The Diva, the Dawg and the Demon of Screamin’.
These are not characters in a Grimms Brothers story. Rather, they are the newest players in the millennial fairytale that is … “American Idol.”
Last night’s season 10 premiere was perhaps the most anticipated in the show’s history. Yes, it was the debut of the new judging triumvirate, featuring Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and veteran Randy Jackson. Perhaps more importantly, though, it marked the official end to the banal season 9, and that in itself is a bonus.
Also read our recap: Steven Tyler's the New Simon — But in a Good Way
Nigel Lythgoe & Co. didn’t miss a chance to capitalize on the hoopla surrounding this new panel. The opening montage focused on the media speculation that has surrounded the show for months, luring viewers in with its tabloid treasures.
“But this isn’t our story,” the graphics chided. “It’s yours.”
Roll your eyes all you want, but this truly seems to be the mantra of season 10. Producers are serious about developing an actual platinum-selling Idol this time around. Lythgoe has stated repeatedly that the show needs to get back to doing what it’s supposed to: making a superstar. That may not have been possible had Simon stayed on. His star shone brighter than most of the Idols put together, even during his apathetic final season. But with Cowell out of the picture, big changes were imperative.
The addition of J. Lo and Steven Tyler was brilliant on so many levels, not the least of which is that they have each sold millions of albums themselves. What a novel concept, huh? To have someone who has actually succeeded as a true “American Idol” judge this little talent contest.
And so far, so good. Unlike last season, the panel actually seems to enjoy one another’s company.
As the only remaining judge from season 1, Randy acts as a guide for his new partners. His presence is a comfort, yet he continues to find difficulty in expanding his vocabulary. He liberally sprinkles “mad vocal skills,” “yo” and of course, “dawg,” throughout his predictably stale critiques.
Tyler, on the other hand, is an entertaining walking paradox. While it’s not fair to call him a Paula-Simon hybrid, he is equal parts kooky and no-nonsense. Whether he’s spontaneously breaking into song mid-speech or spouting wacky wisdom (“Water her flower ‘cause it’s gonna grow”), he is definitely the stand-out personality. Unlike Paula, though, you never lose the feeling that he actually knows what he’s talking about.
Tyler’s antics are often laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes completely bleeped out, yet you never get the feeling that he (unlike Simon) is playing a “television personality.” Even better, you never get the feeling that he has hired comedy writers to come up with sarcastic putdowns. He is very matter-of-fact when telling contestants that they just don’t have the stuff, but never intentionally mean. This, no doubt, is because both he and J Lo are coming from a performer’s point of view.
While it can be argued that Steven Tyler is a living legend, J. Lo is probably the judge that most viewers tuned in to see. Would she diva it up? (Fingers crossed!) Would she sing? (Oh, please, God, no.)
J. Lo didn’t seem to be the prima donna that her infamous backstage riders make her out to be, nor was she Jenny from the Block. She was, like Tyler, an empathetic performer who seemed to want every audition to go well. That, however, may prove to be her problem. Like Paula, she leads with the positive before crushing people’s dreams, explaining, “My mom was a teacher.” Hopefully Mom can teach her to be a little more direct, as not everyone can go to Hollywood.
Oh, I almost forgot! In addition to new judges, there were also new contestants. The auditions opened up in Jersey (insert fist-pumping joke here) and it did not disappoint.
The biggest surprise was that most of the stand-outs were between the ages of 15 and 16, though I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider they have literally been watching the show their entire lives.
Victoria Huggins, 16, from North Carolina was a particular favorite. Looking like a wholesome Miley Cyrus before her salvia days, she pulled off singing and hot pink patent leather shoes, no easy feat. Things got a little creepy, though, when Tyler commented on her dress: “…just the right amount showing; that’s nice.” Inappropriate comments seem to be one of his strong suits.
Of course, “Idol” wouldn’t be “Idol” without the touching sob stories. Golden-voiced Robbie Rosen, 16, was in a wheelchair when he was 5. He’d have an even better chance if he were still in one. (Remember blind contestant Scott MacIntyre? Or ever seen “Glee?”) Not to be outdone, another 16-year-old, Travis Orlando lives in a Bronx homeless shelter with his family.
There were some contestants who were well into their 20s as well, though one could argue that they weren’t as poised as their younger counterparts.
Tiffany Rios, 21, gave an audition that was all over the place. She sobbed at the sight of her role model, Jennifer Lopez, before launching into an original song and flashing her zebra bikini top complete with silver stars over the nipples. Though the panel was a little taken aback by her demeanor, her voice spoke for itself and she earned her Golden Ticket.
Jeans and T-shirt clad, waitress Devyn Rush, 20, also earned a Golden Ticket … but not before getting some sage advice from J. Lo. “Your voice is a star so you need to start believing that and start acting that way, dressing that way …v cThis business is about image as well.”
Spoken like a true superstar.