"Life can change … in a heartbeat,"
On "Idol," as recent seasons have shown, the mix of judges can change in a heartbeat, too. And if last year's combustible concoction — which included distinctly non-BFFs
The three judges combined to create an easygoing vibe that also didn't lack for spice and flavor. Connick, who finally put forever judge Randy Jackson out of his misery at the judging table, was the key ingredient. Jackson, bless his well-meaning heart and overused terminology, never seemed quite comfortable sliding into
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Connick, however, seems determined to summon his own considerable musical expertise to provide real, honest feedback to the contestants — as well as his fellow judges, teaching Lopez, not to mention the rest of us, about pentatonics (the key to the five notes singers do runs on, he explained), just for example. "What's wrong with challenging America?" he asked.
Indeed. And Connick's affable, self-deprecating, dad-like humor and flair for what will play well on TV (he has Emmys in addition to Grammys on his shelf, don't forget) will help those lessons go down easy. He not only swapped puns, knock-knock jokes and silly quips with the pleasant, apparently sweet-smelling (according to at least one contestant's mother) Urban and gently suggested that Lopez and her "goosies" were too easily impressed, but he also made a funny running gag of being less recognizable to and adulated by the show's young contestants.
While J.Lo got contestants who couldn't believe she was looking at them — or that they were looking at her — and were moved to tears by proximity to her fame and beauty, Connick got youthful singers struggling to remember his name and offering comments like, "My mother loves you." Ouch.
Except for one fan. Munfarid Zaidi, 19, raised in Texas, born in Pakistan, couldn't have cared less about Lopez and Urban. "I read your
Zaidi's amusing turn before the judges was one of several memorable auditions on Wednesday, when "Idol" looked to Boston and Austin, Texas, for talent and handed out a total of 46 golden tickets to Hollywood. Other standouts included:
—Marielle Sellers, a 17-year-old singer who tried out with
—Sweet-faced, grandparent-raised Florida 17-year-old Sam Woolf, whose fast take on "
—Ethan Thompson, 23, who may be this year's answer to Phillip Phillips
—Eighteen-year-old Lindsey Pedicone, whose smooth tone made Connick gush, "We're grooving over here."
—Jillian Jensen, a 21-year-old singer whom
—Austin Percario, a 17-year-old pop-star wannabe with a stage mom, whose raspy-clean voice Urban suspected sounded like "
—Kaitlyn Jackson, who, though only 15, auditioned with a song she'd written herself about her late grandpa. "She's smart and she has heart," Lopez said.
—Cute handyman Keith London, 21, who made
—Big dude Shanon Wilson, a 24-year-old former football player whose vocals floored the judges much as his mere presence seemed to have done to
—Savion Wright, a 21-year-old Texan who waited to audition until he felt he was ready, and showed how ready he was with an original song. "The one thing that came to mind that you are really going to have to work on is how to be nice to people," Connick told him, "because the other competitors … are going to be very intimidated by you."
—Twenty-four-year-old valet parker Justin Fira, whose golden ticket to Hollywood meant "I'm done parking cars, baby!"
—Madelyn Patterson, 22, whose "Up to the Mountain" earned a "double yes" from Lopez.
—Viviana Villalon, 19, who played Maroon 5's "Love Somebody" on the ukulele. Yes, she did.
—Ben Boone, 22, who gave Lopez her "first goosies of the season."
—Twenty-one-year-old Malcolm Allen, whose "Superstition" showed he was talented and interaction with the judges ("I'm literally in love with music. If I could marry it, I would," he told them) showed he was funny and charming. "So natural for you I want to throw this pen at you," Lopez said, strangely. Thankfully, she didn't chuck her writing implement, but gave him gave him a "triple yes" instead.
Thursday night, in Part 2 of the Season 13 premiere, we'll get more Austin auditions and a move to San Francisco.
Did you have any favorites from Part 1?