Season 12 of “American Idol” arrives tonight (January 16, 2013) with a lot controversy and change in tow. With three new judges (Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey) and news that Mariah and Nicki have done plenty of fighting behind the scenes all eyes are on the show to see if they can continue to draw viewers and to see if the country and hip hop flavors that these new judges bring to the table influence the type of singers they are able to find.
Tonight’s premier starts off with a montage covering the new judges coming on board and talking about the success of last season’s winner Phillip Phillips then we jump into the first stop on the audition tour - New York City. Nicki Minaj arrives wearing an outfit that makes her look like she just left marching band practice. Mariah and Randy comment on her hat as the singers filter into Lincoln Center and the first audition features a guy named Michael who comes into the room singing a version of “We Will Rock You” changed to fit the Idol judges. His audition is one part stand-up comedy and one part singing as he tries several different styles before being rejected and sent on his way. They are one singer in and Mariah and Nicki are already taking shots at each other.
The next collection of singers comes through and we spend more time seeing Nicki and Mariah sniping at each other. The first good singer is named Tenna who actually went to Camp Mariah 13 years ago when she was 11. She shows Mariah a picture they took at the camp. Mariah wants copy of the picture. Teena sings “You Got a Friend” and does a good job. She gets four yes votes and is the first person of season 12 sent through to Hollywood. The next singer, Shane, compares himself to Justin Bieber and he is terrible. Mariah is nice and tells him he should be a DJ and is not a singer. Finally Randy tells him he is a bad singer. He gets four no votes and is sad.
As the auditions continue we get some good singers, some bad and some sad stories including a 21-year old guy named Evan who got cancer at 17 and had to get his leg amputated. He walks into the audition in shorts with the prosthetic on display. He is wearing a guitar, but doesn’t play it as he sings “I’m Yours.” He is pretty good, but not great and the judges want more so he sings Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” This time he plays the guitar and is better and while the judges seem into it they don’t know if he has the whole package. They pass on him and tell him to work hard and come back next year. He takes it in stride and seems like a good guy.
A singer named Jessica plays guitar and messes up her song. She gets four no’s and breaks down as she leaves. We then meet a girl named Isira. She is actually a singer from Israel who had a number one single there. She moved to the US to make it here. She has a lot energy that Nicki loves. All four give her a yes and she is on her way.
We meet more singers including Frankie who sings in the subway to make money. He screws up his first try at the song, starts over and is much better. Keith is impressed by him. With four yes votes he heads to Hollywood promising the judges he will give them 110%.
The second day of auditions has Nicki with a hairdo that looks like a ball of fire and she and Mariah jabbing at each other again.
The first singer of the new day is dressed in a plastic suit that looks like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. The suit squeaks as he walks. He is horrible. He changes the words of a love song to fit Mariah and Nicki. Mixed with the squeaks of his outfit it is hysterical. Keith seems to be in shock and ends up hiding under the table. Next up is Rosanna who admits she has only sang in front of her parents. Her parents say she is so good she gives them the chills. She is not good. Even the judges are bummed because she seems like a nice girl – she just can’t sing.
Now we get a montage of bad singers and singers that are dressed oddly. We get a few angry rejected singers who threaten the camera operators. It isn’t “American Idol” until someone curses at the camera after being told no. We then meet a country girl from North Jersey named Sarah. She does a Carrie Underwood song and is good. Randy wants to hear another song and she does Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” and she nails it. All of the judges are blown away. They are confused as to whether she is a country singer or a pop singer. Nicki actually gets it. She is a country girl who also likes a little pop (Sarah herself said she loves country music, but “Super Bass” is her jam). She gets four yes votes and moves on.
Albert is their first singer after their lunch break and he might be the worst singer they have had since William Hung. He is physically painful to listen to. We are then treated to some auditions with Nicki doing her fake British accent. It rubs off and pretty soon Mariah is doing it. Finally, Angela comes in and gets their attention. The accents stop as she tells them that she has a 40% hearing loss in one ear and 20% loss in the other. She is very good. Mariah says Angela is the first person to have real tone that day. She gets a yes from all the judges and is on her way to Hollywood.
We then meet Brett who has auditioned seven times and claims he is the champ at “American Idol” trivia. He sings “When I Fall in Love” and while it isn’t horrific, it is a long ways from good. All four judges give him a no and he heads home. After him we meet Gurpreet who is from India and wears turbans. He calls himself The Turbanator. He has around 50 turbans so he changes them with each outfit so they match. He seems like a nice guy. He has a good voice and even sings some Indian classical music per Randy’s request. Keith votes no while Mariah and Randy say yes. It comes down to Nicki who gives him a yes and The Turbanator is going to Hollywood.
The last contestant of the night, Ashley, comes from a big family. Her family fosters and adopts medically complex children. She is pretty and seems like a genuinely sweet person. She sings “Go Put Your Records On” and she is great. Her voice has some old school soul and swagger to it. Nicki says she is inspired by her. Mariah says she has a lot of potential and Keith loves her lower register. Randy asks to meet her family. She brings them all in and they get to share in the joy as she gets four yes votes and goes to Hollywood.
With that the premier of season 12 of “American Idol” comes to an end. There was a little drama and a nice mix of good, bad and odd singers. Keith says he liked sitting in between Mariah and Nicki. As the previews roll we see that tomorrow night the drama between the judges erupts and all hell breaks loose as things heat up when the auditions move to Chicago.