Austin auditions started with another cold opening, but this one was in the form of an apology. "American Idol would like to apologize for last week's outrageous behavior by Steven Tyler. Mr. Tyler has been warned and assures us it will never happen again." Enter Jake Muck. Steven: "You know what Muck rhymes with, don't you?" Jake: "Duck?" Steven: "Read my lips..."--cue the intro!
This was American Idol's third time in Austin. While Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson arrived at work in the usual way, Steven Tyler came via horse-drawn carriage. That man knows how to make an entrance!
Corey Levoy didn't meet his older sister until he was 14 due to "parental differences." Now the two are best friends and she's his biggest supporter. When Corey stood in front of the judges, he told them that she's probably harsher than they are, so the judges invited his sister, Brooks, in. A magical fourth judging chair appeared for Brooks. I never heard her name being tossed around all summer long. Corey sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," and when he was through, Steven clapped for him. Apparently, Corey used to get teased for his high speaking voice, but he showed those bullies because he got four "heck yeses" from the judges and his supportive sis. The confident contestant then told Jennifer that all of his friends say he has a "JLo Booty," and now he'll be planting it on an airplane flight to California.
What do you get when you cross an English accent with a Texas drawl? Hollie Cavanagh, a cute 17-year-old girl who was a ball of nerves while performing for the judges. She showcased a nice voice when singing "At Last" by Etta James, but Randy said it wasn't strong enough. This was probably Hollie's first time not getting positive feedback on her voice, so she began to cry. Jennifer told her if she can collect herself, she can have another go with a different song. With tears in her eyes, Hollie sang Miley Cyrus' "The Climb." Part way through she became choked up as she sang "Gotta keep my head held high." An emotional Jennifer gave her a yes, as did Steven, and Randy even changed his original vote to a yes. She's going to Hollie-wood!
We saw a montage of some good looking people get rejected in Austin, and then Jennifer announced, "I'm waiting for the next American Idol to walk through the door." Enter Rodolfo Ochoa. His take on Elton John's "Circle of Life" is going to keep the judges waiting for their star.
After a montage of cowboys who couldn't sing, we met a contestant whose birth name is John Wayne Schulz. When Ryan questioned his parents why they named him John Wayne, they said because pops wanted a son that was rough and tough. Ryan said, "It would have sucked if I were your son," and Mr. Schulz said that he wouldn't be the way he is now if he grew up on the Schulz Ranch. When John Wayne's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, her one wish was for her son to audition for American Idol. As John Wayne took the stage to fulfill his mother's and his dreams, Mrs. Schulz was being interviewed outside the audition room, but became distracted and choked up at the sound of her son singing. When he sang Brooks & Dunn's "Believe," his name came up on the screen with the occupation of "Cowboy." Awesome. His performance nearly brought a tear to Jennifer's eye. The judges invited John Wayne's parents into the room as they delivered three yeses to John. His mom cried and buried her face into her tall son's arms. As they left the room she asked, "Where's your golden ticket?" I love this family! John Wayne picked up Ryan and spun him around, and then Ryan lifted John Wayne's dad and showed he could have held his own on the Schulz Ranch, however, he sustained a belt buckle injury.
Day two began with Steven pulling up in a limo instead of a carriage. He and Randy had some fun with reporters and Jennifer Lopez looked as gorgeous as ever, which Steven was quick to compliment her on. Contestant Courtney Penry believes "Ryan Seacrest is the sexiest man alive. I've been dreaming about this day forever. I will marry him some day." When Ryan approached her, she nearly cried. This pretty girl seemed harmless enough, and she turned out to be quite the comedienne. Her chicken impersonation had me asking, "What the cluck?" But her voice was strong as she sang Sugarland's "Stay." The judges liked the whole package, but they said that her voice has a few habits that she should be able to work through. With two yeses and a no (from Randy) Courtney did a celebration dance/chicken walk while chanting that Randy was still her boy. She'll be a hoot--or rather a cluck--to watch in Hollywood!
This led to three more quick clips of good singers. Shauntel Campos found success with "Ain't No Sunshine," Alex Carr made "A House Is Not A Home" his own, and Caleb Johnson channeled Chris Cornell with "Rusty Cage." There were many more incredible singers who received tickets to Hollywood, and although we didn't hear from them, you can watch their Road to Hollywood videos here on AmericanIdol.com.
Lovebirds Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink have one of those over-the-top relationships with Eskimo Kisses, skipping hand-in-hand, and twirling in circles across the Texas plains. The two met at Scottsdale Community College's choir--Go Fighting Artichokes! They entered the audition room together and Jacqueline showed off a mature voice with Duffy's "Mercy." As she sang, the camera was positioned so that we could see a smitten Nick enthralled by his girlfriend. When it was Nick's turn, he gave a jazzy performance of Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning." Steven and Jennifer swayed along, and Jennifer commented, "You both sang songs we hear a lot, but you both had interesting takes." Steven liked this beautiful couple, and Randy thought it was fresh, with 6 yeses the couple burst into tears. Jennifer said they were her "favorite couple on Idol in 10 years." The love story will get the Hollywood treatment out in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
Contestant Janelle Arthur explained that country people have teeth and wear shoes. She has really nice teeth and boots, in fact. She sang Duffy's "Syrup and Honey" for the judges, and outside the room her father, who looks a tad like John McCain, said that the family already knows she's a star, but now it's time for America to know that. Janelle showed good control, but Steven wanted something a little more up-tempo. She sang another tune and the judges stopped her to give her a ticket to Hollywood!
A seven foot armadillo took the stage. While Ryan helped her step out of her costume, we saw a string of bad auditions that did not win Randy over. None of them are going to Hollywood, and neither is the armadillo. Hey, American Idol could use a mascot, and you can't spell American Idol without a-r-m-a-d-i-l-(l)-o.
Like in Milwaukee, there were some extremely angry and somewhat violent contestants in Austin, but the last auditioner was quite passive. His name is Casey Abrams and he brought along an instrument which I thought was a keytar, but we learned it was a melodica. My research revealed that a melodica is also known as the "blow-organ" or "key-flute." You're welcome. Casey gets compared to Seth Rogen often, but the producer humorously compared him to a Gorg from Fraggle Rock. He does have more facial hair than any 19-year-old I've ever seen (and more than most adults I know). He jammed out with "I Don't Need No Doctor" for the judges, and even did some scat singing. The judges might have expected a joke performance from the melodica-blowing, wired hair contestant, but they gave Casey a passionate "YES" and then danced with him as he played his melodica.
At the end of the two-day search, 50 contestants are heading from Austin to Hollywood, including a girl who called her grandma with the good news, and grandma asked, "Are you the new American Idol?" Aww, grandma, if only you knew the arduous path that lies ahead!
Tomorrow, we head to American Idol's hometown--Los Angeles!