So, it’s 8 p.m. and we’re practically doing the dougie as we turn on the TV to watch the new season of American Idol. Then, we remember that Simon won’t be at the judges table. Neither will Kara or Ellen. For a moment, we’re sad, a bit nostalgic, and even a bit concerned that this might be the worst season of American Idol ever. Then, in comes Steven Tyler with his rock star swagger. And in comes Jennifer Lopez, oozing fabulosity all over the place. And then there’s Randy Jackson, a familiar face to remind us of the past nine seasons. And now we’re thinking this might not be so bad after all. In fact, it might be pretty damn awesome!

Read on for the highlights and lowlights from the New Jersey auditions, where 51 lucky hopefuls earned their golden tickets to Hollywood:

Credit: Michael Becker/FOX ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: Tiffany Rios Sings for the Judges in Season 10, Episode 1: The New Jersey Auditions
Steven Steals the Show
Simon who? We were so busy laughing at Steven’s comments, we barely missed the Brit’s snark. There was his shameless flirting (“Where is your pitch fork, you little devil?,” he asked an attractive blonde), his Simon-esque insults (“Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?,” he snarked to one awful auditioner), and his tasty compliments after the best auditions (“That was delicious. That was a dessert to the lunch,” he told a singer who impressed him). That’s right, he’s going to fit in just fine!

Jennifer Lopez May Be the New Paula
Proof that Jennifer Lopez wants to be as pleasing as Paula Abdul: She told Rachel Zevita, a mediocre contestant who auditioned three seasons ago, that she still remembered her from her brief Season 6 appearance. “Me and Mark were sitting at home and we were like, ‘Why didn’t that girl go through?,’” Jennifer said. (Suuure, J.Lo. We believe you. Wink, wink.) And even through the worst of the worst auditions in Jersey, the star managed to stay sweet with just the right amount of sass.

Pass the Kleenex, Please!
It wouldn’t be American Idol without some sob stories, and this ep certainly had us sniffling:

•    Kosovo war refugee Melinda Ademi, 18, revealed that her family won a green card lottery in her war-torn country to come to America and rebuild their lives.
•    Briell Von Hugel, 16, choked up while talking about her father battling throat cancer.
•    Robbie Rosen, 16, spoke about temporarily losing the ability to walk when he was 5 years old.
•    Travis Orland, 16, revealed that he used to live in a homeless shelter with his family. He also delivered one of our favorite auditions of the night. Cute guy + nerd glasses + great voice = swoon.
Credit: Michael Becker/FOX ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Photo: Yoji "Pop" Asano Sings for the Judges on Season 10, Episode 1: The New Jersey Auditions

The Best Contestants Earn Golden Tickets
It turns out inspirational teens Melinda, Briell, Travis, and Robbie were also some of the best singers in the New Jersey auditions. (Okay, so it’s not too surprising, because Idol wouldn’t have told us their back stories otherwise!) Other standouts included Devyn Rush, a talented singing waitress who the judges said was in need of wardrobe makeover. (Get this girl to Barney’s already!) Another judges’ favorite was New York-based musician Caleb Hawley, whose audition had Steven Tyler jammin’ at the judges’ table. Meanwhile, sugary sweet teen singer Victoria Huggins had the personality of a pageant queen and the vocals to win over the judges. (Side note: We’re convinced this girl is the real Rachel Berry.)

And The Worst Contestants Embarrass Themselves
Where should we begin? Maybe with Achille Lovle, a Bronx resident from the Ivory Coast who delivered a frighteningly bad performance of Madonna’s “Dress You Up In My Love.” Seriously, our ears are still ringing. But the audition of the night goes to — who else? — Yoji Pop, the artist formerly known as Yoji Asano. Yoji (or should we call him Mr. Pop?) said he has been imitating Michael Jackson since “before [he] was born,” but he decided not to sing MJ after all. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. Instead, the 25-year-old student from Japan decided to sing pop princess Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.” Makes sense, right? What follows is a tone-deaf, hip-gyrating, MJ-inflected take on Miley’s hit. And this, my friends, is why we heart American Idol!