New judge Harry Connick Jr. cemented his role as tough-to-please truth teller on "American Idol" on Thursday night, as the auditions returned to Austin for a second night and then moved on to San Francisco.
"This is tough because it's a perfect story," he told 15-year-old hopeful Tristen Langley, who'd brought his mother, "Idol" Season 1 third-place finisher Nikki McKibbin, to his audition. She stood nearby, mouthing the words as he sang a so-so "Santeria." "I just think if mom weren't here and the story weren't here, I can guarantee you it wouldn't work for me."
Jennifer Lopez, who had gushed about the "crazy" history being made -- "We're a second generation 'Idol' already!" – as soon as Langley had finished singing (and McKibbin mouthing), said she "totally" disagreed.
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The kid's desire to perform began at age 4, he said, when he appeared on "Idol" to present a rose to his mother. She later finished just behind Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson.
Ultimately, Lopez and Keith Urban teamed up to override "Hatchet Harry," as he has dubbed himself, to put Langley though, albeit with a warning to open up his notes. They, too, were cementing their roles: Lopez bringing the emotion to the judging table, and Urban the cool.
Other notable would-be contestants from Austin included:
-- Black-haired, black-guitar-carrying Jesse Roach, 27, there because a neighbor she'd never seen before showed up in her garage one day while she was practicing and told her she'd signed her up for auditions and would pay her way. Lopez liked her look, Urban her soul, and Connick her rasp.
-- Quiandra Boston-Pearsall, 17, whose super-close friend, 15-year-old Jamiah Malik, didn't make it. "I don't even know how to feel about it," Boston-Pearsall said.
-- Megan Miller, 23, whose "cry" and "rasp" in her performance of Carrie Underwood's "Last Name" had Connick worrying about her blowing out her voice, and Lopez offering Steven Tyler as a counterexample.
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-- Spencer Lloyd, a 19-year-old worship leader who made it through on looks and what Lopez called his "sweetness." "You're gonna bring something to 'American Idol' that needs to be there," Connick told him. "It's an image thing, so I'm gonna say yes."
-- T.K. Hash, a 28-year-old Barack Obama lookalike who did a killer POTUS impression and then impressed the judges with his take on Fall Out Boy's "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark." "Certain people … when they come into the room, they change the energy and the chemistry," Lopez told him.
-- John Fox, a 20-year-old worship leader from Magnolia, Texas, whose rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" pleasantly surprised the judges.
And from San Francisco:
-- Rachel Rolleri, an adorable, blond 17-year-old, whose equally adorable blond mom is apparently a big Keith Urban fan. She impressed the judges with what Urban called a Cher-like tonal "thickness," but also received a warning about making silly faces after minor flubs.
-- Emmanuel Zidor, 24, who managed to recover from an unnerving singing/crawling entrance. "It scared me a little bit. I'm not gonna lie," Lopez admitted. "I've been told by so many people that I can't do this," Zidor tearfully told the judges. They told him he could.
-- Caitlin Johnson, a 15-year-old who lives on a horse farm in North Plains, Ore., whose mature look prompted disbelief from Connick. "You're 32 years old, you're from New York City, and your name is Beth Goodwin," he insisted.
-- David Luning, a 26-year-old singer-songwriter who intrigued all three judges with an original song one called "as misanthropic as you can get." "I'm not sure if it's 'Idol' interesting," Connick said, "but it is very interesting."
-- Selena Moreno, a 22-year-old hostess from Sacramento, who tried out with her twin, Sierra, but was the only one of the two to make it through. "One of you is clearly the better singer," Connick informed the sisters before the judges rendered their divisive verdict.
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-- Briana Oakley, 17, who was cut during the Hollywood rounds last season and vowed to return stronger than ever. Urban remembered her. Lopez was reminded of Jordin Sparks. And Connick was really impressed, saying Oakley seemed "proud to sing."
-- Adam Roth, a "sound healer" who amused the judges by talking about chakras and then impressed them just enough with his somewhat peculiar rendition of "Hallelujah" to get through. Lopez described Roth's voice as "very pretty" but said, "Something to me … felt like, 'Is he forcing it? Is it fake?'"
What did you think of the auditions?