Phillip Phillips, Colton Dixon, Shannon McGrane Dazzles On 'American Idol' Season 11 Debut

The opening night gives us some contestants likely to be with us all season long...
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Welcome to the 11th season of American Idol. We have one episode already in the books and if the talent pool from Savannah, Georgia is any indicator, this will be a season chock full of talent and big, trainwreck-ish personalities. I’m a huge fan of both but we all know I can’t resist a good awkward silence and the sweet sound of contestants imploding under all the Idol pressure.

American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, host Ryan SeacrestSteven Tyler, JLo, and Randy Jackson all return as judges with the ever-annoying and never-aging Ryan Seacrest back on hosting duties. First up is 17 year-old David Leathers from North Carolina who beat last year’s Idol winner, Scotty McCreery, in a local talent contest a couple years ago. David gives us “Remember The Rain” which gave JLo goosebumps and his sweet, pure voice prompted her to request him to sing a Michael Jackson song. David gets three easy yeses and I foresee him going far in the competition but he doesn’t feel like a winner to me.

Next we have a montage of average singers who all made it through; the people I was watching it with figured that was the “No” montage, if that tells you anything.

Shannon McGrane is next and Randy Jackson and Creepy Uncle Steven are both going nuts over her but for very different reasons. Randy loves that her Dad is a World Series winner and Steven is kind of just into her. She’s 15, by the way. Her dad comes in and asks the creeper how Beantown is and the reply he gets is: “It’s Hot, humid and happenin’ like your daughter.” Awkward silence isn’t even in the ballpark of what the seconds after felt like. The pretty little volleyball player sings Etta James’ “Something’s Got A Hold On Me.” She nailed it, was having fun, and I am dubbing her an early favorite.

Amy Brumfield lives in a tent in Tennessee and sings “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys.  It’s raspy, warm, and full of soul. I want to hear her do Janis Joplin or Melissa Ethridge. The judges love her story and voice and she’s through to Hollywood.

Stephanie Renee treats us to “Inside Your Heaven” by her idol, Carrie Underwood. By far the best of the night JLo said she was a little nasally and they gave her some tips; Steven said yes, Randy said not yet and JLo said Yes. So she’s in. I’d say she’s an early favorite, this season’s Lauren Alaina (last year’s runner-up).

Colton and Schyler Dixon On Season 11 American Idol PremiereColton and Schyler Dixon auditioned together last year and he made it pretty far, very narrowly missing the top 12 Boys selection. This year his sister is the only one auditioning. She sings “Break Even” and has a good rasp along with a lilting quality that’s really pretty. The judges bully Colt Dixon into trying out and in an unexpected twist, they are both put through! The sister was quite frankly pushed into the background by the judges; they gushed all over themselves and Colton, even hugging him after they put him through while his sister who actually was there to audition stands back and looks very uneasy. I predict he’s in the Top 5 and that she doesn’t even make it out of the Top 40.

Ashlee Altice is kind of a quirky mess and while usually the wacky ones can’t sing, she busts out with an unexpected version of “Come Together” by The Beatles. Erica Novack from Buffalo, New York says Crazy Uncle Steven is her “future ex-husband” and after a hug and grope session, she sings a Joss Stone song about as totally average as possible. No golden ticket but she’s got a nice little story to tell to her barfly friends back home.

Brittany Kerr is an NBA dancer and has a sweet but, boring voice. She is cute as can be but has no power or charisma. No surprise to anyone, she gets two yeses from the boys and this will probably be the last time we see her again, she’ll get eaten alive during Hollywood Week.

Phillip Phillips reminds me of a country Lee DeWyze (Winner for Season 9), he’s charming, self-effusive and has that blue eyed soul flavor I love. After a great audition singing “Superstition” the judges ask him to pick up his guitar and ask him to play something, anything and he instantly reminds me of Casey James from the same season as he does an acoustic, rockin’ version of “Thriller.” JLo says he’s super special and they think America will love him. I agree and call him a Top 10 lock as well.

With that, we have given out all the golden tickets Savannah will get today and tomorrow night takes us to Pittsburgh to experience the highs and lows that are American Idol audtions. Check back for my review and thoughts every week throughout the season as well as some exclusive surprises as we get them.