Simoncowell_americanidol6_240Am I the only one disappointed that after a week of FOX promos for the Hollywood round — Generic Idol Blonde Brooke White is much more interesting in front of a keyboard, it turns out — Tuesday (Feb. 5) night’s Idol was just a return to audition episodes?

At the very least, Atlanta turned out an assortment of interesting and relatively diverse vocalists. I’m not sure if I can remember any audition city in which the balance of talent was so heavily weighed toward the successful performers rather than the freaks and geeks.

Tuesday’s episode, in fact, gave a very clear impression that maybe it’s becoming harder and harder for the producers to find singers who stink in new and creative ways.

Take J.P., whose claim to fame was that several years back he sat two chairs down from Carrie Underwood before her audition. We can only assume that the alleged vocal major was awful then as well, but he wasn’t bad enough that year to make it on TV. This year? By virtue of his prior rejection, suddenly he was Grade A Mockery Beef, good for only three things: Generalized filler, as a set-up to a Paula-As-Ado-Annie montage suggesting the indecisive judge is just a girl who can’t say ‘No’ and as the recipient of Simon’s uninspired kiss-off, "My pen has got more charisma."

While Simon didn’t show us the pen, he was probably correct, but it still wasn’t a spectacularly creative or specific insult, which opened the door for 16-year-old "ninth grade repeater" Nathan Hite, who was determined that if he faced rejection, he’d give as good as he got. Unfortunately, he came in with only one witty retort, asking Simon if he kept his insults written on a piece of paper somewhere. It would have been better if Nathan’d had a follow-up, or if he hadn’t felt the need to repeat the line three times to diminishing returns. It goes without saying that he wasn’t funny and couldn’t sing, but my favorite part of his audition was the look of embarrassment on the faces of his parents as their not-so-clever lout of a son left the audition room.

The only other miss to receive extensive screentime was Eva Miller, who pranced around in her polka-dot dress and white leggings until she slipped on her Idol contestant number and fell on the floor, to the co-mingled delight and incredulity of the judges, who asked her if the whole thing was an act. Miller’s response was the stuff of t-shirt slogans — "This is not no joke!" Indeed.

Just because little time was wasted on people who didn’t advance doesn’t mean that the people who did advance were any good. It was one thing that Joshua Jones bugged his eyes out like a demonic Constantine Maroulis and another that his soul patch was threatening to take over his face. I wouldn’t have rejected the glass-worker for either of those things. I’d have sent him home because his vocals were cheesy and unimpressive. They asked him to sing without the eye-popping and despite his best effort, he couldn’t do it. That’s a wasted Golden Ticket.

One Golden Ticket that wasn’t wasted was tattooed biker Amanda Overmyer. Remember how much effort they put into pigeonholing Gina Glocksen as a rocker last season even though her voice wasn’t powerful enough to sing the songs they encouraged her to sing? I get the feeling Amanda may be the vocalist they wanted Gina to be. She did the best of a long line of Janis Joplin impressions this season and then her alternative song was also broad and brassy. Paula damned her with faint praise, calling her The Female Chris Daughtry, but I think she may be more than that. She may be the first female Idol vocalist who wouldn’t have been laughed off the stage on Rock Star.

I can also imagine big things for Asia’h (or was it A’siah?) Epperson, a self-described small-town girl who seemed like she was just going to have another of those rehashed Idol stories about working hard to get where she is today until she revealed that her father died in a car accident just days earlier. "He’s here with me today and it’ll be good," she said, before launching into a version of "How Do I Live?" that had Paula in tears, Randy’s voice cracking and even Simon in a respectful mood. She’s a beautiful girl and few will top her emotional hook. Can she sing? Let’s just nicely say that she was so worked up it was hard to tell.

I liked 16-year-old Alexandrea Lushington, who came to the auditions with her great-grandma and looked like a Missy wannabe in her fatigues, until she launched into an old-soul version of "My Funny Valentine." A singer with a contemporary look and a retro sound? Interesting.

I was amused by Miss South Florida Fair Brooke Hevie, whose voice was better-than-expected and who uttered the line of the night with, "I milked a cow and got kicked by him." Yes, she corrected her bovine gender-swapping.

And Josiah Lemming, the shock-capping not-quite-homeless kid with the affected British accent and a clear adoration for all things emo, did one of the better original compositions we’ve heard, even if his voice wasn’t really Idol material.

Wednesday night will be a "Best of the Rest" episode and then finally we can get on to Hollywood, which may be shocking if you haven’t already cheated and found out the Top 24 online.

So who’d you like in Atlanta?

And check out our full Idol coverage Zap2it’s Guide to American Idol.

Posted by:Daniel Fienberg