American Idol Review: Gone With the Windy City

at . Comments

American Idol hit the Windy City for the second round of auditions of Season 12. While the contestants sang for their chance to go to Hollywood, Keith and Randy played referee for Nicki and Mariah and Ryan shook hands with anxious friends and family.

All in two-days' work, right? 

Lazaro Arbos Audition Pic

Mackenzie Wasner is the first up tonight. Like Haley Reinhart, Mackenzie's dad is a musician, performing their first gig together when she was the wee age of 5--the ABCs for her kindgarten class. She's sweet and there's something pure and beautiful about her voice. Mariah and Nicki give her high praise and it's an easy ticket to Hollywood for Mackenzie. We're due for a country idol, so watch out for her.

Kiara Lanier is auditioning for Idol after singing for the President. Nicki heaps on the compliments before she has a chance to sing and Kiara heaps the compliments on Mariah. This is a theme for the season. Kiara killed it!! Four yes votes and she's through to Hollywood.

Third contestant up tonight is Stephanie Schimel. She's soft and quiet and her rendition of "Dream A Little Dream" is beautiful. Nicki says she's lacking confidence and votes no while the other judges send her to Hollywood.

And then things heat up between Nicki and Mariah. Nicki keeps voting no while Mariah keeps voting yes, I think, and the two keep taking verbal jabs at each other over their respective decisions. I can't decide if I'm happy Keith is between them so they don't claw each other's eyes out or if I want him to move out of the way and let them just do this thing already. If they keep this up, it's going to be a long season.

Another addition this year, in addition to the nominations, is the Small Town Idol Bus Tour. The bus stopped in Iowa City to pick up baker Gabe Brown. He belts out a rock number and Mariah asks for something more mellow. It's clear he's a rocker a la James Durbin. Unlike last night's nominated contestant, Gabe gets a golden ticket.

Kevin Nabity thinks he might be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That's about all I can say about him. NEXT.

Finally, someone is excited to see someone other than Mariah. Isabel Parell is an aspiring country singer. Keith helps her out with "Baby, It's Cold Outside" by singing the second singer's part and that probably made her life. Isabel is very girl next door and there's something genuine about her. Randy gave her a no but with yes votes from the other three, she's headed to Hollywood.

Keith had to leave to perform in Vegas. Because one of the divas is the biggest diva ever, Randy has to move so he can sit between them. Because Heaven forbid they act like civilized human beings and adults who can get along.

Thankfully, Griffin Peterson waltzes in with his sparkling smile and helps Nicki and Mariah bond. Randy says his voice is barely below average, but the girls vote him through to Hollywood. His face is very, very pretty. His voice isn't terrible. He'll do for another round or two. I won't complain about having to see him on my television again.

Curtis Finch, Jr. wows the judges with a Smokie Norful song. They give him a unanimous yes and then he gets to introduce his friend to Mariah. Look at Queen Mimi bumping elbows with the lowly peasants.

Mariah bonds with the next contestant over their shared name. Mariah Pulice is recovering from anorexia and has a story to tell and a voice with which to tell it. She sings "Let It Be" and brings Mariah to tears. Ryan sneaks her family into the room just as the judges give her three yes votes. She's going to Hollywood.

The first audition of day two is Brandy Neely from Louisville, KY, singing "Your Cheating Heart." She's got "it." Whatever "it" is. Her voice is beautiful, she's got a look, and she moves when she sings. She's a great way to start day two.

To continue the greatness, Josh Holiday sings Brian McKnight's "Back At One," even hitting the note over the break. While I'm not eager to have another singer in love with the sound of his own falsetto, he gets a golden ticket. 

No one has ever heard Clifton Duffin sing before tonight. Not even his parents. He wows the judges--and his mom and dad--with a Luther Vandross hit and gets four easy yes votes.

Iesha Cotton can't wait to sing in front of Mariah Carey. The trouble is she can't sing. Mariah lets her down "delicately" by telling her to focus on her dancing. Randy just straight up tells her she's tone deaf. She's a no.

Returning from season 11, Johnny Keyser sings "Try A Little Tenderness." He's rocking a henley to get the Phillip Phillips vote! Nicki calls Mariah "Carey" and Mariah says she can't say what she wants to call Nicki because kids are watching. For putting up with their shenanigans, Johnny gets another ticket to Hollywood.

Aspiring fire performer Kez Ban (Catherine Sourbeer) is maybe the strangest performer of the night. Until she opens her mouth I feel confident this is headed straight for the blooper reel with middle fingers and the logo bleeping out curse words. But then she starts singing and I'm kind of captivated and not entirely sure we're not being Punk'd. Four yes votes and she's going to Hollywood. I just hope she leaves the fire wands at home.

The final audition of the night goes to Lazaro Arbos. He speaks with a stutter and as a child his mother encouraged him to sing as a way to communicate. His voice is beautiful. He sings "Bridge Over Trouble Water" and is sent through to Hollywood with four yes votes. I'm happy for him.

Chicago saw 46 golden tickets to join the 41 from the New York auditions and based on what we were shown, there's a good deal of talent among that 46. 

After two nights, the main issue I see plaguing American Idol season 12 is the Nicki-Mariah Clash of the Divas that keeps happening.

I can't tell if Mariah is so immature that she's stooping or if Nicki's purposefully needling because she knows it's easy to get a rise out of Mariah, but these two need to knock it off. Like, yesterday. Seriously.

Be professionals, ladies. BE LADIES. I get that they've signed on to boost and revitalize their careers, but all this bickering does is make them look like bitter, angry egomaniacs. And it's going to get old if they keep it up.

Next week we're headed to Charlotte as we continue to zigzag and the Diva-off will promises to get worse before it gets better. Here's hoping we find some more talent in the middle of their shenanigans.

Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.


Simon bickered with Paula and Demi, insulted contestants and had some pretty angry exchanges with LA Reid. Yet, viewers respect him. I don't enjoy the Nicki-Mariah bickering. I think Mariah is a little passive aggressive and constantly talks over Nicki, and Nicki is a little too sensitive. However, I also think there's a double standard in how people perceive female versus male arguments, especially in this case, where the feud has been blown out of proportion (and possibly edited to look worse than it really is). In the 1st episode, I also noticed that a lot of the bickering occurred between auditions when the judges talk freely amongst themselves and don't necessarily expect their exchanges to be aired. I doubt Mariah and Nicki expected us to see their silly "behind-the-scenes" argument over "Mean Girls" . This feud controversy could have been avoided if the producers had edited the show tastefully and not tried to capitalize on the idea of a cat-fight.


Opinions are know the rest..... We can agree to disagree. I don't like Nicki, you all do, oh well, and I think she has NO PLACE on the show.... You all brought up Keith, I never said a word about Keith. I like Keith....One of my favorite songs by him is "Raining on Sunday".......I like that he is on the show..... Ellen was also brought up, well, I didn't watch that season, but we all know how well that went......she only did one season..........D'OH Personally, I think American Idol has run its course and needs to end. The Voice is better than American Idol and X Factor.....


I may not like Nicki but she has a place on the panel even tho her and Mariah have there difference. now I like Keith hes was a good choice even tho I feel bad for him being in the middle when Nicki and Mariah have the little issues with each other

Miranda wicker

I also agree that Nicki has a place on the panel, despite her relatively short existence on the mainstream radar. I mean, Ellen was a judge, remember? Regarding the "be a lady" comment, I'm Southern. I also identify myself as a feminist. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive and that you can't carry yourself with class while also standing up for yourself/your beliefs and being strong. I think the clearly personal bickering in front of contestants is distracting and also disrespectful to the contestants and their purpose for being there. They haven't come for the Nicki and Mariah throwdown (most of them). Put your differences aside, get your job done, and talk about your differences in another venue and with cooler heads is my point.


That last sentence was meant to say that Keith Urban is also terrific (not terrible! LOL). He's very down-to-earth and makes great comments and I like his interactions with the other judges.


Not only does Nicki Minaj rap, but she's a successful singer, songwriter and producer. She started her career as an actress in training and a backup singer, and then discovered that she had a talent for rapping. Part of her success has a lot to do with her unique creativity and ability to not be constrained by how others want to define her. In a short span of 3 years she's managed to make more than 15 platinum or multiplatinum hits (either as the main artist or featured artist), and based on her comments to the contestants, it's clear that she knows the industry and also has a good appreciation for all types of music. I can understand that some people might not like her personality, but to say that she has no real experience in the music industry seems odd. I'd give her a chance. Despite good ratings, Idol has become increasingly dull with each passing year, partially due to a lackluster judging panel, and I think that Nicki breathes life into the show. Keith Urban is also terrific, I think.


Maybe it's still too soon, but I am not liking Nicki Minaj. I don't feel she's adding anything but drama to the show with her senseless bickering with Mariah. People are filling up AI's facebook page with complaints about her. There's no telling what she's going to do come the live shows in March. I also don't feel she should be judging on here because she has no real music industry experience.


Great contestants. Kez, Isabellle, Kiara, Stephanie and Brandy were my favorites. I also liked Lazaro and Josh. Kez was pretty amazing, once she picked up the guitar and she seems to be a very good song writer, too. This is the first time in many years that I've enjoyed the auditions rounds. The strong personalities of the new judges definitely makes for a very entertaining panel, and Nicki Minaj is a riot (in a good way!) I can even overlook the annoying judge bickering, because when it comes to critiquing contestants, they're all very honest and articulate. I think that the reviewer's definition of "professionalism" doesn't really apply to the music industry, where being eccentric and over-the-top is part of the profession! Also, maybe it's the feminist in me, but telling someone to "Be a lady", just seems like a comment more appropriate for the 1950s.

Tags: ,