American Idol Season 11 Premiere Recap: Midnight in the Garden of Good & Bad Auditions

Season 11 of American Idol kicked off with a reminder that, like East German Olympic speed-skaters of the 1970s, this year’s crop of contestants has been groomed for singing-competition glory with scientific rigor and a singular focus. They’ve been listening to renditions of “A Moment Like This” and “Flying Without Wings” from inside their mothers’ wombs. They executed their first Whitney Houston-style runs before the age of three. And if they’re not up to following in Scotty McCreery’s footsteps, then by golly, at the very least they can ably replace Ryan Seacrest — at half the cost and with three times the energy.

Yes, folks, Season 11 has been “10 years in the making,” the show’s producers reminded us. In other words, if you voted for Kelly Clarkson (and maybe Tamyra Gray) back in Season 1, then your graying hair, softening midsection, and/or deteriorating vision are merely mile-markers on our collective, decade-long Idol “journey.” As is Randy Jackson reaching new levels of annoying by trying to rebrand “Season 11” as “Season One-One.” (Dude, like all your “catchphrases” before it, “One-One” is simply not gonna happen. Didn’t I already warn you about this?)

But enough with superfluous details (like J.Lo rocking a poufy pink blouse with giant bow and pleated salmon shorts by “Seriously, WTF?” and Steven Tyler continuing his metamorphosis into a ’70s-era sitcom auntie in violet paisley blouse and flopsy hat).

After all, as Ryan so slyly put it, “There’s only one place where you can make your dreams come true.” (In a Ford. Drinking a can of Coca-Cola. Texting on your AT&T mobile device. And not on the road to one of those other singing competitions with swiveling red chairs and/or planetarium-style laser shows.) So let’s raise a toast to Uncle Nigel & Co. for introducing us to 16 Golden Ticket recipients from the Savannah, GA auditions over the course of the two-hour telecast, scaling back the emphasis on deluded/mentally imbalanced/obviously fame-seeking train wrecks, and including HALEY FREAKIN’ REINHART in the opening credits. (Okay, the obvious “let’s mock the West African guy’s accent!” interlude was grotesque in the extreme, but wretched habits die hard.)

On to the good stuff:

The journey begins with 17-year-old David Leathers Jr., and while subtitles tell us his nickname is “Mr. Steal Your Girl,” my ears hear a different moniker — “Mr. Still Your Girl” — that’s a little unfortunate for a kid whose voice has yet to change. Dapper David once beat Scotty McCreery in a childhood singing competition, or did he? “We both placed first and second,” he tells Ryan. That sounds kind of impossible. Did he actually win? “I guess you could say I did.” Nope, still not a definitive answer. Let’s get him into the audition room where J.Lo can deliver the news that every high-school senior wants to hear: “You look 12.” David belts out Century 21’s “Remember the Rain,” a complex song with huge leaps and dips, with the pureness of water straight out of the Brita pitcher, and then, at the judges’ request, gives an encore of Michael Jackson’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” that proves he can find the rhythm without the help of a rhythm section. The kid has chops, without a doubt, but there’s something about his striped tie and sunglasses and “ladies’ man” shtick that feels more America’s Got Talent than American Idol.

Perhaps signaling another season of youth, youth, and more youth — yes, Nigel, you can stop the aging process by surrounding yourself with fresh-faced teens! — we follow up with 16-year-old Gabi Carrubba, who tells us she’s been dreaming of this opportunity her whole life. (I told you they’ve been grooming these contestants from the incubator forward.) Gabi’s choice of song, Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” strikes me as alarmingly sexual for a kid who’s still palpably excited about her second career as a champion tap dancer, but on the plus side, she doesn’t force a single note, letting her words drift dreamily along like leaves on a tranquil pond. “Where has she been hiding?” asks Randy. “She’s 16. She hasn’t been hiding anywhere,” says J.Lo, who may end up bludgeoning her coworker before April comes around.

We then get a a quartet of quick-hit Golden Tickets — don’t you wish Nigel had given us, say, three more of these mashups, allowing us to see another dozen vocalists? — and two look like they might have Top 24 potential. Neco Starr, whose name sounds like the love child of Nikka Costa and ’80s R&B act Atlantic Starr, knows how to rock suspenders and drops a powerful “Grenade,” while Elise Testone uses her rough and ready instrument to rip her way through “Get It While You Can,” a Janis Joplin ditty that can’t be easy to pull off  a capella. Meanwhile, the three seconds of Brianna Faulk belting the Idol Anthem of Doom, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” isn’t enough to form a real opinion, while Molly Hunt (any relation to Leslie?) proves a tad too affected on “You’re No Good.”

Las Vegas casinos probably already have short odds on 15-year-old beauty Shannon Magrane, who like Jordin Sparks before her is the daughter of a pro athlete (World Series-playing pitcher Joe Magrane), but while there’s something unexpected about seeing a young girl surrounded by her 43 siblings belting out an Etta James scorcher like “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” I felt like the rendition lacked emotional depth. Then again, I should probably give Shannon a second look, since it can’t be easy to keep your focus immediately after witnessing Steven Tyler look directly into your father’s face and say that Savannah is “hot, humid, and happening — just like your daughter.” (Rated E… for Ewwww!) J.Lo’s attempt to defuse the tension — “What a beautiful family!” — is funnier than any line in her last three rom-coms. But despite Steven’s gaffe, the award for the worst judge stays with Randy, for thinking that he can fulfill his job requirements by grabbing a word or phrase from the ether and repeating it over and over again. “World Series! World Series! World Series! World Series!” J’enough!

We then transition from “child of privilege” to “child of the earth:” Amy Brumfield is a 24-year-old from Tennessee who lives in a tent with her boyfriend because they can’t afford the $100/week it would cost to stay in a hotel. And yet somehow, Amy’s optimism — “we cook soup over the fire pit, and we enjoy it” — makes her hard-luck story far more palatable than the usual three-hankie groaners Uncle Nigel loves so much. When Amy reveals that she’s “never been dressed as well” as the black number with rhinestone trim that her boyfriend’s mom got for her, (and which somehow makes me think back to the Mandrell Sisters’ show), I can actually feel my cynical, reality-hardened heart begin to break a little. Thankfully, Amy’s rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman” is informed by her life experience; she feels every word of the song to her core, and there’s a Bowersoxian lilt to her voice that’s very appealing, too. Amy may not have the most polished voice from Season 11’s opening night, but as Steven so aptly puts it, “the spirit of the children of the woods snuck into you.”

To my chagrin, the next audition finds me siding with Team R****, as the veteran judge gives a “No” vote to nervous 15-year-old Stephanie Renae on the basis of her pretty but underwhelming cover of “Inside Your Heaven.” J.Lo points out that Stephanie needs to overcome her tendency to sing in a nasal tone, while Steven instructs her to “lay on a couple words that mean something,” but neither one has the courage to tell this girl she needs a few more years of experience before she’ll be ready for the big dance.

I’m hoping the judges don’t come to that conclusion about Schyler Dixon just because her older brother Colton Dixon happens to also have received a Golden Ticket to Hollywood this year. Uncle Nigel carefully edited together a couple of vaguely unjoyous reaction shots of Schyler in an effort to create a sense of “sibling rivalry” with Colton — who, along with Jaycee Badeaux, was the final guy cut before the Season 10 Top 24 (in favor of cannon fodder Brett Loewenstern). Colton alleges that he’s just accompanying Schyler to the Season 11 tryouts, but you know these kids had to be sophisticated enough to realize the judges would demand to see ’em both, and that the resulting footage would make for good TV and increased airtime, yes?

Anyhow, Schyler goes first and her rendition of The Script’s “Break Even” shows off a warm wisp of a voice that is distinctive and unique and full of emotion. Colton is rock-solid, and rockin’, on David Cook’s “Permanent,” but my visceral response is not the same as the judges. They all seem to think of Schyler as an opening act to her big brother, but to my ears, she’s equally (if not more) ready to compete for her confetti shower. I just worry that her “surly sister” edit means that when the two of them eventually make it to the Green Mile episode — and this being Uncle Nigel, you know he won’t be ablel to resist the urge to rip a family apart on the altar of the church of Nielsen Ratings — her journey will end in tears of agony, while his will end with tears of redemption.

I’m also not overly optimistic about the long-term chances of Lauren Mink, a sparkling delight of a human being who is shown at her day job working with people with intellectual disabilities while Ellie Goulding’s version of “Your Song” plays in the background. Pretty much everything happening on my TV screen tells me I should vote for Lauren (for Idol, for Homecoming Queen, and maybe for U.S. Senator), but her rendition of “Country Song” is more solid than spectacular. She’s got an appealing sliiiiiide to her voice, but it’s not nearly as memorable as the sight of Lauren’s mom tugging Lauren’s skirt to a more modest level during her post-tryout interview with Seacrest.

There is no such restraint during my favorite audition from the season premiere — Ashlee Altise, a woman bold enough to describe her attributes as “funk, energy, and confidence.” To be honest, she has me at “funk.” Or rather, she has me at “joy-hopping,” her patented (and pretty fierce) personal dance move that she breaks out when she’s excited, overwhelmed, or ready to get down with the git-down. “Can I outdance J.Lo? I can give her a run for her money!” says Ashlee, whose swagger never once borders on arrogance. I find myself unable to scribble a single note during Ashlee’s ugly-beautiful, funkdafied spin on “Come Together,” as I’m throwing both hands in the air and shouting ridiculata like “Honey, work!” Naturally, this means Ashlee will be eliminated in Hollywood Week, and I’ll be referencing her name in Idol recaps for the next 10 years.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ashley (Category Fierce), former prison guard WT Thompson and NBA dancer Brittany Kerr seem a little underwhelming. WT chose his “dream” over his “job” even though his wife is pregnant with their first child. (Cut to WT’s mother-in-law at her weekly pinochle game: “…and in THIS economy!”). And while his rendition of Little Big Town’s “Boondocks” is in tune, it’s not strong enough to warrant abandoning a weekly paycheck and health insurance coverage. “The things that are wrong with his voice can be fixed!” insists J.Lo, who still hasn’t been told that not every modern “recording artist” gives 15% of his or her income to Auto-Tune.

Brittany, meanwhile, commits the crime of being a stone-cold hottie, and therefore Uncle Nigel makes sure the camera slowly and luridly pans from her toes all the way up her torso as she sings Joss Stone’s “Spoiled.” (I’m surprised they didn’t just stop at her neck and leave the camera at breast level!) Randy and Steven leer and giggle like 10-year-old boys who’ve just grabbed the Victoria’s Secret catalog out of the mailbox, while J.Lo breaks out the rare dissenting vote. “She’s not gonna survive for a week.” She probably won’t, but I’d still rather hear her sing live than Rihanna or Katy Perry or J.Lo herself. Is that enough for a Golden Ticket? Discuss!

And finally, we come to Phillip Phillips, the final audition of the day. Steven, who a year into the job might be finally realizing that the closing spot is usually reserved for especially talented or especially gimmicky singers, tells J.Lo that he’s got a feeling about this one. And it turns out the pawn-shop employee with a cute plaid shirt, charming smile, and toussled hair is pretty dang talented. Phillip’s a capella rendition of “Superstition” is mildly to moderately possessed — as if the music itself has taken hold of his soul and is trying to work its way out of his body — but he shines even brighter when the judges allow him to grab his guitar and jam out to “Thriller.” I’m not sure that after two cover tunes, I’m ready to join Randy in hailing Phillip as a “true artist,” but I’m definitely excited to see what he does next.

“We came! We won! We saw! We are!” yells Randy, trying desperately to create a moment for himself on a day where 29 out of 30 contestants were probably more excited to see Nigel crouching in the corner than they were to meet the “third judge.” J.Lo, unable to contain her confused disdain, crinkles her nose and asks “What?!” before beating a hasty retreat. For once, Jenny from the Block has the right idea.

What did you think of Idol‘s season premiere? Who was your favorite? Did you disagree with any of the judges’ decisions? Sound off below, and for all my Idol news, interviews, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Paloma Pigeon says:

    I swore I wouldn’t watch this season. After the train wreck of X Factor, I swore I was done with reality singing competitions. And yet, here I am. After last night, I may actually be looking forward to the season.

    • allie says:

      oh the shame of it – me too!!!! Actually I didn’t watch most of it – I caught the first little boy with the high pretty voice and changed the channel. I am so not interested in Junior Idol yet again.(Seriously, can’t Uncle Nigel take the kids and go to Nickelodeon?)But at about 9:45 I cracked and turned it on again in time to catch the last few auditions and get a creepy cougar crush on Phillip Phillip. If he is in the top 24 I just might have to watch it… up till then though I think I will record it and fast forward a LOT.

      • Selbs says:

        Phillip Phillips, the next American Idol. This is one verrrrrry talented lad and I liked him when he just sang, but the minute he picked up that guitar and performed, who else stands a chance? I know, I know, just the first show and many more auditions to follow, but this guy rocks!

      • kayee says:

        I liked everything about Phillip Phillips! I predict at LEAST a top 10 spot for him. However, now I’m afraid of having what Allie hilariously described as a creepy cougar crush!

  2. kt says:

    Oh, how I have missed your Idol recaps! Can’t wait for Idoloonies to premiere!

  3. Jerry says:

    All I know is that I wasn’t sure if I would watch this season or not. But after watching The X-Factor AI seems like a innocent, non-manufactured, happy show. And I think I’ll watch.

    Yes, I realize AI is about as manufactured as they come. But someone needs to give tips to XF about how to not scream that at the television constantly

    • Loni says:

      I totally agree. X-factor must have been pretty bad to make me miss American Idol, even in it’s aged, dated state that it is. Watching last night felt like seeing a long lost friend.

  4. RD says:

    I was just so glad there was no mention of a 5 million dollar prize.The whole thing felt like a breath of fresh air after the claustrophobia and relentless screaming of XF.

    • So incredibly true. “Screaming” is the key word. From the over produced production elements, to the screaming and yelling fans that at most times hijacked performances and judges remarks on X Factor, the quietness and calmness of the audition rounds was a great thing to see on AI last night. If I’m watching the show I watch for the contestants or judges, not to hear what the fans that were told to scream and be loud are rooting for. Most times the audience in the studio is wrong because they don’t hear what the millions of fans do at home. So far so good for AI.

  5. Sammy says:

    I really liked Phillip Phillips but they kept calling him “original” and saying that he was “new,” and I kept thinking, “have these people never seen Dave Matthews?”

  6. marie says:

    Very happy that Idol is back to wash away memories of the dreadful (and headache-inducing) X Factor! Like last season, I’m glad Idol is showing more real talent in the audition rounds than mocking the untalented (ok, it’s only the first show, but I pray that continues). I’ve learned not to become invested in any of the contestants until at least the live shows, when we can see and hear them unedited, but something about Coulton said “star potential” to me. I fear the very adorable and already popular Phillip’s voice may prove very limited in range. But on both these guys, and with several others whose auditions made me take notice, time will tell. For now, it’s enough that IDOL IS BACK!

    • Jason says:

      I don’t think that is the producers choice. They probably just don’t have that great of funny footage because Simon was the one who mocked them. J-Lo, Randy, and Steven are the shiny happy people. Most likely wht the ratings dropped 29% from last years premiere.

  7. ssandi says:

    Perhaps because they showed more people that received a golden ticket, but the judges were just as inane as last year. Phillip Phillips simply got on my last nerve!

  8. Paco says:

    Phillip Phillips’s dad: “You swell up… as a man… you just swell up… you so proud that uuuuuuuuuuuurghhhh makes you wanna just bust!”

    um what?! lol

    • Delon says:

      Those words sounded creepy and perverted. I didn’t like that man at all. He came across as if he wants to “touch” his son. It was disturbing.

  9. raftrap says:

    I couldn’t stop laughing at the complete honesty with which you described Ashley Altise (including the idol recaps to come in the next 10 years), but I enjoyed her a lot too, Honey work indeed!

  10. Pedro says:

    Im entirely too cynical an indIvidual to believe Amy truly lives in a tent, but I’ll take it – if only because I’d much rather see her than any of the gaggle of prepubescent Tweens.

    Great recap as always, Michael. Can’t wait for Idoloonies!

    Please Delete Now’s recap:

    (I would like to point out that I miss Steve Jones. Terribly.)

  11. John Berggren says:

    So they finally let someone make mention of their being gay… and they got the buffoon edit. Awesome.

    I’m not saying that this particular contestant didn’t create his own ridiculous spectacle, but if this is their response to “The Voice” about their closeted ways, they’ve struck out bigtime.

  12. Hannah says:

    Find me a hotel where I can live for around $100 a week, and I’d so be there.

  13. Anne says:

    I started watching AI in it’s fifth season. It’s definitely had it’s highs and lows, but it seems to do it for me. I’m not really interested in the other singing shows enough to watch week after week. I too would still rather see even more of the real singers, and less of the canon fodder. And I’m hoping that more than half of the final 24 are over 20 years old!

    Sleazak your description of Steven Tyler is dead on! His learing and comments to most of the female contestants in last night’s show were definitely creepy. Behavior like that in any other venue other than AI could be seen as sexual harassment. Equally creepy was the stalker contestant that grabbed Steven Tyler’s butt. These are the moments that are embarrassing to the show.

    Best mom quote came from Philip Philip’s mom who was excited to meet Ryan Seacrest and told him that he has just gotten more handsome with each season.

  14. Jen says:

    “I find myself unable to scribble a single note during Ashlee’s ugly-beautiful, funkdafied spin on ”Come Together,” as I’m throwing both hands in the air and shouting ridiculata like “Honey, work!” Naturally, this means Ashlee will be eliminated in Hollywood Week, and I’ll be referencing her name in Idol recaps for the next 10 years.” This is my I read your recaps, Mr. Slezak, for the keen insight and pithy prose–I’m never disappointed.

    I agree with Sammy on PP, Jr. Both my husband and I enjoyed his audition (wow, are young girls going to love him), but I found myself comparing him to Dave Matthews and “Gravedigger.” And that is NOT a bad thing.

  15. Jason says:

    Yeah Slezak. But Katy Perry writes songs, has an original sounding voice and is actually a very good live singer.Stop obsessing that she has a bad voice. She does not! She may not be Cristina Aguilera but she is interesting and fun! Stick with your sappy ballads!

  16. Zoey says:

    I’m calling it right now – Phillip Phillips will win. Why? Because he is a cute White Guy With a Guitar.

    • Amy says:

      PP struck me as this year’s David Cook,(though DC was “undiscovered” at this point in the competition Season7.) PP reminds me of him as the one we’ll be looking to see what original take he does on a song each week…and he just stood out last night…even amid some decent talent.

      • CMP says:

        These are exactly the contestants that excite us with their auditions and pull out a one-hit wonder during Hollywood week and then inevitably lose whatever originality they demonstrated from then on. Given the task week after week to repeat the task of taking a country, disco, big band or any other genre of song and creating another intriguing piece of music, they usually fail big time. Perhaps PP will prove me wrong.

    • Brigette says:

      Yep. Although I don’t think his vocals are actually THAT amazing. He’ll probably at least make it to top ten, but I can’t imagine him doing well in all the different genres. We’ll see if anyone cares.

  17. Volcfom says:

    While I voted for Ashlee Altise as my favorite in your poll, I think that Elise Testone can be a dark horse of the early rounds. Whether she’ll make it to the live rounds is too early to call, but I definitely liked her style.

  18. David says:

    I thought Brittany Kerr was actually pretty good. But I have to say that I was pretty overwhelmed with the start to Idol this year. Usually the auditions and Hollywood rounds are good and then it gets disappointing in the live rounds when anyone with a lick of diversity gets eliminated. I hope it gets better tomorrow. A lot of people are hating on X Factor but it was much much better than what Idol has become. Idol could be so much better. I think one of the issues is that there really isn’t any conflict between the judges and more people are getting through than did when Simon was there. They need to find a judges panel that won’t go with the status quo and use their opinions and stay true to it.

    • G-Mom says:

      My question for Amy of the tent – if the outfit you wore was given to you, what are you going to do about Hollywood week? I like Amy and respect her circumstances, but she 1) has to GET to Hollywood and 2) has to have clothes to wear. Hopefully she had help with that, too.
      Also, many talented people have been eliminated in the early rounds of auditions because they don’t have a good “backstory”!

      • Noelbelle says:

        I think she just wanted something special to wear to the audition. I don’t think she was saying she doesn’t have any clothes, just none as nice as she felt she should to audition. I usually scoff at Idol sob stories, but I really felt bad for her. I want to give her a “Clueless” montage-style makeover (after she finds a place to live of course. Priorities.)

  19. Joyce says:

    Oh Slezak why can’t I quit you? I’m not ever going watch the show again, but may read your article from time to time. Good Luck.

  20. ceebee says:

    I LOVE your comments about that broken record Randy — he is like a tape recorder and just repeats what JLO has just said…it is really annoying…I am really hoping that this is his LAST year….I was also cynical about Amy living in a tent…and I felt sorry for Schyler — didn’t seem fair that she had to go through all the auditions and her brother waltzed in and was put through…and finally, I think Ashley is going to be one of the love/hate contestants…a little humility goes a long way to the finish line….

  21. Louie says:

    I thought I was imagining Haley in the opening credits, convinced it was just a different shot of Carrie… I’m surprised they felt her worthy enough for that since the only non-winners they show are either platinum sellers or Oscar winners and Haley’s album or even her single hasn’t been released yet.

  22. Louis says:

    Ah, Idol’s back.. but best of all Michael Slezak’s awesome reviews are back too. Nice!!

  23. D. says:

    Am I the only one that was completely worn out by X Factor? AI is always a highlight of my year (please, you don’t need to point out how sad this makes me– no one realizes it more than I,) but Simon et all really kinda wore me down. Yes, XFactor has all the bells and whistles, but isn’t that what kind of made it great? Made it better than Idol? That people were given the chance to actually *perform* and not just stand on a stage and sing a song? Don’t get me wrong, some of the best moments of XF were when people just stood on the stage and sang songs, but then we had people like Astro, who was such a breath of fresh air (arrogant, Brooklyn air, but fresh in all other aspects of the word.) I don’t know… watching last night just made me annoyed by all the formulaic, predictability that I have come to expect from Idol. That and Randy Jackson, who is seriously just the worst. I mean, I’m going to keep watching. But am I the only one who feels like Idol is Grandma’s singing competition?

  24. John says:

    I’m not sure why I’m back, but I’m back. It’s getting to the point that I probably should just fast-forward to the last performance of every audition to see the front runners, but I can’t help myself. Phillip was pretty awesome on “Thriller” and came up with the quote of night: “born naked and ready, just put clothes on me!”

  25. AliAle says:

    I really didn’t want to pick another white guy with guitar as my favorite but double Phillip had such a Dave Matthews and Jeff Buckley love child vibe and tone to him, plus that adorable Georgia drawl… so he was my pick for the night.

    I liked what I heard from Colton’s sister… lovely tone, although I remembered Colton being better from last year (he was really underwhelming with that over-sung David Cook song). So sibling round one goes to Schyler in my book.

    Other than that I was really annoyed that Ashlee stopped/was stopped just before the “Come together part!”. I hope she delivers in Hollywood.

  26. Mel says:

    I really disliked Phillip Phillips. It seems as though I am the only one. We do not need another Dave Matthews, one is plenty, thanks.

    I really only liked Neco and the girl who sang “Country Strong” because I just watched that this weekend and it was perfectly awful. She might have sang it better than Gwyneth too.

    • nevada01 says:

      No, you are not the only one who is uninterested in PP. He was shouty and the vocals were strained. And the turning-a-pop-song-acoustic thing has been done so many times that now it is the opposite of creative. There are thousands of videos on Youtube of kids doing the same schtick. Maybe a moderately attractive dude with a guitar just gets some people’s juices flowing?

      • Lemon says:

        He was shouty and strained. People are in love with his looks and killer guitar playing. He has loads of charisma, and that’s half the battle. I am an admitted Taylor Hicks fan, and Philip’s singing was very much like Taylor’s…but not as good. Taylor ultimately got slaughtered for looking 50.

    • My Alter Ego says:

      No, you are not the only one who disliked Phillip Phillips. I like/love improvisation when done well, but I found his rendition of “Superstition” completely dreadful! He lost the beat, his adlibs were not innovative, and frankly, the only he’s got going for him is that he’s a cute, white guy.

      Which, given the past several years of AI means he’ll be crowned “the winner” sometime in May.

  27. Leigh says:

    My favorite review – thanks, Michael – can always depend on you.

  28. syb says:

    I complain more about AI than the others, but it’s still the only one that holds my attention, even in the worst part of it–auditions (well second worse after “green mile” or “elevator of doom” or whatever stupid name they give this year’s final cut show.
    So anyway, not too bad for an audition show. I agree with MS that as much as I rail against the sob stories, the girl in the tent’s story was not only compelling, but not really all that sobby because of her manner. So I was glad she could sing. Maybe not the best, but interesting.
    Steven, I find him entertaining, but wow, awkward with the lewd comment about the 16 year old in front of her Dad. Obviously planned, but still… Yeesh. I sorta wanted Daddy to haul off and deck him…
    Liked Phillip Phillips despite my best efforts not to…
    My biggest peeve? Too many youngsters. One out of ten is half way interesting as a singer. Most have great voices and deliver like wind up dolls. The one thing X Factor did better than AI is appreciating what some maturity can bring to a cover song.

  29. Brigette says:

    I already miss season 10. I remember watching last year’s premier thinking, “Wow, everyone is amazing.” Last night, I honestly wasn’t blown away by anybody. Am I the only one? Let’s hope tonight is better.

  30. lynn says:

    so glad Idol is back. It’s one of the few shows my family can sit down and watch together. Great show last night. looking forward to the new season and of course, Slezak’s recap!

  31. Laladee says:

    I’m just relieved I’m not the only one who loved Ashlee Altise!

  32. Sandi says:

    Interesting to know that I’m not the only one who completely despised xfactor. What an extreme disappointment. It’s amazing how much better Idol looks by comparison. The auditions are ridiculous, though. I remember the old Idol where there was actually some suspense over who will make it through. Unless you’re a “joke” contestant, they’re telling you how magical you are and giving you a golden ticket. So many of the singers last night were mediocre and I actually expected a few of them to be sent packing but no one was. It’s always an across-the-board “YES!” unless they decide to throw in a little manufactured drama where there’s a split vote and you actually have to wait it out for a few seconds before you hear the final “Sure, why not.” Of the ones that made it through, I actually only thought 4 or 5 had genuine talent. It seems like everything I disliked about last season is back with a vengence. But, I still like the singers and anything’s better than xfactor and The Voice.

  33. Lexie says:

    So…this seems to be the story about David Leathers. Scotty tweeted that “the kid didn’t beat him, that was a semifinals round where only two could move forward…dude’s good though.” Left questions so people dug and it seems the contest ended there because of a lack of financial backing and there never was a finals round. So, no, David didn’t beat Scotty…and I hope someone makes that clear to the over 1K writers who just took the story and ran with it…good for you, Slezak, catching the problem!!

  34. Rick says:

    Where is Haley in the intro? I just rewatched it like 15 times trying to find her. xD

  35. Tahoe Mike says:

    It feels like the first day of school. Here we all are again.
    I don’t think I saw the winner in that bunch. Nobody really stood out, and made me say wow.
    I was impressed by the fifteen year old who sang Etta James with some feeling. Should we start a clock on how soon they tell her to sing something “More her age?”

  36. nodak says:

    I will watch Idol just so that I can read Michael Slezak’s commentary on each episode. I’m not much of a fan of the preliminary rounds- I get into it more once they’ve chosen the singers that will compete week to week.

  37. I love your recaps, but simply cannot watch JLo anymore… they should have gotten rid of her. Count me as part of the 24%. I am so tired of them treating talented young people like dirt. If I want to see someone who does well, I will spend money on itunes. But I’m not watching this show.

  38. PatD says:

    Oh, and one more thing: Chris Rene’s first concert date in SC sold out in one day.

  39. Argo says:

    Wow. They cut back on the wingnuts and the ratings drop huge.

  40. Dan says:

    Well, for one, can we all just stipulate once and for all that the X-Factor was/is a train wreck of a show that will never, ever, ever hold a candle to Idol — even with its obvious detractors? That aside, too soon to tell what season 11 will bring. Most certainly we will end up with some we like, and some not, just like always. Though, I think the show will be hard pressed to pump out a final 12 that was as talented, lovable, and genuinely intertwined and supportive of one another as season 10. Finally, all singing aside, Kara DioGuardi needs to return for a brief cameo – bikini in tow – for a heated pose-off with one Ms. Brittany Kerr. Yowza!

  41. Lindsay says:

    I think half the reason I got dragged back into this show despite stamping my foot and declaring boycott is just for Michael’s recaps. That and AI is a Bad Love I can’t seem to shake free of.

  42. Delon says:

    The song is called Country Strong. Not Country Song.
    Philip&Philip is sure good-looking, but the voice is no buttah. His dad was bizarre. His fixation about being a man, manliness and men who swell was downright pervy and not at all daddy cute.

  43. karenb says:

    I can not tell you enough how much I love your writing, Slezak. Hilarious, lmao, witty stuff! Not to mention-you (pretty much) always get it right! Looking forward to another season of your awesome recaps!!

  44. Jane says:

    All I’m sayin, is Colton better make the top 24 this year! I was crushed last year when he got cut. He just needs to get his personality to match his vocal talent and look and he could win. I hope they change how they make the top 12 this year. Last year seemed unfair. Going back to eliminating 2 girls / 2 guys each night until 12 were left was better.

  45. Lee says:

    Colton may be good, but I thought he mangled David Cook’s “Permanent,” which was a wonderful song before he touched it. Yet the judges seemed overwhelmed by him, so what do I know?

  46. dj says:

    LOL at your description of ST dressing like a 70s era auntie. As usual, you hit the nail om the head with your recap. Randy is uber-annoying and does seem desperate for attention.

  47. Helen says:

    Michael, you just might be my Idol soul mate (as opposed to my everything else soul mate – also a Michael – who gives my Idol obsession the side eye). We always seem have the same favorite (HALEY!!!) and you seem to remember all those gone-too-soon lovlies who never got the shot they deserved (Leslie Hunt! Jesse Langseth!).

    Ashlee was just delightful. She is doomed, sadly, but I hope she gets more screen time in Hollywood. The world needs more of her kind of crazy.

    I think Phillip is a shoe in for the voting rounds. Don’t know that he has the vocal chops to make it all the way, but then I remember that guy who beat Crystal. Phillip was my favorite of the night. Like a Casey Abrams/Casey James love child. I dig.

  48. Vetle says:

    Phillip reminds me too much of Casey Abrams’ audition, kinda over the top. But… we’ll see. I liked Elise Testone, Colton and Schyler.

  49. CMP says:

    I stopped watching X Factor after the first night of auditions when some sleezeball exposed himself and they actually chose to air it. Aren’t their laws against this type of perverted, deviant behavior? Where will we see this guy next, “Perverted Justice?” Geez. I’m sticking with AI, mostly because of our office pool and the fact that I am responsible for reading Slezak’s recap to my coworkers the morning after. It’s the most enjoyable part of AI season for me and starts our day off with some good giggles. TVLine is cool but I do miss the video taped banter between Slezak and Kristin Baldwin or any of the other EW correspondents. So far, despite the idiot judges, the season looks promising.

  50. LauraHolt says:

    Super disappointed not have heard at least one perfect audition after watching the whole episode.

    People either had trouble being on pitch, or they sang songs that had a few moments where the tone of their voice was shrill or otherwise unpleasant to the ears, or they made the wrong choice on what to emphasize.