Randy. Keith. Mariah. Nikki. MEAN GIRLS! American Idol is back!
Will our divas battle it out? How many times will we be reminded that Mariah has a 5 octave range? Are brooches once again Randy's chosen accessory? These questions and more will be answered as American Idol embarked upon its 12th season, starting with the New York City auditions.
First in to the audition room is Michael with a personalized rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You." Except he doesn't rock and we start the night with a "No." But we do have some drama between our lady judges, so that took exactly 18 minutes.
Tenna's been a fan of Mariah since she was a kid, even attending Camp Mariah when she was 13. Singing Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," she gets an easy Golden Ticket with four yes votes.
In the midst of the Nikki-Mariah Diva-off, the judges have a productive morning. Until they meet James Bay who wants to be an Asian Justin Beiber. After he asks to do a "collide" with Nikki one day, Mariah tells him to be a DJ. Nikki says he's ready for life, but not Idol.
Christina, born in New York and raised in Atlanta, gets four yes votes after 1) being asked to talk about her weight and 2) blowing "Summertime" out of the water. With a voice like hers, she's one to watch.
Evan started out as a dancer and seemed headed to Broadway before osteosarcoma took his left leg. But he hasn't let that stop him. His Jason Mraz song wasn't fantastic, but he shined singing Bon Jovi and playing his guitar. It's actually pretty good but the judges give him four no votes.
New this year are nominations. Taking a page from The Voice, viewers had the opportunity to nominate artists who wouldn't have auditioned on their own. Jessica is nominated by her mom and gets a ticket to sing in front of the judges. Where she crashes on an original song. It's a no for Jessica.
Hailing from Israel, Shira gets an easy Golden Ticket, but not before Mariah can speak Hebrew. She's got a number 1 hit under her belt already, so talent is definitely there.
Frankie Ford sings on the train to supplement his income. He has a false start on "Sweet Dreams" and does a better job on his second take. Mariah compliments him on his "inner glow" and Nikki says he doesn't have the best voice, but has a story to tell. He gets a Golden Ticket.
It's Day Two of the New York auditions and Nikki's wearing cotton candy on her head.
Benjamin Gaisey offers to make love to Mariah and Nikki with a rendition of Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You" that might be the worst thing we've heard all night. And his plastic pants are squeaking. They can't tell him no fast enough.
To practice, Rozanna always sings to her parents, who tell her she has a beautiful voice. But parents are perhaps not always the best judges of their children's talents. The actual judges, however, hear what the rest of us hear and send her back to Staten Island.
Did you know there's a Blueberry Capital of the World? Well, now you do. Sarah works on a blueberry farm in between riding her four-wheeler and being this year's rasp-less Skylar singing Carrie Underwood. But then she busts out with Nikki's "Super Bass" and I'm as confused as Randy. After some debate about whether she should sing country or do her own thing, the judges send her to Hollywood.
In what I hope is a joke, Albert Chang sings a song from Phantom of the Opera and Nikki breaks out her British accent. Which made Mariah break out a fake British accent. And Albert got four votes of no.
Another one to watch is Angela Miller,who has hearing loss in both ears. But her hearing loss hasn't stopped her. She nails a Jessie J. song and walks out with a ticket to Hollywood.
Gupreet Singh Sareen, "The Turbanator," sings "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5. It's good! Nikki and Keith say his voice is too light for the competition. Mariah says she likes the breathy quality of his voice and gives him a yes. Randy gives him a yes. Keith's official vote is no. Nikki gives him a yes. So it's a ticket to Hollywood for "Turb."
The final audition of the night goes to Ashlee Feliciano whose family fosters and adopts medically complex children. She's crying and I'm crying and hoping she can sing. And she can. She sings Corinne Bailey Ray's "Put Your Records On" and what a way to close the night! It's beautiful and giving her a ticket to Hollywood is a no-brainer.
Overall, the judges issued 41 tickets to Hollywood from the New York auditions. Maybe it was the editing, but it felt like the judges were more particular about who received a ticket to Hollywood. In past seasons, mediocre voices have gone through only to be cut later, but this new group seems okay dishing out the easy let down of "this isn't the right time for you." It's kind of refreshing.
What's also refreshing in a weird sort of way is the back and forth between Nikki and Mariah. These women have egos the size of Texas and aren't afraid to show it. Where panels in the past have seemed so friendly, this is a group of odd ducks. Mariah is an OD (Original Diva) who seems, at best, to be playing too nice and at worst, uninterested, and Nikki is a huge personality who, so far, has dominated the panel. Keith seems like a genuinely nice guy. And Randy is Randy, dropping "yo, dawg" as often as he can.
Were there any stand-out performers tonight that you'll be keeping your eye on? Which new judge is your favorite addition to the American Idol panel?