Previews of this Thursday's "American Idol" Atlanta episode promised the return of General Larry Platt — the man behind "Pants on the Ground," inarguably the finest moment of "Idol" Season 9 and the most popular non-William Hung reject audition in "Idol" history. But then…the good General's comeback didn't make it to air. He was lookin' like a fool with his footage on the editing-room ground.
So here's that clip. It deserves to be seen, because four years after General Platt first became a viral sensation, saggy pants are still a serious national problem, and "PotG's" message still rings true:
Of course, Larry didn't make it through. The other disappointment of the night came when 19-year-old Alyson Pagona was also rejected. She had rad Pepto-pink hair; she covered "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the ukulele; and she was wearing a Bowie-esque, glam-rock kitty T-shirt that judge Harry Connick Jr. dubbed "Major Tomcat." She should have just been declared Season 13's winner right then and there. Oh well.
Anyhoo, those setbacks notwithstanding, during the course of this one-hour episode quite a few promising auditioners (44, to be exact) were put through to Hollywood. Here were the standouts of the night:
Majesty Rose, 21 – Wearing a flower garland just like Wednesday's hopeful Jade Lathan, this awesomely named young lady had a certain fragility to her. As she softly warbled Coldplay's "Violet Hill," she seemed painfully shy and didn't exhibit a ton of stage presence, but that's something she can work on. The voice was there, and the judges saw potential. Harry called her "refreshing," "lovely," and "elegant." Jennifer Lopez called Majesty's performance "effortless" and "beautiful." Then J.Lo said, "I love it when they make it easy," as she and her fellow judges quickly handed out the first golden ticket of the day. Let's see if this Rose blossoms in Hollywood.
Jesse Cline, 19 – This gas station late-shift worker, used to going without sleep, drove eight straight overnight hours from Kentucky to try out for "Idol," and luckily, it was worth the effort. He didn't look like a pop or rock star, and he readily admitted that people tend to be surprised by his voice, but his performance of Needtobreathe's "Washed by the Water" was very strong. Harry called Jesse "the ultimate Cinderella" (or Cindefella?), and said, "[You have] believability. Some people can do it, and some people can't. You are a believable singer." I think America could fall in love with this guy.
Chris Medina, 23 – Not to be confused with the Season 10 contestant of the same name with the horrible backstory (the one whose fiancée suffered brain damage in a car accident), this Chris Medina had a much more feelgood audition, accompanied by his dog who may or may not have peed on Harry. Chris's cover of Adele's "Chasing Pavements" was pleasant enough, but I would have given the golden ticket to the dog instead. That puppy was the REAL star.
Kristen O'Connor, 24 – This nurse tech was GORGEOUS, and she sang the heck out of "Good Morning Heartache" by Billie Holiday. WGWGs and coffeehouse crooners may dominate Season 13 so far, but apparently there's still room for big-voiced pop girls in the Kelly/Jordin mold.
Emily Piriz, 17 – Another pop girl with a massive set of lungs, this teen belted Jessie J's "Mamma Knows Best" with enough power to rattle the walls. There were some pageanty, overly precocious affectations to her performance that bugged me slightly, but those bad habits can be unlearned. The talent was definitely there.
Ben Briley, 24 – Ben's twangy cover of Amos Lee's "Arms of a Woman" was a bit "nasally," as J.Lo put it, but J.Lo didn't think that was a bad thing. Keith Urban was an instant fan of Ben's vocal style, saying, "If you sang a cappella on the radio, I would pull off the road. I might crash my car!" Ben's voice was well-suited for country music, and also had crossover appeal. (Harry nicknamed Ben "Gumbo" because of his tasty mix of different influences.) His voice was distinctive, for sure, and with the right songs, like the Amos cover, it could work. But with the wrong songs, it could be a disaster. Let's see how Ben fares during those Hollywood group rounds, when he's forced to do Motown or Gaga tunes.
Nica Neshae, 24 - I don't understand why the judges were so crazy for Nica's performance of Aretha Franklin's "Natural Woman." Nica was no Aretha, and she was no Kelly Clarkson, for that matter. She sounded harsh and shrill to me, but for the judges, this was an easy unanimous yes, with no deliberation at all. I'm still not convinced.
Jordan Brisbane, 15 – It cracked me up when this kid came in and swaggadociously said, "I believe I have what it takes to shut the 'American Idol' series DOWN." Damn! But then, he put his money where his singing mouth was. His cover of Bruno Mars's "When I Was Your Man" was not perfect (J.Lo advised him to avoid fussy runs and tricks, and I personally thought his breath control needed work), but for 15, he had a lot of potential — and even more personality. There was no way the judges could not put him through. Jordan needs to be in Hollywood to shut things down and keep things interesting. In the words of his cheering relatives: Go Jordan! Go Jordan!
Sam Burchfield, 22 – Sam is a total Phillip Phillips fanboy: His audition package included cellphone video of him at a recent Phillip concert, and he entered the Atlanta audition room (not too far from the Savannah location where Phillip tried out two years ago) in a regulation P-Squared outfit of plaid shirt, baggy jeans, flip-flops, and low-slung six-string. So it was kind of cute when he auditioned with "I Want To Be Like You" from The Jungle Book. I actually thought he seemed more like Casey Abrams than Phillip Phillips, however, when he finally sang. He was jazzy and scatty and theatrical, and he even did a little kazoo trick with his mouth. J.Lo and Keith liked his originality, but Harry thought Sam "just wasn't strong enough" and said, "I don't think he'll last." Is Sam just a novelty act or some Phillip wannabe? Or were Jennifer and Keith right to give him a chance? We'll soon find out.
Jessica Meuse, 22 – Jessica was my favorite contestant of the night. With a gravely voice that Harry compared to Stevie Nicks and a shock of pink hair that made her look like the immaculately conceived offspring of Allison Iraheta and Amanda Overmyer, this self-described "road warrior" rock chick delivered a striking and instantly memorable rendition of her actually-very-good original song, "Blue-Eyed Lie." As she leaned into the performance, sawing her arm back and forth as she played guitar, Keith appreciated her aggressive shoulder action. He could see her rock 'n' roll swagger and the steel in her eyes. Harry loved her low-maintenance, just-one-of-the-guys vibe. Jess showed her softer side when she cried upon receiving her golden ticket, but I still think she's a tough chick who could kick some serious butt on this show…just as long as she's able to adapt her outlaw style to "Idol's" many silly challenges and hokey themes.
Lauren Ogburn, 19 – Lauren was another outlaw type, though she seemed to be trying too hard to prove this by showing up to her audition wearing what appeared to be the entire contents of Gretchen Wilson's wardrobe. (Harry told her she was "over-accessorized to the point of ridicule.") However, her gritty cover of Reba McEntire's "Fancy" had a lot of Southern soul, and she seemed like the real deal. She didn't need to try so hard. Keith thought it was the perfect song for her. J.Lo got "goosies." Lauren got three yesses and a golden ticket. Then she too sobbed. "I love when tough girls are mushy on the inside," sighed Jennifer.
Caleb Johnson, 22 - Rawker Caleb tried out in Season 10 and had real potential, but royally blew it when he messed up his lyrics during Vegas Week. Back to redeem himself and bring back some Bo Bice-style heartland rock to "Idol," Caleb won over the new panel and got another chance. Don't forget the lyrics this time, Caleb!
Neco Starr, 22 – I totally remember Neco from Season 11. He was really good, but he was sadly axed at the Green Mile point of the competition. I was happy to see him return, even if Adele's "Someone Like You" wasn't the best song choice for him (I thought it brought out the strident qualities of his somewhat girly voice). Harry didn't "get it," but eventually gave Neco a small yes. I'm hoping Neco will get to the live shows this time.
Bria Anai, 15 – This girl is FIFTEEN? Seriously? What is in the milk that kids are drinking these days? She seemed at least 10 years older, brimming with confidence and self-awareness, and she had the voice of a real woman, too. But still, there was a goofy playfulness to her personality that made her likable and relatable. Harry loved the thickness of her tone on her Adele cover. J.Lo loved her glittery purple lipgloss and the voice that came out of those lips. Something makes me think that Bria's "nothing but sparkles" fashion sense, combined with her natural talent, will help her go far in Hollywood.
And thus, another week of "Idol" Season 13 comes to an end. Come back next week, when the show moves on to Salt Lake City (without Larry Platt, of course). See you then!