8:00 p.m. ET Welcome to the chaos of “American Idol” Hollywood Week and, most particularly, the debut of Ellen DeGeneres as permanent “American Idol” judge.
8:01 p.m. I don’t think I’ve ever done Hollywood Week as a live-blog, so this may be a mistake. There’s much too much to process. We’ll see how this goes and maybe I’ll do something different tomorrow.
[Full recap of Tuesday’s (Feb. 9) “American Idol” after the break…]
8:02 p.m. The hopefuls are ready and eager to do their very best, as they take their seats at the Kodak Theatre.
8:02 p.m. “I do know what it’s like to stand on stage and try to please an entire roomful of people,” Ellen says, introducing herself to the hopefuls. Then, oddly, Ryan Seacrest tells Ellen the kind of judge she’s going to be. Very strange. Even Ellen isn’t interested. She sits on the panel with a crack about Simon’s pending departure. Score one for Ellen.
8:04 p.m. We start with the contestants in groups of eight. They can sing with or without instrumentation. They’re either through to the next round, or sent home immediately. The first group includes Katie Stevens, who has been taking care of her grandmother. You’ll recall her from the premiere. She’s actually much better tonight. Good smoky vocal tone and not oversinging at all. Richard Rushfield may be right about her. Simon calls her “quite good,” while Randy remembers her natural talent.
8:05 p.m. Up next? The awesomeness of Skiiboski. He isn’t that great, but I love his personality and being able to say Skiiboski. “You frighten me,” Ellen says, comparing him to a leopard in a cage. “Don’t frighten your audience,” Ellen says, trying to explain the fine line between sexy and scary. She isn’t wrong. Score two for Ellen!
8:07 p.m. Skiiboski is sent home. Katie, though, is safe. “I just gotta know, what was it?” Skiiboski asks. “You’re just not a very good singer,” Simon instructs him simply.
8:11 p.m. Four minutes have passed. I still miss Skiiboski.
8:12 p.m. Simon has been unhappy, albeit mostly unhappy at contestants we’ve never seen before. Meanwhile, Ellen is off to a good start, cracking jokes and even issuing criticism.
8:12 p.m. Vanessa Wolfe, bridge jumping country girl, and gang-escaping family man Andrew Garcia are in the next televised group. Garcia starts things off with a pretty excellent guitar-driven remix of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” He’s so good we see almost all of his performance. Kara calls it “genius” and says that Paula would be screeming and yelling. Ellen does a terrific version of the Paula clap. Oh Paula. Do we miss you? Not yet!
8:15 p.m. Wow. We’re really selling Vanessa as a hick. It’s a bit contemptuous, really. But can she sing? I don’t even remember. She’s got an interesting voice, more twang than actual tone. Ellen accuses her of hiding inside and asks her to embrace who she is.
8:17 p.m. Andrew goes on, along with cutie worship pastor Tasha Layton. And just like that, Vanessa’s done. At least she has another air-o-plane ride to look forward to.
8:18 p.m. More people I don’t remember are sent home. And we spend more time on Vanessa’s exit. How sad. She feels like she failed. Oh, sweetie. What about the air-o-plane?
8:22 p.m. Cornelius Edwards, who nearly busted his crotch in his audition, is doomed. Maegan Wright, who spells her first name funny, is going home. And Big Gregarious Ethnic Stereotype Amadeo DiRocco begs for another chance, but he’s sent backing.
8:24 p.m. I don’t remember Janell Wheeler, but we allegedly met this Brooke White-alike in Orlando. She does some good guitar work. Ellen calls her amazing and Simon is also pleased. She’s safe.
8:25 p.m. While playing instruments helped Andrew and Janell, it wasn’t a boon to a bunch of folks we’ve never seen before. One piano player is so awful that even Randy has to insult him. Ouch.
8:26 p.m. Denver auditioner Haeley Vaughn, notable as an African-American country-ish singer, does much better with her guitar, even ending with an appealing little giggle. She’s pretty polished for 16.
8:27 p.m. I vaguely remember Mary Powers from her Los Angeles audition, but her daughter was more memorable at the time. But goodness! She’s great and projects tremendously in the big theater.
8:28 p.m. Two people we’ve never seen before are sent home, but Haeley and Mary are both through to the next day. Both are tearful.
8:28 p.m. Ellen plays a funny game with the last group, rearranging them on the stage and telling them that they’re safe. “That was great,” says Kara, who is mighty worshipful of her new judging colleague. Simon calls her a sadist. So far? I have no complaints about Ellen. She’s contributed, but she hasn’t stood out.
8:34 p.m. Day Two! And it could be the most important day in the lives of the remaining singers. He tells them not to forget the words. Foreshadowing!
8:35 p.m. Lilly Scott? She’s new, but we’re meeting her now. We’re meeting her because… YIKES. She’s a bit amazing. She sounds like she’s in a recording booth. Utterly flawless. Simon cuts her off, but not in a negative way. Kara has praise. And she makes it through to the next day. Think we’ll see her again?
8:37 p.m. Personal trainer Big Mike Lynche is about to audition when he learns that his wife’s water just broke. Can he keep his composure? He’s like a gigantic, buff Jack Johnson. Take that as you will. He isn’t going to be sent home today. His baby will have to wait.
8:44 p.m. Cancer survivor Justin Williams is waiting nervously, as is Tim Urban, who we didn’t meet in his audition. Tim was pretty weak in his audition, which is why we didn’t see it. But he’s much better now. Kara didn’t love the chorus, but otherwise thought Tim was pretty good. As for Justin, he sits at a keyboard and has Kara salivating. The crowd loves him, as if they’ve heard his triumph-over-adversity story. But Randy only calls him “interesting.” Interesting isn’t good enough. Justin is done, but Tim is moving on.
8:47 p.m. We say farewell to that girl with the whip and to the two trashy, talentless Jersey girls.
8:48 p.m. Maddy Curtis, the teen girl with the brothers with Down Syndrome, sounds nervous and pitchy, especially in her upper register. Simon blames the song, but Maddy vows to do better next time.
8:49 p.m. Up next is Casey James, who Kara urged to strip. I didn’t think he was very good in that audition, but with a guitar, he becomes much more convincing. He’ll sound silly on some theme nights, but he’s a great bar-band performer.
8:50 p.m. Casey moves on. Maddy does not.
9:00 p.m. I had a little technological failure and lost 10 minutes of blogging. During those 10 minutes, both Didi Benami and Crystal Bowersox performed, were excellent and advanced. Leaving aside Andrew Garcia, my four favorites of the night were Didi, Crystal, Lilly and Janell, four blondes with guitars. If you’re looking for a theme on this season’s “American Idol,” that might be it. Or else the judges may determine that they can only put two or three of them through. That would be a bit sad. [Throw Mary Powers into that group as well, even if she’s a brunette and didn’t play the guitar, she rocked.]
9:01 p.m. I wasn’t high on the talent this season after the audition episodes, but tonight was a real boost. I’m suddenly a little jazzed about this season of “American Idol.” And I can’t wait until people start really performing and I can limit myself to doing minute-by-minute recaps of the Wednesday shows. There’s just no good way to blog auditions! SORRY!
So who’d you like from Night One of Hollywood Week? And how’d Ellen do?