OK, episode one of Season 12 is in the books.
We’ve seen the judges in action. We’ve met some contestants.
So, in true Idol Chatter fashion, let’s dole out some grades.
Nicki Minaj: She’s a chatterbox. She loves the camera, and the camera loves her. She growls. She makes weird faces. She slips into a British accent at times. Yet there were two occasions tonight where she tried to console singers who were rejected. Her best piece of advice: “It’s not your last chance until you decide it’s your last chance.” Or something to that effect. Proof that she knows this isn’t all about her. Grade: A.
Randy Jackson: The dawg judged. He suggested one contestant give up singing and find another hobby. He called one audition flat-out “terrible.” Of course, Randy has been the “tough” judge at this stage of the competition for the past couple of years. The cliches come in bunches once the live shows start and everyone’s talented. But for now … Grade: B.
Keith Urban: It’s gotta be tough for Keith to get much attention sitting between Mariah and Nicki, who seem to vie for camera time. And we didn’t really see him get tough with anyone, did we? But I have high hopes for Keith because I think he’s going to be a big-time upgrade over Steven Tyler. For now … Grade: Incomplete.
Mariah Carey: Mariah might need a reminder that it’s not all about her from time to time. After Christina Isabella dazzled the judges with a pitch-perfect “Summertime,” Mariah had to note that she used to sing that song all the time. When Nicki slipped into a British accent, Mariah mimicked it. She’s clearly looking for voice over flash, but she might need to bring more flash to her judging performance. Or else be content to judge in the shadow of Nicki. Grade: C+.
First, some general impressions …
* Idol has predicted a gal will win this year. Perhaps they’re trying to reinforce that way of thinking. They put the spotlight on six Hollywood bound females Wednesday and just two guys. Of the rejected or joke contestants, six were guys and only two were gals.
* Idol seemed to dwell less on heart-wrenching back-stories in the debut episode of Season 12. The most heart-wrenching was an aspiring Broadway performer who was diagnosed with cancer at age 19 and lost his leg to his fight with the disease. And, in a bit of a shocker, he didn’t get a golden ticket.
* Idol unveiled a new segment where viewers suggest contestants, then a judge goes out and invites them to audition. But they unveiled it in the strangest way because the contestant (nominated by her mom) wasn’t overly impressive and wound up not making it to Hollywood. It probably all turned out to be a bit embarrassing for the poor girl.
* My favorites from night 1: Tenna Torres, an aspiring pop princess who is at the top of Idol’s age limit; Berklee student Christina “Isabelle” for that impressive version of “Summertime;” and Sarah Restuccio, who sang country and rapped during her audition. You can hear more from Tenna here and from Sarah here. I’ll be posting videos of the other advancing contestants as soon as time permits.
* Favorite comedy bit from Wednesday: Came not from a “joke” contestant, but one who made it to Hollywood — Gurpreet Singh Sarin of Maryland, who says he owns 40 to 50 turbans, likes to match his turbans to his outfit and was dubbed the “turbanator.” And he got a golden ticket to Hollywood after telling Nicki he had a turban that matched the yellow-orange color of her hair, “but not all the other colors in there.”
* Idol still spends too much time on contestants we’ll never see again. More than 40 contestants got golden tickets in New York. We met eight contestants who advanced and eight who didn’t on Wednesday. After 12 years, I’ve just started tuning out when a contestant who obviously isn’t going to make it shows up on camera. I’m sure lots of other viewers do the same. Grade for episode 1: C+