The first auditioner we meet is Rachel Crow, a cheerful, cherubic eighth-grader who tells us from the cattle pens in the lobby that she sings all the time. Inside the venue, the excitement is building -- at least for Paula. Rachel talks about how supportive her family is, and she's called up first. "This audition is the most important thing I've ever done in my life," she says with the certainty of a thirteen-year-old. Finally she hits the stage, while her family watches on a monitor in the wings, and Paula greets Rachel like the dotty aunt she is. Simon asks if the two of them are related, and the audience officially begins wearing out its welcome by giving that a way bigger laugh than it deserves. Simon asks Rachel what she'd do with the money, and Rachel comes right out and says her family has none, which cracks Paula up until Rachel adds that she and her family of six live in a two-bedroom house. "And I'm a girl, I need my own bathroom!" So now that she owns the crowd, she's ready to sing "Mercy" by Duffy. Long pause while the backing track gets cued up. You'd think they could edit those bits out. When it starts and Rachel begins singing, she's quite confident, with a decent vibrato and attitude. She's really good for 13, and the audience loves her, as do Paula and Cheryl. She's overcome by the audience reaction when she's done, and Paula tells her that's exactly what they need people to do. Cheryl was rooting for her even before she started singing, while L.A. says she has "everything that every artist I've signed has," which is overstating it a bit. I bet she doesn't have a driver's license. Simon tells her they debated a lot about making the age requirement lower, and says, "You are the reason why we were right taking this age down." He says they'll be hearing more from her. They all give her a yes, and she leaves the stage beyond ecstatic. So, starting off with a happy one, then.
After the ads (and a change of clothes for the judges), the next auditioner is Terrell Carter, 36. He's the kind of guy who makes Paula get a total wide-on before he even sings. He croons a slow jam I don't know [Note: "Ribbon in the Sky" by Stevie Wonder -- RS.], and after Cheryl unwisely tells him he has "the package," he gets four yeses. Next is Ellona Santiago, 14, who we get to hear belting one line of a song with her family watching backstage before she gets four yeses as well. John Lindahl, 14, sings "Forget You." He's not great, but the girls in the audience love him and he's having fun, so he's got four yeses before heading back out to accept the adulation of what looks like his school's entire cheerleading squad. Man, that kid's going to get more tail before he's fifteen than I did all last week.