It’s season 13 of American Idol! Can you believe it? I hope none of you were too attached to last season’s judges, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey because they’re long gone. Instead, we have former judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez, and former mentor Harry Connick Jr. determining the fate of contestants this time around. We’ll join them on their tour across the country through seven cities from coast to coast. And while Randy Jackson is no longer a judge, he’ll still be making an appearance this season with his “Boot Camp” and “Rush Week” workshops.
First-round auditions kick off in Boston and Austin. Say goodbye to the judging controversy from last season, as this is a kinder, gentler, more family-friendly Idol. We open in Detroit with the audition of guitar-slinging 17-year-old contestant, Marialle Sellers, who wins the first golden ticket we see with her rendition of Bruno Mars‘ “Grenade.” She wows the judges and tells the camera that she plans to win the whole thing. And with that, the competition has officially begun!
Fresh-faced contestants make their journey to make a go of it in Boston. None are more excited than host Ryan Seacrest, who revs up the crowd. The judges all look good and JLo does not disappoint with her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail and a stunning, hip-hugging black and white striped dress. Yowzah. Regardless of the kind of judges they’re going to be, there’s no doubt that this is one good-looking panel.
Our first goofball contestant of the season is Troy Durden from Boston, who immediately announces, “I love to twerk.” He then tries to get JLo to join him, but she declines with the excuse, “I don’t have my twerking outfit on.” Ha! After this, he delivers a surprisingly competent rendition of “Over The Rainbow.” He is then instructed by the judges to “twerk over the rainbow.” When they are satisfied, he gets all yeses.
17-year-old cutie pie Sam Woolf from Bradenton, Florida, has a heartwrenching story and freckles and lives with his grandparents. He sings Ed Sheeran‘s “Lego House” beautifully. Keith loves his pitch, Jennifer describes him as a flower blooming and Harry makes some quip about his tattoo but kiddo gets a golden ticket. He is so adorable, I hope Hollywood doesn’t destroy him.
We return to Boston with an introduction montage of our judges. There’s the impossibly gorgeous Jenny from the Block. Guys, she is crazy pretty. Keith Urban is our goofy country boy. But the real jokester of the bunch is Louisiana crooner, Harry Connick Jr.
Ethan Thompson is a handsome leprechaun who sings his way to Hollywood, as do Lindsey Pedicone and Jillian Jensen.
Taylor Hildak from Westfield, Massachussetts is a stunning, curvy brunette, a jazz vocalist at a community college, who winks at Harry. Her selection is “Before He Cheats” from Carrie Underwood. I was hoping she’d sound better, alas, she is really, really pretty.
Jennifer liked her and her voice. Keith agrees with me that her voice needs work. Harry says, “it just didn’t do it for me.” Harry and Keith stand strong and she gets two nos. Wow, I have to say, I’m impressed that the men aren’t bowled over by her looks. We see Jennifer get a little annoyed. Ooh, I can see the subject of actual singing talent might be a sore spot for this one.
Montage of crying contestants being turned down, albeit nicely.
Stephanie Hanvey, 16-years-old, is a self-described Jersey girl. She’s about to lose her mind at the prospect of meeting her hero, Jennifer Lopez. The sweet-faced girl unfortunately, doesn’t quite do Jessie J‘s “Price Tag” justice. The judges vote while her parents break down outside the audition room. Keith, Harry and JLo all say yes, despite initial hesitation. Stephanie and her parents collapse into a terrifying sobbing mess in front of the judges. She gets a hug from Jennifer and a golden ticket.
Morgan Deplitch declares her everlasting love for Jennifer, telling Harry, “My mother loves you.” Ha! She delivers a campy version of “Paris (Ooh La La)” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Keith and Harry disagree on the appropriateness of the song choice, but ultimately, Morgan gets her golden ticket.
Burger-flipping 22-year-old James Earl shows up ready to entertain. He wants to be R. Kelly, Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross. He tells Harry, “You look like you ain’t aged a bit.” He sings his original, “Everything in Life.” He’s not a great singer, but is declared “the coolest guy [Harry's] seen in a while.”
Jacqueline Verna does a crazy Christina Aguilera impression, which is declared “pretty” by Keith. Harry says, “I’m not as taken by the smoke and mirrors of penatonics as these two are.” Ooh, musical judge burn! All nos from the judges. Harry then explains music to JLo, and reveals that he doesn’t wear gloves when he self-tans.
Austin Percario is super adorable and excited to turn 18, so he can go to Hollywood without his stage mom. He sings David Guetta and Sia‘s “Titanium.” Keith liked the rasp of his voice. JLo is also a fan, as well as Harry. Austin is going to Hollywood, but Mom takes the ticket.
Confident Kaitlyn Jackson sings her original song, “Another Angel.” It’s a pretty country tune and the most shocking part is that the 15-year-old actually wrote it. The result is a golden ticket for the young singer/songwriter.
Keith London, a Pennsylvania native, does odd jobs to support himself. He brought his guitar with him to perform Katy Perry‘s “Roar.” Despite a stumble at the beginning, he puts his own spin on the ditty and Keith happily sings along. It’s a tough sell for traditionalist, Harry. Keith and Jennifer love him, which is enough for him to get a ticket to Hollywood.
Sam Arterton is enthusiastic and a self-described guitarist who doesn’t feel the need to practice. Keith requests that Sam start with his original song, “Love Doesn’t Last Forever.” It’s unsurprisingly terrible. Wacky Sam gets all nos and laughs maniacally as he leaves, red-faced and disgruntled.
Montage of Jennifer’s most ardent fans auditioning and gushing about her. Guys, she really is beautiful.
Meanwhile, Ryan’s interaction with Texan Shanon Wilson proves to me that he’s the best host in the game. Shanon is a self-described R&B-style singer who hits the high notes with a crazy falsetto that makes Jennifer jump out of her seat to hand him a golden ticket.
The mood is broken when Stephanie Petronelli shows up in a cheerleading outfit looking like a dead ringer for Britney Spears. Despite her distracting outfit, Harry’s not convinced she has vocal strength. Jennifer and Keith give her a yes, while Harry declares, “I don’t think you’re a good enough singer.” Oh Harry, did you really think this was a singing competition?
Next, we journey to Austin, where Durann Cree sings “Cupid’s Got a Shotgun” from the Carrie Underwood canon. Harry calls her “a big fish in a little pond.” Jennifer says yes, Harry says no and when she walks out crying, it’s clearly a no from Keith too.
From there, several bad auditions take place and we are treated to some crying and dirty looks at the camera and then, surprise — more golden tickets!
Ryan walks us through The Chamber, where we can see the contestants prepping themselves in a room moments before the audition. Handsome Savion Wright from Jasper, Texas wears glasses and braces and is just all around adorable. He whips out an original on his guitar. He gets a big vote of support from Harry and a unanimous vote of yes. This kid’s going to Hollywood!
How is JLo in her 40s? She has a Glo about her.
Big voices abound with yeses all around. At one point, Ryan picks up and then drops a cowboy.
Short-shorts-wearing Madelyn Patterson sings “Up To The Mountain” with a big voice, but a lot of licks that I’m going to say Harry’s not going to like. Jennifer and Keith liked it, but Harry seems skeptical, asking her to sing another song. He says, “Some people on this panel are very easily impressed by licks.” He is interrupted by Jennifer giving Madelyn her ticket. Harry’s clearly going to be the Simon Cowell of the bunch and I’m into it.
There really are a lot of people with guitars this year. Malcolm Allen, jealous of all the contestants with guitars, improvises with an air guitar for his version of “Superstitious.” He gets the vote of “the best singer today” from Harry, which is no small feat. And he gets a golden ticket, unsurprisingly.
Emotional JLo fan, Rolando Guererro, cries at getting to meet his idol and is rewarded with a big hug from the pop singer. I love that he consistently refers to her by her full name. He manages to pull himself together enough to sing her song, “Hold It Don’t Drop It” terribly. He doesn’t get a golden ticket, but is grateful for his hug.
As cheesy as it is, I’m kind of loving the fact that nobody knows who Harry Connick Jr. Is. I’m totally showing my age by being completely familiar with his complete filmography. Finally, Munfarid Zaidi, Harry’s biggest fan shows up. Harry rushes to pick him up in a hug when he hears that Munfarid reads his Wikipedia page every night before going to sleep. Munfarid starts with “Crazy For You” by Adele. Impressed with his version, Harry makes good on his promise to “cradle him like a baby.” Despite myself, I can’t help but laugh when he starts sing the refrains of “No One” by Alicia Keys while in the capable arms of Harry Connick Jr..
After Munfarid leaves with his ticket in hand, Ryan asks him, “Why was he cradling you?” Without a shred of irony, Munfarid replies, “Because I love him.”
In total, 46 golden tickets were handed out to contestants and there are even more in store tomorrow, so I hope you guys are ready!
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