," Nicki says. Again...what?!?
Quick shot of "Idol" alum Haley Reinhart visiting the Chicago auditions
Gabe Brown hails from Iowa and is a product of the show's small-town bus tour. He's a curly-haired guy who brings the judges cookies. He performs a screaming version of "Gimme Shelter." TOO MUCH. Mariah asks for something softer and he sings "We All Die Young." It's much better, but he seems to appeal to a very limited audience. "When you're doing your rock thing, I believe you," Nicki says. He unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Kevin Nabity is also from Iowa. He likes computer animation, Ninja Turtles and funky dancing. He says he's performing a Barenaked Ladies song. That might be his first mistake. He performs a manic version of "One Week." Then, he continues the insanity with "Come Sail Away." Randy says, "Do something else, man. Let the singing go." Unanimous "no" for Hollywood.
With that, we get a montage of rejected contestants.
Isabelle Parrell, 15, loves Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman. She asks Keith to duet with her on "Baby, It's Cold Outside." She even brings him the lyrics. What a random song choice. "The song was beautiful," Keith says. Mariah is happy to hear a Christmas song. Isabelle reminds me of Shannon Magrane from last year. Randy says no, but all the other judges say yes.
Keith has to leave for a concert, so Randy's left with the ladies. That kicks off a montage of Nicki hitting on male "Idol" hopefuls.
Griffin Peterson hails from Wisconsin. Immediately, Nicki is smitten. He sings a forgettable version of "Washed By The Water." Randy says no, but Nicki and Mariah say yes.
Curtis Finch Jr. is a tutor at a charter school. He sings a nice version of "God Is Able" and he kind of reminds me of Joshua Ledet from last season. He unanimously advances to Hollywood, then brings his friend into the room to meet Mariah.
Mariah Pulice is recovering from an eating disorder. She performs a decent rendition of "Let It Be." She needs a little more practice, but she deserves a chance. She unanimously advances to Hollywood. "I feel beautiful for the first time in so long," she says.
With that, we're done with day one in Chicago. Keith is back for day two.
Day 2 kicks off with Brandy Neelly, who was adopted by her aunt because her biological father had some problems. She sails through her performance of "Your Cheatin' Heart." She has a very strong voice and the judges love her. She unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Josh Holiday unanimously advances to Hollywood with his performance of "Back at One." Courtney Williams also advances with her performance of "Who's Loving You." Andrew Jones advances after singing "Knock On Wood."
Clifton Duffin has kept his singing a secret, which is usually a recipe for disaster. But his version of Luther Vandross' "Superstar" is really good. He unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Ieisha Cotton dances (badly) before she sings, which isn't a good sign. I'm right. She destroys Ashanti's "Thank You." Randy says, "Baby, you're tone deaf." Mariah says yes, but she means no. The judges unanimously reject her, but they praise her dancing.
Johnny Keyser is a contestant from last year who's back for another chance. I hate this guy. His version of "Try a Little Tenderness" is a little over the top, but it's not awful. The judges like him. He unanimously advances to Hollywood.
Kez Ban is a fire performer and she makes animals out of balloons. She's quirky and begins her pre-audition interview by asking the cameraman if she's destined for the blooper reel. She says she doesn't want to win, but she wants to get to Hollywood. She wears caution tape around one of her boots and performs an original song with her guitar. I doubt "Idol" is the best vehicle for her talent, but she unanimously advances to Hollywood.
With about 20 minutes to go, we get a montage of bad singers: "The Miserables."
Ashley Curry is studying musical theater, so it's no surprise that her performance of "Mama Knows Best" is totally over the top. She gets a four-way "no" for Hollywood. She needs to be escorted out of the room.
Time for the last singer of the night.
Lazaro Arbos stutters and at one point, the condition was so bad that he couldn't speak. He went through therapy but nothing worked. He moved to Florida from Cuba. Lazaro stutters while introducing himself to the judges, but his stutter disappears completely when he sings "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Pretty darn amazing. He unanimously advances to Hollywood.