Welcome back to another year of American Idol! Season 13 kicks off in Boston tonight and with the 75,000 who turned out to audition across eight cities, there are bound to be some great ones in the deck.
With a new panel of judges, plus a few more changes, American Idol promises to be an experience we won't want to miss this year.
Let's check out the talent...
The first contestant up, Troy Durden, decides to warm up the room by twerking. (If twerking never happens again it will be too soon.) Then he sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and gets an "I kinda love that" from J.Lo. He's goood. As long as he stops the twerking. Which thankfully J.Lo, my favorite female judge, tells him. Have fun, but be sure people can take you seriously, too.
Sam Woolf from Bradenton, FL has been bounced around. His grandpa calls him "Mr. Wonderful." He seems sweet. Sam brings his guitar to the audition and plays "Lego House" by Ed Sheeran. He has a great sound. It gave me "goosies." He gets a golden ticket.
Quick note: Harry Connick, Jr. is going to be the jokester judge. Keith Urban needs to wear short sleeves forever so we can always see his tattoos. J.Lo's lipstick is FIERCE.
Here's something new this year: The Chamber.
Instead of chatting with Ryan before going into see the judges, contestants are being held in a...stainless steel? cardboard? I dunno...some kind of box. Of all the changes taking place this season, this one makes the least sense to me.
Ethan Thompson has a very Phillip Phillips look going. They could be brothers. He plays the guitar. Maybe they are brothers.
Actually, a lot of contestants have guitars this year, guys and girls. American Idol Season 12 seemed determined not to crown a winner who 1) was male 2) played guitar. And that blew up in their faces. This year, they seem to have relaxed immensely, which is really quite fantastic. Listen to the radio and see what's hot and let the people go there, you know?
Back to the auditions.
Taylor Hildack is a jazz vocalist and she gave Harry a little wink and then launched into Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." J.Lo gives her a yes, but the guys give her a no, as they should have. She probably picked the wrong song, but like Keith said, today's the day. This is her shot. Maybe next year.
She kicks off the start of a no-vote montage and Jennifer tells Harry that he's good at saying no. "You're right," he chuckles. And that's part of why I love this panel.
Stephanie Hanvey is from New Jersey and Jennifer Lopez is her favorite artist. There's an interesting quality to her voice for sure, and she has decent presence. She needs some polish and a song she can connect with, but she's not bad. She definitely won't be the worst who makes it to another round. The judges send her to Hollywood.
In walks a 15 year old who looks up to Jennifer.
"You make me want to be someone in this world" says a contestant to J.Lo.
"Not so much you," says Keith to Harry.
"My mother loves you," says the contestant to Harry.
"Thanks for that."
End scene. Sort of. After an uncomfortable discussion about Morgan's song lyrics, (Yes, it's squicky when a 15 year old sings about being shaved smooth. #TeamHarry [HAHAHAHHAHAH Pun not intended.]) she gets a golden ticket.
James Earl is a burger flipper from Connecticut who decides to sing an original song. That's always a gamble. It doesn't work out in his favor and absolutely nothing in his song is intelligible. He gets three a big ol' nope.
Jacqueline Verna does a lot of vocal runs and Harry says he's "not as impressed by the vocal pentatonics" as Jennifer and Keith are. After telling her no, Harry schools the other judges on just what pentatonics are and vows to challenge America.
The next kid, Austin Percario, brought his mom, whom he calls a "stage mom." And yeah, she kind of is. (Word to the mom: the stage parent thing didn't work out so well for David Archuletta. Dial it back.) Austin hits the pentatonics on "Titanium" and gets the golden ticket.
Kaitlyn Jackson wrote a song called "Another Angel." She opened for Mark Wills at a fair and her grandfather had a heart attack and passed away before he got to hear it. So this is for him. It's classic country and a straight retelling of her grandfather's death. She has a decent tone, especially for a country artist if that's where she wants to go. She gets a yes.
Pennsylvania resident Keith London supports himself by doing odd jobs to pay his student loans. He's taking a chance on Idol and hoping Idol will take a chance on him. He brings out an acoustic guitar and sings "Roar" by Katy Perry. He definitely made it his own, and Keith and J.Lo loved it. Harry said it didn't move him. He doesn't think Keith London is a good enough singer, but two yes votes gets him a golden ticket.
Sam is a guitarist and singer who is so good he doesn't need to practice anymore. So he doesn't. And it shows. He's ridiculous and goofy and terrible. Out the door he goes.
Shanon Wilson accidentally knocked over some chairs on his way to audition and the producers made it seem like he would be a buffoon. He's the first time I've disagreed with the judges. I didn't like him, but they did, so he's through.
Up next is a cheerleader. She also sings Grace Potter's "Ooh La La" and Harry says he's worried about her voice. She doesn't sing from her abdomen, which is on full display. He's not moved by her and I have to wonder if it's about the song. Keith is the deciding vote and gives her a yes so they can see her one more time. Hopefully in more clothing.
We're in Austin for auditions now.
The first audition in says "You guys are totally real!" Ummm. LOL. Durann Cree sings a Carrie Underwood number and Harry calls her a big fish in a little pond right now and wonders if she's ready to make the jump. He gives her a no, J.Lo gives her a yes. Keith gives her a no. She leaves in tears.
And so far it seems like Austin doesn't have the talent this year unless there's some hidden diamond in the rough we'll soon see.
Ryan steps into the chamber and explains it to us. It's a place for contestants to prepare before the "most important moment of their lives."
Savion Wright has been screwing up the courage to try out for eight years. He used music as an outlet to overcome ADHD. He starts playing the guitar and wow. It's pretty amazing to watch him. He sang an original number and Harry says the other contenders are going to be intimidated by him. They send him to Hollywood, and they should. He gets a hug from Jennifer. He deserved it.
They pass out a few more tickets and then Ryan picks up--and drops--a legit cowboy.
And then in walks Madelyn Patterson, from Georgia in a dress so short it might actually just be a shirt. She's got a set of pipes! When she's done, Harry asks if she wants to sing another song. Jennifer and Keith give her a quick yes and shut Harry down so he can't dish out any advice. She grabs her golden ticket and heads out the door.
But Harry has a point. The vocal tricks and runs seem impressive but they don't always mean a singer knows what he or she is doing. Sometimes it's just theatrics, and Harry's looking for musicians and not just performers. I like it.
To set herself apart, Viviana Villalon plays Maroon 5 with a ukelele accompaniment and kicks off the Maroon 5 segment of the night. Jennifer gets her first goosies from Ben Boone.
Malcolm Allen sees everyone else playing guitar and doesn't play himself so during his audition, he plays air guitar. It's actually quite a good way to introduce his song and set himself apart. He gets a triple yes from Jennifer and a golden ticket from the panel.
One of the final contestants of the night, Rolando Guerrero, bursts into tears upon seeing Jennifer Lopez. Harry's face while she comforts the fan is priceless. It's just...I love him. Poor Rolando can't really sing, though, and gets sent home.
Finally, someone knows who Harry Connick, Jr. is and says he reads HCJ's wikipedia page every night before he goes to sleep! Munfarid Zaidi is from Sugarland, Texas by way of Pakistan, and is pretty fantastic! Harry actually picks him up and leads to the perfect ending for the American Idol season 13 premiere.
Overall, 46 golden tickets were handed out between Boston and Austin. This was a pretty fantastic return for the singing competition and I am giving it two big thumbs up, if for no other reason than Harry Connick Jr. He. Was. Amazing. (And hot, which doesn't hurt.) The sets are different. The vibe is different.
Different is good. I'm excited to see where American Idol season 13 will take us.
What did you think of the American Idol Season 13 premiere? Does the show seem revitalized so far? Are you loving Harry Connick Jr. behind the judges' table?
Miranda Wicker is a Staff Writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.