American Idol Recap: Nashville Stars?

Meet Steven Tyler, longtime Aerosmith frontman and surprisingly effective American Idol judge. He would like you to toast the conclusion of the show’s season 10 Nashville audition episode with a refreshing glass of Kool-Aid. “I think we found The One today,” he says with a cryptic wink.

You’re hesitant. After all, Team Idol has a long history of trying to force things down your gullet before you’ve even decided you like the taste. But go ahead and take a sip anyway: Notice the crisp notes of pulverized confetti that rained down on Kelly Clarkson as she tearfully belted “A Moment Like This” in the season 1 finale. Savor the surprise introduction of an against-all-odds backstory. And don’t miss that lingering hint of boiled-down tears collected not so long ago from Baylie Brown and Katie Stevens.

Yes, Idol fans, just like that, you’ve joined the cult of 15-year-old vocalist Lauren Alaina (whose name gives me unfortunate flashbacks to season 6 catastrophe Alaina Alexander). Not that you had a cricket’s chance in a snake tank of resisting the kid.

Which isn’t to say Lauren (pictured, top left) doesn’t have plenty of talent or charm or charisma in her arsenal. Quite the opposite! But it’s hard to suppress my cynicism/bitchery while executive producer Nigel Lythgoe is making like a master Jenga player and moving all the pieces around to force us into a premature attachment to Lauren.

It all started earlier today when Nigel took to Twitter to prime the pump for Lauren’s introduction to the viewing public (with no less than a barely concealed comparison to the original Idol winner, I might add): “Check out Nashville tonight,” he wrote. “I haven’t been excited about a 15 year old until now. I can’t wait to hear what Kelly Clarkson fans think!” And with that, Lauren’s audition played out like a checklist from American Idol: A Producer’s Guide to Manufacturing a Season-Long Front-Runner: 1) Unearth relatably upbeat teenage contestant. 2) Share her tearjerker backstory. (In this case, Lauren’s very close older cousin, Holly, developed a brain tumor a few years back, during which time Lauren performed a benefit concert on her behalf.) 3) Make sure she gives the public some much-needed tears. (Anyone else find the kid’s bedroom crying spell a tad, um, actorly?) 4) Attempt to draw in at least one judge for a jovial vocal collaboration. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I enjoyed Lauren’s brassy rapport with Steven as she began belting “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” then demanded he “sing it” along with her when she got to the chorus.) 5) Bring in the family! Party time! Excellent! 6) Make sure said audition is the final one of the episode, because Idol must follow Vanessa Williams’ golden rule of “Save the Best for Last.” (Hey, how come nobody ever sings that on Idol?)

I know, I know…I’m being awfully tough on young Lauren. The girl has skills, and there’s no denying she was worthy of that Golden Ticket. It’s just that 10 seasons in to the show’s evolution, I still struggle with the total absence of subtlety when it comes to producers pushing their favorites. Really, if Nigel & Co. want to see this girl excel, don’t they realize they’d be wiser to let Lauren’s fan base grow a little more slowly, a little less inorganically, in order to avoid the inevitable peaked-too-early backlash?

Ah, but there I am, the Kool-Aid in hand, spending half my recap talking about who? Yep, it’s official, I’m the worst. Especially when tonight’s telecast featured at least three, possibly four, singers I enjoyed as much, and probably more than Lauren. Shall we reminisce about their tryouts?

NEXT: Anyone else fall for “Maggie May” dude after 30 seconds of singing?

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Comments (113)

  • MS: Michael, you’ve lost weight! You look great! But could you cut down on the time wasting Japanese movie clips.

    Comment by Franko Phile – January 28, 2011 04:25 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • No way! I LOVE the clips. They are hysterical. I even make my husband watch them.

      Half my reason for watching Idol is to read MS’s recaps and watch the webcasts.

      Comment by musicmom – January 28, 2011 05:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I did notice the weight lose also-looking good :)

      Love the clips-just so thankful I found this site and Idoloonies. I thought Michael had quit doing the reviews.

      Comment by Jessica – January 28, 2011 09:00 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • also that black shirt looked too well on you :) great look, Michael!

      Comment by Tereza – January 28, 2011 11:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Oh – Just have to respond! I love the Japanese clips – So funny – Jason A.’s editing is so clever and specific – I vote do NOT cut back!

      Comment by wendeeloo – January 28, 2011 01:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Still say the movie clips are deadly…

      Comment by Franko Phile – January 29, 2011 08:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh please please please AI … listen to Mr Slezak and don’t ruin an otherwise good start to the season with the same old same old!!

    Comment by Cyndee – January 28, 2011 04:31 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ugh, I wasn’t aware that Nigel was pimping already through twitter.

    Comment by Sharon – January 28, 2011 04:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Indeed Michael S., let’s remember Lee and Kris when we think of Paul M. The two worst selling winners in the history of the franchise.
    Hope America doesn’t make the same mistake three years in a row.

    Comment by Adam – January 28, 2011 04:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Hey Adam fan, I hate to break it to you, but Adam’s CD didn’t sell particularly well for an Idol runner-up either, even with all the publicity he got, and neither did Crystal’s. The problem isn’t necessarily with the winners or runners-up–it’s with the fact that the show has lost its luster. And from the sound of this recap, it’s not getting it back.

      Comment by Julie – January 28, 2011 05:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Lol, I’m no Adam fan, Adam is my name, can’t help if it’s a popular one.

        Sure let’s blame the show for the poor sales, nothing to do with the talent and material these two put out. I’m sure Kris and Lee would have sold as well as Kelly and Carrie had they won in the fist few seasons lol.

        Comment by Adam – January 28, 2011 05:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • I don’t know. Talent is subjective, obviously, as is album quality. But if you think there’s some obvious standard that makes “Some Hearts” better than, well, any other post-Idol album that came out, I encourage you to think again. (Because, honestly, it’s terrible, despite sales).

          And, yeah, the natural arc of the show absolutely changed the sales outlook of the alumni regardless of talent.

          Comment by Mark – January 28, 2011 07:26 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
          • The music world has changed a lot since season 1 too.. singles sales are everything now.. album sales are unreliable.. singles sales are dominated by 4 idol alums one of whom came in 4th.

            But it is taste subjective and in some aspects, genre subjective.
            I vastly prefer Adam, Kelly, Daughtry and David Cook to Archie, Chris, or Lee.

            Country music has a much more loyal fan base and narrow range than pop does. And by narrow I mean by variety of song type. No one is breaking massive new audio ground in Country music and thats the way they like it. Sure you have country/pop crossovers like Carrie Underwood and Lady antebellum, but you also have Darius Rucker being successful with old style country.

            Compared to Top 40 radio where you have T-Pain autotuning it, Kanye teaming up with Daft Punk, Nikki Minaj and Lil Wayne crossing between rap/rock/pop/r&b depending on the track, My Chemical romance angsting it up, and John Mayer/Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson acousticing it.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Idol_alumni_single_sales

            And as Leila said, some of the writing/song choices are just god awful. When your songs are so intolerable some people don’t even want them as background music, you have issues.

            Comment by Jack – January 28, 2011 09:17 AM PDT  
          • I love “Some Hearts”. There are some really good songs on there. It’s not my favorite Carrie Underwood CD, but it was really good for it’s time. Like others have said, music has changed. Personally I do not think it’s for the better, but I’m not the target audience anymore, so whatever.

            Comment by ErixN – January 28, 2011 02:09 PM PDT  
      • The problem is that you can have a great singer, with a likeable personality, but if the songwriting is bad, the albums will not sell. American Idol rewards good performers but the public has no idea what kind of songs the kids will put out once they produce their first record.

        Comment by Leila – January 28, 2011 07:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • yeah, Amazon even sold Adam’s CD for $1.00 when it came out, and they still couldn’t manage a platinum record. There’s just a general Idol backlash among non-Idol fans, so it’s hard for anybody from Idol to make it through.

        Comment by musica1 – January 30, 2011 11:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • What an idiot you are. They never sold it for a dollar. Keep trying loser

          Comment by You're a loser – April 5, 2011 02:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Well I bought Kris’s cd and I went to a concert – He was no mistake in my book – And don’t group him with Lee – Kris’s album did much much better – In fact – I still hear Kris’s songs on radio – in commercials – Kris was one of my favorite Idols.

      Comment by luke – January 28, 2011 01:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Thank you! I totally agree… still waiting for Kris’ second album. Hope it is upbeat.

        Comment by maggie – January 29, 2011 02:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I was also a Kris fan, and his album is really good. Unfortunately the radio business is very close knit and closed in these days, even more than in the past. It is very, very difficult to get new artists and music on the air. Add the backlash against Idol and anyone is going to have trouble starting a career. Really, none of these are failures in today’s music business. Most have very successful touring careers, not sure on Lee, he really was a disappointment. But the entire season was a total wash.

        Comment by Sabrina – January 31, 2011 05:50 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hey Michael- Quick edit- Third to last paragraph: (funny slip) it’s Randy and Steven not Randy and Simon.

    Comment by Micky – January 28, 2011 04:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Hey, Michael! Followed you here from EW.com.

      You might also want to tell the TV Line copy editor to fix the spellings of “ululation” and “beau.” (“Beaux” is plural, and while I’m sure Chelsee has had plenty of beaux, you’re only talking about one of them.)

      Comment by Cooper N. – January 28, 2011 07:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I think he meant that to be funny, since Simon wouldve let her go through as well because of looks

      Comment by Daniel – January 28, 2011 11:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rob Bolin, he of “the couple,” has a voice similar to Lee Dewyze…except that he can really sing in key and sustain notes. Lee winning last year may hurt this guy’s chances down the road. The AI producers certainly don’t want another Lee Dewyze.

    That the last gal was ok, but no Kelly. And why hype her now? Is that fair to other contestants? Is it fair to her? I guess AI hasn’t learned their lesson of not over hyping a contestant less it brings backlash against the contestant and perhaps causes them to go out early.

    This was the first episode that had more focus on the rejects. Perhaps they felt they needed to follow up Wednesday’s show with one that was more “humorous.” Whatever, I was liking the increase in good singers and reduction of bad. I hope that they stick more with the format of the first 3 episodes than this one going forward.

    A few quick observations:

    Who knew that Randy actually has something to say?

    Who knew that JLo would become “The Hammer?”

    Who knew that Steven wouldn’t totally ramble?

    Who knew that Ryan actually is a “bud?” I liked the way he told Chelsee that her dating another guy while still living with Rob was “uncool.”

    Hollywood is gonna be full as they seem to be putting much more thru this year, but I actually think that could be a good thing. Don’t dismiss someone on the “borderline” who might have had an off moment or could improve with practice. Hollywood is the real test to separate the ok from the truly good.

    Comment by darclyte – January 28, 2011 04:49 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I think J.Lo had it right about many of the contestants: They’re going to be eaten alive in Hollywood. Many, Many really don’t appear to be ready for this competition with weak performances for golden tickets. I guess season 8 spoiled me, because season 9 really looked like amateur hour for American Idol. Are the judges sending through too many bad/weak performers this season? Looks like it to me.

      Comment by forrest – January 28, 2011 10:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Slezak, do you realize you said “major softies Randy and Simon”??? Incorrect on two counts. Beyond that, I am also concerned about the “Glee Factor”. Too many of these 15 year olds sound like they are auditioning for Glee, not AI. We already have Glee…thank God! We don’t need AI to turn into Glee 2.

    Comment by Sophie – January 28, 2011 04:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Frustrated by the pimping, particularly since they claimed she was the last audition in Nashville when the judges’ clothes showed that she was seen on the 1st day in Nashville. So she might have been last on the first day but that’s different than last overall.

    Regarding how much back story footage they show in the auditions, I’m of a mixed mind on it. First, doing it now means less time to show other auditions which is unfortunate. Further, the auditions last so long that I don’t always remember the stories during Hollywood week. It’s only during the top 24 round that I start to remember who the kids are so that would suggest that back story time during the auditions are somewhat wasted.

    Having said that, you can’t show the back story during Hollywood week. There are too many people to see and the footage primarily focuses on in-fighting and meltdowns.

    There is a solution. Do a special “Meet Your Top 24″ episode (or 2) before the actual Top 24 singing episodes begin where they show the back-story footage. It’s only when we get to the Top 24 that most people remember the contestants and start paying attention to them rather than to the spectacles of the auditions (especially in a season with 2 new judges) and Hollywood week.

    If we had an extra “Meet the Top 24″ episode or two, they could show the footage they shot during auditions or have special interview segments for those contestants who the producers didn’t bother shooting during the auditions. Further (and this is the best part), we could fill out those episodes with some footage of the Top 24 working with the vocal coaches and musical directors preparing for the Top 24 round (more than the tiny snippets we get now) and that would offer a great chance to understand how they view themselves as artists, what they are trying to accomplish with their work, and how the coaches try to help them. That provides a great foundation to see how their work improves during the competition. I’d get MUCH more invested in the Top 24 if I had a little bit of time to get to know them before the round begins rather than trying to remember them from auditions that aired a month or more earlier.

    Comment by Adam Leonard – January 28, 2011 04:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • What a great idea! The only problem is that someone would still be editing each profile with their own, and of course the producers, bias… but still an awesome way to “meet the candidates.” As far as the show pimping certain singers, don’t forget that last year they loved Crystal until… they loved Lee more.

      Comment by linds – January 28, 2011 06:04 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Adam … I like your suggestions! Hope someone from AI is a Slezak fan. “Meet The Top 24″ is a great idea, one I would think advertisers would like!

      Comment by Cyndee – January 28, 2011 06:13 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • That is a wonderful idea! I think it would go a long way in improving the show. I would love to learn more about the contestants in that type of format, rather than squeezing in 20 seconds of “something you don’t know about me” or “my hidden talent” etc. that they do right before they sing. Plus, it would allow some of the under the radar people that haven’t had any air time to be seen and known by the public before viewer voting begins.

      Comment by Robin – January 28, 2011 07:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I also think that’s a great idea. But from a production point of view – it maybe cost prohibitive. Imagine hiring 12 field producers (let’s say each producer is responsible for 2 packages each) and chances are only 2 or 3 finalists will live in the same city/town/county, so there’s lots of travel time and expenses. It’s doable – but it would probably cost just over a million to pull off. (Mind they can shoot a variety of pacakges at that time, to sprinlkle throughout the season – so that could offset the cost as the season progresses.) And now that I think of it, the production would be able to get a higher liscence fee for the two additional hours. So good idea!

      Comment by jado – January 28, 2011 09:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • On So You Think You Can Dan, Nigel had the judges, including himself, visit each of the contestants at their homes to deliver the news they had been selected. Top 10 or 12 for SYTYCD but Idol is a much bigger show with presumably, a much larger budget. It should be doable. I like the idea!

        Comment by LiLa – January 28, 2011 10:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Great suggestion. It would make the show more fair to the top 24 and then the producers would not be seen to be pimping anyone.

      Comment by Snsetblaze – January 30, 2011 09:24 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I find any comparisons to me a bit off-putting at this stage of the contest. That being said, I thought the final audition was good, not great. On the other hand, I was also blown away by the gal who sang the Aretha song so effortlessly and hope to see her make it through the Hollywood week abbatoire and into the live shows.

    Comment by Ghost of Kelly Clarkson – January 28, 2011 04:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Good to see you, Ghost! Now where is Kristy Lee’s Horse?

      Comment by Sharon – January 28, 2011 05:46 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Can’t get to page 2 on the mobile site, please fix this!

    Comment by sam – January 28, 2011 05:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’m having the same issue. Please, I need my Slezak fix!

      Comment by wonderwoman – January 28, 2011 05:46 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I’m having someone smarter than me look into it!

        Comment by Michael Slezak – January 28, 2011 06:50 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Word. This is making me crazy!!!!?

      Comment by Ericalee – January 28, 2011 06:49 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • For those having trouble gettin to page 2 simply go to the address bar?- sorry i don’t know the technical name- and at the end of the address for the article put /2 to get to page 2 and /3 to get to page 3

      As for the show Lauren was my fave but I fear she will not last too long because of all the backlash against her that’s clearly not her fault

      Comment by Mel31602 – January 28, 2011 07:18 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m trying not to pick a favorite just yet, although I have to say that Jacee (can’t remember his last name) from last week actually made my eyes water a bit – in a good way.

    From what I’ve seen of the judges so far, I’m kind of liking it. But my complaint about them is the same one I’ve had every year. They need to realize that this show is not about them. Ms. Lopez seems to get that. She comes across as very real and natural. It’s funny that she’s becoming my favorite judge since I’ve never really been a fan. Randy, though, appears to be trying very hard to play the role of elder statesman and assume the crown of head judge. It’s not working. Steven Tyler is entertaining but I really wish he’d stop mugging for the camera. In fact, it would be best if he forgot there was even a camera in the room. Hopefully, that will come as the show progresses and he’ll realize it’s not the Steven Tyler Show.

    Comment by Cindy – January 28, 2011 05:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The constant pimping is what made me stop watching AI, and this recap helps me see I made the right decision. Thank you for this valuable public service, Michael!

    Comment by Julie – January 28, 2011 05:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I watch Idol with my whole family, and none of us understood the big to-do about Lauren Alaina. We liked several other singers from that episode’s auditions more than her, to say nothing of singers from the previous three episodes.

    The producers can push her all they want. If she doesn’t truly have the goods, her star will fizzle.

    Comment by DL – January 28, 2011 05:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great Matt Giraud interview video. Enjoying the new judges and I gotta say…I have always loved Randy.

    Comment by marygrace – January 28, 2011 05:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Technical comment: I notice that a few readers are having trouble getting to page 2 on their mobiles. I am having the opposite problem: I can’t get to page 2 on my desktop. I am getting what looks like the “mobile” version, all in one long column, and no link to page 2. I had to go to my iPad to read the rest of the recap. I know this is a new site, but you need to call in your WebNerds.

    Comment by SybilT – January 28, 2011 06:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Early promotion usually backfires. The voters will ultimately decide.

    Comment by Pat – January 28, 2011 06:12 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • You know, I’m not so concerned with who the producers are pushing at this point. Sometimes they change their minds, and sometimes it backfires on them rather spectacularly. On the other hand, I am much more interested in who the judges love, for a few reasons.

    #1 – The show I had no interest in watching without Simon is better than it’s been in years, and I am love, love, loving the new vibe… especially Steven Tyler. He and JLo could have, with a relatively low level of hubris, continued the irritating trend of making it all about them…. instead, they actually pay attention to the contestants (!!!) and manage to be engaging and amusing without resorting to cruelty. Even Ryan is more engaging.

    #2 – Anyone notice they are putting through guys AND gals that Simon would have blown off because of their ‘look’? Yes, they have put a few through because of good looks, but Steven & Jennifer both know that Hollywood can gloss up just about anyone.

    #3 – I trust all three of these judges to recognize the “it” factor that may not immediately be apparent to a television audience.

    #4 – I really don’t think either Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez would “pimp” someone because producers told them they should… whyever would they? They don’t need the money or the fame… and it might damage their own image. Nah… I think if they like someone, they just like them. Of course, Hollywood Week is coming, and that can change everything, right?

    #5 – I’m just having so much fun watching this version of American Idol. (Am I the only one who’s now wondering if SIMON has passed his expiration date? I’m just not as interested in watching X Factor anymore… ‘mean’ has lost its appeal!)

    Comment by linds – January 28, 2011 06:31 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Totally agree with everything you said.

      I tuned in this year mainly because my DVR still had it on (and because I love Slezak’s recaps and Idolotry – was majorly bummed about his departure till I found this site btw! PHEW!! ), but was expecting to be done with Idol. But I am loving the new format! JLo is such a refreshing change of pace from look at me-me-me-me Kara Laguardia Airport and my husband Loves Steven Tyler. I thought he’d be a d-bag and try and be a jerk just for the sake of it like Simon was this past season, but he’s been great so far! I liked when he leaned over to Randy and said “Cmon man, don’t tell someone they aren’t good”. That right there showed that the overall vibe of the judging panel has really revamped itself and we’re in for some refreshing changes.

      Yay!

      Comment by Hooch – January 28, 2011 10:13 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I want more people like David Cook. Someone with a backstory that would get them crazy votes, but who relies on their talent alone. Plain and simple.

    Comment by Alex – January 28, 2011 06:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • also, paul was my fave last night. adorable and great voice. just saying.

      Comment by Alex – January 28, 2011 06:37 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • His new album should be coming out soon!

      Comment by cookie love – January 28, 2011 02:27 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I looooove Adrienne. She was my favourite tonight for sure. Really confused about the way the judges went nuts for Lauren until I heard about Nigel on Twitter. I am loving Seacrest this season. Still love JLo and STy, love the way they are really listening and taking this seriously. Randy thinks telling people they’re terrible is making him the new Simon, but instead he’s just being a jerk.

    Comment by JayK – January 28, 2011 06:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Here’s the problem with the blatant pimping of contestants by the producers. They built up to her performance so hard that by the time I actually got to hear her sing it was anti-climactic. I’m sure she’s a very sweet girl, and she can sing, but I don’t think she was the best that we heard last night or this season. Also, she needs to lay off the eye make-up. She looked like she was channeling the spirit of Tammy Faye Baker-Messner.

    Comment by Melanie – January 28, 2011 06:46 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Tammy Faye….tooo FUNNY!!!! LOL I was also left wondering how the ONE could be this girl after the audition. The Aerosmith song was a little better, but I see nothing extraordinary. I’m thinking she will go the way of Josiah Leming and have a spectacular meltdown after her “confidence” causes bad choices.

      Love MS and the Idoloonie show…can’t wait for more!

      Comment by Tek – January 28, 2011 06:58 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Pimping aside, I wasn’t all that impressed with the singing of Lauren Alaina. She was ok I guess, but only ok. And while having your almost wife suffer serious brain damage two months before your wedding is pulling on the a person’s heart strings, having your cousin come down with cancer isn’t quite the same thing. AI thinks it is I guess. (both are horrible things of course, but one seems highly more manipulative than the other)

        Comment by Slips – January 28, 2011 01:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Can’t believe how great it is without Cowell! His snarky, mean-spirited invective had poisoned the show for so long that it was hard to imagine AI without it. But Lopez and Tyler have invested it with a new spirit of kindness and sensitivity that seems far more in keeping with post-Tucson America. Randy’s negative giggling seems like a throwback, and I hope one of the scenarios of this season includes Jackson relearning humanity at the feet of Steven and Jennifer. Thank you, whoever, for the loss of Simon. Good riddance!

    Comment by Bill – January 28, 2011 06:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • My thoughts exactly!

      Comment by Robin – January 28, 2011 07:22 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Good point. I don’t think Randy was this snarky and dismissive in season one. Call it the “Simon Cowell sphere of influence” over time – it’s rubbed off on Randy. And now he has to get back and locate his personal equilibrium (and his own personality).

      Comment by jado – January 28, 2011 09:13 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rob and Chelsee, Steve Beghun, Adrienne, Sarah, Molly, Jaicee–all aces. And the last girl was certainly fine, but the pimping was way out of hand. Way.

    Comment by Bill – January 28, 2011 06:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Grrr… Lauren Alaina… this precocious child had a lot of nerve to expect Steven Tyler to automatically be prepared to sing with her that day, or even want to.

    Comment by Connie D. – January 28, 2011 07:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Oh, I thought she was charming! Just a bubbly, excited 15-year-old saying, “You sing now!” And I disagree, Slezak, about her tears in her bedroom being “actorly.” She was just a pretty typical kid, brimming over with run-on sentences as she explained everything and crying a little at “gosh, i don’t know what I’d do without Holly!” before regaining her composure. I know, I know, i don’t like the pimping either, but this girl is so fresh and real that I like her. And she can sing!

      Comment by susela – January 28, 2011 12:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Welcome back Michael — miss you at the E*W — anywho, I am enjoying Idol and the contestants. And the teens have a lot of maturity and skills. They’re doing better than the adults. I predict a teen will win, because the industry is Biebered!
    Love the panel of judges, and love that the camera stays on them after the contestants leave so we have the “real” conversation and thoughts. Jlo is the surprise. She’s really engaged.

    Comment by Sally in Chicago – January 28, 2011 07:16 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • ALL the judges are surprising–Steven for his sensitivity, Jen for her lack of narcissism, Randy for his mean-spiritedness.

    Comment by Bill – January 28, 2011 07:26 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • It is kinda awkward how Randy is so mean sometimes and Jennifer and Steven just don’t buy into it. It looks like it makes them uncomfortable. They showed them both calling him out on it last night. I thought that was funny.

      Comment by MDEP – January 28, 2011 07:30 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I loved it when Steven tapped Randy and urgently whispered, “Don’t tell people they’re no good.”

      Comment by susela – January 28, 2011 12:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Me too! Cemented my new love for him.

        Comment by JayK – January 28, 2011 06:28 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think Nigel is pimping the show overall. His twitter posts and interview comments seem to be fighting back to everyone who says Idol is over. I think he is just trying to drum up excitement by picking out people who he feels people will connect with. Truthfully, I barely remember everyone from all these weeks of audition rounds, there are just so many people featured, so the pimping never really bothers me.

    Comment by MDEP – January 28, 2011 07:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Slezak, haven’t you noticed how many good auditions they’re showing this year? It’s got to be astronomically higher than previous seasons. Maybe they’re listening to you!

    Comment by JJ – January 28, 2011 07:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Okay, so now that the winner has been picked, can they kindly cancel the rest of the auditions? I am becoming hard-pressed to put down my commercials reading for the show.

    Lauren Alaina only needs to hang out long enough for some exposure, after which 19 will own her and make a fortune off of her, no matter what her Idol rank. Rob Bolin has an excellent sound, but suffers from the Dewyze Factor, which is lack of dramatic countenance. He needs to wear a cowboy hat. Always. Nashville types go incognito merely by doffing their Stetsons: While they can’t remove the Strong Jaw implants, many the weak hair line is obscured.

    Matt needs to take acting lessons and find work as a character actor. Great face. And the whole Beasley gets a hug for lack of emotive drama: This family reacted exactly as mine would.

    Comment by Yo – January 28, 2011 07:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The difference betweetn Kelly and Lauren? Kelly never got the pimping treatment. Her fabulous audition wasn’t shown during the two (2!) audition shows in Season 1. We only saw it later. Kelly won the show by singing amazingly well and growing an audience. Everyone expected Justin to win.

    I’m surprised no one has pointed out to Nigel that recent winners have either not been featured for more than a few seconds during auditions (Lee or Kris)or capitalized on a tragic backstory (David Cook). A great/tragic backstory will NOT be what wins Idol. Viewers have proven this again and again.

    Comment by Margie – January 28, 2011 07:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Agree with this all the way. Kelly was not featured in any way until the group had been thinned to the point where she was one of a few. Cook’s backstory was/is tragic but remained private. And I will add that I detest the contestants sob stories. Have some integrity people, soon enough you will be Idol fodder you don’t need to provide fuel to the machine.

      Comment by Chris – January 28, 2011 09:24 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Kelly’s audition was featured: I remember her coming in to the audtion wearing a top she had made out of a pair of jeans and her banter with the judges that led to her taking Randy’s place at the table. In between, she sang.

      Comment by LiLa – January 28, 2011 10:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • No, Kelly’s audition was not shown during the original run of the first season. You must have seen that on AI Rewind or on Youtube. Kelly was only seen (and not heard) for about 5 seconds total before her Respect performance that got her into the top ten. Even after that, Justin and Tamyra were the designated pimpees until Tamyra was booted at final four. Only at top three did Kelly start receiving TCO pimping.

        Comment by JC – January 28, 2011 11:17 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • If you remember, they did not show it during the original audition shows. They only showed it later after she had made it to the finals.

        Comment by cheri – January 28, 2011 11:39 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • JC and Cheri are correct. My audition was NOT shown until I started to have some success during the live shows. LiLa, you may be thinking of AI Rewind, a classic piece of revisionist editing…

        Comment by Ghost of Kelly Clarkson – January 29, 2011 07:10 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Michael, excited about your new home and hope that you can bring some fresh approaches to Idol (maybe some deeper analysis of specific contestants once we get closer). Having said that, get your IT/Technology person/folks there to figure out how to put images next to your commentary. Senseless to have to refer to images on Page 1 in your Page 2 or 3 copy…

    Comment by CC – January 28, 2011 08:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Thank you.

      Comment by Suncatcher – January 28, 2011 10:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Ditto!!! It is not exactly CSS rocket science….!

        Comment by Lunakit – January 29, 2011 10:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My heart didn’t break for the sobbing guy, but it sure did for poor Rob Bolin, especially when he came out with a Golden Ticket and had no one but Ryan there to shake his hand (while the ex-GF had a whole cheering section).

    Comment by cirob – January 28, 2011 08:56 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • haha! I noticed the same thing! Poor guy, he seems to be the tied to the whipping post in that whole situation.

      Comment by Hooch – January 28, 2011 12:17 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Me too. It also made me wonder if they were still together during the first audition before production assistants during the initial cattle call (and perhaps she dragged him to it thinking being a duo was a gimmick)? From what I understand, there are several weeks at least before the second round before the producers and third before the judges. It made me wonder exactly how long had they been broken up?

        Comment by Snsetblaze – January 30, 2011 09:37 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The audience loves to discover someone and push them forward much as they did with Kris who got minimal face time at the beginning of his season….I agree with the person who said the build up for the girls audition was so over the top that when she preformed it was a let down..even though she was good

    I also think she is a little full of herself telling Steven to “sing” I m not sure America will like Tammy faye’s peronality.

    Comment by Rich – January 28, 2011 09:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ve been having trouble posting using Firefox from my Mac. I’m at my lunch break at work and will try from my Mac here.

    I’m not going to vote for anyone being pushed down my throat from Nigel Lithgoe. He did that with Katherine McPhee, remember? And Chris Daughtry was sent home as well as Elliott Yamin.

    I liked the duo and the girl from the farm.

    Comment by davey – January 28, 2011 10:56 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Thanks for reminding me that pimping had a lot to do with the loss of Chris and Elliott, who should have been the final two. What a showdown that would have been! The two most exciting males in the history of AI going head to head. Instead we got bland leading bland.

      That’s why I’m skeptical of Lauren Alaina. Viva Adrienne, Steve, Sarah, Rob/Chelsee, and Molly!

      Comment by Bill – January 28, 2011 01:47 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Yes but at the same time while pimping McPhee (and wasn’t that Kelly Pickler’s season – they pimped her too to some extent), the powers that be (and Simon visibly in particular) kept pushing against Taylor Hicks – which probably contributed to his win.

        Comment by Anonymous – January 30, 2011 09:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh, Slezak, I’m so thankful you’re always on the same wavelength as me. I was really sickened by Lauren Alaina’s stupid, cheap gimmick sob story last night (and after I’d just been praising the Idol producers for their tasteful handling of Chris Medina’s story the previous night). The girl has MORE than strong enough vocals–why couldn’t they have just let her rest on that laurel, the most valid one possible in this singing competition?

    Now, through probably only a small fault of her own (though she did go along with the exploitation of her poor cousin after the Idol ppl suggested it, so she’s not blameless. Gawds, that fake bedroom sobbing… makes me lose hope for humanity), she’s lost my support for good. I would’ve been wow’d by her vocal performance and likely looked forward to seeing her again in Hollywood if they’d just left it at that. But now, despite how excellent a voice she has, I will be actively voting against her for the rest of the season. Nobody who whores out their family members’ misfortune for fame will ever get a second look from me.

    Comment by Cy – January 28, 2011 11:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Cy – You’ve hit the nail on the head! I could have easily fallen in love with this girl’s voice, but the bulls*&t sobbing & shameless pimping of her cousin has turned me right off. It just wasn’t necessary and she came across as a phoney.
      I also agree that Chris Medina’s story was handled better, but I also got the impression that he wasn’t ACTING.

      Comment by Sharleen – January 28, 2011 12:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • As I said elsewhere — I don’t even think she sings all that well. She sings ok, I guess — but that’s about it.

        Comment by Slips – January 28, 2011 02:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Top 10 Reasons Last Night’s Episode Was My Favorite Episode Of The Season So Far:

    10. Even if they were young, the people that got a Golden Ticket generally came across as thoughtful and mature, but not awkwardly robotic.

    9. Pimped out Lauren Alaina really wasn’t all that great and it’s fun when Nigel grandstands only to be proven wrong.

    8. Ratio of beautiful young girls twitching uncontrollably in a wheelchair to singers? Significantly lower.

    7. For the most part the good singers were actually good, not just “We’re putting her through as a plant because we eventually have to eliminate a bunch of people” good.

    6. You know how Black Swan’s a really good movie except for how they keep shoving the theme of the movie in our face for the first 2/3 of the screenplay? “You are wun-der-fil as de white swan, but I cannot see de black swan.” “You are terrific as de white swan, but lack de passion of de black swan.” “You have mastered de art of de white swan, but have not completed de journey of de black swan.” WE GET IT! On Idol, it’s become clear that it’s a new dawn, a new day in the writers room because there seems to be a lot less empty voice-over and hand-holding between us and Ryan, who looks like he’s having fun again.

    5. The ex-boyfriend and girlfriend scenario was some of the best TV Idol has given us. From the solid duet to Rob’s solo audition (not to mention his “What the hell am I doing here? With her?” demeanor) to that absolutely unscripted moment when Chelsee emerged to a sea of admirers while Rob emerged to…Ryan — it was like a short film that just kept topping itself (They’re actually pretty good! I wonder who dumped who! The new boyfriend is hotter, but probably a dick!) and had me smiling at every turn.

    4. The simple man transforms into the wise old sage. What started as a classic fish out of water joke ended up being a rare moment of sincerity on the contestant’s part when Tattoo Daddy didn’t run out of the room screaming or threatening to hit Ryan but instead rationalized the judges’ decision before it was even rendered.

    3. Paul McDonald/Maggie May. Intrigued me more than any other contestant so far without a millisecond of backstory. File this under: Excited to see what this James Blunt-y/Ben Folds-y dude has up his sleeve/Impressed his 30 seconds was good enough for me to make these comparisons/Frightened he’ll fall victim to the Idol machine.

    2. Jennifer scolds Randy. Finally someone lets the clueless Dawg in on the fact that things have changed and he’s missed the boat. Laughing during bad-but-not-purposefully-bad auditions is lame, out of place and very season 6.

    1. The episode provides further evidence that Jennifer and Steven are genuine and competent judges who are completely revamping the entire Idol experience in the most subtle and wonderful of ways.

    Comment by Brian Dunkleman's Shrink – January 28, 2011 12:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Well-done! Wonderful, wonderful post! Clever and well thought-out.

      I only disagree on one count: Black Swan is not de great movie everyone vants it to be!

      Comment by GinaBallerina – January 28, 2011 12:57 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Right on the money. And Lauren Alaina is to AI what Natalie Portman is to the Oscars. Overrated, overhyped competence being sold to us as greatness,

      Comment by Bill – January 28, 2011 01:50 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Ha! Good one! You should write your own column!

      Comment by Sharleen – January 28, 2011 03:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I don’t know if its the exorbitant number of comments but I can’t get to the next page on my mobile browser :(

    Comment by stacy – January 28, 2011 12:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Slezak- I am creepily in synch with you this year. All the way from the SCREAMING dude (Jerome?), to the melismatic Haley Reinhart, and now to the genuine interest in 30-sec dude, Paul McDonald. Either I’ve been reading you wayyy too long, or you’ve finally succumbed to the bespectacled, slighty scruff voodoo doll I’ve been practicing on.

    Comment by sherimoonzombie – January 28, 2011 05:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That Matt Giraud iphone track is kinda lovely…

    I think you’re being way to hard on poor Lauren Alaina. She had a nice energy and not her fault that the producers positioned her that way. And, I have NO IDEA what you’re thinking about the boy from Merrick NY (__ Rosen)? Cheesiest cheeseball performance — did not like at all.

    So happy to see Idoloonies…

    Comment by JL – January 28, 2011 09:54 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • When Jennifer said “That may be the smallest voice we’ve heard in five cities,” implying that the girl only got in because she was beautiful the only thing I could think was that describes Jennifer to a tee. She has no singing voice and owes her whole career to her ass-ets.

    Comment by Jason S – January 28, 2011 11:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • but she can also dance and she has much more charisma and still more voice than the other girl.

      Comment by renny – January 29, 2011 05:52 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Oh, and she can act. Download “Out of Sight” from Netflix.

      Comment by Ghost of Kelly Clarkson – January 29, 2011 07:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennifer Lopez’s singing, but “Selena’ and “Out of Sight” were good movies. She’s an excellent dancer and I don’t think she’s ever looked more beautiful than she does now on American Idol. I think she’s doing a fine job. Hey, not all of us are great vocalists but here we are, offering our opinions. Jennifer knows the business.

      What I find funny is how so many people said Tyler and Lopez were “has-beens”, “irrelevant”, and “these kids won’t know who they are”. I’ve seen a whole lot more starstruck kids with Tyler and J-Lo at the table than I ever saw with Paula, Simon, and that blonde talk-show woman at the helm.

      Comment by darcy's evil twin – January 29, 2011 03:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • What I love about Matt Giraud is that you can tell he loves music and respects other performers. He doesn’t put on a front and just seems so gosh darn happy if he’s performing at a private cheesy event or recording a single. It just seems like he is all about the music and not the hype surrounding the industry. I was so surprised to get the same vibe from Steven Tyler.

    Steven is a revelation–what joy he brings to the set. I must also admit that JL “unplugged” seems so real and down to earth. I’m loving the show (although PLEASE enough with the bad auditions).

    Michael, I am so glad we found you (whew) and I say this with all the love in my heart…boyfriend, please eat a samwich before you float away.

    Comment by Stafford – January 29, 2011 07:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Michael Slezak, Congrats on your new gig, hope you can bring over a few of your former co-stars. It was clear last season something was rotten in the state of denmark (read e.w.) with idolatry so inconsistent and explanations/apologies nonexistent. The idolatry site is now a ghost town where visitors still leave their graffiti and no one sees it. But here you are alive and well and watching TV still. such a relief!

    Comment by julie – January 29, 2011 10:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Can’t we just read Slezak AND Annie? It’s not Annie’s fault she’s been orphaned…

      Comment by Lunakit – January 29, 2011 10:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • no one in nashville really stood out for me. i suspect that it’s like austin where i used to live— the really great singers (and oh, there are soooo many of them in these cities)don’t want to audition for AI…
    so far my favs are jordan dorsey and the bariton country guy from NC.
    and, loving the new energy at AI. it seems like they are all having real fun. even ryan seacrest seems nice again…
    and, one last remark– steven tyler seems to be personally familiar with pain. I have been injured myself for a long time and I can now know within a few minutes whether someone had been in such a tough situation and whether he gone deep inside and became familiar with himself and his pain. Tyler’s compassion makes it very clear to me that he has indeed been in painful situations before and that he has used it to grow.

    Comment by mirenda – January 29, 2011 01:20 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Personally, I loved the couple that sang (he sounded like Alex Lambert), loved Adrienne Beasley, and loved, loved LOVED Jackie Wilson. great sound and a great name! :-) I liked Jackie Wilson far more than the last overhyped contestant (the 15 year old that sang the Faith Hill song and sang with Steven Tyler). Granted, I’m old enough to remember when Steven Tyler was famous the first time around (“Toys in the Attic”, anyone?) so my age has something to do with my preferences.

    The judges are great. Randy actually seems more relevant and less annoying since he’s out from under Simon’s ginormous ego. Steven Tyler and Jenny From the Block bring amazing energy to the table and they force Randy to bring a more mature “A Game” to the table. They’re SO interested in the contestants and their talent, rather than just looking for “The Next Big Thing”. I always felt like Simon was trying to turn contestants into something they weren’t, like telling Katie Stevens to sing country (as Slezak said, country is not like a “shirt” – it’s not something you just put on!).

    Steven and Randy should be smacked for putting Little Missy Pageant Queen through but hey, I’m having so much fun watching this I’ll give them a pass.

    Maybe Ryan was so annoying last season because he was trying too hard to make the show entertaining. Perhaps he’ll even be better. And let’s hope this fun and energy continues.

    Comment by darcy's evil twin – January 29, 2011 03:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I agree with you that the Lauren’s tears seemed “actorly.” When I saw her “cry” my first thoughts instantly took me to Mandy Moore’s character in American Dreamz. I kind of feel bad being that cynical, but reality tv is totally to blame!

    I am really happy to see that so many people liked Paul McDonald. I think we’ve learned to listen closely to those who don’t get back story time.

    Comment by Lizabeth – January 29, 2011 06:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hey Michael,
    Great to see you in your new home…..hopefully you’ll find some equally witty folks to talk idol with like you had in your last gig. That was truly the best part of idolatry. Maybe Kirsten can come join you on tvline :)

    Comment by JM – January 29, 2011 10:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Saw Nicki Minaj tonight on SNL and all I could think while listening to her tuneless material and voice was “if she came on Idol and auditioned with that stuff without a band she would never get sent through.” Is it me? What is her message?

    Comment by Bill – January 29, 2011 10:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz…oh, CRAP, I fell asleep last night during Nicki Minaj and just woke up!

      Does SNL occasionally just look for the worst people in the world to put on that program.

      Bill, I don’t know what her message was, how she is surviving in this business, or how she got on the program. Some of us still like something that remotely sounds like MUSIC.

      Comment by darcy's evil twin – January 30, 2011 11:58 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I hate the producer pimping. It turns discerning voters off of singers with real talent, and manipulates superficial, gullible dupes to vote for the unworthy. Unfortunately, its presence on American Idol is as predictable as the seasons. Thankfully we have Slezak and Cantiello to reinforce our real impressions and justify our cynical hearts.

    Comment by Meg – January 30, 2011 03:01 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Any help yet for us who depend on our iPhones to read beyond page 1 of Slezak’s fine articles? The /2 solution one reader mentioned won’t work bc I can’t see URL string. Help!!! I am falling behind!

    Comment by CaliAli – January 30, 2011 06:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I typically skip the auditions and tune in for the top 10 or 12. I checked out the first 2 episodes to see how the new judging panel is working out, but really have not desire to watch the parade of non-talent. Most of the really good ones are not even shown. Personally I wish they would eliminate (gasp!) the audition shows, cut down on the number who go to Hollywood and then concentrate on the real talent.

    Comment by Sabrina – January 31, 2011 05:54 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • so glad I found you here, took me a while to find out where you disappeared but in essence you didn’t disappear, u re-emerged as the greatly expanded Slezak 2011. more to enjoy and loving the videos, keep those opening movie bits, brilliant as usual, did jason come along to play as well?…..
    u made my day once again!

    Comment by Slezak is my Idol – January 31, 2011 10:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post

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