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American Idol: Austin Auditions Are “Country Strong”

Jenny Chen |
February 2, 2011 | 10:59 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor


Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Host Ryan Seacrest and American Idol’s judges set foot in Austin, Texas on Wednesday night, ready to take some sweet country darlings and well mannered cowboy hat-wearing folks back to Hollywood. 

It certainly seemed as if the city was ready for them as contestants charmed America with their sweet accents, real hospitality, and love for country music.

The show began with Idol apologizing for Tyler’s behavior last week when he asked contestant Jake Muck if he knew what his last name rhymes with – keeping it classy.

But Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez finally seemed at place as judges and with each other. Jackson took the reins and had a couple moments of leadership when he was the lone person refusing to hand over a golden ticket. 

And amidst a few floozies (more on that later), the state that gave Idol Season One winner Kelly Clarkson has a few more stars in the making. 

Corey Levoy, 21, kicked off the night with “Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. Corey shared a cute story of how he met his sister at age 14 even though they had lived just a few minutes from each other. He showed off a surprisingly high register, shocking Jackson who kept wondering which note Corey would hit next. 

He changed the melody often, adding in runs that actually contributed to the song. He and his “J.Lo booty” should do just fine. 

Meanwhile, Austin provided a real cowboy with John Wayne Schulz, 23, who performed “Believe” by country duo Brooks & Dunn. Fulfilling a promise to his mother he made three years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, John sang in a clear deep voice very suited to him. A true gentleman with good manners, his “yes sir” directed to Jackson was very charming, making him a likely favorite among the ladies. 

The Idol judges also found one country beauty who might finally be the first to even come close to Season Four winner Carrie Underwood. 

Janelle Arthur, 20, sang “Syrup and Honey” by Duffy and her voice was just that. Her second song, “No One Needs to Know” by Shania Twain was just as flawless, as Janelle’s voice easily transitioned between notes. 

One possible mistake, however, seemed to be Hollie Cavanaugh, who earned a “no” from Jackson after she warbled through “At Last” by Etta James. Somehow, her version of “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus reversed his decision and warranted a unanimous vote through to Hollywood. 

Another was Courtney Penry, 17, who might be remembered more for her adoration towards Seacrest than her vocals. Promising to love him “forever” before singing Sugarland’s “Stay,” Courtney clucked and growled once she got in front of the judges. The judges noted some weak areas, but J.Lo was convinced she was a complete package. 

Couple Jacqueline Dunford, 21, and Nick Fink, 19, too, offered nothing spectacular, albeit they were memorable. Jacqueline sang “Mercy” by Duffy and Nick performed “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, offering relatively unique aspects to their performances. 

Still, the pair doesn’t seem vocally ready to take on the role of “power couple” quite yet. Jacqueline, specifically, seemed to miss a few of the key notes in her song. It will be interesting to watch their relationship evolve once they end up competing against each other. 

But even as the judges made some questionable choices about who to take to Hollywood, they agreed on one contestant that had to go home. 

Rodolfo Ochoa, 17, took on “Circle of Life” from the Disney film, “The Lion King.” J.Lo said he was singing so out of tune and without a melody, but his cheeky grin and striped hair was definitely endearing enough to get him some air time. Based on his smile, it didn't seem like Rodolfo minded his rejection too much either. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.

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