American Idol Season 13 Premiere Recap: The Sob Days Are Over, the Sob Days Are Done

American Idol Season 13 Premiere RecapYou all know that American Idol contestant, the earnest teen who had all four limbs torn off by farm equipment, and his grandpa miraculously sewed ’em back on using cornsilk and mud, but rushing back to the house they ran over their beloved alpaca with the tractor, and now the kid is doing it all in memory of Marshmallow?

Or maybe it’s the wide-eyed single mom who lost her high-school sweetheart to a pack of carnivorous sea lions, is supporting herself as a part-time chimney sweep and simply has to make it to Hollywood to ensure a better life for her adorable toddler son?

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Good news, Idoloonie nation: Those sad sacks and their ilk — the ones who used to pollute the Idol audition rounds with their dewey eyes and “ripped from the Today show” tales of woe — appear to have followed Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey down the trash chute. Like a Phillip Phillips’ hit, they’re “Gone, Gone, Gone.” They’re out like Brian Boitano on his way to Sochi. (OK, OK, not that kind of “out”…I got a little carried away for a sec.)

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Yeah, it’s possible (even probable) that some of the 25 (yes, ¡25!) Golden Ticket recipients we got to see from the Season 13 premiere (focusing on Boston and Austin, Texas) are harboring tales of woe that would fit right in at 1970s country radio, but at least for now, incoming producer Per Blankens is focusing his energies elsewhere. And, in a sign that is very, very, very promising for The House That Kelly Clarkson Built (and Is Currently Ruled by Candice Flippin’ Glover), Blankens is instead placing his bets on lots and lots of genuinely talented kids with dreams of music superstardom. Well, talented kids and a brand new judge who has somehow cracked the code on how to be simultaneously tough, honest, knowledgable, engaging, funny and self-depricating…without acting the least bit concerned about how many times (and how positively) he’ll show up when he gets his “Google Alert” email on himself come Thursday morning.

So let’s offer a warm Season 13 welcome to all the future Daughtrys and Fantasias, as well as debuting panelist Harry Connick, Jr., a man so sublime he’s almost managed to dislodge memories of human barnacle Randy Jackson from my brain. (Granted, my case of Dawg-induced PTSD will be that much stronger when Randy returns in a “mentoring” capacity later this season, but for now, I consider his absence a blessing on par with a winning MegaMillions ticket or a brand new pony on Christmas morning.)

Why am I so wild about Harry? Let me try to break it down to four moments from the premiere — so we can then move on to the contestants. (Because it is and should always be about the contestants.)

HE’S SMART — AND TOUGH — ENOUGH TO DISTINGUISH “GOOD” FROM “POTENTIALLY GREAT” | At least a half-dozen times tonight, Connick served up some variation on “you were good, but not good enough” that’s been missing from Idol since Simon Cowell’s heyday. Where Ellen DeGeneres might’ve predicted multiplatinum sales (and given a hug) to a gal with decent pitch but middling breath control and hinky phrasing, Harry takes the realistic approach. When Durann Cree delivered Carrie Underwood’s “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” with enough vocal horsepower to place third in a high-school talent show, but not to survive Hollywood Week, Connick asked if she was used to being the big fish in a small pond — then voted
“no” (right after Jennifer Lopez gave her a “you have work to do” and a “yes”). In some circles, that might get Harry slapped with a “dream crusher” or “meanie” label, but I call him a breath of cold, bracing air. Not every dream needs to be coddled and supported — especially not when it’s actually closer to a delusion.

HE’S THE VOICE OF THE (SMART, DISCERNING, ATTENTIVE) PEOPLE | When 15-year-old Morgan Deplitch opened her audition with the lyrics, “You’ve got me down on the floor/So what’d you bring me down here for?” and then followed it up with the overtly sexual line, “If I was a blade I’d shave you smooth,” Connick noticably cringed, then told Morgan he was so thrown by her song choice that he found himself “creeped out.” (What a change of pace for a show that featured Steven Tyler ogling and salivating over teenage girls for much of Seasons 10 and 11.) Feminists, parents, people who aren’t on board with the sexualization of the under-18 crowd, people who have HAD IT with cultural conversation involving the words “Miley” and “twerking,” your cultural hero has arrived! Just as awesome? Harry’s failure to automatically bow down every time a contestant throws in a crazy run (or turns a one-syllable word to 10). Exhibit A: His side-eye over Madelyn Patterson’s super-fussy rendition of “Up to the Mountain.” JLo and Keith oohed and ahhed as the 22-year-old destroyed everything simple and beautiful about the Patty Griffin tune, but Mr. Connick was having none of it. “Some people are easily impressed by licks,” he said, before getting cut off by She Who Tried to Suppress Haley Reinhart. Madelyn, of course, got so excited by the Golden Ticket that Jennifer dangled that she failed to open her ear to Harry’s advice. “You will hear it in Hollywood,” he grumbled. Oh, you bet she will!

HE’S NOT AFRAID TO MAKE FUN OF HIMSELF | One of the final segments of the Season 13 premiere featured Idol hopefuls in holding rooms pointing out that Connick is, in most circles, the least famous person behind the Idol table, and perhaps the least famous person (aside from Paulina Rubio) to grace a network reality singing competition panel since Randy Jackson stepped down from his Idol perch last May. “Who’s the third judge?” asked one kid. “He had a music career before he was an actor,” explained another (apparently unaware that Connick’s music career is alive and well and probably still netting him copious amounts of cash). “He’s white, but he sounds black,” explained one contestant’s parent. But lest anyone think Mr. Blankens is beating up on the neophyte judge, Connick laughs easily about the way kids moon over J.Lo, or praise fellow panelist Keith Urban’s looks (and scent). He may not be the boldest-faced name in the pack, but methinks that could all change in the coming weeks and months.

HE’S GENUINELY HILARIOUS | After his “no” vote to Stephanie Petronelli got vetoed by J.Lo and Keith, the New England Patriots cheerleader called in three of her (equally scantilly clad) teammates for a joyous leaping, hugging celebration. “That’s a ‘yes’!” Harry quickly reversed. “If there’s four of ’em, it’s a ‘yes’! I didn’t know that was part of the package!” Still, nothing could top Harry’s interaction with the day’s final contestant, Muhfarid Zandi, the rare auditioner who was more excited about meeting the jazz star than either of his fellow panelists. “I read your Wikipedia page every day before going to sleep,” Muhfarid admitted, before Harry locked him in a massive hug that had Keith requesting Muhfarid perform in Harry’s arms. “If you blow us away on the first song, I’d like to pick you up and hold you like a baby on the second,” offered Harry, upping the ante. And when Muhfarid slayed a jazzy Adele ballad, it was J.Lo who giggled, “I feel a cradle coming on.” The resultant rendition of “No One” (pictured above) is going to go down as the stuff of Idol legend. “I’m bringing him back to my hotel,” said Harry, carrying Muhfarid out the door. Honestly, who could say “no”?

Anyhow, let’s get back to names (other than Harry Connick, Jr.) that could/should be a little more widely known by the time April showers begin to fall, let’s talk about THE HOPEFULS! As I said before, the two-hour premiere featured extended footage of (if I counted correctly) 25 Golden Ticket recipients from among the 24 who advanced from Boston and the 21 who advanced from Austin. That’s undoubtedly the greatest number of good singers per hour since I started recapping the show back in Season 4.

The focus on actual talent — and the inclusion of not a single prankster in Statue of Liberty drag, not a chicken costume, and not a single example of Randy Jackson making fun of a “foreign sounding” name or Asian accent — made the 120 minutes zoom by. (And in an attempt to kick start a New Year’s weight-loss program, I wasn’t even drinking my usual Sauvignon Blanc!)

Of course, I’d be lying if I tried to pretend I had something profound (or even vaguely worthwhile) to say about every single vocalist who scored a Golden Ticket tonight, so let me instead rank my personal Top 10 from Episode 1 of Season 13:

11. Muhfarid Zandi, “Crazy for You” | He desperately needs styling help, but come on — the kid really can sing. And choosing “No One” to perform in Harry’s arms? Genius!

10. Ben Boone, “Too Close” | Was I the only one getting early Lee DeWyze vibes off this fella? (Lest we forget, Lee’s audition was montaged with the great Crystal Bowersox, so perhaps Savannah Young’s “Toxic” and Vivian Villalon’s Maroon 5 cover are worthy of a rewind?)

9. Austin Percario, “Titanium” | OK, so he’s a weeeeee bit affected, but Keith was exactly right that he’s got an instrument that sweeps from pretty pop perfection to something unexpectedly haggard. Bonus points if the adorable teen’s rise to fame leads to the end of the Bieber Era.

8. Savion Wright, “The Dark Side of Me” | As close as we got to a hardscrabble backstory was Savion’s struggle with ADD, but he showed some creativity by auditioning with a self-penned ditty that showed a little bit of soul and a little bit of introspection. Plus, as the judges noted, anyone who’s wanted to be on Idol for eight years — but waited and practiced and waited until feeling fully ready — is not your average contestant.

7. Kaitlyn Jackson, “Another Angel” | Any 15-year-old with the musicality and poise to stand in front of the judges with her guitar and belt out a personal ballad about her grandpa’s brush with death has my immediate attention. “She’s smart!” said Harry. “It’ll be fun watching her week to week.” Can’t disagree with that. No, sir.

6. Lindsey Pedicone, “Bottom of the River” | The lilting quality of her tone isn’t the kind that typically thrives in the Idoldome, but there was something sparkly and enchanting about what she did with an underrated Delta Rae jam that makes me want to hear more.

5. Marialle Sellers, “Grenade” | You know when Idol opens the season with a contestant — and puts her in front of the opening credits — she’s gonna be pretty damn good. And while I heard nerves creep in on a few extended notes, Marialle’s expressive (and gorgeous) face and expressive (and, yeah, gorgeous) voice made me feel like she was fully engaged with every nook and cranny of her song.

4. Keith London, “Roar” | Yeah, he had a stumbling start, and indeed, my new BFF Harry opined that he’s “not a good enough singer,” but I found myself agreeing — ugh, I do hate this sentence now — with J.Lo. There was something about Keith’s almost brogue-like inflection that gave Katy Perry’s booming pop nugget an upgrade. It didn’t hurt that he’s awfully cute, too, did it?

3. Jillian Jensen, “Not Over You” | Robbed by Demi Lovato during Season 2 of The X Factor, the gravel-throated gal displayed greater vocal control and more confidence in her second stab at a Fox reality singing competition. Hey, maybe her “mentor” did her a favor, after all!

2. Sam Woolf, “Lego House” | 17-year-old who lives with his grandparents showcased beautiful character and flawless phrasing despite his selection of a rhythmically tricky and fairly wordy jam. If Idol‘s going to have another “white guy with guitar” winner, he could be the one.

1. Malcolm Allen, “Superstition” | “OOOOH, BETTY!” That’s the nonsensical first thing that I blurted in the midst of Malcolm’s deeply felt Stevie Wonder cover — which, along with some killer air guitar, showcased perfect pitch and a wicked sense of musicality. I loved the way this fella (who looks like a young Billy Porter) openly admitted to how seriously he takes his music, and his admission that he’s envious of his competitors who’ve already mastered guitar.

With that, let me turn things over to you. What did you think of the American Idol Season 13 premiere? What did you think of the new judges’ panel? And who was your favorite Golden Ticket recipient? Take the poll below, then 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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  1. Harry Connick Jr. He is perfect on this show. I have wanted him on this show since Simon Cowell left. That bit at the end with him picking up that contestant was hilarious. I loved a lot of contestants tonight. Savion Wright, Malcolm Allen, Kaitlyn Jackson and Muhfarid Zandi. So far so good.

    • RodMod says:


      So far so good! *Crossing Fingers*

      • Beth Houghland says:

        Savion will be a front runner I think. Like you, so far so good as for the show this season. Harry
        Connick Jr. as a judge was the best decision AI could make. He was spot on in his critiques. When he said no to the girl who sang all the runs I told my husband the exact thing Connick said while she was singing before any critique was given. I’ve watched many judges get all giggly over runs in prior years and the contestants usually end up receiving bad critiques by the same judges if they make it to the top ten.

        • The Beach says:

          She rendered the lovely melody of “Up to the Mountain” completely unrecognizable.

          • Mary S from NJ says:

            I completely agree. I remember Crystal Bowersox’ gorgeous, soulful version, and this one was a mess. Sometimes I think melisma – aka “the runs” are a nervous affectation of an insecure singer. I’m glad someone (Harry) called her out on it.

            Loving Harry C! It’s time for a guy who can give constructive criticism with a sense of humor.

        • ben says:

          It’s not runs inherently, its how they are used. In that particular case, they were used atrociously. I’m sure Harry would like runs when used appropriately.

    • Teeny Bikini says:

      OMG. I totally cried laughing at the end. Hm… Connick might just have me watch this darn show after all. I second and third everything Michael said about him. Honestly, I don’t even remember any of the singers except the dude who sang in his arms. LOL. Just classic. :)

      • analythinker says:

        Hi, Teeny, we meet again :) I haven’t watched but I might now, reading your comment ;)

      • Kim R says:

        Totally agree. I loved Harry and the vibe of this first show. I have not watched since “Haley-gate” so I am having a hard time forgiving Ms. Lopez but I’m willing to overlook that for now to just enjoy this new feel. I hope they keep it up. :)

    • Steve says:

      Editing can do wonders. Everyone Loved Steven Everyone Loved Nicki Everyone Loved Britney lets wait untill we get to the Lives and see how he does

      • Editing is great. And you are 100% right about Steven who had a tough time, and you didn’t even mention Ellen, who was really funny during the edited audition rounds, but then couldn’t handle it during the live rounds. BUT, we have seen Harry many times on Idol, during edited and live parts of the show and he has been great and pretty much the same no matter what. I have more confidence in him than I do about Jennifer or Keith this season. I think he is someone that has wanted this job for years, and he is ready to go. Obviously, anything can happen, but things look good for him and the show.

  2. Dillon says:

    Can’t wait to see how many people start calling Jillian a bad singing cry baby now that she’s back.
    I’ve kept up with her youtube videos since she got booted from Xfactor (wrongly). The girl can sing, she can sing very well. Glad she’s apart of the top 31 or whatever number it is.

    • scooby says:

      Dude, spoilers. I mean you can probably guess she’ll get farther than early Hollywood rounds because she’s great, but no need to blab stuff you found out elsewhere online. Some people would rather watch it on tv.

  3. How is Shanon Wilson not on here? His falsetto was CRAZY good! Actually, the whole performance was out of this world. Easily the best of the night.

  4. RodMod says:

    Ahh…the sweet, titillating aroma of a Michael Slezak review! GLAD TO BE BACK! ;)

    • LG says:

      And it only took him a few paragraphs to mention Haley Reinhardt!

      • C says:

        Yeah….let’s have a year free of Haley-whining, please!

        • Jaszy says:

          Uh…that’s not possible. J-Lo is back and if she pulls the same stuff that she did Season 11 with Haley Reinhart or Elise Testone in Season 12, then those ships haven’t sailed yet! and this is Slezak’s blog. HIs favorite contestant ever is Haley Reinhart. Let him talk about her all he wants, because I loved her too.
          Anyway, I digress. This Season, lucky number 13, I hope we get to see some more talented female artists. I don’t particularly care for the male artists, especially the WGWG’s and I’ve seen more than a few just on this episode alone. I hope this doesn’t mess up chances for better singers.

          • She was not that good of a singer. Often came across shouty and a little of the mark. But He worships Fantasia, who only screams and screams until the song is slaughtered, so…

            Sleazak loves chrurch singers.

          • Kaba says:

            Please take your comments elsewhere if you’re really saying Haley is a shouty church singer.

          • HTGR says:

            @Pedro – hah, well she was good enough to get invited to Carnegie Hall (after catching the ear of a Jazz great) and Lollapalooza and to sing for Muhammad Ali’s birthday bash (all Idol firsts)
            (since how is Haley remotely a church singer like Fantasia? For the record, I liked Fantasia when she was on the show, especially her Summertime, but she sure as heck doesn’t remotely remind me of Haley, they couldn’t possibly be more different.)

  5. OhMy says:

    Harry is a great addition — but the talent was in short supply tonight.

    • gdv says:

      Totally agree. Harry is great, but the only singer I remembered liking was the guy who sang “Superstition.” Everyone else was pretty mid-to-low grade.
      I’m glad that Harry said something about Morgan’s song choice being inappropriate for a 15-year-old. I was totally skeeved out when she was singing.

  6. daisy says:

    I loved Harry Connick Jr. as a judge. He was funny and discerning, and I thought the three judges had a really nice chemistry. I loved the last audition with Harry cradling the contestant, so charming and funny.

  7. Mel1602 says:

    Best Idol premiere in years. Harry should have been a judge since the day Simon left.My fave by far was Kaitlin but I also liked Austin, Malcolm and Savion. There was also a chick w limited screen time (Terricka?) who wowed me w her belting.

  8. marie says:

    Whoo hoo! VERY hopeful for a good season. The show has a clean, lean new look; Harry seems to be the best thing that could have happened to Idol. Intrigued by some of the talent I heard. Now if only JLo can manage not to morph into the Fire-Breathing Dragon Lady, and the new producer can skip making these folksy, soulful young singers warble Against All Odds, this could be the start of a terrific new season.

    Welcome back, everyone!

    • deedee says:

      Hi Marie! Love seeing the regulars again. This is going to be an exciting season – I feel it.

      • marie says:

        Right back at ya, deedee! :-)

      • Ben says:

        Feeling it too, deedee. Although I have to say, not because of Harry, as such (I see neo-Cowell judging more as a bonus than what was ailing the show). More just because I think the editing shows a producer who gets it.
        For Harry, I agree his attitude is what Idol needs. I find myself disagreeing sometimes with his opinion. But that’s actually not a bad thing.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      yay, marie and deedee are back!

    • The Beach says:

      Loved Harry and his calling out several contestants for (and Keith and J-Lo’s love of) way too many runs. What a knowledgeable breath of fresh air he is…and forgive me for being shallow but he’s looking damn hot too. And a huge thank you to the new producer (adios Nigel) for ridding the show of all those sob stories. A great start to the season. The past few years I have skipped the auditions and picked the show up Hollywood Week. I thought I would give it a shot this year with the new panel and am really glad I did.

  9. Kaw says:

    My favorite tonight was Ethan Thompson. Surprised he didn’t make the list.

  10. Redii says:

    You’re right, I’m so sick and tired of the usual “An evil octopus witch under the sea took my voice when I was a teen… now I have my voice back so I’m gonna win Idol” crap. Unless the person REALLY has a problem, I care (never forget that “Voice” guy who had a problem when he was a baby… Jesus Christ In Heaven).

    Anyway, as usual, great recap Michael. You make the show more fun. You really are the 4th judge, you’re Randy hehehe (Kidding).

  11. Danny says:

    The show’s off to a good start. I still can’t stand JLo, but overall I liked it. My 2 favs were (don’t recall the names) the girl who’s grandfather died + the guy who strummed his guitar when Harry said a few things to Jennifer.

    The be carefuls come with I hope they don’t turn that girls grandfather into a continuous sob story. That’ll work against her if they keep it up. Also, most of the guitarists (except for the one) need to not look at their guitars so much while they’re singing.

    Overall, a pretty good start to AI this year. I wonder what the ratings will be.

  12. Becky says:

    So impressed by the season premiere. I’ve been lobbying for Harry Connick Jr. for years. He is a very welcome addition to the panel. It’s really nice to see the focus be on the good singers and not the judges fighting. Or on the trainwrecks that cannot sing. This is gonna be a fantastic season. And I’m hoping that these 3 will stand up for their opinions of how people sound and not just listen to the producers. Welcome back to the top American Idol!!!

    • scooby says:

      Oh totally. It was everything I knew it would be with Harry on the panel. The first time he was a mentor I was sold. Idol got its mojo back.

  13. Kaba says:

    Those judges know they had no business sending that twerking fool to Hollywood and sending everyone else that was at least decent home. -___-
    I hope Jillian is able to tear past her Xfactor image that was forced on her. But hopefully she isn’t labeled as fake because she didn’t carry on her story.

    • scooby says:

      Out of 75,000 we so far have 46 golden tickets with what I think is 5 cities left to go. Between 150-200 to Hollywood sounds like what we’ll end up with and that’s gonna leave off a ton of decent singers. Great or potential great is what they gotta strive for or don’t waste the audience’s time. You should only move on when you’re not ready if they think you can get ready in a hurry with the right vocal coaching and support. I don’t think “at least decent” is grounds for squat on this show. Those people, as pleasant to listen to as they are, should go make Youtube videos. They’ll have some fans, it’ll be nice, and we won’t have to watch them on tv as everyone eventually realizes they’re not good enough to be the next American Idol. It doesn’t make them terrible people or musicians but this isn’t about feelings. If the music industry will chew them up and spit them out, they need to be told the truth and cut asap. Early Idol Simon knew it and had that attitude. Harry’s the closest we’ve gotten to having that back. Frankly, he’s a nicer person so I prefer Harry.

      • Kaba says:

        My issue isn’t that the decent folk were sent home. It’s the fact that the twerking fool was given a chance when he shouldn’t have gone through.

  14. marie says:

    HA-REE! HA-REE! HA-REE! HA-REE! When he tried to school JLo on a technical point of music, and she brushed him off with “You know too damn much…”. LOL!!! This is gonna be FANTASTIC!

  15. Kaba says:

    All hail Harry! Loved watching JLo trying to sound knowledgeable as Harry by agreeing with him at random moments LOL. Otherwise they never really agreed.

  16. Jenny says:

    I definitely see potential here. But i might be a bit nervous to completely say it is going to be great because I have been manipulated and burned too many times with this show. Agree Harry is a great addition and seems like they finally figured out the judges table they haven’t been able to get right since the first couple of seasons. Harry is Simon without the need to be overly mean yet able to give honest feedback even if it is hard. I really just hope he is able to keep this up once the live shows start. I don’t want someone behind the scenes telling him to be nicer. While I am glad it wasn’t two hours of sob stories, I sort of felt the side conversations in the holding room seemed staged. Could have just been me. i do have to say it is the best first episode in a while and really hope they have been able to figure it out to keep this success going.

  17. MAB says:

    I love Harry and I believe he will save the show. I was not wild about any of the singers tonight but I never really like the audition part of Idol. I enjoy Idol more when we come to the live shows.
    I am excited about Idol this year. Last year I almost gave up on Idol it was so awful and if it wasn’t that Harry became a judge I may not have watched this year at all. I wanted him as a judge for years and am delighted it finally happened and to think he wasn’t even first choice.

  18. deedee says:

    Hi Michael! I couldn’t wait for Idol to start just to read your recaps again!
    I TOTALLY agree about Malcolm Allen. His voice is astonishing.

  19. marie says:

    (MS, I’m surprised your spell-check didn’t catch “self-deprEcating”…)

  20. metin tood says:

    Would have preferred more backstory on many of the contestants. It’s hard to be invested in the singers when we don’t know anything about them. It may be manipulative, but it helps you to get to know the singers. Which of the singers did we really get to know on tonight’s show? Hardly anyone. There were no hometown visits, no sob stories. I miss those.

    • Ben says:

      I don’t care deeply about the sob stories. You aren’t wrong that they need to invest us in the people (something I think they failed at completely last season). But it doesn’t have to be done by way of a sob story.

    • rio says:

      Completely disagree. We don’t get to know contestants just by hearing a dramatic backstory; what we get to know is a small part of a person. I don’t want to feel sympathy for a singer–I want to be moved by their talent. I may be wrong, but I can’t remember any past winner who had one of those tear-jerking sob stories. Fantasia may have had one, but I don’t recall it. (Just saw her on Broadway, BTW, and she was great.)

      • marie says:

        Agree with Ben and rio. In fact, at this early stage of the competition, I don’t really want to hear anything except singing. Plenty of time later on to hear more background on those who make it to the later stages of the competition.
        (And I CERTAINLY don’t miss the screeching foolios in rubber ducky costumes and such.)

        • The Beach says:

          So true, marie. I don’t need or want any backstories on the hundreds of contestants that are going to get tickets. I wouldn’t be able to keep them straight anyway. Wait until it’s down to 12-15 and then fill us in a little. I’m also very happy there were no rubber duckies or William Hungs.

        • Ben says:

          I’m not sure I’d go that far. Often the short clips before they sing (or the discussions they have with the judges) help you understand their musical point of view, and gives context to their voice and musical choices. It just doesn’t need to be their life backstory.

          • marie says:

            Hmm, I can see your point. Personally, though, I’ve learned – or maybe it’s “conditioned myself” – not to get too invested in any contestant this early in the game, as that person could be gone at any moment: even someone who appears promising at audition might turn out to be a one-trick pony (remember the guy who sang Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” whose name I don’t recall?). So for me, personally, I don’t care yet about any contestant’s musical background or choices; the new format so far is perfect for me, as ALL I want to hear at the auditions is singing. To each his/her own, of course, though.

          • ben says:

            @marie – yeah, I know what you mean. Often I connect to people in that portion only to have them go out early. My opinion on this has come from my own experience – last year I missed the whole auditions portion of the showm, and never managed to connect to anyone at all as a result, and I was left feeling a bit cold about the season as a whole (I also think the ‘top 10’ instead of a ‘top 13’ was partly to blame for this – we should have had two or three more weeks with people like Burnell. So I’m glad to see a return to the top 13 format.)

          • ben says:

            (My point being, its entirely likely that different people will connect better at different stages)

    • ssa says:

      Hi Nigel.

  21. Ang says:

    I am so excited for this season! Harry Connick Jr. is a great judge so far. My top 2 so far are the same as yours….I guess we have good taste!

  22. 'A' is Alive says:

    Does anyone know what the chubby guy that reminds me of Ruben Studdard was singing? Such a good voice as well! Overall, a great premiere! :)

  23. EJ says:

    I do wish that Harry Connick Jr., a superior performer of standard ballads, had found a nice way to ask that Troy kid to please sing “Under The Rainbow” as it was written.

  24. marie says:

    Was it just me, or did the show/production as a whole look a lot less cheesy? I ALREADY like Blankens.

    • Timmah says:

      Yep, they’ve got a real professional running things now, not that assclown Nigel.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I agree, Marie. It was a more streamlined production with more singing and less showing ridiculous auditions, people in the waiting area/sob stories.

      • Amy says:

        I also totally agree with that Marie. I noticed that in all Idol’s pre-show promos that it definitely had a fresh, modernized look, that had me anticipating what the show would look like. I had read a quote in an article here from one of the producers where she said it’d be new but that “we’d still know it was Idol.” Last night watching I thought, they got it right. They struck the perfect balance of fresh and yet identifiably Idol . I hope they kept the familiar staples, Ryan’s “THIS is…” and the pulsating Idol theme music that still always gets me pumped and IS Idol. I honestly didn’t even notice last night but think those things kick in after auditions. Anyway… Idol’s back. :)

        • Amy says:

          Also loved the more “clean and lean” aspect of content, especially during audition rounds…all the wasted time garbage gone. Maybe they finally have “gotten it”…they’re just lucky many of us “loonies” stuck around through the bad stuff, waiting for them to get back to the real meat and heart of this show….”a search for a superstar.” The only change they didn’t make that concerns me is not limiting the calls/votes. Will that mean the Bieber-like NJ “cutie” unfairly overshadows other talent at some point? We’ll have to see…I still say, for the most part when we get down to finals on Idol, even with that voting system, America seems to get it pretty right.

        • marie says:

          Even such things as the typeface used for the credits, and the opening credits animation, looked modern and fresh, but yes, still identifiable as Idol.

    • ben says:

      Yeah, it was brilliant. Thank goodness, because I really just don’t enjoy X Factor/Voice no matter how hard I try, and I really badly want Idol to return to form.

      • marie says:

        I agree; tried The Voice for a while, but gave up I think in the second season where it seemed the rules kept changing from week to week to give the producers much more control over who would advance vs. having the viewers in control (yeah, yeah, I know, LOL!), and hated X Factor from the get-go because of the ridiculous over-production, maniacally loud, screaming audiences, and rampant tampering with vocals even at locales where what we should have heard were natural, “live” vocals, such as on the “judges’ homes” segments. (The Sing-Off, on the other hand, is a BRILLIANT show that I wish TVLine would cover!) Every January is a pleasure akin to the start of baseball season for me. Welcome back, Idol.

  25. MC says:

    Harry Connick giving J-Lo a music theory class on the Pentatonic notes was classic.

  26. karenb says:

    Harry FTW. Great judge. Lots of real talent tonight. Surprised you didn’t mention all of the guitars Slezak. Me love some guitars! I didn’t have my ritual Sav Blanc tonight either, but I was inclined to break it out and start my own personal drinking game for every guitar I saw!

  27. Meredith says:

    Whereas Randy Jackson made the judges around him less coherent, Harry is making the other judges attempt to bring up their game. Great start to the show!

  28. Ginger Snap says:

    Wake me up when we get past Hollywood week. We’ve been down this road before. If Harry can maintain his honesty when the live rounds begin, then there’s hope. But JLo we’ve seen before. Seems like everything looked great with the past 2 judges panels and then it all fell apart during the live rounds.

    • marie says:

      You have a point. But I can’t help but think this might be the year everything changes.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I think the difference is we’ve seen Harry as a mentor before on the program AND we have a new production team. That gives me hope. It’s almost as though the new team listened to everything viewers complained about. Keeping fingers crossed!

      • Amy says:

        I agree. Cynical as I am, I’m ever the optimist. Oh and ps and btw…they SHOULD be listening to us and kudos if they finally have!

    • Jenny says:

      That is how I feel. On her first season Jennifer was honest in the audition rounds, but then changed during the live shows. I do feel with Harry and the new production time there is hope of Harry staying the way he is, but my final judgement of the season won’t be until we see the live shows and who they put up for the voting.

      • The Beach says:

        I think a lot of Jennifer’s abrupt turn around last time was a result of pressure from Nigel and Randy. I will give her the benefit of the doubt for the moment and hope she doesn’t revert back to the old J-Lo.

        • marie says:

          Heck, last season even Keith temporarily sold out, but soon enough repented, made his amends, and set back onto the right path. As other have commented, we can only hope the new production team fosters honesty in judging over manipulation, and that what truly seem to be a core decency and musical intelligence on the part of Harry and Keith help to keep JLo honest and goodhearted too.

        • HTGR says:

          That could be, because she seemed to do quite the mysterious 180 there S10. OTOH, her facial expressions and who she cried for and didn’t when they left made it seem like it was kinda a lot on her too though, at least by the last few weeks (although maybe she got pissed when she got called out for it and only then started taking it out on her own and not just because of pressure). Whatever the case she had millions beyond tens of millions beyond tens of millions, for someone that rich beyond rich to sell out that far or too be so snippy about it when her sellout didn’t go over well with fans or contestants and for her to have been willing to sink people for it, I just have no respect left for her (and I had nothing against her before Idol).

    • ben says:

      Part of my problem is this – I think there is a balance to be struck with judging in the live rounds. What are they there to do? Are they there to tell the public who performed well and didnt? Or are they there to give feedback to contestants that is relevant to them and their own standard. I mean, if contestant X gives their best performance ever, but its still arguably the worst of the night, should they be providing positive feedback, or negative feedback?
      Unlike others, I don’t think the “JLO problem” is Randy or Nigel caused. I think it is because what JLo’s idea of judging at that stage is focussed on ‘what does the contestant need to hear from me putting aside the competition’ and ours is focussed on ‘how did that performance compare to other contestants’.
      Unless and until the judges understand we want them to be there for the public, not there for the contestants (constructive criticism and mentoring is better done outside of the live shows), the problem may continue.

  29. LeahKittyS says:

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year all over again! Welcome back, everybody! And welcome to the best (non-contestant) thing that’s happened to this show in a long time, Harry Connick Jr.! I so, so badly hope everything he is doing now carries over into the live shows. As for the contestants from tonight we’ll see at that point? My money is on Malcom Allen, Sam Woolf, Jillian Jensen, Marialle Sellars, and (Michael didn’t mention this one) Ethan Harris.

  30. Mika02 says:

    I will only be reading recaps because I truly can’t stand JLo on Idol I wish they had went with Kelly Rowland or someone else. I was excited for Harry and Keith. Thanks for helping me out with your recaps and can’t wait for my weekly Idiology.

    • HTGR says:

      Same here. Why the heck did they bring her back and blow so much money on her? If they wanted one well known pop star, then they shoulda poached Rowland. Then again, it’s just as well, as far as I’m personally concerned, as I don’t really wanna blow more time watching ‘reality’ tv haha, but it’s pretty unfortunate for those who are gonna watch. For me, the perfect excuse to skip Idol.
      Anyway, despite all the talk about how this episode went so well, I still don’t believe it long term seeing how they saw fit to bring her back. Harry may be good, but as we’ve seen, if the other judges go all producer’s pet and it goes all S10, a single judge keeping his sense isn’t nearly enough to save the day. I just can’t these seriously in terms of the singing any more. (it sounds like this time JLo isn’t even getting it right during the audition rounds, where she at least had been pretty decent S10. although, if it is true that she was responsible for sending through those cheerleaders that I noticed in one commercial…. well…. maybe she has proven to be of some use, at least just this once this season haha. I may have to check that one segment out. If Keith sent her through too she’s gotta be decent. I hope.).
      When I check back in to peek at the blog again a few weeks deep into the live shows, it’ll be interesting to see whether it is still singing the happy tune.

    • ben says:

      I didn’t like Rowland much in X Factor as a judge, although she was the best on the panel (why has Simon Cowell become so useless??). Actually, I really like JLo and Keith as judges in the past, because they have proven not to be concerned with their own egos, when they haven’t gone soft at least (something which, to be fair to Kelly, is impossible to do in an X Factor format)

      • HTGR says:

        JLo, in particular, seemed pretty darn concerned with her own ego to me. Rowland did go a little soft and a few times she seemed to fall into line, but OTOH she only fell behind the big Restless Road push a few times and did call them out quite a few weeks even when Simon was glaring at her hah.

        • ben says:

          I don’t get that vibe. I’ve always felt JLo was primarily concerned with, perhaps even TOO concerned with, being supportive to the contestants. Something which the panel on X Factor often seem to put second to partisanship and pushing thie own acts at the expense of honesty. This really is a sin of the format, though, more than the judges themselves.

  31. james says:

    HARRY CONNICK JR. My favorite judge ever after one episode.

    • C says:

      Ditto to that. I’ve gotten to the point with Idol where I don’t even watch until they get to Hollywood week because I got so sick of the sob stories and the stupid auditions. But I decided to watch this week because of Harry and he was even better than I expected. This is going to be a GREAT season! Bring in Adam Lambert next year in place of JLo and you’ll have a perfect judging panel.

  32. Shawn says:

    I think I recognized Austin Percario (the kid with the stage mom) as one of the intensity kids from season 1 of the X-Factor( if memory served me right he originally auditioned as a duo with a girl). I loved Harry. It was good that he was keeping it real with the contestants. It Randy and Steven where there instead of Harry and Keith nearly everybody would be going to Hollywood. Also if JLo says goosies one more time I will petition for her immediate dismissal.

  33. Emmy says:

    Harry Connick, Jr: the best/smartest judge to happen to singing competitions since Ben Folds. Well-educated, well-spoken, and hilariously funny. Talk about a triple-threat! (instead of J Lo’s supposed “triple threat.” Of what? Mediocrity?) Haven’t watched this show in YEARS, tuned in for him. May give it a shot just to see him on my TV every week.

    • marie says:

      YES! Hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right, Harry is a lot like Ben Folds is on the tightest, most music -oriented singing competition on the air (that TVLine doesn’t cover :-/ ).

      • darcy's evil twin says:

        Made me laugh, Marie.
        LOVE “The Sing-Off”

      • ben says:

        @marie – I know, right? Why won’t the sing off get better ratings? (and Ben Folds is awesome). As a non-american, I’ve only even been able to see one season of the show, and it was brilliant. Wish it did better.

  34. darcy's evil twin says:

    Welcome back WGWG&PS! (white guy with guitar and plaid shirt). There were even white girls with guitars. And black girls with guitars. And black guys with guitars!

    I agree with everything Mr. Slezak said about Harry Connick, Jr. He was engaging and spot-on about unsupported vocals, inappropriate songs for young contestants (I think there was only one of those), singers that weren’t quite good enough or ready, and too many “licks”. His comment to J-Lo about the pentatonic scale was funny. I haven’t thought about the term since High school music theory class but at least I knew what it was.

    I was really impressed with how many auditions we were able to watch!

    • karenb says:

      Haha DET I noticed the plaid shirt too. For a second there I thought P2’s little brother was trying out. Not that I know if he has one lol

      • LeahKittyS says:

        Phillip doesn’t have any brothers. Just two sisters: Lacey and LaDonna. They’re both married, though, so he has brothers-in-law.

  35. tealeaves says:

    This was my favorite audition episode in many years. It was very funny. Most of the contestants put thru had promise and were not just going thru because they were cute or young or had a sob story.
    I LOVE that Harry Connick isn’t impressed by vocal gymnastics just for the sake of it.

  36. Jason says:

    Connick is good but I miss Nicki Minaj! Too bad she didn’t have the patience to take Mariah’s diva attitude! She probably got fired because she couldn’t handle her and had to speak back which caused the controversy that got her fired. Also, the falling ratings don’t justify paying two major stars outlandish salaries. SO they went with the cheap salaries (Keith Urban and Harry Connick) and the Popular Lopez as the huge salary ( to go along with Seacrest’s)!

    • Dillon says:

      Nicki was a terrible. Terrible judge. She seemed promising prior to the live shows and then she completely lost all credibility when she vowed to not save a single male contestant because she was chock full of delusions that Curtis was the best male singer of the boys. Her honestly was useless.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      Nicki Minaj is the scourge of humanity and needs to hunker down back in the ghetto from whence she came. She is disgusting, untalented, classless, and vulgar. Any panel not featuring her is going to be an improvement. I think the Cookie Monster would have had more salient input for the contestants than she did.

  37. Blinged Up says:

    YIPPEE! Michael’s back! And old posters are back! Annndddd you know what else is back? IDOL. It’s back, baby! This is going to be a great season.

  38. J says:

    Idol is back. Harry is such a breath of fresh air to this show. Honesty was sorely lacking in Idol. Harry was not only forthright, but was not so brash. I mean, who can argue with his musical acumen? He gave his critiques with substance and humor. I love how he told the Patriots cheerleader that her abdomen showed how she was not sing her vocals correctly. Also, how runs are not the way to go! I seriously love this guy. Scary how many contestants are not aware of Harrys music (Savion and Muhfarid big props to you guys for knowing who Harry is and they are my favorites so far). A big plus – Keith is having the time of his life as a judge. He is obviously loving this season and its apparent in this first episode. The judges are clicking and gelling. Very good sign for the show and for the contestants this season. Thank you TPTB.

  39. Timmah says:

    They finally got a real producer and it shows.

  40. Tim says:

    This show has its swagger back!

  41. AprilD says:

    There was a ukulele! I’m so glad to see Harry! He’s as brilliant as I hoped he’d be. There’s definitely a difference in the production & it’s a welcomed change. WTG new people! I loved leaving out sob stories & hometown visits. Streamlined is right! Combining contestants songs with other clips or their stories was great. No need to know everything about all these people, most won’t get far anyway. It’s just nice to see the variety of people & styles & songs.

  42. GeoDiva says:

    I have not watch AI since Simon left, but curiosity about all the ch ages brought me back. Love Harry!

  43. Tt says:

    Connick was very good. He made AI watchable again, which I didn’t think was possible. But I can see him becomimg jaded and disinterested in a few years, just like Simon Cowell.

  44. Jim Welker says:

    The good: Harry Connick is the finest judge ever to be on a talent show! He’s the first judge EVER that sees right through NO TALENT SINGERS and has the guts to say no! There is finally a judge who agrees with me on singers I say stink and all the judges think they’re WONDERFUL! He is SPOT ON IN HIS JUDGING! Also, what a sense of humer! HE is the reason I will watch this show! Also, ALL the judges were having so much fun, mostly due to Harry! THE BAD: Usually I can pick a fabulous singer from the opening segmen of ANY talent show that will go almost or to the final! This episode DID NOT HAVE ONE TERRIFIC SINGER…NOT ONE!!!!!!!! NEVER, have I watched a talent show where at least ONE singer stood out….not ONE! This dates back to the first STAR SEARCH SHOWS! On any episode of any show, someone stands out….NOT THIS FIRST EPISODE! Ben Boone (I think that’s his name), was really the only one I feel had the potential to move on awhile in the competition! You’ll see…NONE of tonights contestants are going nowhere! I loved the judges having so much fun and THEY were the saving grace of this show! The talent overall STANK!

    • Timmah says:

      I have to agree, the talent level was severely lacking. But, it’s one audition show out of six (I think), so it’s not time to panic yet.

    • hmmmmmmmmmmmm says:

      They didn’t necessarily show the best that they have. Usually they hold back on a few gems who surprise everyone later.

      • Timmah says:

        Yes, as I recall Jessica Sanchez was not shown until the Hollywood rounds. And some other prominent finalists as well.

  45. Jim Welker says:

    Looking over my last comments, there were a few typos….sorry! Anyway, I hope the talent improves! Even X Facor had a better first episode for talent….MUCH BETTER! Very unusual! Thank God Harry livened things up! I loved his comment about him being a hologram! He is a breath of fresh air….a very intelligent judge who knows his talent!

  46. Adam FR says:

    All I wanna say is: “pick me up and take me to your hotel room, Harry!” What a Dilf!

  47. Claudia says:

    oh man, you guys. now i’m confused and it’s ALL YOUR FAULT. I was completely in “I’m not going anywhere near IDOL because of the JLo monster returning, but man Harry C is just as wonderful as I figured he would be and all your comments are making me want to see him. Maybe I could just FF through it everytime the camera/mic goes to JLo. Cause I really cannot handle that woman since she was a judge. Can’t. Handle. Her. Damn…… gotta decide — watch and FF JLo – or read Mr. Slezak’s summaries and watch the YouTube highlights. (Damn… why couldn’t they have gotten anyone but her…. it would have been perfect.) a or b………….. 1 or 2……………. arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  48. Alan Dvorkis says:

    Much like X Factor New Zealand, we finally get to hear mostly talented singers getting mostly relevant comments. What a novel idea. Sam Woolf’s up tempo Leggo House, did not make the great song better, but showed both a kick ass voice and terrific creativity, a combination that sells records. I would buy his now.

  49. Jim Welker says:

    I partly agree about JLO! She isn’t much of a singer and isn’t a musician….didn’t know what Harry was talking about on a basic thing he mentioned! She can’t be a good judge because she is only an AVERAGE singer AT BEST! I remember her best when she had such a SHOCKED look on her face when Phillip Phillips won Idol over a superior Jessica Sanchez! She was outraged and for good reason! I do feel that all three judges blend well together with Connick leading the way!

  50. Thea says:

    Agree with most people about the lack of dazzling standout talent, but I will say I was at least impressed by Savion and the girl who played Maroon 5 on her ukelele. Muhfarid was good, but something has me thinking he might be the “same performance every week despite whatever genre he’s tackling” sort. Idk, just a thought. I do hope Jillian does better than she did (and is nowhere near as weepy as she was) on X-Factor.

    • Fran says:

      Considering she wept during her audition and during the point when Demi sent her home..I have a hard time seeing what was so weepy about her. Everyone acted as though every waking moment she was on screen she was just shedding tears. She cried twice. The end.