And that’s no easy task, considering one of the battling divas is wearing a blonde and pink wig.
The night’s most memorable contestant was Lazaro Arbos. As he entered the audition room, one thing became immediately clear: the 21-year-old from Naples, Fla., had a severe stutter. Arbos, who emigrated from Cuba when he was 10, told viewers that he had few friends growing up due to his speech impediment.
But something magical happened when he began to sing. His stutter vanished and he gave a moving performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” As the judges unanimously put him through to Hollywood, Arbos dissolved into tears.
Equally inspiring was Mariah Pulice, a 19-year-old restaurant hostess from Darien, Ind. The last two years have been difficult for Pulice, who told judges she was recovering from anorexia. “If there was no music,” she said, “I would not be alive.” After singing the Beatles’ “Let it Be,” the judges were unanimous in their praise. “I really, really, really felt that song coming from you,” said Minaj.
Carey agreed: “You touched me,” she said. “I know what it’s like to have to sing through tears. I’m proud of you.”
But it wasn’t all drama and emotion. Minaj started a baffling trend of asking handsome singers if they had a girlfriend. (She also managed to charm the shirts off of a couple of them, although you get the feeling they were happy to show their abs on national TV.) “You have a hole in your pants,” she told one contestant. “Why are you looking?” he shot back.
And poor Keith Urban. Sitting between Minaj and Carey, he found himself in the crossfire. “I feel like a scratching post,” he said at one point, before repeatedly banging his head on the table.
The judges found a lot of talent in Chicago. All told, 46 contestants were put through to Hollywood. The competition will head to Charlotte, N.C., next Wednesday.