American Idol: Arch Angels

Last night, American Idol met us in St. Louis, where we were looking forward to dancing the Hoochee Koochee. Unfortunately, the last stop on the audition tour (phew!) didn’t find too much by way of talent—with a couple notable exceptions. There was also a lot of filler, so consider yourselves lucky if you DVR’d this episode in advance. Let’s dive right in.

The Good:

Contestant Johnny Keyser was unveiled to us at the top of the show, after a lengthy intro package that introduced us to life with his dad, who raised him alone, and who still uses Magnum P.I. as his primary cultural reference point. Johnny has a face that makes love to the camera, and a voice that makes love to the ears. (Pardon me for that image.) He chose “A Change is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke’s classic anthem for the civil rights movement, and well golly if Mr. Keyser didn’t just about nail every, sorrowful note. This guy isn’t just the whole package; this guy is the whole warehouse. We’re definitely glimpsing Top 10 potential here.

Reis Kloeckener was presented to us as the face of bully victimization, which is disconcerting, because he’s just a cute, regular kid. If bullies can target people like Reis, what hope do hopelessly gauche outcasts like you and I have? Leave Kloeck alone, bullies! Reis sang “Lean On Me.” He has a pretty voice, though it sounded kind of thin. But he brought tears to Steve Tyler’s eyes. Seriously, though, where are the vocal powerhouses this year? On The Voice?

Lauren Gray is a pretty daddy’s girl from Arkansas who spends her days working in the family’s wedding business, and her evenings in a blues band with her proud, burnout father. Hopefully the band is better than the family’s floral arrangements, but one thing is clear: Lauren has a seriously soulful voice, and has that sorta Kelly Clarkson sexiness that works well on Idol.

The Bad:

Mark Ingram works at the hotel where the St. Louis auditions took place, and was surrounded by coworkers who encouraged him to give it a shot. Watching them keep their poker faces on as he cracked and shrieked through a Stevie Wonder song was as sweet as it was funny. This wasn’t about good singing; it was about America’s middle-class standing up for one another. Watch it pop up in a Mitt Romney ad soon.

The Ugly:

That guy in the Elvis costume, who was stunned silent by Steve’s impromptu poetry recitation.

So that’s it, folks! Your Season 11 auditions. We all know that Idol can be extremely unfair in how it chooses to dole out its screen time in these early rounds. But based on what you’ve seen, who are your favorites so far?