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American Idol

American Idol 2013 Episode 1 Recap: “I Feel Like We Gel Well, In a Weird, Crazy Way”

The highly anticipated American Idol 2013 premiere is under our belts and, as far as we can tell, both Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey are still alive and haven’t gone all Weekend at Bernie’s on us for the recent media blitz. The claws definitely came out, along with some really bad British accents (they’re not just for Madonna, you know), but if you’re like us, you caught some itty bitty glimpses of camaraderie there, too.

Anyone who had watched the preview had already caught a glimpse of the show opener, as Phillip Phillips entered an empty amphitheater, grabbed his guitar, and played an acoustic version of the song that’s nothing if not ubiquitous, “Home”. This morphed into the actual video for the song, after which Ryan Seacrest delved into the (lengthy) successes of the new and oh-so-controversial judges. While Mariah is undoubtedly a diva, it was Nicki who was named as the one who everyone is “clamoring” to work with, including Jay-Z and Taylor Swift.

The show started off with a bang, or was that a punch to the gut? Michael Bounapane began with “We Will Rock You,” which wasn’t the worst thing we’ve heard over the 11 seasons, but the schizophrenic-like display that followed was downright painful. Those of us who like the show to start out on a high note may have been a teensy bit disappointed.

Credit: FOX    

Of course, there were plenty of high points, too, and the first one of the evening was Mariah’s super-duper-fan, Tenna Torres. An alum of Camp Mariah (who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall there?), her admiration for the pop diva oozed from every pore. She didn’t disappoint, either, and her rendition of “You’ve Got A Friend” got her that golden ticket.

The first touching moment of the night came from Christina Isabelle, who admitted that she has struggled with body issues her whole life. The Berklee College of Music grad didn’t lack any confidence, though, as she delivered a super smooth version of “Summertime” that not only garnered her praise, but some comparisons to Mariah, herself. As we live and breathe!

We saw the judges get their first real challenge with Evan Ruggiero, who lost his leg and, subsequently, his dancing career to bone cancer. While his version of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” (totally overdone audition song, if you ask us) wasn’t bad, the judges didn’t think he was ready yet, proving they’re not going to be doling out golden tickets based on backstory, alone. Mariah did tell Evan to come back next year.

We caught our first glimpse of one of the new changes from this season, as Randy showed up at 19-year-old Jessica Kartalis’ gig to surprise her with an audition ticket. It’s a fun change but not fruitful for this young gal, who was sent packing.

Credit: FOX    

Everyone usually disagrees as to what qualifies as a standout moment, but we think you’d have to agree that Jersey girl Sarah Restuccio’s take on Nicki’s “Super Bass” was pretty dang amazing. Her backstory was one of growing up in a farming town, riding 4-wheelers, and then she pulled out Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song” as her initial audition. So when she began the rap after Randy asked to hear more, Keith and The Dawg were a bit confused as to who she is as a performer, but she got that golden ticket nonetheless.

We also saw one guy from our spoiler series, Gurpreet Singh Sarin. The dude seemed to be well-liked among his fellow contestants, and his collection of 50-60 different turbans has earned him the nickname “The Turbanator”. Despite the high cheese factor of the Idol theatrics, he proved he could sing, albeit a little too softly for Keith’s taste. Apparently he ups his game and possibly his voice level in the coming weeks in order to snag that highly coveted spot in the Top 20.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Idol if we didn’t see our share of absolutely horrendous singers, but the one who stood out the most was probably Albert Chang. He hit a note that only dogs could hear during his chilling (well, chillingly bad) rendition of “The Phantom of the Opera”. Of course, Nicki took the pot shot on her nemesis, joking that his range was better than Mariah’s. Ouch.

The feel good moment of the night came at the very end (hey, this isn’t Idol’s first rodeo), as Ashley Feliciano gave us a glimpse of what it’s like at home with her. Her parents have been adopting medically complex children for ten years so, to say that it was inspiring is a huge understatement. Luckily, Ashley had the goods to back up the moving backstory, and impressed the judges with a stellar rendition of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On”.

We closed with a preview of next week in the Windy City, and the gloves sure do seem to come off the judges but for, tonight, we were left with a surprisingly tender quote from Nicki:

“I feel like we gel well in a weird, crazy way.” And Mariah agreed! The miracles never cease.

What did you think of the American Idol premiere?

01.17.2013 / 09:56 AM EDT by Marnie Brodersen
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