One contestant sure to spark plenty of water cooler chatter was Lazaro Arbos, a 21-year-old Naples, Florida native with a severe stutter that only flees him in song.
“Speaking with a stutter is really hard, the things that normal people would think would be so easy become so hard for me,” Arbos said. Arbos told the panel his stuttering dramatically intensified when he moved with his family to the Unites States at age 10.
He said the only time that he is able to rid himself of it is when he’d sing. He then wowed the panel with a stellar rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, getting a unanimous berth to Hollywood, after which he wept and thanked the judges.
Nicki told Arbos, “Your story is very inspiring, you brought a really great vibe into the room,” while Mariah told him, “You’re adorable, you’re gonna do great!”
“Just sing all the time!” Urban suggested.
Arbos’ smashing debut already had the president of an advocacy group called The Stuttering Foundation, Jane Fraser, “jumping for joy … for his courage to speak and perform on one of the most-watched shows on television in America.
“His participation on American Idol is an inspiration to so many and provides us with yet another wonderful opportunity to educate the public about stuttering.”
Other standout contestants on Thursday included:
Gabe Brown, a rocking baker with a booming voice who came with cookies in hand as a gift for the judges, then impressed them with a double shot of high-octane rock n’ roll: the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter and Steel Dragon’s We All Die Young (from Mark Wahlberg‘s 2001 film Rock Star).
“Dude I like the whole rock thing,” Randy told the Iowa native, while Nicki told him, “When you’re doing your rock thing, I believe you.
“I don’t think a person has to be into rock to believe the authenticity,” the Super Bass singer said. “I liked it.”
Said Keith: “I liked it too … I have found that the guys with the big, belting voices have really big hearts as well. I dug it.”
Gorgeous Kiara Lanier nailed her rendition of Celine Dion‘s The Prayer. The 20-year-old Windy City native, who once sang at a birthday fundraiser for President Barack Obama, opened by thanking Mariah for being such an inspiration to her growing up.
“You made me want to sing ever since I was a little girl, being multi-racial and seeing someone who looks like me and embodies all sides of them,” Kiara told Mariah. “I want to say thank you.”
After her performance, Randy told her, “I was really impressed,” while Mariah said, “I felt she definitely has huge potential … a beautiful girl … huge potential.”
Said Nicki: “When all you can hear are ‘Wows,’ then you know that was pretty freaking pretty. You have so much control, soft and high but pretty and beautiful.”
Keith told her, “You look great, you come ready to be a star.”
American Idol‘s 12th season continues next Wednesday on Fox at 8/7c.