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'American Idol' Recap: There Ain't No Crying (or Fighting) in Baton Rouge

By Kelsea Stahler, Hollywood.com Staff

There's something about Louisiana. It's just a little hard to be down all the time, when you're in the ""Home of the Dawg,"" Randy Jackson's own Baton Rouge, La. Plus, as Keith Urban points out, ""All the good music is from the South."" It's just a good time down in Louisiana, and during American Idol's fourth round of auditions, that much was clear.

There wasn't a moment of unrest nor a single sob story that dipped into the well of melodrama. It was simply an hour of goofy judge antics, good voices, and a few requisite unfortunate souls. (We're not reinventing the wheel, here.) It was just about as sweet as the smell of a crawfish boil on the Bayou.

First up, was Miss Baton Rouge, and the sign that things were going to be nice and easy in Baton Rouge. Megan Miller was in an accident just before her audition, but she doesn't spend much time feeling sorry for herself or milking her situation for sympathy. No sir. She's got surgery scheduled immediately after her audition, but she puts on her favorite heels, struts (as much as one can on crutches) into the judging room and shows off her natural, beautiful voice with a little dose of humor at her own expense (crutches make great fake microphones). She doesn't draw attention to the scrapes on her legs and arms, but instead tries to direct all attention to her voice (you know, that thing she's there to show off). Of course this girl is getting a ticket to Hollywood, but not because she made us get all misty over her hardship. She's going to Hollywood (after a successful surgery, to boot) because she's got the goods. Plain and simple.

But the talented people keep coming and their sad stories, while present, are kept in check. Seventeen-year-old Charlie Askew is socially-awkward. His parents joke that he's got Charlie Askew Syndrome because no doctor would diagnose the shy guy's social awkwardness. But from what we can see, he's just a sweet, shy kid. ""I'm bad at communicating in a firsthand sort of way,"" he says with a laugh as America collectively sighs, ""Aww."" And that's all well and good, but when Charlie finally sings (a little of ""Breakthrough"" by Queen and a lot of ""Nowhere Boy"" by David Bowie), the last thing anyone is thinking about is the kid's social fears. His sweet, androgynous tone is haunting and lovely, especially when he takes on the Bowie song. It's a perfect choice, because as Keith notes, ""The tone, it's not of a gender ... like Bowie or something."" Much like Kez Ban before him, Charlie brings a voice unlike any we've ever seen on the series, and one that could take us to a whole new place if sticks around past group week.

For Randy's mission, he's sent a hop, skip, and a jump down to New Orleans to the world famous Cafe Du Monde to pick up Maddie Assell (and hopeful some of those mouth watering beignets), a teenager on vacation with her grandmother, who's just nominated her for an Idol audition (and who happens to be the sauciest grandma ever). When she stops by the next day to sing her lil song, she chooses ""Oh Darling,"" citing Beyonce, Adele, and former Idol contestant Haley Reinhart as her influences. She's certainly got her own sound though, and the raw goods, but her runs are out of control. She's definitely someone who figured out that she could handle some incredible flourishes in her singing, but she overuses her giftand it sounds a bit messy. Still, auditions are about raw talent and Maddie's got it, and a golden ticket. Now, let's just hope she brings her hilariously strange grandmother along for the ride so she can keep telling Ryan Seacrest things like ""I want to kidnap you and take you home with me.""

After a brief trip into the Idol producers' latest parody reel, True Bad (it even adds a sexy, dark filter to the action to give it the real dingy True Blood feel). Hey, at least they're trying to keep the tone deaf stretches of auditions somewhat interesting. Still, I imagine I would have liked to see the girl who made Randy scream (yes, scream) ""NONONONONONO"" and who walked out of her audition yelling ""I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY WOULDN'T CHOOSE ME"" like a murderous Veruca Salt.

Thankfully, that nonsense is followed with an adorable, gorgeous, talented guy: Paul Jolley. Idol attempts to make a background story out of the fact that Paul just lost his grandfather, but this is about as melodramatic as the episode gets. When he gets down to business, singing Rascal Flatts' ""I Won't Let Go,"" it's clear we've just happened upon someone important in this competition. He sounds like a sweet, countrified Josh Groban, and with those eyes (that chin, that smile, those shoulders), he's what music industry experts might call a total jackpot. Here's to more from Paul come Hollywood week.

Next: The best bad singer ever.

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

[Photo Credit: Fox (2)]


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[PAGEBREAK]Even our final true baddie of the night is surprisingly pleasant. Nicki always tells kids they're wonderful after the sing horribly, even if they appear to have an awful personality to go with their awful singing voices, but in the case of Chris Barthel, or ""Mushroom"" if you're Nicki or Randy, he truly is a pretty cool dude, however ridiculous. He waltzes in, boasting about his alter ego before taking on an Adam Lambert song and destroying it in the worst possible way. Still, the guy is such a great sport, Keith tries to find a way to be sweet to him and still entertain us: he settles on ""I like the keys that song is in."" (Changing keys during a song is bad, mmk?) Even after his unanimous ""No"" Chris is having a grand ol' time, letting Nicki touch his hair, and flipping around joyously and he bids farewell to Seacrest with a smile. Of course, not every bad singer could react that way or we'd be bored in half an episode, but wasn't it at least a little refreshing to see a real person in that spot for just a second? At least until Ryan utters the joke, ""The judges couldn't find mushroom for this fungi."" Stick to telling us what show this is, Ryan. Thanks.

The train of great singers gets going with Dr. Calvin Peterson, who's ready to stop treating burn victims and start becoming a famous singer. And the thing is, the guy is adorable and a really good singer. He short of shoots himself in the foot by singing Maxwell, because no one is ever as silky smooth as Maxwell and the comparison isn't helpful. Still, the judges are impressed and he goes through. While I wanted to be happy for the self-professed ""singing doctor,"" my old fuddy duddy of a brain couldn't get past the fact that he saves lives in a manner that can only be accomplished by years of school and he wants to give that up to be a famous singer. I may be a wet blanket about this, but shouldn't you use all that schooling to keep helping people? Isn't that why people become doctors? But by all means, congrats, dude. He is a really good singer.

A quick rush of ladies goes by, including the strong, but overdone vocal stylings of Michelle Montilizzeri; the sweet, but sleepy voice of Breanna Steer; and the perfectly country voice on Miss Brand Hotard as she gave an extra dose of hell to ""Hell on Heels."" With a quick distraction from Alissa Griffin, whose version of ""Natural Woman"" felt like bad sketch comedy aimed at spoofing Rebel Wilson, we were introduced to Nicki's favorite contestant of the night, Dustin Watts, but big, buff fire-fighting machine. (For some reason, him wanting to leave his selfless job didn't bother me nearly as much as Dr. Calvin's desire to defect did.) He sings ""She's Every Woman"" by Garth Brooks practically perfectly. Nicki, who practically hates country music, is in l-o-v-e, practically falling over the desk. But she's joined by Keith, who's so entranced by Dustin it looks as if he's trying to read his soul through the words of the song. The guy is fantastic, and he's not even trying. Just imagine what he'll be able to do in Hollywood.

Last, but certainly not least, is 19-year-old Burnell Taylor. He reluctantly speaks about his fate after Hurricane Katrina, confessing that his family lost everything, but despite being the final contestant of the day, and thus the prerequisite tear-jerker, Burnell doesn't appear to be interested in making anyone cry. He moves straight into the important part: his incredible voice. When he gets to the final note in ""I'm Here,"" he hits it so beautifully and effortlessly that Keith's face melts, like actually. The corners of his mouth drooped past his chin he was in such awe. While Keith and Randy give Burnell a standing ovation, Mariah is driven to tears. Nicki says it and it's true: this is why we sit through auditions. We want the chance to feel like we discovered this phenomenal singer early. And while his past certainly helps lend an inspirational light to his accomplishments, when it comes down to it, he's going to Hollywood leaving tears in the judges' eyes because he's amazing all on his own, and no amount of sympathetic stories will alter that. He's simply fantastic, every way you slice it.

And while this episode certainly isn't going to become a pattern, it's relief to know that all antics aside, Idol is still truly searching for someone amazing. We're not through yet, but there was at least one discovery in Baton Rouge whose name we could be hearing all the way into May.

Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler

[Photo Credit: Fox]


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