Up next is a contestant named Mariah Pulice. Mariah is happy to meet someone else with her name, which I suspect is not as uncommon as it was before "Vision of Love" came out in 1990. This new Mariah confesses to her battle with anorexia, which of course becomes a whole sad emotional backstory Olympic-clip-package thing, of the variety that always makes me feel like such an asshole for making fun of it. Don't worry, I'll power through. As it turns out, music saved her life, so it looks like she came to the right place. Assuming she can sing, that is. Which she can, as she shows by doing "Let It Be" in a mellow alto. The judges are moved, not just by the singing but her story. Okay, mostly by the story. Yeses across the board, duh. Ryan herds her whole family into the audition room, where somehow there's confetti and everything. The judges are overwhelmed by this display of emotion from the whole Pulice force, and Nicki and Mariah throw a bit of their own. Randy, of course, is a soulless burned-out husk who can only express himself in the form of catchphrases and things that other people just said.
The next day, another wholesome Midwesterner named Brandy starts things off by singing "Your Cheatin' Heart" and turning it into a goddamn aria. She tells us that her grandpa used to sing it. "Bet he didn't sing it like that," Keith understates. Nicki is also impressed, Mariah calls the song choice "a-plus-mazing" and what's more, "Cool beans." Four yeses and a golden ticket for that one.
Then Josh Holiday sings "Back at One" by Brian McKnight. He's cute and they even like his uncontrolled careen into falsetto. Holiday's going to Hollywood. Ryan indicates that this marks the beginning of a streak, and Courtney Williams and Andrew Jones are part of this. Up next is a young man who's there with his parents, who somehow have never heard him sing before. That would be Clifton Duffin, whom Nicki dubs "Secret Squirrel." While his folks lurk in the doorway, he sings "Superstar" by Luther Vandross, oblivious to their presence until Nicki points them out to him after he's finished singing. Fortunately for all concerned, he wasn't bad at all. And yes, it's emotional, duh. Nicki thinks his secretive sneakiness is inspiring somehow, Mariah can relate, and Keith says he lost it and that Clifton has raw talent. Randy doesn't say anything until he joins the rest of the judges in saying yes. As they leave the room, Nicki reveals that her mother never heard her rap until she was already famous. So what? Neither did I.