'American Idol' Recap: All Hail John Wayne Schulz (And His Mother)

Come one! Come all! Spend a few seconds in front of the new (and improved) "American Idol" panel and regardless of your singing abilities, you will get a Golden Ticket to Hollywood!

Are you an over-caffeinated 17-year old Seacrest stalker, more than willing to hit on any and all of the judges before shakily warbling a song with the lyrics, "I'm down on my knees"? Perfect! "Idol" wants you in Hollywood, Courtney Penry! (And please bring your deranged chicken impression.)

Do you have a sister named Brooks you only recently found out about (Oprah did it better...) and a big J. Lo booty (J. Lo does it better) but a nasal singing voice on par with any theater geek in a small town? (J. Lo does that better, too.) Step right up, Corey Levoy! Hell, we'll even let Sister Brooks sit in as a judge!

Are you an improv comedy team who are "dating" in order to get valuable time in front of the judges so that one of you can squawk Duffy and the other can croon Maroon 5 in the style of Michael Buble? You're in luck, Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink! "Idol" can't wait to produce a segment on you! (And, one can only imagine, more segments to come in Hollywood week.)

Welcome to "American Idol," Season 10: Where "No" Goes to Die.

Wednesday night's (February 2) Austin audition episode only highlighted one singer who seemed like he has an actual shot at this thing. Ladies and gentleman, say hello to John Wayne Schulz.

Producers were enamored with his name. (Because they're British and don't realize that nobody cares about John Wayne anymore.) But I have a feeling that American audiences are going to be enamored with Schulz's Southern charm, 10 gallon hat and heartwarming rendition of Brooks and Dunn's "Believe." (Not to be confused with Cher's hit of the same name. Band name not to be confused with aforementioned sister/brother duo Brooks and Dull.)

Compared to 16-year-old Scott McCreery (who we met last week in Nashville), Schulz's voice is far more versatile. And where McCreery's audition was full of "ain't I cute?" smirks, Schulz closed his eyes and completely lost himself in the music. His emotional delivery rang so true that I would have sported the same goosebumps even if I hadn't known that he was trying out as a favor to his breast cancer suffering mom.

Now that we're on the topic, let me count the ways that I love Vicky (aka Mama Schulz).

1. Mama Schulz wore a lime green top to match her son's shirt. Stop it. (Don't stop.)

2. Mama Schulz is an "American Idol" fan. She's one of us, you guys.

3. Mama Schulz gave birth to a dude that looks exactly like Armie Hammer. "The Social Network" taught us that two Armie Hammers are better than one, and now we can have that without the expensive CGI step.

4. After the judges shared the good news with her, Mama Schulz replied without hesitation, "I hope you won't be disappointed in him." Swoon.

Mama Schulz is so damn perfect, I'll even forgive her husband for making a veiled slam at Seacrest's less-than-"manly" ways.

While I wasn't a huge fan of Austin's audition episode (Schulz aside), I would be a hypocrite to dis the first show this season that wasn't overrun by 15-year-olds.

It was no accident that the youngest contestant of the night — 17-year-old ball of frayed nerves Hollie Cavanagh — would have been better served had she been told to come back in a few years after her "At Last" had more keys than a janitor's ring.

Instead, Cavanagh collapsed into tears, prompting Jennifer Lopez to give her a second chance ... after the break. Ironically, Hollie chose Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" as her new number, a song that celebrates the journey over the outcome. If she truly believed in the song's message, why did Hollie weep like Paris in a cop car while the judges' decided her fate? If it ain't about how fast you get there, and if it ain't about what's waiting on the other side, why are you having a teenage meltdown?

Stupidly, the judges saw a bawling, nervous mess and thought, "Yeah, she'll handle this show well. Here's a Golden Ticket." At the very least, her sob-filled "Climb" was like a sneak peek at her results show elimination performance. Just add more apathetic semi-finalists crowding around her in a half-hearted group hug and voila!

The night ended with the introduction of likable schlub Casey Abrams. Between his Seth Rogen/"Fraggle Rock" comparisons and his Jedi-chic attire, we were set up to think that he'd drunkenly burp up a bad Lady Gaga cover. Instead, the 19-year-old Idyllwild native rocked an unexpected bluesy Ray Charles homage. His herky-jerky performance and throwback schtick brings to mind season five champ Taylor Hicks. His affinity for scat evokes season six also-ran Leslie Hunt. Not exactly the mainstream superstar material "Idol" is hoping to launch this season, but the guy has a winning personality and a passion for the melodica. What's not to love?

What did you think of Austin? Did you "awww" when Marc Anthony stopped in to smooch his wife? What did you make of the judges' claim that Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink were the first "Idol" power couple? (I think David Cook and Kimberly Caldwell would beg to differ.) Was it just me or did you get the impression that Seacrest has experienced "belt buckle damage" before? Do you think Casey has the chops (musical, not mutton) to earn those Taylor Hicks comparisons? And do you even remember Janelle Arthur?! Leave a comment below, and to keep up with all my "Idol" goofiness,


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