Credit: FOX ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, and Ryan Seacrest in Season 11, Episode 2: Pittsburgh Auditions

And we’re off! Racing into the next decade of America’s most-watched singing show, American Idol. Season 11 kicked off with two hours of footage from the Savannah auditions. Jennifer Lopez wore a lot of pink, Steven Tyler wore a lot of paisley, Randy Jackson said “dude” a lot, and Ryan Seacrest popped up every twenty seconds or so to emphasize the history of what we are watching.

The opening montage included a lot of sunrise scenes, eager kids driving to the auditions in cars, and the beloved judges walking down long hallways towards The Future of Talent in America.

First up: David “Mr. Steal-Your-Girl” Leathers, Jr., a boy who looks 12 but is allegedly 17 and can sing the heck out of a Michael Jackson song. Everyone loves him. Gabi Carruba comes next and sings “Sunday Morning” better than Adam Levine himself, but not before hugging Nigel Lythgoe first. Before you think it’s all ponies and unicorns and talented children across America, Jessica Whitely pops up to butcher a Prince song. Even J.Lo breaks her resolve to be The Nice One and tells the girl, “It’s a no, sweetie, I’m sorry.” Then Jessica threatens to assault them with her vocal chords again in Texas, at which point Steven Tyler looks absolutely terrified.

Not to worry, our bleeding ears and hearts are soon saved by 16-year-old Shannon Magrane, a 6-foot-tall volleyball player who also happens to be the daughter of Joe Magrane, who pitched the 1987 World Series. J.Lo makes Shannon retrieve her entire family and sing in front of them. Her dad walks into the room looking exactly how you think a 50-year-old retired baseball player looks, and asks the judges how “Beantown” was. Steven Tyler chooses this moment to be highly inappropriate and responds, “Hot, humid, and happening, just like your daughter!”

Next up: meet the darling girl who lives in a tent, Amy Brumfield. Cut to scenes of Amy showing producers around her tent to the tune of Elliot’s Smith’s “Miss Misery” (memo to producers: we get it, she’s poor). Amy kills her cover of Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman” and moves on to Hollywood Week. Then we meet Joshua, an angry kid who kicks doors and flicks off cameras and who we gratefully won’t have to see ever again.

Flashback! Schyler Dixon takes the stage without her brother, Season 10’s Lifehouse-inspired Colton Dixon, but the judges don’t want Schyler to have her own limelight, so they make her go retrieve her brother, whose new haircut makes him look like a skunk. Schyler then sings a searing rendition of “Breakeven” by The Script while her brother sings a David Cook jam. And then suddenly they’re both going to Hollywood even though his was Schyler’s self-professed time to shine.


Credit: Poptower Photo: Season 11 Contestant Phillip Phillips Strums His Guitar

The second half of the Savannah episode goes like this: A few mediocre singers but sweet people with feel-good stories convince the judges to let them through. One of them being Lauren Mink, who sings “Country Strong” almost as well as Gwyneth Paltrow but has the face (and life story) of an angel. Erica Novak basically molests Steven Tyler onstage and then, just as you think the episode is over, Phillip Phillips, the boy so talented they named him twice, walks onstage in a plaid shirt looking like country’s version of Ryan Gosling. Also: He works at his dad’s shop, which is called Pawn Stars.

Phillip sings “Superstitious” and then an acoustic version of Michael Jackson’s “Thiller” and then, suddenly, all of America is in love with him. The end.

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Credit: You Tube Photo: Watch Phillip Phillips Play Guitar and Sing “Superstitious” and “Thriller” in American Idol Season 11 Savannah Auditions on January 18, 2012