'American Idol' premieres: New judges, same old show
Note: Lisa de Moraes will blog about "American Idol's" Season 10. But for the premiere, WaPo Team TV's Emily Yahr gives you a recap:
Worried that "American Idol" would be unrecognizable after some major revamping (new judges, new age limits, new in-house mentor who really runs the show, etc.) that took place over the last year? Good news! Nothing's changed.
Same dramatic music, same talk about making people's dreams come true, same sob stories with predictable tickets to Hollywood. It's comforting, or it's a snoozefest -- take your pick.
The show tries to ramp things up in the beginning. "FORGET WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNEW ... BECAUSE THE BEST ... IS YET TO COME" flashes across the screen over a montage of all the hysterical speculation over who would replace the departing Simon Cowell, kicked-to-the-curb Kara DioGuardi and unfortunate disaster Ellen DeGeneres.
Of course, we've all known for months the slots are filled with singer/actress/former "In Living Color" dancer Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith rocker Steven Tyler, so the slow-motion intros are unnecessary. Randy Jackson, the only surviving judge from seasons past, pipes up to say he's happy to share the spotlight with two industry icons. Or, you know, still be gainfully employed -- whatever. And Jimmy Iovine, the new "in house mentor" and Interscope Records chairman who will sign the winner to a recording contract, gets a quick intro.
Now that we've been introduced to a "music mastermind and superstar panel," 15 minutes later, it's time to get to the auditions, starting in New Jersey.
Up first is Rachel Zevita, 22, a rerun auditioner because she already gave it a shot in Season 6. J-Lo claims to remember exactly who she's looking at, even though this Rachel has her frizzy hair much more under control. She sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and hits super high notes that startle the judges. Steven Tyler thinks she's a flower, which they need to water and let grow. Oh good, he's the new Paula. Then Rachel accidentally insults Randy Jackson by telling him she's nervous because she's sung in front of "famous" judges before, but never anyone she looks up to. Therefore, we accept when she's given a golden ticket.
Caleb Hawley, 25, croons "Hallelujah I Love Her So" by Ray Charles, and Steven Tyler senses he needs some help, letting out one of his trademark screams at the end. J-Lo thinks Caleb is cute, which we soon learn is code for "You're going to Hollywood." And so he does.
Next up is the first 15-year-old contestant, now the youngest age possible for auditions since "Idol" lowered the age limit by a year. Kenzie Palmer belts out "Young and Beautiful" by Carrie Underwood, and does a decent job, but the judges disagree. Oh no! First fight of the season already? Not so much -- they respectfully disagree with Steven Tyler's opinion that she didn't have enough "pizzazz," but work through their problems rationally and send her to Hollywood. Well, that's no fun.
At this point, two contestants have cried, but both have been from joy. Where's the deal, "Idol"? Simon Cowell would not stand for this. J-Lo seems thrilled at how easy it is to say "yes," but then strolls in Achille Lovle, 25, who sings a Madonna tune. "Sing" may be the wrong word, as she may be tone deaf, and Steven Tyler tells her her melody's all over the place. As Achille explains it's because of her accent, J-Lo is forced to tell her that it's not so much about the accent, just about the singing.
"Oh my god, I hate this. Why did I sign up for this?" J-Lo wails, as the contestant dejectedly leaves. "I want to go home!"
If you had a bet going as to how long it would take "Idol" to make the first "Jersey Shore" reference, the answer is: 32 minutes. Seacrest introduces Jersey as "The place that made fist pumping so famous" before introducing us to Tiffany Rios, a 21-year-old who obviously graduated from the Snooki School of Over Spray-Tanning and Teased Hair Design.
But Tiffany breaks down in tears before her audition starts, because, she explains, J-Lo is her role model. J-Lo gives her a comforting hug. This gives Tiffany all the confidence she needs to whip off her jacket, revealing two strategically placed metal stars over her bikini top. She sings her own song with the line, "America needs me/For higher ratings on TV." The judges inexplicably agree, and put her through to Hollywood after she puts her jacket back on (to remain tasteful) and sings a more calmed-down version of Celine Dion's "Power of Love."
"An interesting decision for our judges," Seacrest remarks. Simon Cowell would have never stood for this foolishness.
Finally, we have a typical montage of several people in a row butchering songs. J-Lo respectfully averts her eyes from the trainwrecks.
Then, the first sad story of the night: Robbie Rosen, an adorable 16-year-old who was in a wheelchair when he was younger. With a soulful version of "Yesterday" by the Beatles, he's reminiscent of David Archuleta without the creepy stage parent issues. J-Lo says they don't even need to call for a vote; Robbie's through to Hollywood.
In an "Idol" two-hour episode, filler is a must, so tonight we get contestants telling the cameras which judge they're most excited to meet. (One hilariously responds "Ellen.") Then we see Steven Tyler getting hit on by various female contestants (fawning over his "sexy" mouth) and he returns the sentiments. "Where is your pitchfork, you little devil?" he purrs to one woman.
Then, back to the terrible auditions. After one particularly heinous performance from Chris Cordeiro, 19, whose version of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" just sounds like groaning, J-Lo asks Randy, "How did you do this for 10 years?"
Note to J-Lo: He's probably dead inside.
A montage of one auditioner burping (yes, it's come to that) causes Steven Tyler to thoughtfully ask Michael Perotto, 19, "Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?"
"Is it all over the place?" Michael asks, confused as to why his "Proud Mary" performance failed to wow.
"Yeah ... well, 'American Idol' has a higher standard here," says Steven Tyler, who is wearing a polka dot shirt and what appears to be a feather dream-catcher earring.
Ashley Sullivan, 25, becomes the most awkward contestant to ever audition -- she breaks out in jittery, Britney Spears-esque dance moves when she's nervous. She maniacally belts out "Gimme Gimme" from "Thoroughly Modern Millie" with an angry expression on her face and stuns the judges into silence. J-Lo offers a meek "You belong on Broadway," but when Ashley starts hysterically begging and crying on her knees, they put her through. Steven Tyler promises to "work her into something good."
Cheerful Victoria Huggins, 16, is so annoyingly optimistic that even the burping contestant seems preferable. She sings "Midnight Train to Georgia," and is so desperate that she throws out a "yo yo dawg" to appeal to Randy. The judges fall for her tricks, and she gets a Hollywood ticket.
Melinda Ademi, 16, has a new sad story: She's the daughter of Kosovo war refugees. After her parents talk about all the opportunities in America, Melinda wows the judges and makes it through.
A singing waitress, 20-year-old Devyn Rush, gets insulted several times by the judges, who are not impressed with her jeans and t-shirt. Randy notes she's not dressed for the part, but since she has a gorgeous voice, she goes through. Steven Tyler notes that she needs to go clothes shopping.
A few more hopeless contestants go through before we get to Yoji "Pop" Asano, 25, this year's watered-down version of William Hung and "Pants on the Ground" guy, as he claims he's a great Michael Jackson imitator. He refuses to channel his Michael Jackson impression, and instead busts out some sweet dance moves to Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA" that puts Miley's dancing to shame. Randy, J-Lo and Steven Tyler are so not impressed.
The last two sad stories of the night include Brielle Von Hugel, a 16-year-old whose dad has throat cancer; she's very sweet, and tells the judges it was an honor meeting them after they approve of her version of "Endless Love." And finally, Travis Orlando, 16, who grew up with "gangs, drugs, violence" and has a family living paycheck to paycheck, makes it through to Hollywood after a rendition of "Eleanor Rigby."
Ryan Seacrest notes that 51 people made it through to Hollywood, and urges everyone to watch the New Orleans audition episode Thursday night -- which, and we're only guessing, will probably be remarkably similar to this one.
Lisa de Moraes
| January 19, 2011; 11:00 PM ET
Categories: "American Idol"
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