The Top 12 men of “American Idol” hit the stage for their first shot at winning the public vote on Wednesday night, but few impressed the show’s judges.
Just one of the men managed to get wholehearted praise from Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Randy Jackson and Ellen DeGeneres — the handsome blond Texan, Casey James.
Casey, 27, tackled Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” but he had to stifle his laughter throughout his performance as the judges hammed it up around Kara, who previously admitted to having a crush on the crooner.
“Casey, I don’t recognize you with your shirt on,” Kara said after he finished his number, referring to his audition where she asked him to take off his shirt. “It was hard for me to listen to that because I’m married.”
Ellen actually apologized for the judges’ behavior during Casey’s performance, behavior which the singer had to work hard to ignore.
“I’m sorry everything was going on, because it was not fair,” she said.
As for Simon, he offered a true compliment, after praising himself.
“One thing I do understand is that we both were cursed with good looks and somehow you have to manage the talent thing as well,” Simon said tongue-in-cheek. “All the kidding aside… what I really liked about you today was you absolutely chose the right song, it came over as very honest, very sincere, you came over as very likable.”
Here’s what happened with the rest of the pack:
Todrick Hall, 24, from Arlington, Texas, opened the show with an R&B version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone,” which didn’t leave a good impression on Simon. “What you did was completely murder the original song,” he said.
Aaron Kelly, 16, from Sonestown, Penn., tried out Rascal Flatts’ “Here Comes Goodbye,” and while he didn’t slay the song, the judges complimented his potential. “16, what a voice, dude. Wow,” Randy said.
Jermaine Sellers, 27, from Joliet, Ill., took on “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, but his shaky vocal runs landed him in hot water. “I think you’ve totally blown your opportunity with that,” Simon noted.
Tim Urban, 20, from Duncanville, Texas, was the “Idol” called back to the group after Chris Golightly was eliminated and he sang One Republic’s “Apologize” for his return. “Congratulations for coming back,” Simon said. “Having said that, we absolutely made the right decision [the] first time around by not putting you through based on that performance.”
Joe Munoz, 20, from Huntington Park, Calif., performed the Jason Mraz song “You and I Both,” but while Randy thought he “worked it out,” Simon called his safe rendition, “forgettable.”
Tyler Grady, 20, from Nazareth, Penn., was another contender who didn’t impress the judges as he took on ‘70s classic “American Woman.” “My issue with you is, you come over… as somebody [who has] gone to ‘Pretend To Be A Rock Star’ school,” Simon said. “It’s all a bit cliched. It doesn’t feel natural and [this] is a singing competition. I don’t think you’re spending enough time concentrating on your vocals.”
Lee Dewyze, 23, from Mount Prospect, Ill., sang The Fray during Hollywood Week, and he picked another “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtracking band, Snow Patrol, and their song “Chasing Cars,” to try and win points on Wednesday. Randy suggested the singer go for rock next time, while Simon said Lee was great. “I thought this was the best performance by far,” the Brit said.
John Park, 21, from Evanston, Ill., tried to show his stuff with the gospel standard “God Bless The Child,” but it was slammed. “You have got to have an incredible voice to take on that song and you haven’t [got one],” Simon said.
Michael Lynche, 26, from Astoria, New York, made fans during Hollywood Week as he belted out soulful tunes and cried with emotion, hearing about the birth of his first child by phone, but his performance of “This Love” by Maroon 5 on Wednesday didn’t get a lot of praise. “You’re a big guy, big heart, but you delivered so little with that performance,” Simon stated.
Alex Lambert, 19, from North Richland Hills, Texas, revealed on Wednesday’s show he has only ever performed in front of audiences three times, so his version of James Morrison’s “Wonderful World” was criticized less for his vocals and more for his shy stage presence.
“That was the most uncomfortable performance of the night,” Simon quipped to boos from the audience. “You can boo all you like, it’s a fact…. You’ve got a good voice, naturally, a good voice, but if you can’t get your nerves together on a night like this, it’s never gonna work for you.
Andrew Garcia, 24, from Moreno Valley, Calif., became popular among “Idol” fans during Hollywood Week for his rendition of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” but performing Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” on Wednesday wasn’t as successful. “Go back to being you,” Randy said. “I felt this was a little try-hard.”