Somewhere on Tuesday I read the first night of a new season of American Idol is like Christmas morning.
Whoever wrote that was right. Absolutely right.
The Season 11 premier was worth the eight-month wait. There’s only one American Idol, which is everything X Factor wasn’t and everything The Voice would like to be.
Some initial thoughts from opening night:
– The second-year judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, appeared much more at ease and much less stilted than a year ago at this time — especially Lopez. Randy Jackson rarely wavers from being … well, Randy. The Rag Doll, J-Lo and Randy have the feel of a super team this season, unlike the awkward four of L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell on X Factor. Hey, even host Ryan Seacrest seems more at ease this year.
– I also liked some of the new graphics, which had gone unchanged for years.
The Fab Four
– The were a few other subtle changes, including the flow of the show and a toned-back (anti-X Factor) approach. Idol is like an old friend and realizes it does not have to try and dazzle us with bells and whistles every second of every minute.
SAVANNAH SUCCESS STORIES
The first set of auditions were from Savannah, Ga. Overall, a quality cast of candidates. Here’s my take on the first-night standouts, and please notice the ages of many of the first-night leaders in the clubhouse:
1. David Leathers: This 17-year-old from Fayetteville, N.C., emerged as one of the early faves following his “Remember the Rain” by Century 21 and “Never Can Say Good-Bye” by Michael Jackson offerings. Rarely does the “leader” at this point go on to win, but this kid deserves the gold ring on opening night.
2. Phillip Phillips: Yeah, that’s his name, and he killed “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, which for a southern white boy was genuinely amazing. The 20-year-old pawn shop employee was definitely a surprise. He might be this year’s Casey Abrams.
3. Gabi Carruba: Another teen, 16, who excelled. She was the tap dancer from New Haven, Conn., with the soft voice who loved produced Nigel Lythgoe. She sang “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5.
4. Shannon Magrane: She’s the 15-year-old daughter of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Magrane, who was once my No. 1 draft pick in fantasy baseball, but that’s another story for another time. Shannon sang an Etta James song that was good enough to get her through to Hollywood.
5. Schyler Dixon: She made my head turn toward the TV the moment she began to sing. She’s raw, she’s got one of those sandpaper-esque voices I love. She’s an extreme longshot at this point, but she made it to Hollywood and I’ll be anxious to see how much this 16-year-old wannabe improves. She sang “Break Even” by The Script. The judges were also high on her brother, Colton, but I’m not on his bandwagon — yet.
6. Amy Brumfield: Holy cow, the girl lives in a tent in the woods, because that is all she and her boyfriend can afford. This was easily the most interesting back story of the night. How can you not root for her? She sang “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys, which immediately appealed to me because of the raspiness of her voice. Honestly, though, she was probably a borderline contestant, but the judges voted her through in unanimous fashion. She needs some polish, but who knows … this might be the next Crystal Bowersox.
Brittany Kerr, NBA Dancer
7. Brittany Kerr: Oh my. Oh my my. She is a 24-year-old NBA dancer from Charlotte, N.C., who could be Carrie Underwood’s twin. She sang “Spoiled” by Joss Stone. Her voice was nothing special, but if you saw the show you will understand why she is heading to Hollywood. Oh my. Oh my my.
Shaun Krisman: He was the 26-year-old Ryan Seacrest lookalike from Mount Pleasant, S.C. He sang “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites. As a singer, no. As a Ryan Seacrest clone, most def. This guy was definitely one of the highlights of the show.
THURSDAY: More auditions from Pittsburgh.