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‘Idol’ Recap: Boy, Have I Got a Sob Story for You!

Do we have to know everyone’s baggage in order to decide whether we want to hear them on the radio?

After last week’s Los Angeles debacle, Seacrest teased that they just might be saving the best for last when it came to “Idol” auditions. Don’t get too excited. We didn’t find any Carrie Underwoods.

The opening scene of a sobbing contestant should’ve warned us. In a trend that is becoming increasingly annoying, tonight’s trip to San Francisco seemed more about tragedy than talent.

When did “Tell us about yourself” become code for “What’s the most heartbreaking thing that’s ever happened to you?” It is starting to feel like the eligibility requirements have less to do with age or vocal ability and more to do with dead and/or sick friends or relatives.

At least contestant Julie Zorrilla’s (pictured) story offered a new twist. Auditioning on her 20th birthday, the gorgeous Zorrilla informed us that her parents fled their native Colombia and its violent guerillas when she was just 8, leaving everything they knew behind in hopes of a brighter future. Oh, and she sang, too.

Her sultry breath-heavy rendition of “Summertime” earned accolades from Lopez, who noted that while they’ve seen a lot of great vocalists, they’ve seen very few “performers.” (Read: “You’re pretty.”) If the judges christening her a “potential winner” doesn’t get her far enough, perhaps her dad can offer up a few more tearful interviews.

Much like last season’s Casey James, Stefano Langone played the “I was in a really scary accident” card. Langone, 21, of Washington was hit by a drunk driver in 2009 and was told that he may never be able to walk again. Showing the kind of determination that (fingers crossed!) deserves lots of “Idol” votes, he was up and about in 4 months. In addition to his story, Langone, much like Zorrilla, had what J.Lo referred to as “movie star good looks.” So did it really matter that his rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” provided the best vocals of the episode?

Baby-voiced Emily Anne Reed’s tragedy was that she just lost her house in a fire. I suppose if your house has to burn down, the most fortuitous time would be the week before “American Idol” comes to your town. Reed, 26, had a retro kind of Blossom Dearie quality to her voice as she sang “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me.”

Tyler and Randy were split. Lopez was reluctant to let a singer-songwriter type through after last season’s overload but she eventually caved. In true “Idol” fashion, the Five Hanky Award went to the last audition of the day.

James Durbin, 21, is a triple threat … and I’m not talking about singing, dancing and acting. Legend says that Durbin gets his musical ability from his dad, who (surprise!) passed away from a drug overdose when Durbin was just 9. Add to that the fact that Durbin has Tourette Syndrome AND Asperger’s Syndrome and he’s a shoe-in for Hollywood Week before he even sings a note.

But wait, there’s more! He also has a baby who sometimes goes without diapers because Daddy has no job. Sniff. Durbin sang “You Shook Me” with a high-pitched screech reminiscent of another San Francisco auditioner, Adam Lambert. He then went into “Dream On” as an approving Tyler looked on. Lopez was impressed with his ability to sing from the heart and Randy thought he had a crazy range, dawg.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that some of the best art comes from pain and music is no exception. But do we have to know everyone’s baggage in order to decide whether we want to hear them on the radio? It’s wearing thin, “Idol.” Let’s stay focused on the mad vocals.