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Freelance entertainment writer, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.

American Idol 12, Jan. 17 – Breaking My Heart in a Whole New Way

I have to admit I wasn't as annoyed with Nicki Minaj last night as I thought I'd be. I was annoyed with the whole catfight thing with Mariah Carey. Are those two divas going to do that the whole season? We no longer have the fake fights between Simon and Paula, but now we have to have this instead? Did the producers set that up on purpose as it almost seemed like some of the catfights were a little staged. Yet it's not them breaking my heart tonight; it's the last auditioner.

The first contestant tonight is Mackenzie Wasner, 17, of Leiper's Fork, TN. Ryan Seacrest interviews the family looking for musical types and finds her dad who is a piano player and singer/songwriter. Mackenzie started singing early, with her first gig being alongside her dad as they sang the ABCs for her Kindergarten class. Her dad plays keyboards for Vince Gill, and she thinks of him as her own Idol judge.

Mackenzie sings a song first with her dad at home, then in front of the judges here in Chicago. She has a great classic country voice. Mariah loaves her voice and thinks she's beautiful and has a star power that can be honed. Nicki feels someone like her walks into a room once every few years. That didn't sound like being in a competition; it sounded like her first single. She blew her mind. She is a star.

Randy Jackson loved the song and thought she did it justice. He feels she has a huge road ahead of her. What Keith Urban loved is that she has a great blend between of strength and vulnerability like he could hear in Lee Ann Womack's first record, with a little bit of Dolly Parton as well. She gets four yeses. Well, three and a “pow” from Mariah.

Austin Earles, 19, fast food services, Lakeview, MI, gets told by Randy that the judges are all like a family, although we don't learn why he said that. Austin launches into his audition and gets laughter from the judges. Mariah cuts him off, claiming it's because of time. Nicki argues they're not out of time, and Mariah think she might like to hear him sing to her some more. Nicki claims she'd like to hear it every day.

Kiara Lanier, 21, college student/teacher, Chicago, sang for President Obama at his birthday fundraiser. She was comfortable with it as she was singing classic. He hugged her and shook her hand. Kiara asks the judges how they've been enjoying Chicago, then thanks Mariah, because as a little girl she liked seeing someone else who was multi-racial and looked like her.

Kiara sings The Prayer and has a beautiful tone and great emotion. Nicki gives her a “Wooh! Take me now!” when she finishes, and after the other judges add some wows, Nicki tells Kiara when you can only hear wows, you know it was “pretty freaking pretty.” She has a lot of control, soft and hgh, but pretty and beautiful, especially being so youg. Randy was impressed. Mariah feels she has potential, is a beautiful girl, and she loves how she went in and out of the soft, and not in a typical way. Keith thinks she looks ready to be a star, and he loved the little nuance in the runs of Aaron Neville. She gets four easy yeses.

Stephanie Schimel, 21, a lingerie store employee, Milwaukee, sings Dream a Little Dream With Me and sounds beuatiful, alhtough she apologizes for it shaking because of the nerves. Mariah liked the choice of song and felt she had a really nice tone. Keith heard an interesting Carrie Underwood/Gwen Stefani blend. He loves her whole light. Nicki wasn't wowed, but thinks Stephanie and her voice are pretty. They've just seen such magnetic things, and she doesn't feel she compares. Randy thinks she's really talented. It comes down to a vote and Nicki is the only no, but Stephanie doesn't like her any less. Nicki notes they have the same color of eye shadow on.

This elicits a catfight with Maria, of course, and leads into a montage of a whole day-long catfight. Keith beats his head on the judges' desk and comments that he feels like a scratching post sitting between the two of them. It's obviously stressing Ryan out, so he gets a massage from one of the auditioners.

The masseuse is Melissa Bush, 27, Grandville, MI. She's a quieter person, but wanted to show her personality, so got this pink one-piece unitard that looks like a 70s-era Elvis costume that got washed in hot water with a red sock. She likes that it's shiny. She's a bad dancer, so I can't imagine the singing is going to be great. She does bring Randy a t-shirt, and it says, “Get down DAWG.” She sings Downtown and does sing a little bit better than her dancing. A little. All the judges can say is “Okay,” until Keith asks, “Check please?” Voting, Nicki says “Bush, you'll always be my Bush, but no.” Huh? The others vote no as well, and Mariah calls them all vulgar, assumably for the Bush comments.

Past Idol finalist Haley Reinhart warms the waiting crowd, and Nicki is acting up again.

The Small Town Idol Bus Tour rolled through Iowa City and found rocker Gabe Brown, 21, a baker, Marion, IA, and invited him to audition in Chicago. He comes bearing gifts, cookies. He and and his mom made them. He's been humming and making noises forever, but didn't begin making words and singing until he was around 2, like Little Teapot and Mary Had a Little Lamb. He sings Gimme Shelter and is a screamer.

Keith loves it, then cracks he'd like to hear something with volume. Mariah asks for something a little softer or more mellow. Gabe sings We All Die Young, and it's mellow, until he cranks this one up too. Nicki likes him, and so does Randy. Nicki believes him when he's doing the rock thing and hears authenticity. Keith likes it too, saying the guys with the big massive voices have big voices as well. Mariah votes yes, as do the rest of the judges. He's onto Hollywood.

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