Season 13 of “American Idol” kicked off on Wednesday night with an episode that I thought showed potential.
As for the ratings? Well, it depends on how you choose to view things. 15.2 million viewers and a 4.7 rating among adults 18-49? Know how many shows do those numbers these days? Hardly any. Know how many “Idol” premieres have done worse? Hardly any.
So there you go. Let’s get down to business. I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s episode, which I already know features one contestant who is going to make a lot of people feel old. The picture with this recap is a spoiler, but only if you know what it’s showing…
8:00 p.m. We open with a very good, very scruffy White Guy With Guitar singing Bob Dylan. He’s from Mafnolia, Texas and I guess his name is irrelevant. As long as he shaves, he may be fine.
8:02 p.m. We’re resuming our star search in Austin, even though we were told how many people made it through from Austin, which seemed to suggest we were done. J-Lo is all alone in the audition room in a belly shirt, where she’s eventually joined by Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.
8:03 p.m. Up first in The Chamber? Jesse Roach. She’s excited and nervous she tells us. It’s a weird format with the Chamber, because it makes us pretend that we’re READING JESSE’S MIND. But maybe people just read Jesse’s mind. She was practicing music in her garage and a neighbor stopped by and insisted she try out for “Idol.” I might be skipping a step or two there. Jesse has a deep, rich voice. It’s a bit untrained, but it’s also a totally different sound. I like her. America will never vote for her, with her tats and her black guitar. “You have a story that’s way older than you are,” Keith says. Harry praises her non-distracting rasp. Jesse gets three “Yes” votes.
8:06 p.m. Up next? Steven Curd, with a sweet voice and a guitar. And then big-voiced country yodeler Anna Melvin and Ryan Clark, who has a beard, but probably needs a guitar. Steven was the best of that group, but they’re all advancing.
8:07 p.m. Contestants in audition are there to get self-validation or whatever. I like best friends 15-year-old Jamiah Malik and17-year-old Quiandra Boston-Pearsall. He had no friends in school and she befriended him. Awww. They each agree that they’re rooting for each other. He’s got a decent original song and guitar and a warm personality. She’s got a big voice, but she might be a bit remote. They’e both kids, but they’ve both got potential. There are a bunch of “No” votes and a couple “Yes.” We don’t see who’s getting which votes.
8:14 p.m. It appears that Quiandra got the Gold Ticket. Jamiah is really up-beat despite not advancing. Awww. I hope he comes back next year. Quiandra has mixed emotions.
8:15 p.m. We’re on to Megan Miller, who feels Louisiana kinship with Harry Connick Jr. She’s got a really big, strong country voice, mostly without affectation. I don’t like the dancing she’s doing with her performance, but that’s a good voice. Harry is worried that Megan’s voice might blow out. “I have always been a powerhouse singer,” she says. Keith worries that it sounds like a lot of work and it may feel like effort for listeners. She gets three “Yes” voices. Her raspy excitement actually has *me* worried, too.
8:17 p.m. A 27-year-old piano player, Grace Fields also tries to bond with Harry. She uses her phone to set her pitch and then we discover how she’s a 27-year-old piano player and nobody ever suggested she should become a 27-year-old singer. “It was all over the place. It was frenetic,” Harry says. “It felt like the vibrato was a little bit out of control,” J-Lo says. She’s rejected and left with no clue what the judges are looking for.
8:19 p.m. We see some raspy guy with a guitar who’s decent and some glam guy, who’s awful. They both get “Yes” votes. J-Lo raves about how cute Spencer Lloyd is. Harry resents him. “Girls are going for this,” J-Lo says. Spencer sings a Colton Dixon song and he’s my first This Guy Could Win American Idol contestant of the season. He’s not a great singer and he’s not a great guitar player, but he’s a very commercial package. The judges all seem to agree that Spencer could be successful. “It’s an image thing,” Harry says. Spencer’s going to Hollywood.
8:27 p.m. I don’t want to see any more of the topless guy in red suspenders.
8:28 p.m. Also making a bold statement with a bow-tie is Marlon Lindsey, coming in off of several years in the arm. He slightly oversings “Change Is Gonna Come,” but there’s no doubt that he can sing. He’s going to Hollywood.
8:29 p.m. The idiot in the suspenders is hoping to help his movie career. He does a bunch of lame stand-up and a couple bad impressions. “Idol” gives his profession as “actor,” but I’m not giving this idiot a name. “You’ve disrespected the process,” Harry tells him. He’s sent packing.
8:30 p.m. Oh God. An African-American guy walks in. He looks almost nothing like Obama, but Harry tells him he looks like Obama and he does a so-so Obama impression. His name goes by too fast for me to retain it. It’s too bad, because he’s pretty solid. The judges love him. And now he’s stuck being Not-Really Obama Guy from now on. He gets three “Yes” votes. I like Harry, but at what point do we start noting the large number of strange and awkward racially-driven moments he’s already generated?
8:37 p.m. Did that girl make it? Yes. Oh.
8:37 p.m. Everything is on the line, especially for people with funny hats.
8:37 p.m. People behave weirdly in the Chamber.
8:38 p.m. Up next? Tonight’s surprise guest. It’s Tristen Langley. His mom…NIKKI MCKIBBIN. From “American Idol: Season 1.” You remember Nikki. She came weirdly close to winning. Inexplicably close. I’m so, so, so old. You’re so, so, so old. Guess what? Tristen is almost certainly better than his mother ever was. That being said, he’s only an OK vocalist and he’s hardly a guitarist at all. He’s exactly what you’d expect from a fairly talented 15-year-old kid. I’d certainly tell him to keep practicing and come back in two or three years. “This is history right here,” J-Lo says. “If mom weren’t here and the story weren’t here…” Harry hedges. J-Lo votes “Yes.” Harry votes “No.” Keith likes the story and votes Nikki Jr. through. J-Lo starts calling Harry “Dr. No.”
8:42 p.m. People with dreams. Lots of them. Taylor Stearns advances, as do a few other people who aren’t identified. Another couple people without names don’t advance.
8:48 p.m. I’m concerned by L.J. Hernandez. Appropriately so. I’m just ignoring the clowns this year. “Idol” is mostly ignoring them. But not entirely. Keith and J-Lo humor him. Harry does not. He’s not advancing, but he has a good attitude about it.
8:50 p.m. Oh. It’s the guy from the top of the show. His name is John Fox. He left college and moved home to do music. He’s now a worship leader and the Danny Gokey vibe is strong from this one. VERY strong. So many worship leaders. “Idol” apparently decided that the biggest problems last year were not enough worship leaders and not enough White Guys With Guitars. Skepticism aside, John’s very good. With some “Idol” styling, he could have a little potential. Maybe. He’s going to Hollywood.
8:54 p.m. The judges wake Ryan up to discuss the day. Not-Obama Guy was named T.K.
9:00 p.m. We’re off to San Francisco.
9:00 p.m. Harry’s sure they’re gonna find great people in San Fran. Keith wants to find unique people. J-Lo agrees.
9:01 p.m. Our first Bay Area contestant as a 17-year-old student whose mother wants to meet Keith. Rachel Lee Rolleri also wants to meet Keith. She’s got a ’70s folk singer voice. It’s a total old soul tone with honest emotion built in. She’s also quite fine on the guitar. She finishes and Keith corrects one of her chords. He does that with admiration, because he loves her voice. The other judges do as well. Keith warns her not to acknowledge when she messes up. “There’s no wrong notes, just the look on your face,” Keith tells her. Rachel advances because she’s good. Is Keith talking about her vocal “thickness”?
9:05 p.m. On to Athena Williford. She thinks she was born to do this. Remi Wolf went to the Junor Olympics twice. M.K. Nobilette has a guiltar that she doesn’t use, but she’s interesting. They’re going to Hollywood.
9:07 p.m. Entering caterwauling is Emmanuel Zidor. He’s a bit strange, but he’s got a good R&B voice. It’s not perfect, but it’s different from the other voices we’ve heard so far this season. “I believe you when you sing,” J-Lo says. Emmanuel cries when he remembers his seventh grade teacher telling him he could never be on “American Idol.” Once again… We’re all old.
9:14 p.m. FOX is definitely pushing “Rake.”
9:14 p.m. The judges are a loving family. J-Lo’s kids are here! And they’re playing with Harry! And it’s adorable.
9:15 p.m. Harry has jewelry issues.
9:15 p.m. Samuel Ramsey promises a jazzier rendition of “I Want You Back.” However, it doesn’t fit with Harry’s definitely of “jazzy.” Harry also wants to make it clear that “pitchy” also isn’t a word. It’s a New Day on “Idol.”
9:16 p.m. Nobody believes that Caitlin Johnson is only 15. She lives on a horse ranch, but she likes to sing blues. I like Caitlin’s attitude and her voice is good as well. Harry says she needs more time and votes “No.” J-Lo pauses and things. Keith thinks she has an extraordinary voice and votes “Yes.” It’s up to J-Lo. Caitlin is advancing.
9:19 p.m. I’m not interested in hearing Ronald James Reed. He wants to end famine, war and disease. Good for him! Do I really need to watch him sing? He’s very excited to see J-Lo. Not surprisingly, Ronald isn’t much of a singer. It’s not the worst guitar we’ve heard, but his voice is clenched and unpleasant. J-Lo calls him “sweetie” and Ronald freaks out, but he can’t believe it when she says his voice isn’t strong enough. Harry tells him he’s objectively not good. Ronald cries and leaves. “My voice will resound! It’s gonna be monumental. It’s gonna change things,” Ronald says.
9:22 p.m. I felt like we emphasized good singers much more last night. I liked that.
9:27 p.m. People in San Francisco are very affectionate.
9:28 p.m. On to 26-year-old singer-songwriter David Luning, who is probably damn good. He’s exactly the wrong sort of person for “American Idol,” but he’s got more evident talent, of a certain type, than anybody we’ve seen tonight. J-Lo says he’s “interesting” and that she can hear him on a record. Keith is on the fence. Harry thinks David’s original was very down and “Idol” is a happy show. J-Lo votes “Yes.” He advances. This is probably good for his exposure. But “Idol” will probably eat him alive if he advances beyond Hollywood. Harry does a rather hilarious impression of a potential David Luning rendition of “Saving All My Love For You.”
9:32 p.m. Selena and Sierra Moreno are twins. Or, rather, they’re TWINNIES. Selena goes first. She’s fine. Sierra goes next. She’s better than Selena. Neither of them is great, but I’d put Sierra through and send Selena packing. J-Lo thinks Selena’s performance was force, but Sierra did a little better. Keith preferred Selena’s voice, but preferred Sierra’s performance. Harry says that one of them is clearly better and that, as a set, they won’t make it. He’s prepared to make a single choice. After the commercial.
9:40 p.m. The judge split the sisters. Selena gets three “Yes” votes. Only J-Lo votes “Yes” on Sierra. Bah. I disagree completely. But Harry makes it sound like it was self-evident. I’m not convinced of that. Neither of them was great enough for either of them to be so obviously the “best.”
9:42 p.m. Lots of other people are sent home. People enter The Chamber happy and leave sad.
9:43 p.m. But The Chamber can also be a portal to superstardom? Briana Oakley is back! She was good last season. She was only 16 then. Predictably, she’s 17 now. Keith remembers her. Or pretends to. “Can you tell those two your name,” he bluffs. Oh yeah. She’s really good. Last year was such a strong year for women that I’m not sure if leaving Briana out was a mistake. But leaving her out this year probably would be. She’s light years beyond most of the girls we’ve seen. J-Lo compares her to Jordin Sparks. Harry likes that she opens her mouth. She’s going to Hollywood.
9:50 p.m. Kudos to Rico Perkins for singing “I’ve got a Golden Ticket.” Aranesa Turner also mines the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” songbook. They both advance.
9:51 p.m. Well, at least we know that Gaddy Foster works out. He’s quite buff. Harry hugs him appreciative. He does not, however, sing. Enough! He gets three “No” votes. Gaddy thinks his problem was nerves.
9:53 p.m. Tuvan throat singing dude! He’s Adam Roth. Oh. Not Tuvan. He’s a sound-healer. He thinks music is the most powerful thing there is. He tries explaining to the judges what he does. Leaving aside the corniness of his New Agey persona, Adam’s version of “Halleluyah” is very pleasant and shows a fair amount of musical dexterity. “I feel guilty and unclean. Like I need to go to confession or something,” Harry says. Keith is “baffled.” J-Lo wasn’t sure if he was forcing it or fake. Harry votes “No.” J-Lo votes “Yes.” Keith goes “Yes.” Adam is, um, emotional.
9:57 p.m. I thought Adam was decent, but not end-of-show good. I wish they’d ended with Briana.
9:58 p.m. I’m gonna be at Sundance next week. I’m either gonna be missing the recapping or I may get a fill-in. Unclear.
Who’d you like tonight?