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The NGH Report - American Idol 18's Auditions Pt. 1: "I go by the stage name, Arthur Gunn."


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The NGH Report - American Idol 18’s Auditions Pt. 1 - “I go by the stage name, Arthur Gunn.”


We are back for another year!


Season 18. Can you believe it? 18 mother@#$%ing years.


I’m happy to see that all three judges have come back. I’ve been vocal about my support for this group of professionals. They seem to really enjoy what they do and their chemistry together is probably the strongest since the original trio. It’s comfortable to watch them do their jobs and I don’t feel anxious watching them interact.


The audition rounds start in this episode and the Idol intro package is well-done. The ABC editing team seems superior to the FOX group. They are really able to manipulate me emotionally and while I hate that as a human being, I love it as a viewer. It’s refined enough that it is effective, but not subtle enough that I don’t know what they are doing. Ah, the sweet spot.


Here we go!


Doug Kiker

  • 27 years old
  • AL
  • “God Bless the Broken Road”
  • The producers must have been pinching themselves when a rough and tumble garbage man, with not a shred of experience, showed up with missing teeth and a think southern drawl, who could actually sing.
  • Well, let’s not go crazy. He has no technical experience, but he has an instrument and the vocal ability to do something with it.
  • More than anything, this is about the story. The idea that anyone can become a star on this show which is what Idol has going for it over the other clones.
  • It’s a reminder that this trio of judges has no problem calming the nerves of these contestants in order to coax the best audition out of them. It’s a strategy that is good for the singers and for the audience. We want to see the diamonds in the rough molded and shaped.




Camryn Leigh Smith

  • 16 years old
  • GA
  • “Big White Room”
  • Camryn is really pulling off the new style trend hitting the country. It’s called, “What You Wore To Sunday School At Age Six.”
  • She’s got a great natural tone and a very strong control of the melisma in her voice. She should have no problem scaling up in Hollywood with her vocal ability and ability to connect to the material.
  • She is instantly compared to Katy Perry as a young teenager and, honestly, I can see it. So, that makes me a little worried about what the stylists will try to do to her in order to embrace that story arc.




Francisco Martin

  • 18 years old
  • CA
  • “Alaska”
  • This poor guy is literally the most nervous human being I have ever seen. He’s like an abused chihuahua that you picked up from the local pound. He’s a split second away from shaking so quickly he’s going to phase through the floor below him and fall into the molten core of the earth.
  • The judges, who are, I’ll remind you, FAMOUS PERFORMERS, decide the best way to calm his nerves is to approach him and embrace him while the cameras roll. Strong choice, boys.
  • He starts singing and the nerves begin to melt away. He is assured and he knows who he is as a singer. Very impressive contemporary vibe.




Nick Merico

  • 23 years old
  • CA
  • “You Say”
  • I’m sorry. It’s never a good start to an audition where you literally create the new American Psycho serial killer meme. “How much do I want to win? I don’t know… how much do you want to breathe?” Jesus.
  • His voice is fine. It’s nothing special. I’m in total agreement with the judges here. He’s incredibly unsettling and his arrogance makes me want to actively root against him. What a profoundly bad first impression.




Arthur Gunn

  • 21 years old
  • Nepal
  • “Girl from the North Country”
  • What an incredible palate cleanser after Mr. Merico. Arthur is everything Nick is not. He’s earnest, honest, passionate about his art, and is just very very special.
  • The idea of a kid from Nepal moving to Kansas and falling in love with American folk music is such an incredibly backstory that will resonate with Idol viewers.
  • Add to that the fact that he is just a really great folk singer and musician and I think you have an instant frontrunner here. It’s just magic.




Louis Knight

  • 19 years old
  • London
  • “Change”
  • Louis has a touching story about the loss of a friend and how it led him to write a single called “Change.”
  • The song is assured and the voice is solid. It’s not blowing me away, but maybe it’s just hard to hear the variety in his vocals since the song doesn’t show a heck of a lot of range.




Meghan Fitton

  • 23 years old
  • MA
  • “Love Where You’re At”
  • Oh, the synergy gods at ABC are loving the ability to cross promote The Bachelor on American Idol.
  • I think Meghan’s voice is very good, but I don’t hear a lot of uniqueness in the tone.
  • Also, I’m going to say this: I think she should have put a bit more effort into her outfit. She looks like she rolled out of bed and it all comes across as very lazy. I, personally, don’t care, but the whole point of this article is to analyze the contestant’s ability to win this contest. Many voters will be incredibly turned off by her ability to present herself on television. I’m sure the Idol stylists are drooling.




Samanta Diaz

  • 20 years old
  • NY
  • “Rise Up”
  • The show bookends tonight with another uplifting “rags to riches” hopeful.
  • Samanta (I’m not calling her “Just Sam” because that’s ridiculous) has a great attitude and is dying for a shot. She’s the type of contestant we love to see go far.
  • Vocally, I’m honestly not sure yet. There’s something special there, but it is unrefined and I really need to hear her upper register more to see whether or not she can scale up to bigger Idol moments in the future.




See you next time!



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Arthur was my favorite by far this episode. Something about him is so intriguing. 

Nick is corny to me. I’m almost expecting him to break out “My Shiny Teeth and Me” from Fairly Oddparents. I don’t like his breathy vocals. 

I also agree that Just Sam is a bad stage name. Samantha Diaz sounds just fine. 

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  • 3 months later...

Re-watching the first episode, here's my rankings of the singers that advanced (and those that didn't):


1.  Doug -- he was clearly untrained but he had potential.  I give him a 6.5 out of 10 as I thought he was good enough to get to Hollywood but not good enough to get through it (and I proved to be right).


2.  Camryn -- she was very good.  I'll see better singers than her but she's young and has the potential to grow.  I'd have given her a 8 out of 10.


3.  Francisco -- he was such a bundle of nerves but he sang really well once the judges managed to calm him down.  Best of the guys, so I'd give him an 8.5 out of 10.


4.  Hunter -- let's be honest, he has more performance skill than vocal talent.  4.5 out of 10 and definitely not going to Hollywood.


5.  Nick -- he was good enough to get to Hollywood, but there was no way he was going to win or even get into the Top 10, what with seeming so arrogant and giving a bad first impression.  A 7.5 out of 10.


6  Arthur -- he was far more humble than Nick ever was, but his voice was grating on his first song.  His second song was much better for me, so I give him a 8 out of 10.


7.  Louis -- he was very good and I sympathized with his song that he did for his friend who committed suicide.  But Francisco was better despite nerves, so I give Louis an 8 out of 10 as well.


8.  Russian Stripper -- like Hunter, she has more performance skill than talent.  A 4 out of 10 for me and there was no way she'll ever got to Hollywood.


9.  Saravia -- she did a decent job and I agree with Katy that she has potential, but perhaps the other two were right to not send her to Hollywood, as she needs more performance skills.  Still, she gets a 6 out of 10 for her voice if not for her performance ability.


10.  Meghan -- a Bachelor fan!  Definitely good enough to get to Hollywood, but not unique enough to get through Hollywood.  I'd give her a 7 out of 10.


11.  Samantha "Just Sam" Diaz -- she was the whole package:  sympathetic backstory, humble nature, and once she actually began singing, she had a fine voice.  I'd give her a 9 out of 10, especially since she became my favorite.

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