Steven Tyler steals the day with his kooky ways: Move over JLo, Idol's new starhas emerged
The highly anticipated 10th season of American Idol kicked off Wednesday night with a two-hour New Jersey episode. Despite its makeover, the show feels comfortingly the same as before — which means, as usual, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad:
• Above all, there’s one thing worth celebrating: The new judging panel is ripe with sincerity and commitment. You get the feeling that this is more than just a monster deal they inked — they genuinely care about the fate of the contestants and the show. It’s true that the contestants, not the judges, have always determined the overall quality of each season, but when the judges are having as much fun as they are this time around, it’s hard not to have fun right along with them.
• Steven Tyler seriously knows how to have a good time. See: his emphatic sing-along with Caleb Hawley’s “I Just Love You So.” There’s something so endearing about his wacky but authentic persona that makes me want to hug him — or maybe just have a beer with him.
• The episode began with a recap of the dramatic judges announcement last fall and all the hoopla that surrounded it. An expected package, to be sure, but what followed was unexpected: “But this isn’t our story. It’s yours!”
And strangely enough, the rest of the episode embraced this theme, with more focus on the talent (the good kind) than I’ve seen in years. Encouraging, indeed.
• Devyn Rush: The best of the night, 20-year-old Rush delivered a jazzy, controlled rendition of “God Bless the Child” with a little scatting thrown in for good measure. Attempting a throwback style is risky business on Idol — note the success of the flawed Megan Joy and the downfall of the promising Lilly Scott — but Rush is so naturally talented that it doesn’t come off as affected. Steven called it “delicious,” and I agree.
• Travis Orlando: He’s lived in a shelter for years, but came in wearing a “It’s Gonna be Fantastic” shirt, which unsurprisingly got a giggle out of Randy. Orlando's got a nice tone and rhythm to his voice, and ironically, the 16-year-old shows a sense of confidence and authority when he sings that contrasts with his self-deprecating demeanor.
And while I still believe back stories should play second fiddle to talent, you bet I teared up when his mom and twin brother swooped into the auditioning room for a tearful embrace.
• After nine seasons, do the producers really think the public still believes a chunk of contestants coincidentally chose the same song for their audition — this time Miley Cyrus’ infectious hit, “Party in the U.S.A”? Or do they get such a kick out of the contestants’ bewildered expressions as they try to remember the words that they just don’t care?
• Sincere or not, the new judging panel lacks the sharp wisdom of panels passed. Simon Cowell had the ability to show up, not give a damn, tune in for about 15 seconds of someone’s audition and proceed to deliver an assessment so stunningly accurate that you’d want to rewind and hear it again. Jennifer and Steven have proven to be present and engaged, but are they bitingly insightful?
Maybe they’ll grow to be, but not in this episode. I’m personally holding out hope for Jennifer, who shows just the right amount of empathy; if she can sharpen her judgment just a smidge, it’ll be a killer combination.
• It’s hard to imagine Simon handing golden tickets to contestants Tiffany Rios and Ashley Sullivan, who both made it through to Hollywood. Rios, who could pass for Snookie’s lost cousin, delivered a serviceable but unremarkable “I’m Your Lady” after a strange self-penned song. Sullivan barreled through a vocally one-dimensional version of “Gimme Gimme” and followed it up with a tearful proclamation about wanting to bring Liza Minnelli to pop music (I think Lady Gaga will suffice for now).
Both received bloated praise from the judges — not quite Ellen DeGeneres style, but close — and won’t stand a chance during Hollywood Week.
Quote of the Night
“Well hellfire, save matches, f**k a duck and see what hatches”
- Steven Tyler’s insane but awesome response to a Josh Turner sound-alike, to which he followed up with: “Am I allowed to say that?”
What are your thoughts on the season premiere of American Idol Season 10?