Britnee Kellogg, a divorced mom of two young boys, had Steven Tyler making a bold prediction

By Aaron Parsley
Updated February 02, 2012 08:35 AM
Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

“It’s our first trip to Oregon, and with an eclectic crowd like this,” Ryan Seacrest said at the opening of Wednesday’s American Idol, “there’s no telling who or what we may find.”

Well, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler found a handful of talented singers with moving backstories, including a Britney Spears lookalike named Britnee.

Britnee Kellogg, a divorced, single mom of two young boys, told a touching story of abandoning her dream for her cheating husband. Appropriately, she performed “You’re No Good” and had Jennifer singing along. “I’m feeling you right now,” the judge said.

Randy liked Kellogg’s attitude and her vibe and on her way out, Steven said, “That girl is the next American Idol.”

She’ll have to compete with Jessica Phillips, whose story was simply heartbreaking. After her boyfriend of five years suffered a stroke, he spent six weeks in the hospital and woke up unable to recognize Phillips, leaving her world changed forever.

“I’m really a caretaker [now],” she said through tears. “There’s a different type of love that I feel now and a different type of responsibility that I have now to him and just to life in general.” She performed a melancholy but animated version of Faith Evans’s “Again” – and impressed the judges.

Tall Singer, Deep Voice

Jermaine Jones, a music teacher from Pine Hill, N.J., who said he’s 6’8½” tall, performed “Superstar” by Luther Vandross in deep, booming tones. “When you show the dynamics with the low, with the power, with the softness, I love it,” Randy said. “[You have a] really spiritual voice. It took me away,” Steven said. “You got that gift.”

Naomi Gillies had the nerve – and the talent! – to sing Aerosmith’s “Crying” in front of Steven. “You belted it out and we’ve been missing that all morning,” Tyler said of the performance. “The minute you opened your mouth,” Jennifer said, “I was like wow.”

Quirky Brittany Zika stumbled on her way in to see the judges – they call her “Tripster the hipster,” she said – but nailed her version of “The Story” by Brandi Carlile. “You have one of the prettiest voices we’ve heard,” Jennifer complimented.

And Romeo Diahn, a former Liberian refugee who fled to Ghana before settling in Portland, Ore., sang a sweet version of “Is This Love” by Bob Marley. “I love that you sing in your heart,” Steven said. “You sang for your life … I hear it in your voice.”

All these contestants will be heading to Hollywood, while Idol auditions head to St. Louis. Thursday night (8 p.m. ET).