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Idol in Atlanta is all about storyline

A pig-kissing pageant queen, a Harley-driving nurse, a small town girl mourning her father's death and a wandering teen who sleeps in his car are the driving forces of Tuesday night's episode of "American Idol."

HOTLANTA

From Atlanta, the city that unearthed the leader of the Clay-mateNation and home of Ryan Seacrest's parents, more than 10,000 turned out to take their shot at five minutes of fame or a golden ticket to Hollywood.

 

Pre-rehearsed wiseguy Nathan Hite had the former, certainly a case of 'less-is-more.' Had Hite placed more effort into vocals and less into Beavis and Butthead-like replies to lead judge Simon Cowell, everyone would have benefited.

 

Beauty queen Brooke Helvie was the perfect love-to-hate participant. Pig kissing? Her shrill, subtle pompousness coupled with a watered down Jackson 5 hit "Who's Loving You" probably had throngs of viewers thinking there's something else she could kiss. Three yes votes landed Helvie a ride to California, but only as a Hollywood Week sacrificial lamb.

 

At least she'll be adept at waving goodbye.

 

For Joshua Jones, they eyes have it. One problem: 'it' consists of an unnerving, glaring look that Jones possesses while singing. The Three Amigos (Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul) were fine with turning him for a better-than-serviceable rendition of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." If they let him wear shades a la Stevie Wonder, Jones could challenge. Judge generosity (or curiosity) resulted in a goldenrod pass to Hollywood for the 26-year-old.

 

Even the most cynical viewer pulled for self-proclaimed "small town girl" Asia'h Apperson, whose father had passed away less than a week prior to her tryout. Apperson's gutty rip on "How Do I Live" was the vocal equivalent of 'leaving it all on the field' - every last ounce.

 

AN EMOTIONAL NIGHT

True confession: this writer cried. Did you? Those of us who did are either storyline suckers or possess a few shreds of humanitarianism. Then again, Paula was a wreck afterward, a normalizing effect. And there's this...Apperson's vocal chops may have been impaired by bubbling emotion. She may have the juice and the motivation for going quite a ways. Look for her in California.

 

One guy who talks motivation is the baby-faced blond bomber, Josh Leming, who traded in an alleged loving home for a self-inflicted homeless status. Reality television being what it is, only Josh knows the legitimacy of his situation. Oh, but what about his singing? In a post-pubescent way, his quivering voice and touch of Brit accent (by a lad from Tennessee, no less!) was easy to embrace. Sharing an original he wrote, "To Run," shows confidence, ego or thoughtlessness, depending upon your view.

 

Looked like Josh demonstrated the same kind of strength that made overachieving Long Islander Kevin Covais a cuddly fan favorite to the teeny-bopper demographic.

 

Twenty hopefuls, including Leming, drove off with a magic ticket to California. Can any have what it takes to last the long haul? Stay tuned.

 

Don't miss the wrap-up edition of "American Idol" auditions tonight at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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