‘American Idol': Mud-Covered Teenager Blows the Judges Away With Smoky Original
American Idol chugged along on Sunday night (Mar. 8) with judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie trying to decide the latest crop to advance to Hollywood. While not much could top the excitement of Perry's pregnancy announcement early on in the show, towards the end of the night, a bit of exciting country grit entered the competition in the form of 18-year-old Zack Dobbins from Clay, West Virginia.
"We don't have a big town," the teen cheerfully explained. "Around here, you know, everybody knows everybody by their exhaust 'cause nobody has one."
Dobbins helpfully showed off his own exhaust-free ride, a mud-covered truck called Loretta. "She's a '93 F-150. I was literally in the woods for three hours last night, stuck in the middle of nowhere. I went down into a hole. And then the bumper hit. So I just dumped the clutch in second and let her eat. And then here we are. That's why she's so muddy."
Another passion besides pickups and mudding? Music, of course. "I grew up on music 'cause my grandpa played bluegrass. And then my dad played. Music is a passion. You just got to do what you like. And if nobody likes it, then that's too bad 'cause you do."
Although Dobbins admitted that he'd "Never been to Hollywood. Never flown on a plane," he admitted he was ready to try for the big prize. "I didn't know what this was all for. I thought it was for, like, a plaque or something at the end. I was very confused....If I go and got big and famous, I'm gonna have, like, a single-wide trailer on an acre of land that's all flat, so I can just run the mower back and forth. And I'd still have the same truck. It just runs a little better."
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With that, he took the stage wearing dirt-bike goggles ("Are those ski goggles on your head?" marveled Bryan) and presented an original song, "Misuse," accompanying himself on guitar. After explaining that he only sang two times this week ("let's see how this goes"), Dobbins hit a few exploratory chords, causing Bryan to leap down and personally help with the tuning. From there, he delivered a surprisingly robust, raspy vocal, with a pleasantly jangly chord progression.
The judges were left in approval, to say the least. "Zack, I don't think you know what you're doing. I don't think you need to know what you're doing," marveled Perry. "You've got a sound. You're so authentic. Yeah, a lot of these people out here, they're polished. They've been to some fancy school. They know blah, blah, blah. They can't sing half as good as you."
"We're going to teach you a little bit about singing along the way," added Bryan. "I don't want to change you." But? "I saw your fingernails. We got to get that asphalt out of your fingernails."
Dobbins was about to get his first ticket to Hollywood soon after, as all three judges gave a resounding "yes" to his performance.
American Idol airs on Sundays at 8 PM ET.
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