Welcome to the live blog and recap for the season premiere of American Idol Season 12!
Tonight, we finally get to see how Keith Urban, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj gel in the Idol environment. Also, there’s talent, which I hear is the point.
Can anyone stop the inevitable march towards WGWG 6.0? Will we finally see the return of black female singers to the top ranks of the competition? Will Mariah and Nicki snatch the weaves out of each other’s hair? Does the presence of Keith Urban mean we can get Nicole Kidman to sing Elephant Love Medley on one of these results shows?
Here we go!
-We open with last year’s winner, Phillip Phillips, entering an empty amphitheater and performing an acoustic version of “Home”…a video that transitions into the music video for the song, before Ryan Seacrest cuts in to go over what a huge year Phillip has been having, and how the Idol franchise makes stars.
And then we get a little last-minute hype for the new judges, as if we don’t already know who they are, what they’ve done, or why they’re here. I will say that I didn’t know Keith Urban had so many number ones. I knew he was successful, but damn.
-Nicki Minaj: “She’s worked with Taylor Swift.” And among the few who hasn’t dated her, apparently. Although, if the story of Taylor soliciting Jennifer Lawrence to hook her up with Bradley Cooper at the Globes is true, it wouldn’t surprise me if she tried to get Nicki to hook her up with Keith Urban.
-If there are anywhere near as many emotional backstories as this promo is suggesting, we’re going to need to dam the channels from flooding.
-We’re in New York, and people are absolutely losing their minds. If I’m not mistaken, that might be the same place they did the season 3 NY auditions. I only know this because I was there for them.
-Okay, I have no idea what I was thinking. That is in no way the same place as season 3. Sorry, folks. I must be tripping the light fantastic tonight.
-And we’re off, with Nicki and Mariah getting into it over Nicki’s gaudy hat. It seems like a playful argument, but with undercurrents of “I hate this bitch already.”
MICHAEL BOUNOPANE, 27, kicks off American Idol Season 12!
-Mike enters in the middle of Nicki and Mariah’s argument, singing “We Will Rock You”, and going through an elaborate, Robin Williams-esque routine that borders on annoying (though I really didn’t think he had the worst voice in the world, if we were simply going on his first song, before he decided to make a cabaret show of things). The judges give him a quartet of Nos, and he departs, but not before telling Mariah that “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the greatest modern Christmas song.
Back from break, with Mariah quoting “Mean Girls” and then calling Nicki to the carpet for not knowing it was a quote from “Mean Girls.” These women are looking for any reason to cut into each other, and it’s glorious. It’s like being backstage at Miss America.
TENNA TORRES, 28, is up next!
-Tina is a huge Mariah Carey fan who attended Camp Mariah as a kid, and even sang for Mariah.
-Mariah’s embarrassment at her former fashion sense, as evidenced by Tenna’s pictures, is kind of charming.
-Tenna sings “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King, and knocks it out of the ballpark.
-Mariah says she would be proud if someone like Tenna came out of AI12. Keith thinks it’s refreshing, and Nicki says they were all in awe. It’s four yesses!
TENNA TORRES is going to Hollywood!
-To say she and her family are excited would be an understatement.
-And almost immediately, we get one of those Montages of People Who Can Sing, which always annoys me because those auditions are usually shunted to the sidelines in favor of the goofballs and novelty acts. And occasionally, you end up missing the audition of someone who goes far in the competition, like a Lee DeWyze or a Crystal Bowersox.
JAMES BAE, 15, is up next!
-He’s an Asian rap/pop artist and dancer. Justin Bieber’s YouTube success inspired him to give Idol a shot, even though he admits that if he were to get through, it would be a miracle. At least he has a sense of humor about himself, but the kid is pretty much William Hung 2.0, and doesn’t try to hide it either.
-He decides to sing Bieber for his audition, doing “One Less Lonely Girl”, and it’s pretty tuneless and dull, unfortunately. He gets four Nos, but not before Nicki does that mildly condescending thing where she asks if he has a girlfriend. But she immediately makes up for it by comforting him after his rejection, by telling him that he truly is special, just not for this competition. She adds that she won’t ever forget him, giving him a kiss on the cheek on the way out. If nothing else, Nicki seems a bit like Paula, except Nicki’s outlandishness has nothing to do with being drunk all the time.
-We’re back from break with a look at some of the weirdos in the waiting room, before transitioning to our next audition.
CHRISTINA “ISABELLE”, 21, is up next!
-Christina is a girl who had body issues and took the initiative to lose weight. She apparently decided to lose her last name too, although I do like the ring to “Christina Isabelle.”
-”That’s the thing about high school. Girls can be so mean.” Thanks, Randy. I have no idea how I’d ever learn about the harsh facts of reality without your input.
-Christina sings “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, and it’s elegant, and practically effortless.
-The judges claim to hear hints of Mariah in her voice, and Mariah agrees (with Christina showing her Mariah knowledge by stating that she knows Mariah’s mother was an opera singer. A half-hour in, and there’s yet to be a contestant who hasn’t completely tripped over themselves praising her. Not that I blame them, I just think it’s kind of cute. I can’t remember the last time contestants were this routinely starstruck by the judges. On any series, really).
-Christina gets four easy yesses.
CHRISTINA “ISABELLE” is going to Hollywood!
And we waste no time moving on to our next audition:
EVAN RUGGIERO, 21, is up next!
-He began dancing at a very young age and was immediately cast in a musical…until he was diagnosed with bone cancer. After an up-and-down rollercoaster that included remission, a reemergence of the cancer, and the amputation of his leg to save his life, Evan has decided to take the chance to become the American Idol.
-He sings “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and…well, it’s okay, I guess. The back story seemed to be preparing us for something better than what this is, although his scatting is pretty good (a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing when I woke up this morning).
-Randy asks if he’d like to play something on his guitar, and Evan decides to sing Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, and Keith joins in! It’s a thousand times better than his first song.
-Keith says he likes Evan’s voice, but isn’t sure if the star factor is there. Nicki doesn’t “see it” for the competition, but respects the hell out of Evan, saying that he’s going to touch a lot of people with simply his presence. Randy tells Evan to find his niche, while Mariah feels his niche isn’t that far away. She wants to see him come back next year (Mariah Carey to return for season 13! Heard it here first).
-Evan gets four Nos, but he takes the rejection in stride.
Notable comment from the comments section below – Klope62: “OMG..I love these judges. He would have immediately been let through any other season. I’m seriously impressed.”
It’s kind of true actually. While Evan had a voice, it just wasn’t ready yet. And I could imagine, in seasons past, Simon falling all over himself to put Evan through to Hollywood. He would have done that annoying thing where he already knows what his decision is going to be, but he leans back with the pen in his mouth and pretends to be wavering, until he decides “You know what? I think you deserve a chance. It’s a yes from me.” And then we’re all supposed to congratulate him for being a great guy.
That’s what I sort of appreciate about these judges so far. They have more of a reason to be self-absorbed than any other TV singing show panel in recent memory, yet they aren’t.
-We come back with Seacrest announcing a competition in which people are encouraged to nominate someone special in their life who they feel deserves a shot in front of the judges. A mother nominates her daughter Jessica, and Randy surprises her with her audition ticket during a gig.
JESSICA KARTALIS, 19, is up next!
-She sings an original song, and it starts with an acapella section that’s quite pretty. Until she brings the guitar into things, and has it in the wrong key, which has it sounding pretty sour. She eventually rights the melody, but it’s too little, too late.
-Nicki doesn’t think she’s ready, and while Jessica pleads for another chance, but Nicki feels they’ve seen all they need to see. Jessica pleads that this is her only shot, to which the judges vehemently declare that this isn’t her only shot, that it’s never her only shot, and that she should return next year. Before rejecting her, Nicki makes the astute suggestion that she should go and hone her sense of artistic identity, without expecting Idol to do all the work. This panel continues to impress the hell out of me.
-Jessica gets four Nos (although Keith admits he’s pretty close to saying yes). Jessica leaves, dejected, and her mother despairs of seeing a nineteen year-old girl get rejected, as though 19 is some ancient number where your dreams are forever in the toilet, and the only light in your life is getting up for the early bird special and playing canasta with Ethel from over in Kimberton.
-Up next is a woman from a musical family (her father’s a composer) who left her homeland of Israel, where she ended up charting a NUMBER ONE single.
SHRIA GAVRIELOV, 23, is up next!
-Shira sings Amy Winehouse’s cover of “Valerie”, and Nicki loves it. As do the rest of the judges.
-Am I the only one who didn’t think she was all that? I don’t know, it just sounded kind of flat in spots. Anyway, the decision isn’t up to me, so…
SHIRA GAVRIELOV is going to Hollywood!
And we close with our last audition of Day 1, a young guy who sings on the train to make money. He was adopted, but he’s very close with his mother, who considers him a wonderful kid with a lot of drive.
FRANKIE FORD, 24, is up next
-Frankie sings “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics, and though he comes out blasting with a pretty solid vocal (if a little sharp), but he stops himself, shaken by his nerves. He restarts in a lower key, and this is exactly where he should be.
-Randy says he believes in Frankie, while Mariah speaks to his “inner light” and all that inspirational mumbo-jumbo that makes her sound endearingly like Paula Abdul for a minute.
-Frankie gets four yesses, and Randy takes the opportunity to make a Frankie Goes To Hollywood pun through Keith.
FRANKIE FORD is going to Hollywood!
-Back with Day 2 of New York auditions!
BENJAMIN GAISEY is up next!
-Benjamin is literally from a mile away from where I live.
-He sings “I’ll Make Love to You” and addresses it to Mariah. And then to Nicki. He isn’t making my hometown area look like any less of a promiscuous place with this audition. Especially with the pelvic thrust, jheri curl and knock-off Thriller jacket. He tries to salvage things by singing “Let Me Love You” (the Mario one, not the Ne-Yo song), but he’s not exactly helping his case here.
-Randy tells him his voice was terrible, and Benjamin wants to know which parts he sounded terrible on. Randy tells him that it was horrible and that the voice just wasn’t there.
-Benjamin gets four Nos and then goes slightly catatonic, telling the camera, in the most robotic voice imaginable, that he’s “fine.”
Up next is a young woman who lives at home with her parents, whom she hits up for feedback on her singing, as their opinion means a lot to her. However, she’s never actually sung in front of other people before.
ROZANNA SHINDELMAN is up next!
-Her voice is sharp as all get-out, and her audition is over almost before it starts. The judges send her on her way after Nicki shuts down Rozanna’s pleas for a second song.
-We follow up Rozanna’s rejection with a montage of them. I can appreciate that they’re simply getting a lot of the bad auditions out of the way with little fanfare.
SARAH RESTUCCIO, 17, is up next!
-She’s a Jersey girl, but from the country part of it. She’s kind of adorable, talking about how her grandmother told her she has a great aunt who’s an opera singer, but that she has no idea who it is.
-She sings “Mama’s Song” by Carrie Underwood, and it’s lovely, if a little unspectacular. The other judges are sold, all except for Randy, who wants to hear something else…to which she responds, “I could do ‘Super Bass’”. Um, YES?
-Nicki joins in a bit, and she slams every lyric without skipping a beat. It’s kind of a surreal audition, as she’s a bit of a genre chameleon. I do like that Nicki disagrees with Keith’s observation that he doesn’t know what artist she wants to be, saying that artists come in all different flavors, basically.
-She gets four yesses, and though she’ll probably go the country route, I like the potential in Sarah to branch out, more so than some of the other country artists in recent seasons. Of course, she has to get deeper into the competition for that to happen, and whether she will or not is anyone’s guess (well, maybe not for those who’ve read the spoilers. But I’m not one of them). As for now, however…
SARAH RESTUCCIO is going to Hollywood!
-FOX is pushing the hell out of The Following. Good thing it has Kevin Bacon in it, or I might be annoyed with its ubiquity.
-The Asian Invasion continues, with subtitles galore!
ALBERT CHANG, 25, is up next!
-He sings “The Phantom of the Opera” and hits a crazy, pitchy high note that has Nickie facetiously telling him that his pitch is better than Mariah’s.
-Randy declares it “horrible”, and Albert takes the hint before the judges even get around to voting, exiting stage left.
-We then get a brief montage of Nicki acting British, because everybody loves British people.
ANGELA MILLER, 18, is up next!
-Angela is absolutely gorgeous, and she immediately enchants the judges by singing “Mamma Knows Best” by Jessie J. Not only is her voice lovely, but she has a little bit of rhythm to her also (Keith notices this too), as she does a bit of a shimmy during her performance.
-Nicki thinks it’s the best of the day, as she felt the performance spoke directly to her soul, or something similarly hyperbolic, but nonetheless true, since taste is subjective, particularly on a nationally televised singing competition. One man’s Phillip Phillips is another man’s Jon Peter Lewis.
-But back to Angela, who gets four yesses from the judges. She’s kind of a cipher at this point, since we don’t know all that much about her, but hopefully those gaps will be filled in the coming weeks.
ANGELA MILLER is going to Hollywood!
-And we’re back with Ryan Seacrest previewing “One of the best voices we’ve ever heard” in a flashforward. Okay, maybe it’s just a trickily-edited dream sequence. Either way…
BRETT HOLT, 28, is up next!
-He’s an American Idol superfan, saying he’s auditioned seven times, and that there’s nothing in the world he doesn’t know about American Idol, challenging anyone in the world to best him in AI trivia. I don’t know if this is something I should be proud of, but I’ve forgotten more about this show than most people have ever known – Brett included, as he can’t seem to remember which season William Hung auditioned in, which was a total softball question.
-He sings “When I Fall In Love” by Nat King Cole, but he bombs pretty badly. He gets four Nos and is sent on his way.
-Up next is a bearded, turbaned Indian contestant raised in America, known by his friends as “The Turbanator” (which leads to a funny fake movie trailer touting him as such).
GURPREET SINGH SARIN, 22, is up next!
-He sings “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5, and it’s my favorite audition of the night so far. However, Keith and Nicki don’t agree, as they think his voice is too light for the competition.
-Randy and Mariah say yes, while Keith says no, leaving the first split decision of the season so far down to Nicki. He pleads with Nicki, saying he has a marigold turban like her hair. Bowled over by his charm, Nicki decides to give him one more shot.
GURPREET SINGH SARIN is going to Hollywood!
-We return from break with our last audition of the night, Ashlee Feliciano. Her parents announced their intention, when she was ten years old, to foster and adopt “medically-complex” children. She gets choked up talking about the love of her parents, who’ve set aside so much of their own lives to see her dreams come true. It’s a really lovely story, never drifting into sob territory, and it’s already got me rooting for her.
ASHLEE FELICIANO, 20, closes out the night!
-She sings “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae, and it’s a beautiful vocal, which Keith praises specifically for its rich lower register.
-Randy asks to meet her family, and Ashlee brings in the Feliciano clan, along with their fostered/adopted children, congratulating them for the good they’ve done in the world, and for the job they’ve done in raising Ashlee.
-She gets four of the easiest yesses of the night.
ASHLEE FELICIANO is going to Hollywood!
-We wrap up the New York auditions with Keith announcing that he loved “being between Mariah and Nicki”, which I’m sure can’t be taken any other way but innocently.
And lastly, we get a short promo for tomorrow night’s auditions in the Midwest, packed with an apparently-explosive amount of drama, particularly between Nicki and Mariah – to where Keith probably would like to rethink his stance on being between Mariah and Nicki, as he ducks for safety and shouts “I feel like a scratching post!”
So what did you think of tonight’s audition episode? Did the season 12 premiere live up to the hype? And which contestants sent to Hollywood in this episode do you think could go far? Sound off in the comments!
See you back here tomorrow night for another live blog! And don’t forget to keep checking back at Rickey.org for videos of tonight’s auditions!
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