My American Idol history: I watched the first three seasons like it was my job. I was working my first "real" job during the first season, was home by myself alone a lot because I was in a new place with no friends, and after I had gobbled up all the Harry Potter books that had been written up until that point, I turned on the television, saw the auditions for season one and laughed and laughed and laughed. I petered out in season four, briefly watched a couple of episodes in the Steven Tyler seasons, and that's it. I really wanted to watch it this season in a nostalgic, I must be involved in popular culture in a way that isn't JD Robb novels way.
So I watched all six episodes of the auditions.
The Judges: The judges are Harry Connick, Jr., the very, very sexy Jennifer Lopez, and the very, very sexy Keith Urban. I bet Connick feels outclassed in appearance when he's at the judges table. I found the judges endearing. They have chemistry among them and you can feel it in some of the silly outtakes, like when they started singing the Green Acres theme song.
However, they didn't give particularly good feedback. It was all pretty general stuff like "you're not ready yet" or "haven't figured out how to use your voice yet" or Urban's inane "I didn't feel like you meant it." It lacked actionableness, which is key when you're giving constructive feedback. They were just too nice. There were a couple of flashbacks to early Cowell ("that's terrible") and I missed that honesty.
Also, I hated how much they talked to one another during the auditions. So rude.
Ryan Seacrest: I find Seacrest charming. I really want Brian Dunkleman, who was a co-host during season one, to come back for an episode this season, too. I like that Seacrest doesn't take himself or American Idol too seriously. He made several jokes about rumors regarding his sexuality, but didn't bother actually addressing the rumors. He's pretty okay in my book.
Special guests: I don't know a lot of the later season Idol winners. Seeing Nick Fradiani (S14 winner) meant nothing to me. But the look on Ruben Studdard's (S2 winner) face at bad auditions just made my day. And when Clay Aiken (S2 runner-up) went off on an auditioner for making a mockery of the show, I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the sanctimoniousness of the whole thing, but still kind of loved the spirit of Aiken. Oh, and I don't actually know much about Taylor Hicks (S5 winner), but he was so adorable and excited when people did well at their auditions. I just wanted to hug him.
The less said about Kanye West's appearance on the show the better.
Contestants: I think American Idol has a longer screening process now, so we only see contestants who have made it through what seems like several other auditions before they can see CLU (Connick, Lopez, Urban). So that means a lot fewer bad auditions. I know there was a brouhaha and viewers complained that there were too many bad auditions and the judges (mostly Cowell) were too mean, but I LOVED those bad auditions and that's what hooked me on the show in the first place. The did a couple of brief "bad audition" segments and, maybe I'm not crazy about what this says about me as a person, I loved those segments and they made me laugh so hard.
So the contestants, even when they weren't sent through, were generally okay.
Format complaints: I don't like that they can have musical accompaniment during the auditions (piano, guitar, ukulele, whatever). It's a singing competition and I think you should make it through the audition acapella. Sure, bring in instruments later since most "pop stars" don't go around singing without something, but there should be a base layer of actual talent. Also, I was watching this while texting a friend and she pointed out that it was hard to hear the voices over the instruments sometimes.
Also, what is with this stupid schedule? Tuesday and Wednesdays? Sometimes one hour long and sometimes two? Who thought this was intuitive or that someone with my limited scheduling ability could figure this out?
This is going to make me sound like a mean person, but I think the American Idol winner should be young (but not too young!) and single. I got really upset with the folks with babies and spouses along for the audition. It ruins the whole dream of "someday I can be like that" if it's someone you really don't want to be like. Ahem. So pretty much if I got wind of a kid or a spouse, I am holding a grudge against that contestant. Those folks can be musicians, even successful ones, but I don't think American Idol is the place for them to get their breakthrough.
Contestants I'm Going to Watch For:
1) Dalton Rapattoni, who showed up with bleached out hair and guyliner, but sang "Phantom of the Opera" in a way that I really enjoyed.
2) LaPorsha Ranae who sang some Radiohead song I'm unfamiliar with. I liked it. She had a strong voice, didn't hide behind any instruments, and I'm going to root for her. I did not like that she had a baby and a sob story to go with her, but I did think her baby was adorable (and I don't say that about many babies, particularly babies wearing dumb flower headbands) and I thought JLo was super adorable holding the super adorable baby.
3) Melanie Tierce who sang "Rise Up." Her look matches her voice and she was wonderful.
4) Jordyn Simone, a 15-year old who looks like she's in her twenties. I thought she was articulate and quite mature for her age. Her voice was good, I think she will appeal to both young women and young men, and I think she'll go far. Even Dr. BB called her "cute as a button."
5) Elvie Shane (with a kid! damn it all!) impressed me with his version of "House of the Rising Sun." He's kind of greasy and I'm not sure if his look will go over with Idol voters, but I have hopes for him.
6) Emily Brooke is quite talented, but it feels like a bit of a cheat. She made it to the live shows last season and she was great. With the advantage of making through Hollywood week last year, I think she's one to keep an eye on. She's got a contemporary country radio sound, so I can see her having commercial appeal.
7) Melany Huber, a young cancer survivor from Michigan, made me relax during her performance. I didn't worry about her hitting notes, I didn't worry about her forgetting the words, and it didn't seem like she was trying too hard. Just effortlessly good.
8) Chynna Sherrod who sang in a different style than Huber, but just as effortlessly.
And what this list tells you is that I perfer female voices to male.
Up next: Hollywood week, which has historically been my favorite week. Let's do it!