Welcome to 2013 and Season 12 of American Idol! Remember, fellow Idol addicts, there is no judgment here in the circle. We come, we watch, we cheer and we cover our eyes. Our first two shows this week rumble through New York City and Chicago to find hopefuls.
As we kick off audition show one, you can’t argue with the montage shown as Ryan Seacrest carries us through a voice-over of the success of past Idol winners and finalists. Per Idol’s website, Idol alums have produced 356 number one Billboard hits. Highlighting Phillip Phillips singing “Home” cements it.
While I admit to doing a “what the heck is this?” take on his coronation single at Season 11’s end, the tune has grown on me. *gasp* I now, right, since I ended up not being a fan last year. I blame it on the Olympics as they adopted the song and played it as a rally cry. Now commercials are using it. Kudos to Phillip and Idol for having that huge success. The Voice and The X Factor have yet to produce the success of the singers from American Idol.
This season, in addition to the run of new (and a few returning) contestant faces, we get the already media publicized, true diva versus pseudo diva battle royal of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. My alliances rest 100% with earned diva status owner Mariah. She has the longevity, put in the work, made it out of a suffocating marriage, rose to the chart heights, survived a meltdown, made a comeback, got married again, had some beautiful kids and nursed and supported her husband in sickness and in health. She has also shown respect for those who have come before her—something Miss Minaj could learn to do.
As we did last season, my initial posts kicking off this series will share some overall thoughts about the season’s start, any changes that I see and highlight a few “ones I’ll watch” that catch my eye. From reviewing my first audition watch lists and those highlighted from the Hollywood rounds last year, I was on point in mentioning the initial potential seen in Shannon Magrane, Colton Dixon (only for all the pimping), Phillip Phillips, Erika Van Pelt, Heejun Han, Elise Testone, Deandre Brackensick, Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanaugh, who all went on to be top 13 finalists. Scoot over, Randy, so I can pull up my seat at the judges’ table!
- Just as I said last year, I am so not going to fall for the “banana in the tailpipe” this season and buy into all of the “look here” contestants Idol shows me. You know the hyped up back story success or tear-jerker tales. Or the contestants fawned over as the next big coming of Carrie Underwood or Mariah herself? Nope. Not buying the blitz you are selling, Idol. Love ya, but.
- I miss Steven Tyler for the audition rounds. He became a bit of a “yes” judge once we hit the finals, but was dead-on in most of his critiques for first looks.
- This gang of judges were sipping happy love juice before filming started because they are raving with love about many contestants that are average.
- At only a few beats into Wednesday’s show, the battle of snarks between Nicki and Mariah has gotten old. Can we focus a bit on the stage versus the table? Bad editing—even though it happened, the clips put together could show more singing.
- What is with Kez Ban coming on saying she just wants to get Hollywood and not win? Is that just some artistic drama stuff? Then after making it through, she goes on about all the paperwork she’ll now have to fill out and asks Ryan if she can schedule a different day to do it since it is getting late. Yeah, if that is her trying to be funny, it didn’t come off that way.
- Why is the panel letting Nicki take over? She talks over everyone, hijacks auditions before contestants can speak, feuds with herself and tosses out random nicknames as they pop into her head. It is not funny or cute. Does someone in the land of Idol upper management think that can enamor fans for a whole season?
Ones I’ll watch:
- Tenna Tores who sings “You’ve Got a Friend” and has a great tone and some beautiful moments when she sings quiet and doesn’t push her voice. She went to Camp Mariah as a kid and got to sing for her Idol back in the day. Mariah is sweet, makes like she remembered her and asks for copies of the photos.
- Christina “Isabelle” sings summertime and has great range and control. Keith hit it with mentioning the vulnerability in her voice.
- Angela Miller delivers a great audition with “Mama Knows Best.” Great vocal control and choice of song in a Jessie J. number.
- Mackenzie Wasner sings “Whenever You Come Around” and, from the fawning, has the makings of being one of the country “It” girls for the season.
- Isabelle Parell, who sings “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” has an interesting voice. A bit throwback smoky and quiet.
- Curtis Finch Jr. dances in with a touch of gospel singing “God is Able.” I like several elements I hear in his voice and want to see what else he can bring.
- Mariah Pulice’s back story is a struggle with and recovery from anorexia. She sings “Let It Be” and has a quiet, beautiful and deep soul spirit coming out of her voice. But—and I hate to add this “but”—the carrying on by her family once she makes it through to Hollywood is too much. It is that old Idol producing machine ramping her up based on a tragic back story. That spotlight can be good to get recognition, but bad as it can turn some watchers against them or causes contestants to believe their own hype.
- Clifton Duffin, who sings “Superstar,” is also an interesting find. I’d need to hear more from him to see if there is a special quality that resonates.
- Johnny Keyser (our male model above) is back and he is quite affected in his performance of “Try a Little Tenderness. I clicked back to my initial take on him last year and found the same issue “He sings Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Going to Come” with some surprising soulful runs. As the judges keep prodding him on to continue the song, he becomes a bit affected and stagey with facial and hand moves.” This year, he starts there and waves and motions away. Last year, he flashed his cocky undertone in Hollywood and I’m still sensing that underneath. I like his voice when not adding all the extras and, well, he’s a cute one.
- We round out the end of episode two with our most pimped back story so far—Lazaro Arbos, who has a significant stutter. His condition came on at age six, getting worse when he moved from Cuba to the U.S. at age 10. Music became his life because he had few friends. Lazaro has a beautiful voice and tone and the stuttering is invisible as he sings. To avoid the full on ramp of Idol spin (cameras on him then the judges), I close my eyes to listen to him and love it.
Next week, Idol heads to Charlotte and Baton Rouge where Mariah and Nicki bust out some tasers and switchblades. Okay, I added that last part, but the nastiness sure feels like it is ramping up to that.
This is the point where you join in and share your initial thoughts. Are there any faves that stood out for you? Any pimping going on that turns your stomach? Are you as confused by Nicki’s ever-changing hair and voices as I am? Isn’t Keith coming off as a sweetie?