Another season of American Idol is upon us, boys and girls! I’m giddy with anticipation. I’m so glad to hear they are showing more talent and less crazy people in the initial audition rounds this year. Nothing annoys me more than a person who makes the Top 24 whom we have never seen before. We’ve got two hours tonight and two hours tomorrow so strap in, folks.

As a little background… I didn’t come into Idol until season 2. I adore Kelly Clarkson but I unfortunately missed her rise to stardom on this show. My favorite past Idols include Carrie Underwood, Bo Bice, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kimberly Locke. I was also once dragged to the Iowa State Fair by my mother to see Clay Aiken in concert. I enjoyed his "Rosanna." Tonight I have cracked open a 2006 Zinfandel and am ready to rock. Bring on the montages, talented singers, new judge Kara, Seacrest-Cowell homoeroticism, Randy’s "dawgs" and Paula’s slurred shenanigans. THIS… IS AMERICAN IDOL! [Ba-dah-da-da-da-da-da-da-buh-daaaahhh]

We immediately have a great montage of past Idols, past crazy people and past judges’ wackiness set to "What a Wonderful World." Ahh, this is the Idol I know and love. Hey, it’s Elliot Yamin! I forgot all about him! His mom was so cute. My roommate during that season was in lurve with Elliot, but she also was in love with Mr. Tumnus from Narnia so there ya go. More montages of Golden Tickets and rejects and some scenery falling down and inexplicably some bikini-clad harlot frenching Ryan Seacrest. This airs at 8 pm/7 central, right?

Seacrest and The Lovin’ Spoonful kick us off from Phoenix, Arizona. Our judges arrive, including new judge Kara DioGuardi, and they settle in for the auditions. FIrst up is Tuan Nguyen, who is singing and tap dancing and doing some drill team moves? It’s unclear. His song choice is "The Way You Make Me Feel," which always makes me think of Center Stage. Tuan has some trouble staying in key and THEN he busts out the tap. Yikes. He goes on his merry way to "Careless Whisper," which makes me think of barefoot Paul from season 6, which just grosses me out. Moving on…

Emily Wynne-Hughes is a rocker with an awesome, beautiful singer mom. It’s like Bizarro World Katharine McPhee and her mother. Emily sings "Barracuda" and she totally rocks it. I’d love to hear her sing "What About Love?" or "Magic Man." I love me some Heart. I heart Heart, if you will. The judges completely agree and send her through with flying colors as the strains of "Alone" kick up. What a perfect song, because she’s ditching her all-girl rock band to do American Idol and the song is by Heart. I bet the editors were just wetting themselves over that coincidence.

Rocker Randy Madden is our next victim. He’s 28? He’s 42 if he’s a day. This love-child of Axl Rose and Slash thinks he is "tremensly" talented. He sings "Livin on a Prayer" and it’s not good. Randy (and Tuan from earlier) fall into that category of people who can kinda sing but when forced to be acapella really fall apart. Randy starts crying in front of the judges, which really blows the "rocker" image. He should be singing "Close to You" by The Carpenters. "Dust in the Wind" carries our Rocker with a Heart of Gold on his way. He cries some more outside. This is gross. He cites his "leather pants in Arizona" as a sign of his dedication. Dude. Really?

J.B. Ahfua is next, singing "Flying Without Wings." It’s really beautiful and clear, especially for a 16 year-old kid. He gets through unanimously, though Simon tells him to loosen up a little. Aww, what a cutie! He gets hugs all around from his father and brothers out in the hall and he cries. See, this is good crying. Randy Madden? Bad crying. J.B. Ahfua? Good crying. Y’all know the difference, right? Right.

We now focus on uber-nervous Michael Gurr, who is sweating and crazy and sings what is supposed to be "Starts with Goodbye." He sounds like Ed Kowalczyk passing a kidney stone. Dear lord in heaven. Michael is quickly dispatched and then seems to have a little fit in the hallway to the strains of the "Jaws" theme. Umm… okay.

We now get a montage of people butchering classics like "Mad World," "It’s All Coming Back to Me Now" and "I’ll Never Love This Way Again." They are done by a nerdy emo guy, a Clay Aiken lookalike and some kind of drag queen. They lead into X-Ray, a coke-fiend guitar player. He’s singing "Cactus Baby." Is that a real song? He’s like if the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz and Mitch Hedberg had a kid.

Back to the good people… Arianna is a 16 year-old from San Diego who founded Adopt a Grand-friend, which is teenagers performing for seniors in nursing homes. Oh my goodness. Can’t even hate her, that’s very sweet. She’s so smiley and good-hearted. I call Top 10 right now. She sings "Put Your Records On," which is pretty secondary to her beautiful face and Adopt a Grand-friend program. Hahaha. Simon is gazing at her with dollar signs in his eyes and she goes through unanimously.

Day 2 kicks off with a montage of falsetto-singing men, which leads into Elijah Scarlett, a skinny dude who has a speaking voice like a professional defensive lineman. Oh my  lord. He sings "My First, My Last, My Everything" and it’s not good. He can’t sing. But maybe this stint on American Idol will get him some voiceover work because he could certainly do voiceovers. Paula suggests this about 45 seconds after I type it. Nice to know she can keep up.

Pink cowboy hat-wearing 16 year-old Lea Marie is up next. She may be Kara DioGuardi’s biggest stalker. Lea sings "Everytime We Touch," which is one of my guilty-pleasure songs. I can bust a move to that sucker. Lea is a little nasal, but not bad. I’d like to hear this girl sing something else. Simon says terrible, Kara cites her nasal problem and no one puts her through. Lea takes it in stride and says, "See you next year, judges." Oh boy. Something to look forward to.

Stevie Wright (named for Stevie Nicks) is our first good singer of the day. She sings "At Last" and it is good. Man, she sounds so much older than 16. Good golly. All the judges agree, Randy saying that no matter what her age she has it going on. No doubt. Well done, Stevie.

Giant hulk-of-a-man Michael Sarver is next. He’s a rough-neck on an oil rig, which is the 5th most dangerous job in the world. Good god. I think my panties just burst into flames. Awww, he has a pretty blonde wife and two pretty blonde children. He sings "Thank You" and his Southern twang is good on this song. The judges all agree that he doesn’t sound how he looks but that they like it anyway. He’s through to Hollywood.

Bikini girl. Yeah, we’ve all seen the commercials with her. I think she’s gross. She says she’s gotten attention from her looks (no kidding!) and insists that she and Ryan are going to make out when she gets her golden ticket. Her name is Katrina and she sings "Vision of Love" and the problem is that this girl has a decent voice but not a good ear. There is a HUGE difference. She has some good lines in the piece but some really bad lines too, and if she wasn’t pretty and near-naked she would never make it through. Kara gives her own version of the song and it’s way better than Katrina’s. Katrina changes keys about 3 times in the ending alone. She really does NOT have the chops to sing that song. Simon and Randy put her through and it’s gross. They KNOW she’s not good enough and this is one of the Idol stunts that makes me hate this show. Seriously. When she’s through to Hollywood she lays a smooch on Ryan Seacrest to the strains of "I Kissed a Girl (and I Liked It)," which is too funny for words.

Our next singer is Eric Thomas, aka Sexual Chocolate. Um, ew. He shows us his tattoo and it seems to say "Sexual Chacolate." Snerk. He sings "Ribbon in the Sky" and the best thing about his audition is his exit music, which is "The Candy Man" by Sammy Davis Jr. This leads into a great montage of rejects that includes: a crying little girl, a bitchy white trash perm girl, a fat Lisa Loeb in a hat from 1992, a sad Brooke White, and a girl wearing some hypercolor? Yikes.

Brianna Quijada is our next auditionee and she is beyond excited. She sings "Let’s Hear it for the Boy," which is a great song. Simon cites her good personality and they ask for a little "Killing Me Softly." If you hum a few bars, I’ll fake it! She starts and stops a few times and it’s not so good, though there is a lot of potential there. Randy and Kara say no, then Paula says yes and finally Simon puts her through. That was unexpected. I hope she works on her stuff before the Hollywood rounds.

The next singer is Deanna Brown, a sweet lil’ southern girl who sings "Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay" and actually has a very Stevie Nicks-y voice. She should’ve sung "Edge of Seventeen" or "Go Your Own Way." The judges like her and her interesting voice. She is through unanimously. Cool. I like Deanna. She calls her mama in Kentucky and I tear up a little.

Cody Sheldon is our next guy. He’s a 17 year-old maker of horror movies, which is kick-ass. I hope he gets through. He sings "Wonderful World" by James Morrison. He has a very pop-friendly voice. He’s like the Emo David Archuleta. Hahaha. I wonder if his video of pre-teen girls losing their crap over him not winning will include some splatter-movie gore.

Alex is our cute Clay Aiken-guy from Studio City, CA. He used to sing in the closet but now he is out. Heh heh. I beat Simon to the "closet" joke by about 30 seconds. Snerk. He sings "Baby Come to Me" by James Ingram. This is one of the rare contestants who surprises the judges. This voice is totally unexpected out of this guy and it’s pretty good. He gets through on "yesses" from Randy, Kara and Paula.

Montage of "Wanted Dead or Alive" feature a creepy Elvis Costello-meets-Greg Proops, a hippie woman, an extra from The Office, an angry wrestler, an 80s beauty queen, the Barry White guy, rat boy, X-Ray, skanky Bikini Girl, freaking Michael Gurr, a guy with a nervous tic, Tuan the ‘Fro Guy, a girl who thinks she’s Lakisha Jones, Lea Marie out in the desert, the entire population of Sun Devil Stadium, a bland guy in taupe, more repeats of the bad people and then an Amish guy in a fedora to cap things off. Wow.

The final audtion is a guy named Scott MacIntyre. He’s a singer-songwriter who plays the piano and is almost totally blind. Aw man, I can’t make fun of this! WTF, American Idol? He sings "And So It Goes" and it’s totally beautiful. Aw man. Even Simon can’t help but smile throughout this guy’s audition. He’s just so sweet and earnest. He is through unanimously. Yay for Scott! Is it a little dusty in here? Good lord.

Montage. 27 Golden Tickets were given out in Phoenix. I cannot believe Bikini Girl was one of them. Ugh. Join me tomorrow when we head to Kansas City, Missouri. I’m goin’ to Kansas City… Kansas City here I come! See you tomorrow night, guys!

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Posted by:Andrea Reiher

TV critic by way of law school, Andrea Reiher enjoys everything from highbrow drama to clever comedy to the best reality TV has to offer. Her TV heroes include CJ Cregg, Spencer Hastings, Diane Lockhart, Juliet O'Hara and Buffy Summers. TV words to live by: "I'm a slayer, ask me how."