American Idol Season 12 Premiere Recap: Prepare for Shock and Claw Tactics [Updated]

ashlee felicianoWhen Nicki Minaj’s eyebrow speaks, you’d better pay attention.

Sometimes it raises itself up — like a King Cobra — threatening to strike out at those who dare to disagree with its master. Other times it furrows comically, framing a sarcastic side-eye directed at the stream of divaness emanating from She Who Has Sold As Many Albums as Everyone Who’s Ever Come Off of Idol Combined*. (*At least that’s what Ryan Seacrest tells us.)

Occasionally, it softens, because it understands that just because a 15-year-old boy with no singing talent has the nerve to be Asian and wear thick-framed glasses on national television doesn’t mean he should be pilloried in the public square while the town bullies administer a wedgie of cataclysmic proportions. (In fact, sometimes, all this kind of kid really needs is a hug.)

Once in a while, it spazzes out — because it’s not getting enough attention underneath the cotton-candy wigs and band-leader hats and 20-ply false eyelashes, and it really, really, really likes getting attention.

Still, after watching American Idol‘s very promising Season 12 premiere, I’m pretty certain of one thing: No matter how Nicki Minaj and her expressive eyebrow perform over the next several months, she’s not going to “save” the show from its annual ratings slippage — oh how 99 percent of programs wish they had those kinds of problems! — nor will she “destroy” The House That Kelly Clarkson Built. Ditto for The Lady Carey, she of the gigantic voice, fragile ego, keen ear and penchant for delicious bitchery. Or the other new judge, Keith Urban, who’s got great hair and a sweet, thoughtful demeanor. (Randy Jackson, well, he always has the potential to ruin everything.)

My point here is — and every die-hard Idoloonie knows this — Fox’s ubiquitous singing competition will always live or die based on its contestants, not on its all-star panel.

This message was reinforced, in a maniacal stroke of genius, in the opening seconds of Season 12, with a quiet shot of a lonely stool in the center of a concert hall. Cut to an acoustic guitar. An amp. An old-fashioned mic. And Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, singing “Home,” the monster hit with the “ooooh ooooh-ooooh ooh-ooh-ooh” chorus you’ve had stuck in your head since McKayla Maroney landed that spectacular vault during the 2012 Summer Olympics. And then, finally, the voice of Ryan Seacrest, booming the reminder: “Last summer, you turned a pawn-shop worker into a mega-star!” Yes indeedy! (Quick poll: How many times have you played “Home” on iTunes? My playcount stands at 53.)

Okay, so maybe Seacrest’s declaration that “together, we’ll take the journey that defines a nation” stepped over the border of hyperbole and into the land of utter absurdity, but by his own admission, the host with the most has been “tired for 10 years,” so let’s cut him a little bit of slack (something Emmy voters never seem to do).

But back to the contestants…since that’s what it’s really all about. The Season 12 premiere gave us extended footage of eight promising Golden Ticket recipients — including a few voices with possible superstar potential. Better still, for the first time in Idol history, we saw multiple examples of the judges voting “no” to moderately talented auditioners with super-compelling backstories. Jessica Rose Kartalis, the girl who got her audition invite from Carson Daly in a Kia from Randy in Staten Island struck out by performing a banal original track (I flinched when the opening line had her staring at the object of her affection from a park bench). And as for handsome Evan Ruggiero, whose leg was amputated in an effort to save him from bone cancer, he’d have easily gone to Hollywood if J.Lo and Steven Tyler had encountered him in Seasons 10 or 11, but ultimately, the judges realized the kid needed more seasoning. His “I’m Yours” was too crisp for a song that’s 50 percent groove, while “Wanted Dead or Alive” needed 3/4 of a cup of ugly to transcend the sterile manner in which it was delivered. And who can argue with a more selective Hollywood Week crop?

Sure, there was the annual Let’s Make Fun of a Guy With a Foreign Accent interlude, but there was also an end-of-episode tryout involving a radiant young woman and her medically complex foster siblings that had my eyes spilling over with tears (and I don’t think it’s merely because my hubby and I have been fostering kids ourselves for the last couple of years).

Anyhow, let’s dive in to a quick rundown of the non-jokey/non-humiliation-centric Season 12 auditions from New York’s Lincoln Center.

Going to Hollywood
* Tenna Torres, 28, attended Camp Mariah as a girl, and as we learned from Chicago (the musical, obvs), “when you’re good to mama, mama’s good to you.” In other words, as Tenna launched into a bell-clear if slightly overwrought rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend,” her former camp counselor looked on lovingly, her eyes welling up with tears of pride. (Burning question: Does Camp Mariah still exist? And does it make me a bad recapper that I’m just too lazy to Google it?) Whatever the case, Tenna is the kind of potential Idol winner to whom Mariah could point with pride, especially if her Season 12 set list includes “Hero,” “My All,” and “One Sweet Day.”

* Next up we saw a montage of two guys and one gal scoring Golden Tickets to Hollywood — but Uncle Nigel didn’t even bother to put their names on the screen. Which probably means two of ‘em will be cut on Day 1 of Hollywood, while the show’s producers will spend the next four months relentlessly hyping the third.

* Love her or hate her, you’ve got to respect Nicki for refusing to pretend that she doesn’t have an 11-page dossier on every single person whom the producers plan to release into the audition room. As Christina “Isabelle” took her mark in front of the judges’ table, Nicki said she was surprised to have read that the “amazing, beautiful and confident” woman in front of her had ever struggled with weight and body-image issues. But Christina’s talents ran far deeper than merely looking good and feeling gorgeous: Her rendition of Gershwin’s “Summertime” was rich and complex, showcasing a dreamy tone and a willingness to play around with the melody (as she did with a sweet and high ad-lib on the phrase “your daddy’s rich”). Christina told the panel that she’d modeled herself after Mariah and Celine tradition, but as Keith astutely noted, you could hear the humanity pouring out of Christina in a way many strictly technical balladeers fail to accomplish. And that quality could help carry her a long way in the Season 12.

* Shira Gavrielov had a No. 1 hit in Israel as a teenager, but her slurry imitation of Amy Winehouse on “Valerie” ranked no better than eighth (out of eight) for me among the premiere episode’s Golden Ticket recipients. I may be wrong, but I suspect a scientific study might reveal some correlation between the inadequacy of Shira’s tiny white booty shorts and the way her voice worked the corner at the intersection of Strained and Fatigued. Put on some pants the next time you’re planning to be on television, girl!

* Frankie Ford is used to singing for change on the New York City subway, so he was well prepared to be heard above the din of Mariah and Nicki squawking insults at each other (as well as the sound of Randy Jackson asking himself questions about where he stood on various contestants going to Hollywood, since no one else really cares about the Dawg’s opinion). And after a false start in which the likable kid got choked up from the emotions he felt at the opportunity before him, he rallied and delivered a rendition of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” that was unexpectedly daring in terms of pitch and melody. Nicki was right that he doesn’t have the best voice of Season 12 — Frankie’s tone veered toward a whine at the high end of his register — but the fact that he’s already striving for more than karaoke and his intention of “outworking everyone here” make me curious to see how he’ll fare in Hollywood.

* If Sarah Restuccio‘s audition package gave you a sense of deja vu, perhaps it’s because all those images of the 17-year-old riding her four-wheeler and shooting her bow and arrow and declaring her love of mud were all Single White Femaled from Season 11′s Skylar Laine. (Warning to Sarah: Go anywhere near “Stay With Me” or “Gunpowder and Lead,” and we’re going to be talking restraining order.) The blueberry farmer’s version of “Mama’s Song” probably would’ve gotten her a Golden Ticket despite not all the big notes standing up 100 percent straight (hey, she’s gorgeous, and that still counts in Nigel’s world), but it was her followup take on Nicki’s “Super Bass” that will make this an audition to remember. Randy, of course, responded to the shift from country to rap by waving his hand and shouting “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I’m confused,” but Nicki wasn’t having his small-mindedness. Farmgirls don’t have to confine themselves to a single genre, she argued, and Sarah’s willingness to show such opposing sides of her musical personality will only make young female viewers identify with her, Nicki noted. Pastel-er heads prevailed — and Sarah’s goin’ to Hollywood!

* I liked the matter-of-factness Angela Miller used to convey her partial hearing loss to the judges: No tears, no sweeping strings, no questions about her general self-worth were required to give the panel a heads up about the challenges she’ll face in the competition. But while the judges went totally wild for Angela’s cover of Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best,” I’d have preferred the 18-year-old to show a little more finesse with the tune, maybe not feel like she needed to be cranked up to 10 from start to finish. Keith made a good point, however, that Angela engaged the judges by slinking toward them and not standing frozen stiff on the stage, and when you add that to the fact that she didn’t hit a single bad note, it probably means that I’ve reached the nitpicky portion of this recap.

* Speaking of which, did Randy really need to let out a loud, doltish “wowwww!” as Sikh contestant Gurpreet Sing Sarin entered the audition room. Yo, yo, yo, dude, what was the “wow” about? “Wow, you’re wearing a turban”? “Wow, you’re of South Asian descent but there’s nothing in my notes to indicate I’m supposed to giggle through my fingers at your beard and funny voice”? “Wow, I still have a job after 11 prior seasons of incompetence”? Sometimes, Idol really is the worst — and I haven’t even mentioned Randy demanding the guy break out some traditional Indian-style music (because that skill’s really gonna draw in voters later this season) or the producers superimposing glowing red eyes over Gurpreet and labeling him “The Turbanator.” Um, yeah, the brown-skinned guy with the beard and turban really needed to be portrayed as a soulless killing machine in front of 20 million viewers. Mariah and Nicki, to their credit, got excited about Gurpreet’s penchant for matching his turbans to his outfits, with the former panelist sounding like a Project Runway guest and hailing Gurpreet’s “lavender moment” before he launched into Maroon 5′s “Sunday Morning.” I liked how Gurpreet infused his audition with finger-snapping rhythm, and how his jazzy inflections added some sensuality to the lyric. And while Keith was right that the guy’s voice was “light” compared to some of the other New York auditioners, it was nice to see Mariah stand up for a different kind of tone and convert Randy and Nicki to the cause.

* I could write a whole paragraph praising Ashlee Feliciano and her family for their work with medically challenging foster kids, but in this instance, I think it’s more important to credit her for breathing fresh life into “Put Your Records On,” a track that’s been covered 10 too many times on reality singing competitions. Ashlee showed off terrific textures to her instrument as she groweled her way through the verse, then reversed course and hit a series of hypnotic high notes on the chorus. Ashlee’s upper register has the delicate beauty of a hummingbird gathering pollen from a spring blossom. Oh, and I just realized my metaphor took a turn for the ghastly in that prior sentence.

With that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the American Idol Season 12 premiere? What did you think of the new judges’ panel? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? Sound off in the comments, and for all my Idol-related news, recaps, interviews and videos, 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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196 Comments
  1. Snappy says:

    The sniper part was tasteless

    • MM says:

      agreed. but then, I just read an article about Slezak loving Katy Perry’s homophobic ‘U R so Gay’, so being a poor judge of things that are acceptable is slowing how I’m viewing Slezak. :(

      • dude says:

        That’s not a homophobic song at all. Calling something “gay” is not homophobic (and I say that as a gay man). Guys who wear guyliner and spend hours in the mirror are pretty gay, why is that such a horrible thing to say? There’s nothing wrong with that song and it’s actually a pretty good track. One of her better songs.

        • dude says:

          *BTW what I meant to say was “calling something that’s gay, gay, isn’t homphobic” calling something ‘gay’ meaning “that sucks” is pretty homophobic but that doesn’t really phase me either. If you’re going to get bent out of shape about stupid crap like that, you need to toughen up.

    • Kae says:

      I am a huge idol fan but this first episode was so dissapounting.nicki minaj is so fake it makes my teeth hurt.she was also an attention whore the whole episode!she sounded extremly uninteligent and kept babbling.not enough time was spent on the auditions.and the other judges were hardly able to speak @@.

      • Badjuggler says:

        What? Minaj stole the show. I had no idea she would be so likeable and charming. Easily my favorite judge since Cowell. But it is only one episode…

      • Rita Killmer says:

        I agree with you, I felt the same way. If the judges dont change I wont watch the show anymore.

      • Tina says:

        I have to agree. By the end of the show, I couldn’t stand to her NIcki speak. It’s like she talking cotton or marbles in her mouth, but her back teeth are bonded together, weird. I feel like she went into this expecting Mariah to act like an diva and decided that she was going to be the bigger diva. Every time Mariah said anything or someone gave her a compliment, NIcki rolled her eyes not matter what it was. Seemed like she just couldn’t stand anyone getting attention if it wasn’t her. Even her advice to the contestant came off as fake and self serving. To me Mariah cam off as more likable, funny, willing to listen and let the other judges speak. To me Nicki came off as the bigger diva and compared to Mariah, and this judging panel, she needs to learn her role.

        • Mary says:

          Mariah did act like a Diva, I don’t know her mannerism rub me the wrong way. I never in a million years would have thought Nicki would be a good judge but she surprised me last night. Mariah needs to loosen up. I actually thought the judges did very well in their critiques.

          • Belle says:

            In what way did Mariah act like a diva? Did Nicki let her finish one sentence. I found Nicki to be unintelligent & unlikeable.

      • Ralpha says:

        I so agree she’s aweful and her black dark roots with that fake hair and voice makes me sick

  2. Linda says:

    Just a suggestion-can you provide images of the singers (if not now when it gets going-I never remember who they are by name just by face..(until they are down to the final 10..just a thought.

  3. Mariah Carey is frustratingly passive aggressive, and Nicki has no patience. Gotta say it should be interesting to see how this plays out, we know the big TMZ blow-up but seeing how it got to that point should be something. The talent was decent today, not a bad first show. A few bright moments, but not sure who is gonna really go far from this group. Gotta take a look again and see.

  4. Linda says:

    quite frankly I did not like the combination of judged- K Urban is sweet but not a real presence-Mariah and the other one are distractions (though at least Mariah has star power+++. Very uninteresting group and I do not see chemistry thus far.

    • Tara says:

      ITA. This calls for a strong male to balance the panel, and IMO Keith Urban is too weak and quiet. If they wanted to go with a country singer, they should have looked at a Blake Shelton type.

      • Ralpha says:

        Totally agree about Keith Blake is awesome maybe if he was on idol it would be better this year !! But the voice has idol beat a million times over this year

  5. Tom says:

    I’m not liking Mariah so far. She has a sensible head and doled out some honesty, but for some reason she doesn’t seem invested in the proceedings. She’s too reserved to be a judge, in my opinion. I’ll give her a few more episodes to be fair, but my first impression was one of disappointment. Nicki and Keith were great, though.

    • Kat says:

      Eh. I felt as though all the judges were decently honest without being annoyingly nice (ex: JLO and Paula). I saw the chemistry in the cast and maybe it was just me but I saw Mariah’s and Nicki’s “playful banter” as just that. The media looks too much into things. They weren’t over the top annoying as say LA Reid and Simon Cowell’s “bickering’. I think its a good thing Mariah is reservered, you don’t want the judges too vocal. She gave her opinions and her “no’s and yes’s” respectively.

      • teatime says:

        Agreed. I was pleasantly surprised at the banter between the judges. I thought it was fun and as time goes by we will have opportunity for some legitimate differences in which performances they like best.
        I agreed with most of the decisions for who went thru. I am encouraged for this season.

      • Chrissie Kirk says:

        I too really enjoyed last night’s show. I know during audition weeks it is all about the judges (which is a pity) but I did not read any of the media mush about Mariah and Nicki’s bickering so that I could form my own opinion. I like ‘em! Have to remember though it is all in the editing as to how much face time Nicki or Mariah are going to receive…we as the viewing public can be deceived by this so don’t get sucked into the Idol machine over it. We’ll carry on and hope that the winner will be truly talented and not necessarily be a white guy with a guitar–save me from that please!

    • Scott says:

      I thought Mariah kinda melted into the background sometimes. I guess that’s okay for a judge to do, but kinda surprising.

      • seattlejohn449 says:

        thought I might be ready to pass on IDOL this year for the 1st time but I overall enjoyed it…thought Mariahyawn was boring and didn’t show much personality, especially for the new season (can they replace her with her husband Nick Cannon?)…Nicki Minaj was a surprise but she has already said “tone” as many times as Steven Tyler said “beautiful” in an entire season…hope Keith can sustain some reasonable banter and critiques..tuned in 20 minutes late but the only person who made an impression on me was the Turbanator…I do agree with Slezak that it is hopeful they turned down several people who were mediocre and out of their leagues

  6. marie says:

    I am cautiously optimistic – but then again I always am at this point. Very surprised that neither Diva annoyed me as I expected. I’ve learned not to judge the contestants yet this early on, and not to get attached. But for me, it’s mostly, hooray, Idol is back!

  7. Lois Benton says:

    Thank you for fostering children. They need that love, but discourage them from auditioning for Idol.

  8. darcy's evil twin says:

    Hello Idoloonies! It’s great to be back!

    I have to agree with Mr. Slezak regarding the talent – I think tonight we saw some of the best auditions we’ve seen on a premier episode of Idol. I just hope tomorrow night doesn’t get loaded with the “This is supposed to be funny but it’s really painful to watch” bad auditions. I liked everyone that got a Golden Ticket. There were even a couple of kids that I was a bit stunned weren’t picked. I think in past seasons they might have made it through. I really expected the guy that sang “Wanted, Dead or Alive” to get a ticket.

    Nicki Minaj sounds like a black Fran Drescher. :-)

    And finally, Mr. Slezak – you just might have to take “Girl, Put Your Records On” off of your “do not sing on AI” list. ;-)

  9. darcy's evil twin says:

    Yay! marie is back!

  10. Scott says:

    Surprised they didn’t take the cancer survivor. I thought he was as good as many Hollywood contestants of years past. Ditto for the 19-yo they went and grabbed, had her audition, and then turned away. Rude! I don’t think America is ready for a Sikh American Idol, btw.

  11. Mel31602 says:

    I was worried after the first few minutes that the show would devolve into a Mariah-Nicki cat fight, but I was surprisingly enjoying their constructive commentary. Keith in particular was a revelation with his sense of humor. As for the contestants, I l

    • Mel31602 says:

      Sorry got cut off there. I loved the Mariah fan and the blond who lost weight, and I enjoyed the partially deaf girl too. The last girl had potential but not really my thing. And I too was shocked the cancer guy didn’t get through. When I heard his story I thought he would win the whole show (WGWG + sad backstory is nearly impossible to beat) and I actually thought his second song showed enough promise to give him a shot

      • MB says:

        I think they didn’t pick the cancer guy because he would have been hard to beat. I don’t think he sang bad and with his story he would have been a favorite. If he was a girl he would have been put through. They are so afraid of the WGWG thing and especially with a WGWG with no leg. They weren’t taking any chances.

        • rwfblog says:

          You missed the obvious acronym — WGWGWNL ;)

        • scooby says:

          Hard to beat? Nah, people would’ve felt manipulated if he didn’t earn it vocally and kept getting through seemingly as a sob story. He was pretty awful when he sang “I’m Yours.” It’s the level of talent you’d get from any guy you grabbed out of a Broadway cattle call audition. There are hundreds of thousands of him in NYC trying to make it so that was nothing special, and his personality just didn’t feel particularly grounded. He’d have gotten cut the first round at Hollywood week, so why bring him on? I’m guessing that of his supposed triple threat status, his acting and singing weren’t the real money ticket for him. His dancing was, hence the problem with pursuing Broadway on one leg and a prosthetic. He probably can’t act well enough to do straight plays, and a dancer who can sing a bit works on the stage, not on American Idol. If they were listening to him on The Voice, no chairs would’ve turned around. I just hope for his sake he finds a way to stay involved in what he loves.

        • Ralpha says:

          I thought they should have went through too but wanted to get those black singers in there!! Yes get nicki and marhia off nick would be a much better judge!

      • teatime says:

        The only guitar player with a sad backstory was Crystal. Gokey went far with a sad backstory they kept hyping, but he had a good voice and he didn’t play an instrument.

        • soundscene says:

          The original WGWG (the start of the trend!) David Cook had a sad backstory as well, one that propelled him to frontrunner status the week it was selfishly used and abused by Idol producers.

          • Mary says:

            The only story I remember with David Cook was his brother, which I believe wasn’t told until after
            weeks of him being on. I could be wrong because I was not a faithful watcher until the end.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            The sad backstory on David Cook was absolutely his brother’s battle with cancer but it wasn’t over-hyped.

          • guest says:

            David Cook was a front runner for me the entire time. He has a great voice and his cds are on rotation in my mp3 player. I think he is highly underrated.

          • Jason says:

            I don’t remember Cook ever really7 mentioning his brother. I remember he had his name on his guitar but at that point never even mentioned him.

          • teatime says:

            Cook’s back story was never mentioned on the show. He was not a ‘sob story’ contestant. At all.
            Tate, on that other show, had his personal life brought up all the time. But it was not even a sad story anyway.

        • Trouty Mouth says:

          Crystal didn’t have a sob story, other than her kid, but that’s not really a sob story.

  12. Wesley says:

    Im already hoping that Ashlee, Angela and Christina are finalists, super strong voices.

  13. Tammy says:

    I was curious but after 10 – 15 minutes I couldn’t take Mariah Carey at all. Nicki got old quick too. So i’m going to DVR this and FF through them. Keith seems to be a nice addition actually. I would have enjoyed him with Jennifer instead of Steven Tyler. Mariah and Nicki are too much about themselves. This is not must watch tv for me and I think I will tune back in when they go to Hollywood.

    • Linda says:

      I totally agree! I’m watching on the West coast — 15 minutes in and I’m already annoyed by the Mariah/Nicki bitchery. If this is how the whole show is gonna be, I’ll be checking out until the finals. Ugh.

      • Ralpha says:

        I have always loved American idol but this year it’s awful!!!!! I’m not racist but most of the contestants are black and can’t sing except the black j music where and nicki can’t sing a lick she screams and her attitude and duscusting flirting is awefull for my children to watch she is so inappropriate there were so many better people that had voices that these black singers can only hear not all of us listen to there music!!! I am now so disappointed with idol won’t be watching too bad Steven Tyler and Jennifer weren’t back!!

        • Ralpha says:

          Okay nicki just called whit girl marshmallow and she liked noobs to a singer get her off!!! I’m done!! Thank god for the voice!!!! Idol has ran it’s coarse if they keep these judges!! Get the black diva’s off!! And Keith who is better than them but he is going along with nicki

  14. Blinged Up says:

    Surprises tonight: Cancer guy who lost his leg didn’t get through?! I actually enjoyed Nikki Minaj as a judge?! They went to the trouble to film a segment about a girl they recruited to come audition and then she didn’t get through?!
    Mostly though — YAY!!!! IDOL IS BACK!!!

  15. marsaili says:

    I could do without the sniping back and forth from Nicki and Mariah, but despite that I actually do like the judges, so far.

  16. idol4ever says:

    Idol is back!! I like the judge dynamic, the show has me curious again.. want to see them all bring it every week – off to a great start… i thought mariah was awesome – nicki was surprisingly honest and effective, urban was great w/critiques too… dream panel = nicki, mariah, keith and Simon – talk about awesome

  17. Evan says:

    There were an awful lot of bum runs among these eight gold ticket holders.

  18. scorpiosue1102 says:

    I’m waiting to the live shows to give a good critique of the judges. I thought Keith, Nicki and Mariah had some good comments. It was nice to hear something other than, “That was beautiful.” Keith Urban really surprised me because he was honest but also showed his know-how regarding music. I really did not mind Nicki Minaj. I was kind of surprised by that.

  19. Owen says:

    I did like how they confronted the Nicki/Mariah squabbling head on, right at the beginning as if to say, “Yeah, we know..so now let’s movie on.” And they better NOT send anyone to Hollywood that is any less talented than Cancer One Leg Boy cause right now, just as when I watched it, hearing this poor young man’s heartbreak, his dancing career cut short, his bravery and then to watch him be disappointed AGAIN…I’m crying. DO NOT SHOW US SAD STORIES WITHOUT A HAPPY ENDING, IDOL!!!!!. Its too much to take.

    • marsaili says:

      I agree, I think he was good enough to go through, we’ve certainly seen worse (Bikini girl, Heejun)

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I was rather stunned. I wasn’t that wild about his rendition of “I’m Yours”, but when he sang “Wanted, Dead or Alive” I decided he had some talent. I was shocked when he didn’t go through. It wasn’t until I started reading the posts here I remembered he was the one with cancer that lost his leg! His second song made me totally forget the sob story. Oh well.

  20. karenb says:

    Slezak+Idol=Bliss!

    Great opening with P2!

    • karenb says:

      And PS where’s Tarc?

      • marsaili says:

        Yeah, where is Tarc? I loved the P2 opening, I’m so proud of how well he is doing!

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          I have to admit, P2 is not really my thing (I lived through the whole folk music thing the first time) but it’s a catchy tune and I’m pleased he’s doing well. My husband saw him perform live at the All-Star game last summer and totally enjoyed him.

          • deedee says:

            I couldn’t stand P2 during the show, but I saw him on tour this summer, and really enjoyed his set. Love “Home”, too, so I’ll give his other material a chance before writing him off.

  21. Will says:

    Angela Miller is my #1 right now. Fantastic voice!

  22. raftrap says:

    No favorite judge yet, but dammit they worked well together, really good chemistry (or tension, or whatever), Nicki didn’t live up to the hype of shadowing everyone, but she was pretty good and of course fun and engaging. I liked Tena Torres best, and “Home” count on iTunes is on 19.

    • scrutinizer says:

      interesting…i also liked tenna the best. i think her voice has a lot of control and commercial appeal. hope she goes far in the competition.

  23. Emma says:

    The first poll was funnier when I first read it “Who’s your favorite Idol judge”, with only the three radio boxes.

  24. deedee says:

    I’m SO thrilled that it’s Idol (and Slezak) season again! After last year’s finale I was so bummed that it would be a whole 8 months before the fun would begin … but time goes too fast these days. It feels like barely 3 weeks ago that I was rolling my eyes at P2′s confetti shower, lol.
    .
    I’m loving the new judges, particularly Keith and Nicki. So far they’re doing a great job being engaged and sincere. The auditioners were all kind of blah for me, though. If I HAD to pick a favourite, it would be Angela with the hearing loss.
    .
    I was surprised that they didn’t put the one-legged guy through — not because I thought he was so good (I really didn’t), but because he wasn’t horrible, and deserved to get through as much as a couple of the others who did get the ticket. Same goes for the mom-nominated Taylor Swift girl with the guitar. They should have at least given her a chance to sing a second song. They do that for others who have potential, but who screw up due to nerves or whatever.
    .
    Anyway, I hope there’s someone I can get passionate about this season. Last year I had my lovely Joshua, but before him was David Cook. That’s a 4 year stretch between contestants that totally get me going! Ah, well, even if I can’t get into anyone this year, I still have Slezak’s brilliant recaps and Idoloonies episodes to look forward to. And I hope “Season 6 standout, Melinda Doolittle” will be back too!

    • Guest says:

      The “one-legged” guy is Evan. He’s a super nice guy who has overcome so much. He lives in the next town over from me and we’ve seen him in local productions. Super talented. According to him, the judges loved him, but the producers said no, so the judges had to come up with something to say no to him. I really wish he would’ve made it through, especially since I thought some of the people who did make it were not as talented.

      • MB says:

        thank you for that because it confirms my theory of being afraid of the WGWG especially a WGWG with one leg. I would not be surprised if no WGWG will be put through this season. Even though Phillip has proven to be as successful as he can be at this point in his career they want to break that stigma. That has been the biggest criticism of idol over the last couple of years. Personally I think it is a joke. The last two years the winners did well and no one else in their seasons did as well as them but its as if it doesn’t matter how well or successful you are if you are a WGWG you are non deserving and only won because of the pre teens power voting. It doesn’t matter that not one person in season 11 even came close to selling as many season highlight records as Phillip. He still shouldn’t have won. Doesn’t matter that his single is going to sell at least 4 million downloads and that his album has already gone gold. He’s a WGWG so he sucks. What is wrong with this picture?

        • macy says:

          Excellent post! I am all for diversity, but what if, for instance, the WGWG is great? Should he be discredited?

        • teatime says:

          There’s no stigma. No matter who wins, someone will complain. The Producers are smart enough to have figured that out somewhere around season 1.

      • Alienate says:

        Thank you for this insight into the dark underbelly of Idol. I felt something was up. And now I understand. The “judges” are really just the “puppets” of the Producers. This tidbit may just decide whether I will be watching every episode like I have done for the last 8 years.
        I like the new judges so far. For me, for you, it’s in this order: Nicki, Dawg, Mariah, and lastly, Keith.
        I got very annoyed with the “decide now who you are” crap coming from Kieth.

  25. Booya says:

    So let me get this straight, the blowhard entertainment bloggers slam X-Factor every week because of the judging bickering, but for AI they ignore it and focus on the contestants?

    Riiiiiight. and the sheep go “baaaaaaaah”.

    • Mary says:

      At this stage it is about the judges not the contestants. A little bickering as you call it is not the same as constant yapping during the whole competition that X-factor did. It is hard to focus on contestants when it is the audition stage, when Hollywood week comes it usually changes. I hope the judges keep up the good critiques on live shows, but time will tell.

  26. IdolFlash-7-9-35 says:

    I LOVED the judges. Mariah was nice and reserved, Keith was honest (and hot), Nicki was bold and outgoing, and Randy was his usual self. In terms of Hollywood hopefuls, I’m keeping tabs on Tenna Torres, Christina “Isabel” Pasqualone, Angela Miller (she’s from my home state!) and this year’s resident funny-man, Gurpreet Singh Sarin.

  27. jw says:

    Will not watch this year. Tired of reality competition shows.

    • deedee says:

      … which is why I stay away from The Voice and XFactor! Best to save my reality competition tolerance capacity for Idol. The other shows are cheap imitations, anyway.

      • dj says:

        How do you know if you don’t watch them? And speaking of imitations, they all seem to borrow ideas from one another. Didn’t Randy Jackson surprising that girl singing in the club remind you of the way Carson Daly notifies contestants in person that they are invited to audition for The Voice?

        • deedee says:

          Oh, I’ve seen plenty of episodes of both shows to know that they pale in comparison, imo.
          .
          Yeah, they do borrow elements from each other, but Idol has an overall approach that I think is loads more fun than the others.

          • Jason says:

            Idol first eight seasons was the best. Simon when he was hungry and had something to prove. The Voice is way too nice to all contestants. The mentoring and judging doen’t work and leads to biased judging on the XFactor. Idol’s stripped down auditions are the best.

  28. dj says:

    I wasn’t going to watch, but I ended up watching anyway. Nothing else on. I found Mariah and Nicki both annoying and boring. (Is it possible to be both? Why, yes. Yes it is.) Randy was his usual ridiculous self, and Keith was fine. My attention kept wandering throughout the broadcast. I’d start scrolling through twitter on my phone (and I noticed that Heejun tweeted something like “Is this ‘American Idol’ or ‘American Judges’?”). I was glad that Mariah and Nicki weren’t bullying each other or threatening each other yet (that’s why I didn’t want to watch), but my husband and I were both so bored that I don’t think we’ll be watching much this year. But of course I will read your columns and watch your videos, Michael, regardless of whether I watch the show itself.

    • Alienate says:

      It’s call Attention Deficit Disorder. Get yourself treated

      • dj says:

        If it was Attention Deficit, I wouldn’t be able to watch any show without this happening. Besides, with all the live-tweeting going on these days by bloggers, idol alums, etc., I bet I’m not the only one on twitter.

  29. J says:

    Terrific first episode. I really like Nicki. Her interaction with the contestants was fun and at times hilarious and sweet, and her critiques were often on point.

    Keith seems to be on the money with his critiques. He is as funny being between the feuding judges. Keith and Nicki are great.

    Mariah’s ego is at times tiring to watch in this episode. But I have to admit, she had some good critiques at times.

    The contestants have not wowed me yet. I like Ashlee, and I think the rapping country singer Sarah is interesting. But nothing standout yet. Still, these contestants are promising.

    Great first episode of Idol. Can’t wait for more!

  30. james says:

    I’m kinda annoyed that once again that they profile an asian non-singer and make him a laughing stock — certainly there must be talented asian singers out there.

  31. Greg says:

    All of the best parts were Mariahs little conceded comments, I hope they edit more of them in. Like when she told that person that she once had to play a guitar in a movie. She really does live on her own planet, and they need to bring more of that.

    • Jason says:

      I agreee 100%. it’s fascinating to see someone that full of herself and not be aware of it. J-Lo at least knew how to hide her Diva ways. And then the Idol producers found the one person that would actually call her on it and make fun of her Diva ways. If they let this rivalry go it could be unbelievable television. But I think the producers will bland it down after the first couple sessions and publicists will get to Mariah and tame her down.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I liked Nicki. :p I just hope she doesn’t turn into J-Lo in the live rounds.

  33. Angela says:

    No real opinion on Mariah and Nicki, glad there wasn’t the OMG DRAMA! with them this episode, but I’m not exactly anxious to hear their critiques each week, either. Keith was easily the best of all the judges, he was honest yet kind, funny, and seems willing to stay out of the crazy fray and just do his job. I’m very interested to hear his thoughts as the season goes on.
    And the girl in the picture accompanying the article-I’m blanking on her name right now, sadly, but she was definitely fantastic and I’m already hoping she goes far in the competition. I liked the girl who brought her family in, too.
    No matter how ridiculous this show gets, when it returns each year I’m always sucked back in and reminded of why I watch it, so hey, welcome back in all your goofy glory, “Idol” :p.

  34. dilia says:

    gooo angie!

  35. Mark says:

    How ridiculous to not let the cancer guy go through. He was pretty good and he lost his leg. He was a lot better than the subway guy and the subway got through cause of his backstory. Plus he was cute, and who doesn’t like a cute guy?

    So I can’t believe how sympathetic Nicki came off and how extremely likable her personality is in comparison to Mariah Carey. Everything seemed to be about Mariah while Nicki made sure that it was all about the contestant. Even when the one girl sang Nicki’s song, Nicki still made it about THAT girl representing a bunch of girls, not the song Super Bass identifying with everyone. I was just super impressed with Nicki. Mariah came off as kind of a B. Keith Urban = ZZZZZZZ.

    • deedee says:

      Sorry, Mark, Keith Urban = Tsssssss. ;)

    • Alex says:

      He was way better than the guy with the turban, too. Though I was kind of liking the turban look… but his voice wasn’t much.

    • Mary says:

      I don’t think he was that good and I am glad they didn’t put him through just because of his story.
      This is only the first night I think we might be surprise with the talent this year, at least I am hoping. I will admit I was a little surprise with the subway guy, I would not of put him through or the turban guy, didn’t think they were that good.

  36. Billy says:

    Nicki and Keith are a great addition to the panel (great personalities and advice to the contestants) and Randy is just Randy but Mariah must really need the cash because she is not helping herself by showing how self obsessed and caddy she is… If I had to deal with her attitude as much as Nicki had to I would have blown up on her to….it’s so far a pretty good season hope they can find some great talent to make or a great season

  37. Rhiannon says:

    Did they REALLY make Gurpreet’s turban change colors at the end when he was jumping up and down? Oh, Idol…

  38. Jo says:

    Am I the only one who found the exclusion of Kat McPhee in the opening segment of the show among the famous/successful alum a bit of an egregious oversight? While they’re making the argument that Idol is thus far the only show of its kind with real-world success, shouldn’t they be keen to point out that one of their alum has a starring role on an Emmy-nominated primetime TV show? I’m willing to believe it’s just one of those silly Fox things where they won’t acknowledge anything that happens on a competing network, but still it seems a bit fishy…

    • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

      I guess that is a bit odd. I missed the first part (although just caught the intro on replay to check this out) and It seemed like they were mostly focusing on record sales only although they did feature Jennifer Hudson too. Maybe it was huge sales or major awards only? Still, yeah, you’d think they’d want to trumpet the only idol to land a leading role in a TV series (McPhee) or the first contestant to have done Lollapalooza (Reinhart) and Carnegie Hall (Reinhart). How can they not celebrate that stuff?? (did Jessica start selling a lot recently, because they had her in the montage but I don’t recall hearing anything about her singles or record at all? or I guess it made it look like they featured her because she appeared in Glee or something??? but others appeared in other shows this year and were not shown, hmm then again the others appeared in non-FOX shows so hah maybe you are right about the whole thing….)

    • scrutinizer says:

      word!!

    • Jason says:

      Not smart business to advertise a rival TV show on Fox. If it were a fox show sure but you don’t advertise NBC on Fox!

  39. Maxwell H says:

    As a longtime fan of Idol, I thought this was a really terrible premiere. Both Mariah and Nicki were so obviously putting on their diva personalities and spewing out scripted barbs that it made me want to vomit. This is not the show I want to watch.

  40. Crystal says:

    Barely through the episode but I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish. Can’t stand the catty drama and the stroking of Mariah Carrey’s ego. I think the show should be about the contestants not about which judge can out diva the other. Maybe if I mute it when the contestants are not singing.

  41. Alex says:

    Ok why is the reviewer not mentioning that truly awful Idol sequence featuring the Middle Eastern contestant? I am by no means a political loonie or overtly sensitive to racial affairs, but c’mon… That whole Terminator sequence? Terrorist. Everyone saw it and everyone knows what I’m talking about. I am horribly offended. As if this poor man wouldn’t already have a hard enough time with this American singing competition, the behind-the-scenes people decide to edit in this ‘joke’?! Fox, America and this contestant deserve an apology.

    • Luke says:

      Slezak did address the treatment of that contestant – wrote a whole paragraph on it.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Alex – you probably read Mr. Slezak’s article before the update. Sikhs are Indian, not Middle Eastern. It’s a monotheistic religion (as opposed to Hinduism).
      I was distracted by his lavender turban (that is NOT racist, folks, so don’t go there – the color was distracting to me for whatever reason) so I closed my eyes to listen to him and rather liked his voice!

    • unctamil says:

      He’s American with Indian (Sikh, to be specific) heritage. What’s the deal with saying he’d have trouble with the “American” singing competition? And didn’t he suggest the nickname Turbanator? The joke made itself from there, as I saw it. Nothing terrorist about it, unless you’re ignorant. They made it pretty clear that he was Indian, with the Indian classical riff and everything.

      • Theresa says:

        I work at the university where Gurpreet is a student (it’s a relatively small school), and you are correct – Turbanator isn’t something Idol came up with, he mentioned it. That being said, I definitely thought the way they ran with that in the editing room to create the video package that went along with his audition was a little over the top.

      • deedee says:

        To be honest, I never once made the “terrorist” connection during that Turbanator fluff-piece – because Gurpreet is the one who introduced that nickname, and it was just a natural for producers to do something like that with it. Only after everybody started crying foul did I realize that, yeah, maybe it can be taken that way … but I don’t think it was meant the way people ended up taking it.

        • marsaili says:

          Yeah, I didn’t read anything sinister into the whole thing—just usual Idol stupidity. I did like his voice, he will be an interesting contestant!

        • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

          I didn’t see that part of the show, but is it possible that the people seeing terrorist in what Idol did with it are the ones who are projecting and the ones in the wrong? Would people say the same thing if everything they did had been the same but for the contestant say being Irish? Anyway I did see it so I don’t really know how the whole thing went down exactly and the way XFactor handled a couple things….

  42. Kate says:

    Mike, I didn’t think anything could make me love you more. I pretend you’re my supersmart, quick-witted pal who loves Idol as much as I do. But the fact that you’ve been fostering kids over the years? Puts it over the top. I’m as much in love with you as I am with Harvey Specter. And that little be-hatted cutiepie Aiden.

  43. HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

    I must have the magic touch. A bit burned out by so many shows of this type and after two seasons ago, not enough time and with the judging/production crap on AI two seasons ago well I pledged to skip the first half of last season and did so and planned the same for this season, but I did want to take a quick peek at the new judges and wouldn’t you know, the instant I flip over to it they use Free and OhMy as the background tunes for the contestant! Of course through that they sucked me into watching the rest of the night….
    .
    Not much to say other than the judge’s were not fighting crazy mad…. yet. And it seemed a safe enough start…. so far. But we know it’s coming and the preview clip for next week makes it seem like all hell may be breaking out already by next week. I guess it wasn’t a long slow build until it went to pieces after all.

  44. keersa says:

    Gurpreet Sarin, class act, class voice. Probably a bit too real a talent for the show. The rest was essentially the usual junk TV.

  45. HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

    Speaking of Haley. Did anyone catch that live music show that came on after SNL during two recent weeks? (google Real Music Live) Haley totally kicked ass! Great job with a bit more stripped down Oh My! and you heard a little of her Undone too and man it sounded good. She is one of those singers (rare, especially for these days) who often sounds even better live and a touch more stripped down than in the studio making highly produced loudness wars CDs as everyone does these days. I just wish the show was longer and we’d gotten to hear a lot more. Sounded like she really brought down the house.
    .
    I believe it was only shown on TV in the six largest TV markets in the US and it got pushed back extra late with the football going long and it was over winter break so maybe lots of you missed it or had no opportunity. Google it.
    .
    Such a shame the record company didn’t do more, or really anything, to get that version of Oh My! and Undone out there and Hit The Ground Running especially and Liar. I think they kinda blew it and wasted that album effort. They were afraid to go full on in to support it and half way ended up getting them nothing. That was definitely something that deserved a full on gamble. They sort of tried but not really REALLY and that can make it tough to get going viral unless you are really lucky. Especially with Adele and Winehouse and such having paved the way for something a little different to make it these days. Total blown chance on something that was worth the absolute 100% full on push.

  46. Booya says:

    “Eight promising Golden Ticket recipients — including a few voices with possible superstar potential.”

    OMG this sentence made me laugh. Were we watching the same show?

  47. Ashly says:

    I’m not particularly enjoying the cattiness between Nikki and Mariah. It’s a bit annoying. What I do enjoy is Keith Urban’s good natured humor and calm presence. I’m probably one of the few people here but I don’t mind Randy Jackson. It’s nice to have a constant on the dhow.

  48. Maria says:

    Long-time Keith Urban fan here, so I thought I’d check out how he did as an Idol judge. He was great and exactly what I expected…kind, funny, insightful, encouraging (without being patronizing), and calm. I’ll stick around to watch him.

  49. Mike S says:

    I really really liked this episode. The Mariah and Nikki cat fight is just media beat up, you could see the 2 were very playful (I thought they were at times), but nonetheless, they will have their disagreements. Apart from that, the panel had energy. I was surprised the girl that was nominated by her family to sing didn’t get through, I thought she did well. The good thing is, I don’t know what to expect, there is debate, there is opinion. Last year every contestant that auditioned all we heard was “1,2,3…yes” over and over again….the auditions for season 11 were just boring. I like that the judges have a level of expectation and really hope it continues. Nikki I was surprised with. I know people have their opinions on her, but I saw a new side and thought she was engaging, energetic and warm, I didn’t think I would like her, but she has added a spark the panel has missed in a while. Mariah I thought was good, still need to see more and Keith, well I think it;s great to see a real artist on the panel. He is just a straight up guy and had some great critiques. I am glad he wasn’t afraid to say no. Randy, was less dawg and more real. I liked that. On the contestants, there seems potential…you can never know until the live shows. But I have seen in promos the judges standing up during certain auditions this season, so I am interested to see these in particular, as from memory the judges never stand during auditions.

    • EliteHalien says:

      I second this. Although their was a little cattiness on Mariah’s part (“I studied in the school of F**in life” was just priceless.), I loved all the new judges.

      I too felt that most of the stuff between Nicki and Mariah was banter and that it was blown out of proportion.

      Keep in mind that New York auditions were before Charlotte (which is where the fight erupted)

      Regardless, I loved the episode.

    • HitTheGroundRunningWonderlandHaleyOhMy says:

      We will see, but word is that it changes from playful to very real soon enough. I even saw her on some interview, I think it was with Barbara Walters, while flipping channels around a couple weeks ago and she said something about feeling literally physically unsafe on set during later audition rounds and didn’t appear to play down any of the press rumors. Unless it is all some Idol conspiracy they are all in on to desperately try to get more ratings any way possible.

  50. Slatina Whorinova says:

    Wow that last audition delivered an ear-splitting, out-of-breath “Put Your Records On.” Yuck.