Judging American Idol: Begin The Begin

Season 10, Episode 1
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Hi, my name is Heather, and I am addicted to American idol. There, I said it. I have spent the majority of the last 10 years feigning interest and pretending I could barely name the show’s main judges, let alone every single guest judge and mentor that has ever appeared. Why? Because I love music. I am obsessed with it, it’s a part of everything I do. Everyone knows you cannot be a "serious" music-lover and watch American Idol, right? Wrong!

Anyone who claims to be a music snob, music-phile, etc. should watch AI. And vote. Like it or not, this is the music that is out-selling your favorite artist, and performing to sell out crowds. Embrace it! Watch it for the fabulous train-wreck that it is and get to know these artists because in only a few months, one of the contestants I watched last night may very well be crowned the next American Idol. I guarantee, no matter your preferred music style, you will find something you like on this show (albeit a more mainstream, watered down version).

Enough of that, let’s get down to business. Last night’s show started by introducing the new judges. In case you’ve been living under a rock, this season’s judges are Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

The first day of auditions are held in New Jersey and first up is a girl who auditioned in Season 6. We learn this by the clip we are shown right before she walks in to face the judges. I’m 99% sure this girl yodeled for that first audition (no, I am not kidding). JLo (as she will be referred to, from here on out) claims to remember her. The girl falls apart. She’s so touched that JLo and Marc Anthony discussed her, while watching AI in their living room all those years ago. I’m guessing she actually remembers her from an hour prior, when the producers showed her the old clip but that’s just me. The girl sings "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen (popularized by Jeff Buckley) and in the words of former judge Simon Cowell was "very forgettable." She has changed her style somewhat and is singing at a lower key but she was average at best. The judges loved her personality and sent her through anyway. Steven Tyler said she has the "What-it-is-ness." As soon as I figure out what that means, I will let you know.

Next we meet Caleb who, to me, was underwhelming. The judges sent him through with a resounding "YES!" I started to feel like I was in Bizarro World because, like the last contestant, I wasn’t remotely interested in seeing or hearing this person again. Then in walks Kenzie who is 15, fresh-faced, and adorable. She sings, "We’re Young And Beautiful" by Carrie Underwood. She has the best natural talent shown so far and Steven Tyler doesn’t like her. Randy and JLo whole-heartedly disagree and with three yesess she is sent through and I’m starting to feel a little better about how things are going. After a weird audition that prompts JLo to say "she’s out of her mind but, I love her," we get to the portion of the show where AI exploits a would-be contestant’s hardships. I’m a sucker for a sad story so I already knew I would immediately love the next audition. Robbie Rosen is 16 and spent a lot of time in a wheelchair as a young child due to illness. He sang, "Yesterday" by The Beatles and it was sweet and understated. Randy Jackson proclaimed he had, "crazy, mad vocals."

Next we meet Ashley Sullivan, who is a little awkward and nuts. She sings "Gimme Gimme" from the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. Even though the judges are conflicted and Randy says no, she is sent through because of her personality. I’m starting to see a pattern here and figuring out their judging styles. Randy has been on the show long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. Although in past seasons he has seemed to like contestants Simon hated, this season he seems to be playing more of the heavy with higher standards. Steven Tyler loves all the girls and ogles them appreciatively. He also loves to sing along and play drums on the table. JLo is the "Paula" of this season. She’s a softy and tries to give some motherly advice and would rather not say no.

After a few more auditions we get to the last contestant of the day, Travis Orlando. Travis is 16, and his family has had a hard road, including some time in a shelter. Naturally, I’m already loving this kid. Then he sings a very average rendition of The Beatles’ "Eleanor Rigby" and I was crushed. It was definitely the wrong song for his voice. The judges seem a little unsure and allow him to sing another song. He chooses, "I’m Yours" by Jason Mraz and he nails it. Even his face and body language change, This is the right type of song for his voice. The judges are excited and enthusiastically give him the golden ticket to Hollywood.

After months of speculation about new judges, new style, and revised format, we finally got to see what all the fuss was about. I prefer three judges instead of four and while I’m not convinced these are the best they could come up with, I am excited to watch the season unfold. Stop pretending you didn't watch. What did you think of the new judges and the first slate of contestants?