Amercan Idol (2011): Milwaukee, WI

Last night’s episode of American Idol took on Milwaukee, Wisconsin — hometown of former Idol contestant Danny Gokey and countless others — natives and far-travelers alike — looking to get their foot in the door of the music industry. For this recap installment we’ve decided to highlight certain moments that we believe gave the show its watch-factor, which after ten seasons isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Sit yourself down and scroll through this, our take, aptly named Why We’re Still Watching.

The auditions started off with some sweet country, by way of adorable crooner 16-year-old Scotty McCreary. The super cute and again, super young Garner, North Carolina student was a shoe-in to getting the first golden ticket of the night as his voice rolled on through, introducing us to, as Randy Jackson referred to it, “the new country”.

A failed audition later and we were treated to 15-year-old (they just keep getting younger!) Emma Henry’s attempt to get through the next level. She had it, character, quality, but apparently not enough to make it to Hollywood. Steven was for her, but not Jennifer — which almost made the one young woman she let through last week based on a prior audition, no less (we’ll never forget!) almost unfair. That is, until Randy pulled a shining yes out from his pocket, making at least this one girl’s dreams come true. For now.

As always, this is the perfect time to transition into a “what the hell were they thinking” montage. Being treated to the likes of Karate Gaga to we-don’t-know-what to completely-and-utterly-tone-deaf- get-out-of-town is always, always laugh-inducing. Which is never a guilt-free response because the completely tone deaf have dreams, too. Continuing along…

The Priceless moment of the night goes to Tiwan Strong of Chicago, Il., for the hilarious psych-out he gave his family and loved ones upon receiving his ticket to Hollywood. Their reaction was just as smile-inducing, being filled with love, dance, excitement and… cramping of the calf?

The Never Try This Song No Matter Your Talent Level moment goes to 20-year-old Vernika Paterson. She showed us that sometimes there’s just that song that no one should ever try, no matter how good or ambitious you are. “Loving You” by Minnie Riperton is the kind of song you just don’t do. Paterson also taught us how to not react to rejection by pulling out an attitude and “giving herself a no” before the judges could. “Did anyone else say ‘no’?” Randy has a point.

Throughout the episode it seemed that Steven Tyler is now the softer judge of the trio, at least as far as letting  down easy and not letting auditioners  slide on through (yeah, we’re still a little miffed from last week, Jennifer — just a touch). What never gets old, though, is the genuine excitement that comes from the judges. We can only imagine having to sit through hours of auditions only to be made out to be the bad guy, then hear something that sounds human, then hear something utterly delectable — it’s enough to make one cry. It must get the heart racing like a double-shot espresso and finding a wayward twenty in your jeans pocket.

The Oh My God (Not In A Good Way) moment of the night goes to 20-year-old Megan Frazier for her semi-operatic rendition of “Baby” by Justin Bieber. And what an Oh My God moment. It wasn’t even good opera — like, joke opera singing. Like, “watch me make a fool of myself with my friends because we’re maybe/maybe not drunk and it’s hilarious” opera singing. Oh my God, No More moment.

The joint Sexy Rocker/Let’s Draw Out the Suspense moment of the night goes to 26-year-old Alyson Jados’ audition: first of all, for her version of The Beatles’ “Come Together“. In our opinion she still needs a little refining but for talent fresh off the long lines of people winding around the building, we’re hopeful she brings her style to the the fore even more. But not before the approval of the judges, a moment which had us on the edge of our seats. Anticipation and anxiety — the ingredients of good television.

And lastly, the Audition That Keeps Getting Better moment goes to 26-year-old Chris Medina whose fiancée suffered a brain injury as the result of an accident that left her comatose for a month and a half. This moment also falls squarely into the Please Don’t Suck Please Don’t Suck moment.

And with that, fifty-three contestants are on their way to Hollywood. Check back here tomorrow as we tear through tonight’s Idol adventures in Nashville, Tennessee.