“American Idol” returned Wednesday night, and in two hours of New York City auditions, we got a revealing look into the direction of Season 12. Starting with the opening montage of Phillip Phillips singing his one and only song a season after his win, the “Idol” producers let us into the deep dreams in their heart of eking out one more winner who can actually make them some money.
Of course there’s the ongoing “feud” between new judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, and that does get some play, with a few vocal tiffs throughout the night that usually started with one judge saying something nice to the other, them not believing the compliment, and lots of inaudible whining.
They’re also making Mariah Carey out to appear ancient. Introducing her to an auditioner who went to her summer camp like 15 years ago; showing a contestant touting his love for “All I Want for Christmas” as the best modern-day Christmas song, which she reminded us came out 17 years ago; another auditioner telling her she loves Mariah and “wants to bring those great songs back.” A little perspective: Mariah is one year younger than Jennifer Lopez.
The selection of auditioners was also surprising and possibly enlightening of a new direction for the show. There was a formerly obese girl, a leg amputee, and a guy in a turban. And none of them were joke auditions. It’s like some of “The Voice”s blind audition success rubbed off here, and allowed a few unconventional folks through the door.
New York had 41 tickets to Hollywood, and it was nice to get a dose of the city’s diverse supply of singers who come from all over the world, plus a healthy helping of New Jersey and Staten Island accents.
Some standouts of the night: Tenna Torres, a huge Mariah fan who went to “Camp Mariah” and met the superstar when she was a teen, got four yeses for her rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Christina “Isabelle” (BTW, why is that surname in quotes?), the aforementioned girl who struggled with weight and came to prove all shapes and sizes can make it on “Idol.” Shira Gavrielov, from Israel, who slayed “Valerie” and got Mariah to speak Hebrew (who knew?!). Frankie Ford, a subway busker, who despite stopping and restarting from nerves, got a unanimous vote to Hollywood. Sarah Restuccio, a country singing blueberry farmer from New Jersey (again, who knew?!). Angela Miller, who got raves for her tone on Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best,” even while suffering from hearing loss. Gurpreet Singh Sarin, a guy who changes his turban with every outfit and won over Nicki by telling her they can connect on headwear choices. And Ashlee Feliceano, part of a foster family that includes the most adorable kid ever, cut from the same mold as the Jerry Maguire kid.
At the end of the two days, even the judges’ panel was harmonious. Nicki wrapped up by saying, “I feel like we gel well,” and amazingly, Mariah agreed.
Watch More Stand-Out Auditions Below: