Halie Hilburn Sings Classic ‘I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart’ – With a Puppet – on ‘American Idol’
In one of the strangest auditions not only of Season 12, but in the entire history of ‘American Idol,’ 27-year-old Halie Hilburn sang the country classic ‘I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart’ on Thursday night (Jan. 31) — accompanied by a puppet dog named Oscar.
The aspiring singer has been a ventriloquist since she was nine years old, and she brought Oscar, her ventriloquist’s dummy, into the audition room with her. The judges rolled with the unusual situation, which could have easily been one of the show’s big audition train wrecks. Keith Urban asked the contestant her name, and when she replied, he retorted, “I meant him,” indicating Oscar.
Despite her unusual audition choice, the newly-married Hilburn delivered an extremely strong, polished version of the song, which was a huge hit for Patsy Montana in 1935 and has also been recorded by artists including Suzy Bogguss, the Dixie Chicks, LeAnn Rimes and Nickel Creek. She even incorporated Oscar into the performance, having him sing the yodeling parts in the song — which she delivered perfectly through clenched teeth with as little apparent effort as if she had been singing all-out.
After the judges recovered from their surprise, they asked Hilburn to sing another song without Oscar, and afterward they seemed torn between her excellent voice and bizarre audition.
“This is wild. What is this?” Randy Jackson said. ”I don’t understand how to vote. I’m a little confused.”
“I think Oscar’s holding you back,” Urban said, while Mariah Carey told the singer, “I think you guys are going to have to sever the ties a little bit to pursue your career.”
In one of the most unexpected decisions of the season so far, the judges voted to send Hilburn to Hollywood, but she’ll be going alone. “Oscar will not be going to Hollywood — as upset as he may be,” Hilburn said.