First off, Dan is fine. He was planning to be with all of you today, but alas, it was not to be. He called me shortly after he landed in Park City, Utah (where he’s on deck to cover Sundance) and asked me to pinch hit, as the wi-fi there was on the fritz. There are very few things that can keep Dan from his appointed rounds (he’s like a postal carrier that way), but an inability to actually file a story will take any reporter down at the knees. To complicate matters, I was in Santa Clarita visiting the set of “Vegas” at the time, so I’m also coming to the party a little late (thus, the lack of live blogging). My apologies in advance if this seems a little harried because, well… it is. So let’s get on with the show!
8:00 p.m. ET Philip Phillips performs “Home.” You turned a pawn shop worker into a star, America!
8:02 p.m. Ryan uses his serious voice to tell us that “history has shown that an American Idol can do anything.” Really? Has anyone told Taylor Hicks this? Oh, and the stars of previous seasons have dominated every facet of the entertainment industry. If, by dominating they mean Jennifer Hudson.
8:03 p.m. Time to meet Keith Urban. He seems perfectly pleasant. And then…
8:04 p.m. Nicki Minaj is bringing “a little style” back to the table. She’s the first female solo artist to have seven singles on the Hot 100 at the same time. She’s one artist everyone is clamoring to work with! Except, um, probably Mariah Carey. Who has not only a “five octave range,” but is “the definition of diva.”
8:05 p.m. “It’s amazing… because it matters. It’s a dawn of a brand new season. Together, we’ll take the journey that defines a nation.” Jeez, I’ve heard less hype during an election cycle.
8:08 p.m. The judges arrive, and as Mariah Carey gets out of her limo, someone says, “Oh, she is fabulous.” NIcki Minaj gets “Oh. My. God.” We do not get the fabulous entry for Randy or Keith.
8:09 p.m. Nicki declares everything “so bobilicious.” And, then the Mariah-Nicki fighting begins! My, that didn’t take long, did it? Mariah sniffs that she would have brought her dog if she had known they were allowed to bring in accessories, gesturing toward Nicki’s feathered drum major hat. Nicki tells her to play nice, and then they start talking about whether or not Mariah was giving Nicki’s hat dirty looks in the elevator and I think I’m already a little bored with this.
8:10 p.m. Michael Buonopane of Saugus, MA has to stomp onto the stage singing his own lyrics about “American Idol” to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” He’s got a big personality, perhaps too big, because he keeps riffing through different genres (did I hear the Four Seasons in there? And reggaeton? Really?) without taking a breath. I don’t think he’s all that bad, though he blows a few notes, but that’s probably nerves. But clearly, I’m too kind. Randy and Nicki quickly give him no votes, while Mariah gives him a yes just for kicks. Mike tells her “‘All I Want for Christmas’ is the best modern-day Christmas song,” which leads to…
8:11 p.m. A genuinely weird exchange between Mariah and Nicki, in which Mariah tells Nicki in a flutey voice that “All I Want for Christmas” is still number one 17 years later and Nicki thrusts out her fists and grimmaces and Mariah says, “If she calls me something that starts with a B and ends with an itch, I rebuke it. I had to watch this twice to have any idea what happened, and I’m still not sure.
8:16 p.m. We return from the commercial break to watch Mariah and Nicki getting their hair and make-up fixed during a break. And why are we seeing this? Because they’re fighting! Mariah says, “I wanna lose three pounds,” which Nick helpfully informs her she can offer her advice. Mariah sighs and explains that “I wanna lose three pounds” is a quote from “Mean Girls,” and if she knew “Mean Girls” she’d, like, get that. But Nicki DOES know “Mean Girls”! But does she know who said this? If I shut my eyes, I can imagine this is an argument between two 11-year-old girls. Because, really, it is.
8:17 p.m. Ryan explains that our new judges are very “passionate.” So, we get a brief montage of Nicki and Mariah spewing passion at one another. Mariah calls her daaahling and Nicki makes faces and clawing motions.
8:18 p.m. Tenna Torres from Queens is a 28-year-old superfan who has been listening to Mariah since she was 5. She went to Camp Mariah when she was little, and she got to sing for her there. I’ll bet this makes Mariah feel REALLY old once she finds out Tenna is 28. But first, Tenna gives Mariah photos of herself at camp and calls her Mimi, so Mariah automatically loves her and Nicki automatically rolls her eyes. Tenna’s going to sing “You’ve Got A Friend.”
8:20 p.m. Thank God, Tenna is great. Mariah, who is probably hugely relieved that an alumna of Camp Mariah is not one of the pathetic auditions, loved it. Keith thought she had patioent and pace, and Nicki loved her, so she’s through to Hollywood. Mariah gives her back her photos, but requests a copy of one of them “whenever you can, sweetie.”
8:21 p.m. A montage of great singers. And one talented guy with a bizarre head scarf wadded up on the side of his head.
8:23 p.m. So, now that we’ve had so much goodness, it’s probably time for someone to stink up the joint. James Bae is 15 and he’s from Long Island. “I’m a rap artist and a pop artist. I want to be just like Justin Bieber! If I get a yes today, it will be a miracle.” The tape is rewound so we can hear “it will be a miracle” twice. Huh. He tells Keith Urban he sings in his room, pretending it’s a concert, so he can get ready for the real one. He knows what the audience wants! He’s going to sing Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.” And yeah, he sucks. Hugely. Nicki asks him if he has a girlfriend. Gosh, he’s single! And he promises her they’re going to “do a collide” someday. She would prefer to do a collaboration. Oh, no, don’t encourage him. Mariah suggests he become a DJ. Randy finally tells him not to sing. Ever. Nicki clearly can’t stand to see his little face crumple up, so she holds his hand and tells him he’s special, and that she loves that he owns it. And she gives him a hug and promises she’ll never forget him.
8:26 p.m. In the interview room, James reveals he’s not really disappointed, “because in the end, Nicki Minaj kissed me.”
8:32 p.m. Christina “Isabelle” is next. I am not getting why “Isabelle” is in quotation marks, but it is. She’s so excited to be there! “You’re all so beautiful!” she gushes. She struggled with her weight in high school, so she lost fifty pounds before college. Randy comments that high school girls can be so mean, then asks her if she watched “Mean Girls.” C’mon, let’s not try out the inside jokes on the contestants, judges. They’re already nervous.
8:33 p.m. Mariah loves her right up until the moment Christina says she loved her growing up and now she wants “to bring those great singers back.” Mariah manages to say, “Thank you, darling” without throwing a Coca-Cola cup at her. Still, Christina’s going to Hollywood.
8:35 p.m. Mariah didn’t go to no school! She went to the school of motherbleeping life!
8:36 p.m. Evan Ruggiero, 21, started dancing at a young age and dreamt of Broadway but then he got bone cancer and lost a leg. God, I hope he can sing. He sings Jason Mraz. Then, he plays Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” while playing his guitar. He can sing, but he shouldn’t have started with Mraz. Keith isn’t sure he has star factor. Mariah thinks he should take some time and decide on what his style is. Nicki thinks he’s going to touch a lot of people by auditioning. Randy thinks he could do well if he finds his niche. It’s all no, but they want him to come back. Mariah tells him he’s inspired her. I thought the Bon Jovi song was good. Dammit.
8:46 p.m. Time for a singer nominated by a viewer! Jessica Kartalis’ mom recommended her, but she did it too soon, because the 19-year-old screws up her guitar playing and admits she wants the show to mold her instead of declaring she has a niche. It’s a pass.
8:55 p.m. Shira Gavrielov, 23, is from Israel, where she had a number one hit at 17. Yeah, she can sing. Nicki LOVES her and declares her a superstar. And of course, she’s going to Hollywood.
8:58 p.m. Frankie Ford, 24, was adopted, grew up in a rough part of Brooklyn, and sings on the train to make money. And he starts off with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” which sounds pretty good until he stops. Keith likes him. So does Randy. Frankie assures them he’s going to work, and I have no doubt he will. Mariah thinks he has an inner glow. Nicki doesn’t think he has the best voice, but she thinks people will like him. Frankie Goes to Hollywood! And that ends day one.
9:08 p.m. Mariah and Nicki start talking about beauty lighting and it sort of gets bitchy and I swear, I don’t understand what the hell is going on between these two. Although I would totally believe that all the so-called fighting is fake.
9:09 p.m. Benajmin Gaisey, 27, is wearing a Michael Jackson Halloween costume and a wig, so seriously, why are they putting him on the air? Of course he can’t sing. Nicki asks him to sing a little extra so everyone can laugh at him. Keith crawls under the table. Mariah admits it’s a little over the top. NIcki tells him she really likes him, but he’s not for this show. Randy tells him his voice is terrible. He walks out, his plastic pants squeaking away.
9:16 p.m. Rozanna Shindelman, 21, doesn’t usually sing in public. She mostly sings for her parents. Yeah, they might be a little deaf. “Dude, it was bad,” Randy says. Was it bad? Rozanna asks. Yeah, Keith says.
9:20 p.m. Another montage of badness
9:22 p.m. Sarah Restuccio is a Jersey girl who works on a blueberry farm and sings country songs. Nicki and Mariah think she could be a great country star. Randy wants to sing something else, so she raps “Superbass” for Nicki. Keith is on the fence, but I think Nicki will take him out if he doesn’t vote for her. And Mariah’s taking Nicki’s side. Keith caves. She’s going to Hollywood!
9:30 p.m. Mariah gives the little people some words of encouragement. Albert Chang, however, doesn’t know who the hell she and the other new judges are. He’s 25, from Queens and he works as a receptionist. He’s going to sing “Phantom of the Opera” horribly and with a screeching segment. Nicki tells him his range is better than Mariah’s! And she has the BEST RANGE IN THE WORLD. I think Nicki’s being sarcastic. Then, she imitates Mariah’s fake British accent. Oh, yes, day two and this is already going to hell in a handbasket.
9:33 p.m. A montage of Nicki doing the fake British thing, and Mariah being annoyed by this.
9:34 p.m. Angela Miller, 18, has hearing loss. She sings Jessie J surprisingly well, though she may not know that. Mariah thinks she has a real tone and a beautiful texture. She’s going to Hollywood.
9:42 p.m. Brent Holt, 28, is a huge “American Idol” trivia freak, sort of. Actually, he’s just a fan of auditioning for the show. This makes his seventh attempt. And no, he can’t sing. Even though they put together a dream sequence that goes on far too long to make this funny when it’s just sad.
9:45 p.m. Gupreet Singh Sarin, 22, is The Turbanator, because he wears a turban and he does a mean traditional Indian dancing. And he has a lovely voice, really, a little thin, but lovely. Randy wants to hear him sing sargams, which is Indian classical music, and that’s nice, too. Nicki likes his look but his voice isn’t strong. Keith agrees. But Mariah gives him a yes, and so does Randy. Keith makes his no official, so it’s down to Nicki. So, she gives him a yes.
9:54 p.m. You know, I was just thinking we’ve only had a few really sad, inspiring stories tonight… but wait! Ashlee Feliciano‘s mom and dad foster and adopt medically complex children. I have never heard this phrase before, but I’m sure it’s accurate. We see little kids toddling around a living room and being adorable. Ashlee cries a little and says she loves her parents. Of course, Ashlee sings beautifully. NIcki is inspired and thinks little girls will be inspired by her, too. Mariah thinks she should be proud of herself, and Keith loves her tone. Word of the day is tone. Randy asks her to bring in her huge family. Look, lots of adorable medically complex children! And Ashlee’s going to Hollywood!
9:58 p.m. The day is over, and 41 people were selected to go to Hollywood from the New York auditions. Nicki declares that, in a “weird, crazy way,” the judges’ panel jells well. Mariah agrees! Either the feuding is fake, they both really, really like “Mean Girls,” or “weird, crazy” jelling means something different to these two than it does to most people.
Did you see anyone you liked? What did you think of the new judges? And do you believe Mariah and Nicki are really at one another’s throats?