01/24/2013 AT 10:00 PM ET
That’s not to say that things didn’t get weird. Nicki Minaj nicknamed one contestant “Mushroom” and rubbed her fingers through his hair to bestow her “special powers” on him. (Whenever Minaj speaks, Mariah Carey simply stares off into space, as if she’s just trying to find her happy place.) The Idol producers also began a baffling trend of splicing footage of squealing farm animals between the bad auditions.
But there were some bright spots: Burnell Taylor, a Hurricane Katrina survivor, made Carey cry with his capable rendition of “I’m Here” from the musical The Color Purple. “This is what we came for,” said Minaj, who was apparently speaking about Taylor’s voice, not Carey’s tears. “While everyone else auditioned, you entertained us.”
Hulking firefighter Dustin Watts wowed the judges with his version of Garth Brooks’s “She’s Every Woman.” And yes, ladies, he’s single. We know this because Minaj continued her practice of asking good-looking guys if they have a girlfriend. “You have a great style,” Keith Urban told Watts. “You’ve got a confidence about you.” Watch his audition below.
Tennessean Paul Jolley’s family seemed shocked that he made it to Hollywood, which may have been overdone, considering that the 22-year-old singer has opened for country stars Chely Wright, Lorrie Morgan and Aaron Tippin. His pleasant version of “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts impressed the judges. “It was effortless,” said Carey. “I know that people are going to love you.”