'American Idol' recap: Judges find unexpected talent in Portland

Britanny Zika sings for the judges (Fox)

Britanny Zika sings for the judges (Fox)

American Idol” paid a visit to Portland, Oregon – the show’s first visit to the Northwest since season six, and was rewarded with some heart-breaking stories and unlikely potential stars.

Four hopefuls let down the judges with their auditions, including sniffly Ben Purdom, who made the dubious decision to squeak out Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” while fighting an onslaught of phlegm.

Busty and “perky” (at least according to Judge Steven Tyler) Sam Gershman sang a Broadway version of “I am Woman,” which showcased her sweater more than her singing talent. 

Then there was David Weed, who sang a version of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” and told a bad joke which sent him home without a Golden Ticket.

Baby-faced Gordon Ramsay lookalike Ben Harrison’s upbeat attitude didn’t quite make up for his version of Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Harrison’s wink to Judge Randy Jackson at the end of his audition didn’t do much help his cause.

At first, Brittany Zika looked as if she might share Purdom, Gershman, Weed and Harrison’s fate. Sporting thick glasses, suspenders and a fedora, Zika tripped on the stage, which led the judges to not expect much from the 21-year-old. 

Instead, Zika surprised the judges when she sang "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. Judge Jennifer Lopez noted that she had "one of the prettiest voices we've heard." Jackson and Tyler were impressed when Zika, sexy secretary-style, whipped off her hat and glasses and confidently shook out her mane of blonde hair. “See–the sass comes out,”marveled Jackson at the transformation. Naturally, Zika is off to Hollywood.

Nervous and sweaty self-described “mamma’s boy” Jermaine Jones won over the judges by singing a gospel-influenced version of Luther Vandross' "Superstar.” Standing 6’ 8 1/2” tall, Lopez was impressed by his “natural gift,” but suggested that he might want to “loosen up a little bit.” Jackson cheered, “The Gentle Giant goes to Hollywood!” 

Britnee Kellogg instantly bonded with Lopez, telling the superstar about her trials with her lying, cheating, basketball-playing ex-husband who “decided to go pursue other women.” Kellogg sang, appropriately enough, “You’re No Good.” After Kellogg was awarded her Golden Ticket, she asked fellow single mom Lopez how she juggled career and children. 

"We never leave the kids,” declared Lopez, noting that her mom and twins were in the next room. “You have to be happy so they're happy. It takes a village to raise them and they're only better for it.” 

Romeo Diahn told the judges a harrowing tale about his life in a Liberian refugee camp, which gave his less-than stellar rendition of Bob Marley's "Is This Love" a pass. Tyler and Jackson were enthusiastic in their approval, while Lopez reluctantly gave Diahn a "little tiny yes" and a ticket to Hollywood.

Naomi Gillies arrived on stage, timidly asking Tyler if she could sing his 1993 hit “Cryin’.” Gillies sang an acceptable version of the Aerosmith song, earning a ticket to Hollywood.

The auditions wrapped with Jessica Phillips' tragic story. Phillips’ boyfriend, D'Angelo Perry, suffered from a stroke and now the 25-year-old is Perry’s full-time caretaker. “When he woke up, he didn’t know who I was,” Phillips explained. She sang Faith Evans' “Again,” whose lyrics were quite apropos. Phillips easily won her ticket, and joined 44 other Portland hopefuls to Hollywood.

Next up: The last round of auditions take place in St. Louis, Missouri.