There are two types of “American Idol” auditions: the serious singers who believe they can win it all and the guys who show up just to make the judges smile.
Tywan “Tank” Jackson is a little bit of both.
The 29 year-old dance instructor oozes personality and ended up becoming the surprise standout of Thursday night’s auditions in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The guy probably has no real chance to win — but you got to respect anyone who shows up in front of the judges with the world’s smallest boom box and busts out a dance to J.Lo’s “Get Right.”
Tank, we learn from the opening video package, is a dance instructor back in his hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio.
“I developed ‘Tankercise’ (a group dance, which he performed with just about everyone in the contestant holding room) because I was reaching 400 pounds,” he shares.
“I’m down 60 pounds!”
Tank chose “Superstar” — performed in the style of Luther Vandross — for his audition song.
Judges Jennifer Lopex, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. were clearly impressed.
“There is no substitute for a big voice,” Connick noted. “When you couple that with the fact that you dance and clearly you like to entertain, those are powerful weapons in a competition like this.”
If Tank hopes to become the 15th and final American Idol, he’ll have to get past a dozen other standouts from the Denver and Little Rock, including:
Ethan Kuntz, 15
His family owns a kennel in Nashville, Arkansas that breeds American Foxhounds. He’s in a blues band with a bunch of friends, but is now ready to go solo. The audition song (“Stormy Monday”) looks like a home run, but Connick isn’t completely sold. “I have no doubt that you are supposed to do this,: he says. “Don’t do anything else with your life. That said, you are really young. You sound really young.” But J.Lo disagrees: “I think you are ready. Some people are born ready.”
She’s tonight’s “I gotta win this to get out of the ‘hood” story. The teen share tales of gang violence and gunshots in her North Memphis neighborhood, lamenting that music is her escape. She performs Pharrell’s mega-hit “Happy” backed only by a piano. It works! J.Lo praises Terrian’s “mellow style” before the judges vote her through to Hollywood.
Thomas Stringfellow, 17
Thomas started singing in 5th grade and has always dreamed about “Idol” fame. He dedicates his performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love” to the foster children his family has taken in. Urban is impressed. “I like your vibe. A lot,” he says. And off Thomas goes to Hollywood…
John Wayne Shultz, 27
The flight instructor from Salt Lake City is one of the oldest singers in the competition. John returns to “Idol” after reaching the “Final Judgement” round back in season 10. He shares a touching story about losing his mother shortly after returning home then wows the judges with his interpretation of the Garth Brook classic, “The Dance.” “That was a perfect, succinct performance,” Connick says, passing him through to the next round.
Jordyn Simone, 15
No one can believe this girl is still in high school — or that she can sing as well as she does. “You have a special quality in your voice. It is not normal,” J.Lo gushes after the teen takes on the Jackson 5 hit “Who’s Loving You?” “There is something different there.”
The episode’s most unusual find was 23 year-old Leann “Blue” McIsaac — a blue-haired “singing nomad girl” — who engaged the judges with tales of moving to Maui and Iceland singing for strangers with her ukulele. She performed an original tune concocted on the spot using three words chosen by the judges.
She got a few laughs, but no golden ticket.