Friday, January 20, 2012

'American Idol' Finds Reed Grimm, Hallie Day In Pittsburgh

Samantha Novacek, Creighton Fraker and Eben Franckewitz also stand out.
By Adam Graham

Judges on "American Idol"
Photo: FOX

"American Idol" continued its kindness streak Thursday (January 19), handing out 38 Golden Tickets during its Pittsburgh audition rounds.

Furthermore, of the 11 singers showcased during the hour-long program, 10 made it through to Hollywood. (Where have you gone, William Hungs of the world? Come back, Renaldo Lapuz!)

Even the auditions that looked like they were going to be joke auditions turned out to be authentic. Case in point: Samantha Novacek, who came before the judges joined by her sister, who insists on planking while she sings. So before Novacek tore into Faith Hill's "Like We Never Loved at All," sister Patricia laid down in front of her, head up, arms at her side. (Before you criticize "Idol" for being late to the meme, remember the audition was taped over the summer.) Planking or no, the vocals were there, and when the 19-year-old breezed through to Hollywood, Novacek's entire family celebrated by planking in the lobby. Our only question: Does the sister get to come to Hollywood too?

Another standout on Thursday's show was 15-year-old Eben Franckewitz, whom producers made sure to throw the Bieber tag on early. (Granted, he did have a haircut that recalled the Biebs.) The Milford, Ohio, resident rode to the audition with his perfectly supportive parents and knocked his rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine" out of the park. "You definitely have a God-given gift that is pretty amazing and spot-on," Randy Jackson told him, sending him (and his Bieber coif) through to the next round.

Reed Grimm brought wily soul to the "Family Matters" theme song (!), culled from his many years onstage (the 26-year-old has been in a family band since he was 2) and was instantly zipped through to Hollywood. Even Urkel would have been proud.

Creighton Fraker, 28, of Queens, New York, didn't know what he was going to sing for the judges, so he decided to do a song he made up on his way to the audition. There wasn't much there in the way of lyrics — the song just sort of awkwardly name-dropped the judges — but thankfully "Idol" is a singing contest and not a songwriting one, and the judges were so impressed with his vocals that they did one of those things where they throw out crazy percentages in front of their "yes" votes to quantify how much they like him. (Steven Tyler won by giving him a "3 gazillion percent yes.") Jennifer Lopez commented the Queens native is like if Jamiroquai and Justin Timberlake had a baby, which, weird? But Tyler better summed up the judges' enthusiasm, gushing, "Dude, you are so Hollywood!"

The show closed with 24-year-old Hallie Day of Baltimore, a high school dropout who crawled back from a suicide attempt several years ago and thrilled the judges with her strong vocals on Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." "She could win," mused Lopez, who's already taken to calling Day "Blondie."

Other contestants who passed on to Hollywood on Thursday's show: Heejun Han, 22, of Flushing, New York, who sang a surprisingly soulful version of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," made even more surprising by the fact that he had never sang in front of his family; 27-year-old Aaron Marcellus from Teaneck, New Jersey, who took on Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and came out a winner; and 20-year-old Chase Likens of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, whose version of Lady Antebellum's "Love Don't Live Here" stood out from the pack.

"American Idol" continues Sunday with the San Diego audition rounds, following the NFC Championship Game on Fox.

What did you think of Thursday's round of "Idol" auditions? Let us know in the comments!

Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

Malin Akerman Mandy Moore Maria Bello Maria Menounos

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