By People Staff
Updated February 03, 2010 12:00 AM
Credit: Michael Becker/FOX

The American Idol auditions in Denver proved to be of generally superior quality — 26 singers were sent on to Hollywood — before wimping out with a silly attempt to top last season’s famous Bikini Girl. This time, a guy in a two-piece was introduced as Bikini Boy. His real name is Ty Hemmerling, and unlike Bikini Girl he will not advance. He wore it well, though, all things considered.

Victoria Beckham was back as guest judge. For her first episode, she was dressed in an amazing metallic-magenta sheath that would have suffocated anyone with an ounce of body fat. On Tuesday, she wore another metallic sheath, this time in deep blue-gray. What matters, of course, is that she was consistently fair and encouraging.

I would have put through Mark Labriola, a Jack Black lookalike, simply because he was asked to describe himself and answered: “I love cheese.”

Then he actually sang a nice, fluid cover of Squeeze’s “Tempted.” Although he looked more like Danny Gokey than Jack Black, in fact.

Kimberly Kerbow, a single mom with a 5-year-old daughter, sang Ingrid Michaelson’s “Way I Am” with a sweet hummingbird vibrato, and playfully directed a lyric about Rogaine to Simon. This was odd, given that Simon appears to have a full head of hair. Even odder, once she’d been given the Hollywood go-ahead and left the room, the judges gossiped about whether she had a wig. Yes, the women concurred.

The judges reached down like benevolent gods to help Danelle Hayes. The karaoke hostess and single mom cried through most of her audition because of the hard slog of trying to make it in pop. An unusually sympathetic Simon said he thought she was “almost broken” and needed a helping hand to let her talent shine. “This was the most moving audition,” said Kara of her powerful performance of “I’m the Only One.”

Strangest audition: Ponytailed musician Casey James would have been given the boot by Simon, but Victoria liked his look: She told him to undo the ponytail, which he did. Then he was told to unbutton his shirt, then to take it off. He complied to all requests, and with the urging of Kara and Victoria got his ticket.

Simon was once again the only judge voting no when it came to Tori Kelly. The 16-year-old high-school student sang a pretty, if dainty, interpretation John Mayer’s “Gravity.”

The judges had their usual swift fun swatting down lesser performers who displayed pride, which all Idol winners know is the deadliest of sins. Rejects included Austin Paul, a student, football player and composer who thought his resume made him marketable (he also has three albums on iTunes); and Kenny Everett, who said his singing was a public service because it made the community happy.

Nicci Nix flew in on a 14-hour flight that started in Florence, Italy. Simon said she sounded as if she’d been inhaling helium, and that assessment was correct. But she got four yesses singing “Something Kinda Ooh.” She has both an elaborate MySpace page and a Web site, a number of show-biz credits and describes her music as “fun, spunky and free-spirited.” What do you think of Nicci?

The hour ended with a fine audition by Haeley Vaughn. She sang a strong cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name,” impressing the judges with her energy and distinctiveness (Simon noted that she sings with a slight lisp). She said she wants to be the “first black pop-country kinda mainstream” singer. Maybe! –Tom Gliatto

Tell us: Which Denver singer was your favorite?

Michael Becker/FOX