‘American Idol’ Season 13 Review: Musicality Takes Center Stage Again

'American Idol' Season 13 Review: Musicality Takes Center Stage Again

Michael Becker /FOX

It is always all about the judges on these TV talent shows and this trio makes me OK with that

Television talent shows like to say that it's not about the judges. Of course, every season that's indeed proven wrong.

“American Idol” returns for its thirteenth season and its producers have teased “small changes.” I'm sure those will come into play after the auditions. But from the one 2-hour premiere episode released ahead of Wednesday's return, I can say that it is about the judges because they set the show's tone.

Following a season of awkward, at times dangerously heated, moments between last season's judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban is breathing easier sitting alongside returning judge Jennifer Lopez and former guest mentor-turned-judge Harry Connick, Jr.

See video: Jimmy Kimmel Talks ‘American Idol’ With Harry Connick Jr.: ‘Who Is the Mean Judge?’

In case you haven't heard, they get along. Fox has clearly wanted that message to reach viewers. But, the new trio works for several reasons, one being that JLo is the lone diva.

Arguably, Connick, a former modern jazz child prodigy, can exhibit diva-like qualities but he also forces this panel to focus on craft and musicality. That in turn makes for a more discerning panel – Lopez does rise to Connick's challenge and Urban is finally able to express himself — and thus better talent makes it through to Hollywood.

If you've followed the news at all – much of it broken by TheWrap – you'll know that the path to this point wasn't easy and there are several bodies left in the wake of tearing down the circus that was last season.

Also read: ‘American Idol’ Producers Talk ‘Small Changes,’ Randy Jackson's Expanded Mentor Role

There are few other conclusions I can make on the show's “small” format changes after viewing the premiere episode. “The Chamber,” which captures the moments just before singers go into the audition, just seems gimmicky, ineffective and unnecessary. Plus, a box with cameras in it doesn't replace host Ryan Seacrest‘s pre-audition interviews — no matter how space age that box looks.

More changes teased by producers include new rounds, an emphasis on what songs mean to contestants that will replace the show's tired theme weeks and an expanded role for judge-turned-mentor Randy Jackson – including a two-day workshop between him and the contenders.

But, this season is all about the judges. And that's OK with me, because I think they're going to make it truly competitive and emotional again.

Also read: Harry Connick Jr. to Mariah Carey: ‘American Idol’ Is Heaven Now

Remembering back to the first season, I actually took notes in order to remember whom I wanted to vote for. It was truly thrilling to see Kelly Clarkson pull out some last-minute vocal tricks during the finale and nab the win.

Music should be treated like a craft. TV shows should invoke emotion. And competition should be a battle. And that's what I think this set of judges will do for the show.

“American Idol” returns Wednesday at 8/7c on Fox.

  • Theresa Santoro

    Off to a great start, as fans we can only hope the momentum sustains and the season ends on its highest note ever!

  • Samantha Steiner

    The journey to superstardom has officially begun again, America! Are you ready for another wild, crazy, insane, magical, inspirational, and joyous ride? Or perhaps, even, the adventure of a lifetime? If so, buckle up! And if you believe in lucky numbers, yesterday might as well have been your lucky day, as Season 13 got underway, in Boston, Mass, and Austin, Texas, as Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban welcomed newbie, Harry Connick Jr., to their veteran judging panel, with loving and open arms. Literally. Can you say, cradling? And yes, I’m afraid that I sense another big trend. Sorry, I just call it like I see it. Viewers might as well forget the awkward nerves and emotions, as plenty of fresh, exciting, and new talent made its way onto the stage, courtesy of incredibly spunky, bright, and creative, young artists, including Kaitlyn Jackson, Stephanie Hanvey, Stephanie Patronelli, Austin Percario, Morgan Deplitch, Troy Durden, Marrielle Sellers, Savannah Young, Madelyn Patterson, Viviana Villalon, Shelby Comey, Justin Fera, Ben Boone, Jordan Grizzard, Keith London, Malcolm Allen, Munfarid Zaidi, Savion Wright, and Sam Woolf, amongst several others, who more than gladly, and excitedly, accepted their golden ticket to Hollywood. I think it’s safe to say that night one is in the books, and the country’s number one, favorite guilty pleasure, is back and better than ever! Do you agree?

    Night two commences in Austin, as Jesse Roach, Steven Curd, John J. Fox, Anna Melvin, Taylor Stearns, McKenna Davis, Quiandra Boston-Pearsall, Megan Miller, Spencer Lloyd, T.K. Hash, Tristan Langley, Marlon Lindsey, Eric Wood, and Ryan Clark, make it through to Hollywood, sparking the curiosities of all three judges, and pretty quickly too, as their voices did all of the talking. JLo poignantly reveals, “It’s a simple journey.” After all, it takes just one solid performance, and a minute tops, to impress some of the music industry’s greatest artists. That may sound easy to viewers at first, but trust me, it’s a really tough go at it, especially when the highest level of expectations and competition, are still very much in play, and just continues to climb and climb. No pressure, right? Game on, contestants! Next stop, San Francisco! Rachel Rolleri kicked off the third city on the ballot, and definitely raised the bar for her fellow auditioners. The same can be said for Emmanuel Zidor, Adam Roth, Rico Perkins, David Luning, Remi Wolf, Aranesa Turner, MK Nobilette, Athena Williford, Briana Oakley, Caitlin Johnson, and Selena Moreno, as these enthusiastic, down to earth, and well-mannered individuals, certainly found their golden moment in the sun. They’re ready to shine! Who are your favorites? Sound off below. Stay tuned, as next week is sure to bring out the best of the best, from Detroit, aka the Motor City. Get your motors running! The road to the finish line is just beginning…vroom, vroom!