After last season’s stunt casting of bickering divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, the 13th season of American Idol bowed Wednesday night - the first evening of a two night, four-hour launch - with a return to sanity, at least on the judging panel.
For the Wednesday night premiere, country star Keith Urban was joined by returning judge and pop-R&B diva Jennifer Lopez, after a year off, and new judge, previous mentor and pop-jazz crooner-pianist Harry Connick Jr. The trio travelled to Boston and Austin for the first round of city auditions.
“I have to be honest,” said Connick as the newbie on the panel - there was a whole segment titled “who dat?” - of what he’ll be like as a judge.
If anything, Connick was the edgiest, one most likely to say no - one Idol wannabe called him “harsh” - and that’s not such a bad addition to the dynamic on this particularly well-matched panel with Urban often the vote decider as Lopez was the one most likely to say yes.
“I really want it to be a dog fight. I want people at home to say, how do we pick?” he said of this season of Idol.
As for the contestants - that goofy new element of the chamber aside (where they prepare before going through to the judges) - there seems to be a lot of Ed Sheeran soundalikes out there, if giving the gold ticket to Hollywood to raspy-voiced acoustic-guitar players like Sam, Ethan, Keith, Savion, Ben, etc. is an early trend.
JLo also has her fair share of fans like Stephanie, who collapsed into tears when she got the gold ticket, from her idol - literally - the sweet but weeping Rolando, and Morgan, whose adult song choice of Grace Potter’s Ooh La La “creeped” Connick out but was still given the all clear to Hollywood.
“Maybe, I’m old fashioned,” he said.
He’s also a Mensa member with a 143 IQ.
Connick certainly made me look up “pentatonics,” when describing the go-to 5 notes for R&B, gospel and jazz singers doing vocal gymnastics.
“What’s wrong with challenging America?” said Connick, Jr. to an equally puzzled Lopez.
What’s wrong, indeed.
To his credit, Connick's sense of humour served him well when he picked up contestant and uber-fan Munfarid and “held him like a baby,” while he sang his second song. (He also did the same with Urban later.) There were also the usual oddballs like the voice-challenged but “cool,” James and the completely unselfaware Sam who insulted Urban, sang his original song off-key but still managed to laugh about it all afterwards.
“I crack myself up,” he said.
He was the only one.
And we got to see a much larger Ryan Seacrest when a picture of the Idol host as a high school football offensive lineman was shown. Who knew?