American Idol Kicks Off Season Eight With Some Winners, Losers

Season eight of American Idol began last night with the Phoenix auditions, with only a few differences from last season’s opener. Of course, the biggest was the addition of 4th judge, Kara DioGuardi.

DioGuardi was very good in her opening episode, showing that she has the brains to intelligently critique a contestant (something that Paula seriously lacks) and the balls to go up against Simon when necessary. Her voice ain’t too bad, either, as we witnessed when she attempted to show bikini-clad Katrina Darrell how a song should sound. Meanwhile, Katrina is sure to enjoy the same internet exposure as season 6’s internet sensation, Antonella Barba.

Simon Cowell proved to actually be very funny, cracking one-liners all night, and seemed to have taken a step back from his typical, acerbic self. Paula Abdul didn’t say or do anything dumb, which in itself is noteworthy, and Randy Jackson was just Randy.

Ryan Seacrest appeared to be a bit off his game. I think the kiss by the aforementioned “Bikini Girl” really threw him. Some point later he actually tried to high-five a blind guy (more on him later). Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny when not only did he attempt to high-five Scott McIntyre, but then said, “I’m trying to high-five you, man”. That was priceless!

There were some very good, and very bad moments from last night.

We’ll look at the bad first:

5) The show kicked off with a guy who had the biggest ‘fro I’ve seen since Dr. J 30 years ago. His goal was to be a cross between Brittany Spears and Michael Jackson, and he was awful. His tap-dancing was lousy, too. At least Randy found it all entertaining. I’m still trying to figure out the drill maneuvers he was trying to pull off.

4) Wannebe rock star Randy Madden gave us some hope with his rocker appearance, but that quickly faded when he started destroying Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. He was flat, nasally, and basically had no prayer. He went down in flames when he left, begging and crying. A low moment for the show.

3) A very strange dude that goes by the name “X-Ray” started singing a song I’ve never heard of called Cactus Baby. His singing was OK, but certainly not Hollywood worthy. But the worst part was his strange dancing that he did during his performance. It made Randy use the term “Buck Wild”, which really just isn’t heard enough. Then, to make matters worse, he wouldn’t leave and had to be escorted out by security. Pathetic.

2) The montage of bad singers killing Bon Jovi’s classic, Wanted Dead or Alive. They just have to stop these horrible montages. They bring no value to the show, and are more sad than funny.

1) Elijah Scarlett, who has the deepest voice I’ve heard since Michael Clarke Duncan played John Coffee in The Green Mile, took Barry White’s My First, My Last, My Everything, to a whole new level of weirdness. Paula suggests that he try voice-over work for horror movies. That brand of meanness is usually Simon’s territory. I think he’s starting to rub off on her a little.

Bonus bad moment) The total destruction of It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, and I’ll Never Love This Way Again. The performances were bad enough, but first we had to see clips of Celine Dion and Dionne Warwick doing the originals.

Now for the good, and there was actually more of that than bad, which is a nice departure from previous audition shows:

5) Emily Hughes tries her best to sing Heart’s Barracuda. She does a pretty decent job, but doesn’t quite pull it off. In the past, the judges have tried to warn people against attempting Aretha, Mariah, and Whitney (not that anyone listens), because they are such big voices. I think that Ann Wilson should be added to that list because the sheer power of her voice makes it difficult for someone to try and emulate. But, they’ll keep trying anyway.

4) Oil rig worker Michael Sarver offers a nice surprise when he shows that he really can sing, and does a very good job with Boyz II Men’s Thank You. It was also very nice of him to let us know that working on an oil rig is the 5th most dangerous job in the world. Always good to get some new knowledge with your dose of Idol. By the way, my daughter Nikki already has him pegged as the next Josh Gracin. We’ll see.

3) Geeky looking Alex Wagner gave us another surprise when he sang James Ingram’s Baby, Come to Me. Very commendable. Very funny moment when he tried to talk Randy into singing the chorus with him and Kara asked Randy if he wrote it.

2) Stevie Wright, a sweet girl who’s named after Stevie Nicks, sang Etta James’ At
, and she really sang it well. She impressed all of the judges, but Simon asked if she was competitive enough to go forward.

1) In one of my favorite moments of the night, Deanna Brown did a great job with Otis Reading’s Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. I can easily see her in the top 5. Write it down now (oh, I just did).

Bonus bad moment) How can you not feel warm and fuzzy all over watching Scott McIntyre go out there and perform. His version of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes was very easy to listen to, even enjoyable. McIntyre described his sight as looking through a straw (yes, this was the guy that Seacrest tried to high-five). A feel-good story all around, McIntyre also said that he entered college at 14 and got his degree at 19. He may not make it past the Hollywood round, but who cares. Truly inspirational.

Tonight’s audition show comes from Kansas City, MO, the home of last season’s winner David Cook. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to again see more good auditions than bad.