What's in a name? Last year, "American Idol" introduced us to Phillip Phillips, and from the moment his name was mentioned for the first time, it seemed as though the crown was his.
On Wednesday's episode of "Idol," which covered the show's San Antonio and Long Beach auditions, viewers were introduced to a few more singers who sounded like winners in name alone: Cristabel Clack, Shubha Vedula and, last but most certainly not least, Papa Peachez.
OK, Papa Peachez is a bit of a cheat, since we're fairly sure that's not the name on his birth certificate. But if there's been a contestant with a better handle in the history of "Idol," we're not recalling.
Peachez — yes, Peachez with a "z" — is a self-described "big black woman trapped in a little boy's body" who hates singing cover songs, so for his audition he sang an original song about, yes, Papa Peachez. "Papa Peachez don't lie," went the tale, as the 19-year-old from Jackson, Mississippi, sang in a deep delta blues bellow. Nicki Minaj was enamored with him from the start. "I think that you are a superstar," she told him. "I loved the song, loved that you wrote it, loved that it was something that only Papa Peachez could sing." (Take just a second and let that last comment sink in. We'll wait.)
The other judges quite weren't as taken with Mr. Peachez, with Keith Urban and Randy Jackson passing on him and Mariah Carey granting him only "a small yes." But that was enough to send it to a tiebreaker, and Minaj passionately argued Peachez' case to Jackson, who was the day's tiebreaking vote. "He's the most special person we've had today!" she pled, and finally Jackson caved. Mr. Peachez is going to Hollywood!
So are Clack and Vedula. Clack, 29, a worship leader from San Antonio, impressed the judges with her version of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," which was truly her own version of the song. She used Keys' version merely as a starting point, and added her own runs and inflections to the song. Jackson dubbed her "what the whole thing is about!" and the panel handily sent her through. Vedula, meanwhile, auditioned while only Jackson and Urban were in the room — Carey was caught in traffic, and Minaj was tied up at rehearsals for the American Music Awards — and while they tried to figure out her name ("Chulla Petulla?" Jackson joked. "Petulla Pejulla?") the 17-year-old from Michigan surprised them with a strong version of "Something's Got a Hold On Me." She made it through to Hollywood, and we'll be seeing more from her — and hearing more of that great name, no doubt — in the weeks to come.
Micah Johnson and Matheus Fernandes also made an impression on the episode. Johnson, like Lazaro Arbos earlier this season, has a severe speech impediment, but when he sings it melts away. (Johnson's speech was affected when his nerves were damaged when he was getting his tonsils taken out.) The 24-year-old Navy man's take on Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried" earned him four "yes" votes from the judges, and was one of the episode's most well-received auditions.
Meanwhile, Fernandes — who appeared on Oxygen's "The Glee Project" — sang Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," lacing it with personal feeling from his own struggle with his height. Carey told him she brought him to tears (but showed no visible evidence of tears, the second time she's pulled that move this season) while Jackson told him his height didn't matter, his talent did. "To me, you 10 feet tall right now," he told the emotional Fernandes as he clutched his golden ticket to Hollywood.
Other standouts on Wednesday's episode include Vincent Powell, Savannah Votion, Ann Difani, Victoria Acosta, Sanni M'Mairura, Adam Sanders, Matt Farmer, Jesaiah Baer, Briana Oakley and Rachel Hale. Thursday's "Idol" — the final audition episode of the season — covers the show's Oklahoma auditions, and then Hollywood Week begins next Wednesday.
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