American Idol Season XIII debuted Wednesday, January 15th. You might recall that I was one of the lucky women invited for a sneak preview of this particular episode back in December. I knew that I was impressed with the new season at that time but watching it for a second time confirmed that tenfold.
As I sat on the couch with my husband five minutes into the show, he leaned over to me and said, “The first thing I noticed that’s different this year is cohesiveness with the judges. It’s just right, they just fit.” He didn’t even realize that he was echoing the sentiments that all of us on that “Idol Tweetheart” trip had when we watched it together. The judging panel this season of Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr just really works. The chemistry is palpable.
They now have what they call “The Chamber” and yes that is the official name. You can use the hashtag #thechamber if you desire to share some chamber love on Twitter. It looks like a very small closet with grey walls complete with a mirror for the contestants to check their hair and lipstick. As if it wasn’t going to be intimidating enough just standing there awaiting the performance, there’s a very obvious green light that shines brightly to let them know it is SHOW TIME!
There were many moments when I laughed hysterically and unfortunately there are too many to name. I do have to give kudos to Harry for following through on his promise of a cradled serenade with Munfarid Zaidi. You’ll just have to see that one to believe it. I should know, I’ve re-watched it many times over. It’s that good. Many of the little snippets about the young contestants not being familiar with Harry Connick, Jr were funny. But the best one was the young girl who told him “My mom loves you!” You can’t argue with that, Harry. The moms do love you.
I’m just going to share with you some of the things that really stuck out to me and made an impact. Right out of the gate, Marielle Sellars gave a stellar audition and the new atmosphere was apparent. Think back to all those years you’ve watched before. You know the part where someone would audition before the judges and one of the judges would ask them, “Do you think you have what it takes to be the next American Idol? Do you think you could win this thing?” You remember now. I don’t even need to name the judges because so many past judges repeated that same line. That would be followed by a very sheepish, “Um, I think so…I hope so” from the contestant.
Well that isn’t how Harry Connick, Jr. rolls. Marielle gets her ticket and Harry says to her, “I want you to look into that camera right there and say ‘I AM THE NEXT AMERICAN IDOL!’” Just like fathers do with their own children, Harry has a natural tendency to foster that self-fulfilling prophecy in the contestants.
There were several contestants who really struck a chord with me and made me fall in love with them. What can I say, I’m a mom. My oldest son is older than most of these kids so I see them through those eyes. When I laugh with them and cry with them it is because I know what it is to be a mother and see your children grow. To see them achieve. Even though I don’t “know” these kids, by virtue of my television set, I get the wonderful privilege of being a part of that. AMAZING!
I love, love, love Twerking Troy! In case you missed it, he wasn’t really born with that name. His name is Troy Durden. But his personality drew me in and his voice was so unexpected that I gave him that term of endearment. You’re welcome. So Twerking Troy came out and told the judges he liked to twerk and boy did he ever. Twerking Troy BROUGHT IT! He twerked and everyone laughed maybe expecting it to be a gimmick like years prior.
Twerking Troy opened eyes everywhere with his rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The judges were just as stunned as I was. Because this season is all about the laughter mixed in with amazing talent, the judges jokingly asked him if he could twerk and sing. HELLO! He did and it was hilarious! I loved it. Did I already say I love this guy? To top it all off J-Lo said that Twerking Troy needed to work on something and ever the jokester, Harry piped up with “You need to twerk on that.” I love it!
The next one to really impress me is a young man by the name of Sam Woolf. The show focused on his back story (and no that is not the only reason I love him.) As many on singing competitions are, his story is sad on the surface. He lived with his mother until he was 13 and she just left one day. So he went to live with his father who suffers from Depression and because of that he ultimately ended up with his grandparents. This is where Grandpa comes in.
Yes, we’re that close (my tv in the living room and all) that I call him Grandpa.
Rather than me feeling sadness when I hear Sam’s story, I don’t, I get happy tears in my eyes and that lump in my throat. The reason is the look in Grandpa’s eyes when he talks about or looks at Sam. I know from personal experience that sometimes things don’t work out like we planned but they usually work out like they were supposed to. Sam was supposed to have that kind of love and he does from what I see. He played “Lego House” with his guitar and I don’t know if it’s the mom in me or if it’s Grandpa or if it’s that he is just that good. But I cried watching him play…again. You’ll remember I saw this episode in Hollywood for our sneak peek.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am that emotional.
I’m not going to break down each contestant because there are some that were just good for me and some that weren’t much on my radar (at least for the time being).
I am though going to touch on Taylor Hildack.
I may have been a bit biased negatively towards her a little because of her interview with Ryan in the line. I’m not a prude, but I didn’t care for the whole “freaking” thing. Her freaking day is going freaking great and she is Taylor freaking Hildack. Not so freaking much. Remember I said I’m a mom and that just kind of reminded me of when my kids start talking back. I’m not their biggest fan when they do that so I guess that got her off on the wrong foot with me. That had nothing to do with her singing, but the truth of the matter is that they are not auditioning to be the best American singer, it’s American Idol, it’s the whole package.
I want THE American Idol to give me that wholesome apple pie feeling. She’s a beautiful girl though and she had a good voice.
In the past, with previous judges oftentimes all it took to get to Hollywood was a pretty girl batting her eyelashes with a moderately ok voice. Taylor’s voice isn’t moderately ok. Hers is great! It’s much better than I could ever dream of having. It’s just not a superstar voice the likes of Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood right now. Watching this particular audition was that line in the sand where I knew something very material had changed this season.
Taylor didn’t get through.
They told her she needed to do more work. She was good, just not there yet, and they just said so. How simple is that?
I’ll never understand why it was so hyper-sexualized in the past where the guys would put girls through based on looks. The juxtaposition is insane. I’m younger than the judges but I’m sitting at home listening through the ears and seeing through the eyes of a mother and there’s an older man letting them through because they’re hot.
Can I just say THANK YOU for getting it right this year and not sending my 7 year old a message that tells her she doesn’t have to have talent, just dress the part!
Speaking of my daughter, I have to thank Taylor for setting off a 10 verse round of the line, “Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats…” She changes the melody each and every time. Musical genius I tell ya! Look out, American Idol; she’ll be coming to an audition near you in no time!
A fifteen year old girl named Morgan Deplitch came out and sang the lyric “If I was a blade I’d shave you smooth.” Most of us have cringed at some point or the other when we heard very young girls trying to be so provocative. Harry was quick to let her know that it was important to choose songs that were age appropriate, another American Idol first.
If this is “Harsh Harry” then where has Harsh Harry been all of American Idol’s life?
This interaction with this contestant is exactly what sparked my comment to Harry when we were in Hollywood at the Dolby Theater. I thanked him for even broaching that subject with her and the other judges. I explained that I think sometimes the girls tend to sing songs like that because when they sang classics in the past, judges told them things like, “That song is too old fashioned! You need to sing something more your age!” So they don’t know exactly where they fit and trying to give the judges what they want, they try to emulate Miley Cyrus. No thank you. I’ll take Etta James any day for a 15 year old girl. Disclaimer: I am also partial to Etta James because I named my daughter Etta, after her. Now you know.
I can’t forget to mention two other fast favorites of mine in this first episode. Savion Wright, a fellow Texan, has a level of patience and perseverance most people don’t even bother to aspire to. He waited 8 years, perfecting his craft, before feeling confident enough in himself, essentially in his product, before presenting it to the world. This kid is going places. I also loved Austin Precario and Kaitlyn Jackson. I’m almost as proud of them as their mothers are and we’ve never met.
That darn tv bringing them into my living room again. I really love that about the way American Idol presents these contestants with the back stories. That is one thing that makes me care. I don’t want everyone to have a sob story. But I want to know them, know about them and what makes them want this. It’s part of me being a mom. I believe it takes a village and by extension, the American Idol viewers are that village. We all want these kids to succeed. Sure we will end up with favorites and that will narrow down and we’ll think we know “the one.” But until then, these are our kids. They’re our neighbors’ kids, the kids we see walking at the library, the kids we see our kids chatting with on Facebook. At the end of the day, they are just “kids”. And we are all so lucky to get to sit in the back seat with an awesome view of this roller coaster that they’re on. Since it does take a village, I am excited to confirm that this is real, wholesome, family viewing.
As we reached the closing credits I told my husband that it just really left me feeling uplifted and hopeful. He read my mind again because he said, “It was so positive, and I didn’t once have to explain to a 7 year old little girl that the people saying very mean things were just doing it to be funny on tv.” They finally realized that you can tell someone they aren’t strong enough singers without completely disrespecting them as human beings. Like I said, these are kids. These are all our kids. #ThisIsReal
The second part of the two night premiere airs Thursday at 8pm/7pmCT.