American Idol's milestone 10th season started by confronting the Idol headlines of summer 2010: Jennifer Lopez is in, Jennifer's out. Sean Combs and Justin Timberlake want to become judges. Nope, Jennifer's back. Wait, it's Elton John and Steven Tyler. Nope, it's my mom. After a summer of speculation, we found out the Dawg, Randy Jackson, is back, and he's joined by talented superstars Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, who aren't doing this because they need another paycheck; they seem to be doing this because they're passionate about the future of music. By the end of the premiere we no longer had to wonder how they'd do; we'd feel like they've been judging the show forever.We're doing big stuff for Season 10—check out that glitzy, sleek intro! In addition to the winners, I think I spied some favorite finalists in the intro: Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, and Adam Lambert.
If you thought Simon showed a lot of skin with his v-neck shirts, meet Steven. And we're four minutes into the first episode and we just got our first Steven Tyler "bleep" of the night. Live shows are going to be so much fun!
After some fist pumping montages paired with Jersey Shore graphics, we met our first contestant, Rachel Zevita. She auditioned in Season 6 with a big opera voice that sent her to Hollywood. Although she was turned away, Rachel cutely talks about being inspired not to give up. I'm glad to see she also learned to gain control over her hair and wardrobe. Jennifer admits to remembering Rachel from Season 6 and said that she and husband Marc Anthony didn't know why she didn't make the show. Rachel was now feeling good as she sang the Idol anthem of recent times, "Hallelujah," which is a bit different than her opera roots. Although the judges thought she could do better, they believed in Rachel Zevita and send her to Hollywood once again.
Another crooner with dark, curly hair, Caleb Hawley, auditioned for the judges. Steven said, "We're all here because we're not all there," and then snapped and sang the "yeaaaahs" along with Caleb. Steven drummed on the desk, and when Caleb was finished Steven praised him with, "Hallelujah, I just love you so!" This season is going to be great. I'm sold. Jennifer and Randy also liked Caleb and sent him through to Hollywood.
The competition was open to 15-year-olds for the first time, and Kenzie Palmer was the first to audition for the judges. She bravely chose to sing Carrie Underwood's "We're Young and Beautiful." Kenzie is the type of 15 year old that has vocal talent beyond her years, and Jennifer agreed with me. The male judges weren't as convinced, but they still sent Kenzie (and her chaperone) through to the next round.
After a quick montage of three additional successful contestants, we meet the Ivory Coast's Achille Lovle, who sang Madonna's "Dress You Up." Achille is currently dressed up in the same shirt as Ryan. I never would have guessed that was the song she was singing had she not admitted it. She has a confident stance, but the song is all over the place. Steven asked her to pull her wild horses in. Do Mick Jagger & Keith Richards get residual checks for that comment? Achille's performance forced Jennifer to give her first no, and after she politely said the word, she stated, "Oh this is awful, oh my god I hate this. Why did I sign up for this?"
Tiffany Rios gave a demonstration on teasing hair and then shows off her *assets.* This dance instructor started singing because of the movie Selena (starring the one and only Jennifer Lopez), and she cried when she walked in the audition room and saw Jennifer. Mama Lopez hugged Tiffany, who then totally shifted gears when she ripped open her blouse as she sang her original song. Steven commented on Tiffany's "Ju Ju B's on your oo-oo-bies," and although I'm not sure what that meant, she took it as a cue to sing another song. The judges were pleased with her more serious side, and Tiffany grinded on the dance floor and was off to Hollywood, where I think she'll fit in!
Cue the bad singers' montage. I'd tell you what songs they were singing but I couldn't make out the melodies. Although Jennifer was having trouble giving bad news to these contestants, Melkia Wheatfall was so bad that even Jennifer cut her off...with applause and a gentle let down.
Robbie Rosen is a 16-year-old who looks like a more adorable version of Doogie Howser's friend Vinny. Although Robbie was playing ball on the grass at auditions, we found out that he was wheelchair-bound as a child. This kid is always smiling—whether he's talking about his severe tendonitis, his love of American Idol, or singing. As he performed "Yesterday" for the judges, Steven closed his eyes and got lost for a moment. I'm not sure if it was because of the music or just because he's Steven. Randy liked his "crazy, mad vocals" and Jennifer called Robbie cute. When Robbie goes back to high school, he's surely going to be the most popular kid. Randy asks if they should vote, but Jennifer said no and sent him to Hollywood. Steven called Robbie Rosen "the best in New Jersey."
Chris Cordeiro is a college freshman whose Eagle Scout project was about not texting and driving. Oprah would be proud. He's so unassuming; I'm hoping he has a huge voice. It's huge alright, but his grandma in the hallway did a better job staying on key with Sinatra's "My Way." After turning Chris away, Jennifer questioned how Randy did this for 10 years.
Michael Perotto burps when he's nervous, which doesn't bode well for interviews or auditions. He dared to tackle "Proud Mary," and Steven and Jennifer drummed along, but they probably were doing that to drown out the noise of the vocals. Jennifer had Steven stop Michael from singing, and Steven asked him, "Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?" Steven thought Michael's good for Broadway, which is an insult to all the amazing people on Broadway.
Ashley Sullivan doesn't burp, but the cameras captured her coming out of the Port-O-Potty. She stated that she might be the "first awkward Idol." She's obsessed with Britney Spears and wants her career, minus the head shaving incident I presume, and Ashley literally has a picture of Brit in her back pocket. She rambles when she's nervous, which is an upgrade from burping. Ashley auditioned with "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie. The judges were speechless, and Ashley assumed it was a bad sign and cried and pleaded. Jennifer thought she's adorable, but is more suited for Broadway than Idol, to which Ashley responded, "Pop needs to get with Liza Minelli." She brings on the over-the-top theatrics and Randy said no, but Jennifer broke down with a yes. Steven said yes, too, and Randy called them insane. Ashley gave a speech worthy of a Tony Award in her confessional.
Southern belle Victoria Huggins is excited to be 16 and 3/4. Don't most kids leave the fractions out once they learn what fractions are? She's beyond enthusiastic and smiley and pink. The AmericanIdol.com team can attest to the fact that I'm chipper to a fault, but I could not last in a car ride with this syrupy family. Victoria transitioned from a little girl to a young adult when she sang "Midnight Train To Georgia." Jennifer and Steven gave her yeses, and when she directed a "Yo, yo dawg" with two peace signs at Randy, she won him over.
Melinda Ademi and her family are refugees from Kosovo. She has a nice speaking voice and back story. Her parents have worked hard to provide her with opportunities. They look so young I thought they were her siblings. Her version of "If Ain't Got You" impressed the judges, and the Ademis' American dream will continue in Hollywood.
Day two in Jersey began with singing waitress Devyn Rush. She has to dress like a '50s girl much like Monica did on Friends, and her name tag said she's "The Devyler." Steven thought Devyn's version of "God Bless the Child" was like having a delicious dessert for lunch. Randy thought it had just the right amount of sauce, and Jennifer wanted her to start looking like a star, because her voice is a star. Good point, she was more made up for her waitress job than her audition for America's biggest TV show. With three yeses, Devyn burst out the audition room and hugged Ryan while exclaiming, "I don't even know you!"
Jimmy Kennedy sang "Hey There Delilah," but it wasn't very good. Next came a Monkees sing-a-long with Genise Deal. It was fun, but not fun enough. Many American Idol logos had to appear over Steven's mouth. That's a big logo!
Yoji "Pop" Asano is from Japan. Twice he said he's been imitating Michael Jackson since he was 2, but then he decided that he's been doing it since he was in the womb. So what does he sing for his audition? Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA," naturally. His dancing resembled the King of Pop more than his voice. Jennifer was bouncing in her chair, thoroughly entertained. This led to a "Party in the USA" montage.
Jaclyn Blythe, Ima Abasumoh, and Rob Palamy not only sang less than well, they chose huge songs for their auditions. Jennifer channeled her mom—a teacher—and gave them a feedback sandwich: you know, a con nestled between pros.
Brielle Von Hugel's dad was a singer, but he was recently diagnosed with throat cancer. The Von Hugels were thrilled to share that this week he became cancer-free. Young Brielle auditioned with "Endless Love," a very emotional song. Steven asked her to bring her dad into the audition room by singing his name, and while Brielle left to get Poppa Bill, Steven scream-sings "Da-ddyyyy" the way only he can. All three judges saw her potential and encouraged her to work hard as she heads to Hollywood.
The show ended with Travis Orlando, a twin who spent some time in a Bronx shelter while his dad was sick. He has an inspiring story and he's the last one of the night. It would be a let down if he wasn't awesome. Travis entered the room and put his own jazzy spin on "Eleanor Rigby" and Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours." When the judges announced that he was going to Hollywood, Travis' family rushed into the room to celebrate. Ryan came into the room with leaky eyes and said that 51 singers from New Jersey auditions are off to Hollywood. That's got to be a record!
Thursday night we head to New Orleans to find more talent, and the male judges lift up their shirts in true Mardi Gras style.
What did you think of the Season 10 talent and the new judges? Chat it up in the Idol Community.