The two night premiere of American Idol Season 12 was all about the judges. With three new judges on the panel- Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, and Mariah Carey- the focus was clearly on them and the music took a back seat, at least for this week.
I thought the American Idol Season 12 premiere was entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised by Keith Urban and felt sorry for him having to sit between the constantly feuding Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. Keith Ubran’s comments were thoughtful and intelligent but not rehearsed. By the second night, I felt he had been there for two seasons instead of two shows. As part of his contract, he should have been outfitted with a whip, a chair, and a Taser to settle the cat fighting between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj who have been reportedly feuding for months.
As a judge, Mariah Carey was also terrific. It was obvious from fan comments that people love her and many of the contestants appeared to be just overwhelmed with the opportunity to meet and talk to her. While not a fashionista like Jennifer Lopez, Mariah looked very pretty. Hopefully over the season they will make a point of dressing her up and fixing her hair. With the right fashion guidance she could take over the role that Jennifer Lopez filled on American Idol. In regards to her judging, I was impressed with her comments and the way she talked to the contestants. During both nights she was genuinely touched by the contestant’s stories and the emotion that they brought to their performances. She is truly likeable and I think her fan base will continue to grow as the season progresses.
Nicki Minaj is beautiful, but when asked to describe her, the only words that come to mind are “High Maintenance”, “Diva” and “Control Freak”. If the American Idol producers were looking for controversy and turmoil they will certainly get it with Nicki. Half way through the second show, I was already tired of the cat fighting and the sniping back and forth between Nicki and Mariah. At one point, Nicki even called Mariah “a word that that starts with a B and ends with an itch”. If they continue to fight throughout the season, reruns of anything will start to look like a better option. While I don’t want to put all of the blame on Nicki, she seems to be the instigator in most of the fighting. In regards to her judging, I thought she was actually pretty good. He comments were insightful and in most cases right on.
The interesting thing about the feud between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minah is that they were actually in agreement on the talent and in most cases voted the same way. She has potential to be a good judge and has young fan base that I am sure the American Idol producers really like. I believe that she is the key to the upcoming season. If she continues to fight with Mariah, people will quickly lose interest. If she focuses on the music this could be a great season.
NEW YORK AUDITIONS
Let’s move on to the auditions. Opening night auditions were in New York and at the end of the day the judges awarded 41 “Hollywood Golden Tickets.” Unfortunately we only saw a few of those 41 auditions. To be honest with you I wasn’t real impressed with what we saw from New York but here are some of the highlights.
Tenna Torres a 28 year old girl from Queens, New York sang a good version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”. While it wasn’t spectacular, in a unanimous vote the four judges sent her to Hollywood. On an interesting note, as a young girl Tenna attended something Called “Camp Mariah”, and had the opportunity to meet and sing for Mariah Carey at the age of thirteen.
Christina Isabelle a 21 year old student from Duluth, Georgia detailed her struggles as a teenager to lose weight. She used to weigh over 200 pounds and has worked hard to get her weight down to 150 pounds and she looks terrific. She sang an interesting version of “Summer Time”, and the judges loved it. She is motivated, has a great voice and is pretty. That should give her an advantage when she gets to Hollywood.
Shira Gavrielov is a 23 year old girl from Israel now living in Brooklyn that had a number one single as a young girl in Israel. She sang what I thought was an interesting version of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”, and the judges agreed. In a unanimous vote they sent her to Hollywood. While I thought she was good, based on what I have seen so far I have serious doubts that she will be in Hollywood for an extended period of time
Frankie Ford – is a street performer and subway singer from Brooklyn, New York. Performing “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics’ he stumbled at first but got it all together and gave a really strong performance. This kid is talented but extremely raw. Luckily for him the judges saw that potential and unanimously gave him a “Hollywood Golden Ticket.” He will be interesting to watch. If he can overcome his nerves and lack of experience he could he could go a long way in this contest. If he doesn’t he could be back singing on the subway. I am rooting for him.
Sarah Restuccio a 17-year-old blueberry farm worker from Hammonton, New Jersey had an interesting audition. She sang a good version of Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song” but the judges didn’t seem sure about her. When asked to sing something else, she did a cool version of Nicki’s hit record “Superbass”. Nicki clearly liked the performance and after some serious campaigning, the other three judges agreed. In a unanimous vote they gave her a “Hollywood Golden Ticket”. This girl definitely has some talent and personality and will be fun to watch.
Angela Miller an 18 year old girl from Beverly, Massachusetts had what I thought was the most interesting story of the night, Angela has struggled with hearing problems her whole life, but that didn’t stop her from singing beautifully. Her rendition of Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best” was probably the best of the night. In a unanimous vote by the judges, she was off to Hollywood. She could be a contender.
Other New York Contestants worth watching in Hollywood include Ashlee Feliciano and Gupreet Singh Sarin (The Turbanator), His claim to fame is that he has approximately 50 Turbans and coordinates each outfit with a different color and type of Turban. He could make a real fashion statement if he makes it to the “Top 24”.
American Idol moved onto Chicago for the second night of the premiere. Based on what we saw on the show, the talent in Chicago appeared to be better and the judges awarded a total of 46 “Hollywood Golden Tickets.” Here are a few of the highlights.
Mackenzie Wasner a 17 year old girl from Tennessee sang an amazing version of “Whenever You Come Around”. She has been singing and performing her whole life and it really showed. She looked totally comfortable. It looked like she was singing in her living room instead of auditioning for American Idol. She is pretty, has a great voice and will definitely be a strong contender in Hollywood.
Stephanie Schimel 21 year old girl from Milwaukee, Wisconsin sang a dreamy rendition of “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”. She is different and I like her and with the exception of Nicki the judges all agreed. While it wasn’t unanimous it didn’t matter and Stephanie was off to Hollywood.
Gabe Brown a baker from Marion, Idaho is a real rocker. He wowed the judges with an awesome version of “Gimme Shelter.” He sings loud and his voice is incredibly strong. I love this guy and he is too good to be ignored by the judges or anyone within 500 feet. I don’t know if he is right for American Idol but he is certainly entertaining. He will be fun to watch in Hollywood.
Mariah Pulice is a 19 year old restaurant hostess from Darien, Illinois. Mariah has struggled with Anorexia for most of her teenage life. In an emotional story that clearly touched the judges she detailed her struggles and how music changed her life. She sang a beautiful version of “Let It Be”, and at the end of the song Mariah’s family rushed to the stage and everyone, including the judges start crying as they give her a “Hollywood Golden Ticket.”
Brandy Neelly a 17 year old student from Louisville, Kentucky sings a bluesy version of “Your Cheating’ Heart”, that wowed the judges. She is a beautiful girl with a great voice and with the success that country singers have had onAmerican Idol the last few years I expect a lot from her. The judges give her a “Hollywood Golden Ticket”, and she also got a big hug from Keith Urban.
Kez Ban is a quirky street performer and an amateur fire performer. In a rare moment she tells the judges she doesn’t expect to win the competition but wants to go to Hollywood. While she doesn’t look like or sound like your typical American Idol contestant, she is definitely talented and after playing an acoustic version of an original song the judges agree. In a unanimous vote she gets her wish, a “Hollywood Golden Ticket.”
Johnny Keyser is back. You might remember him, he just missed the “Top 24” in Season 12. I thought the judges made a huge mistake last year and I was glad to see him back for another try. Randi definitely remembered him and in a unanimous vote the judges sent him back to Hollywood. This guy has tremendous potential. He is good looking and has a great voice. With another year of experience under his belt he is a sure bet to go a long way in this competition.
Lazaro Arbos is the last audition of the day and keeping with American Idol tradition it is a memorable one. Lazaro, a 21 year old Ice Cream scooper from Naples, Florida has a terrible stuttering problem making it very difficult for him to communicate. A stutterer since the age of 6 he has had difficulty making fiends and maintaining relationships. His dad puts it bluntly, “He is always alone.” The amazing thing is while he struggles to talk, he sings absolutely beautiful without a hint of a stutter. Lazaro sings an absolutely beautiful version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and the judges are clearly touched by the performance. Lazaro breaks into tears as the judges unanimously give him a “Hollywood Golden Ticket.” You can’t make this stuff up. I hope he goes a long way in this competition.
AMERICAN IDOL- ODDS & ENDS
• I don’t think we will see Phil Phillips going back to his father’s Pawn Shop to work. His hit single “Home” has now gone triple platinum and his new single “Gone, Gone Gone” was just released.
• I already miss Steven Tyler. Many people watched American Idol just to hear what Steven would say next. Here is one of his best quotes from Season 11. “You know what they say, don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” Think about that one for awhile.
• The two-hour premiere which introduced viewers to the new judging panel of Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson had 17.8 million viewers and a 6.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic. While the program won the night for Fox, it was down nearly 17 percent from the Season 11 debut, which had 21.9 million viewers and a 7.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic.
• Next stop on the American Idol audition tour is Charlotte, North Carolina
When is American Idol on? American Idol airs Wed & Thurs on FOX 8/7c