American Idol Returns Last Night with New Look, Fresh Feel and New Judges

One of the most remarkable things about watching American Idol last night was how little I actually missed Simon Cowell. Sure, there were times where his snarkiness would have been appreciated, probably even appropriate. But overall, I would have to say that I hardly gave him a thought.

As Season 10 of America’s top show opened with a whole new look, it also had a whole new feel. Gone were judges Kara DioGuardi and Ellen Degeneres and of course, Simon Cowell. And in their place were legendary rocker Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and Pop superstar Jennifer Lopez. Mainstay Randy Jackson rounded out the group, looking more svelte and sounding more reserved than ever.

I really didn’t know what to expect with this judges panel. Steven Tyler has always been as crazy as he has been intelligent, and J. Lo has always seemed to be very sweet and quiet.

Right from the beginning they set a new tone for the show. It was clear this was going to be lighter, more fun than past seasons. It helped that we saw far less crap performances than in seasons past and we didn’t see any idiots dressed in costumes trying to “impress” the panel. For the most part, we got to see people who really wanted to be there and who could sing. Of course, there were some that couldn’t sing if their lives depended on it and had no business embarrassing themselves or their parents or friends out there, but that’s part of this process.

Ms. Lopez is a far cry better than Kara DioGuardi, or Ellen, or even Paula so far. At least she’s coherent and once she toughens up a little and is able to tell them “sorry, this isn’t for you” without feeling like she’s cutting off their limbs, she’s going to be great.

Randy was more subdued than I ever remember him being. Perhaps just a product of his environment, he took his cues from Tyler and Lopez, being a kinder, gentler Jackson, letting people down a little easier, not laughing directly at people, cutting people slack, etc…

And then there is Steven Tyler. I will say that he adds a new energy to the show that it certainly needed. He was singing along with some of the contestants, he was drumming his hands on the table in front of him. He talked Randy into a couple of yes’s. He looked like he was having a good time, from the first contestant to the last. Let’s see if he still looks like that in 12 weeks.

One new feature that I wasn’t crazy about was the inclusion of 15-year olds. I think that’s just a little too young, and really gives an unfair advantage to the females of that age group. Many males in that age group are still adjusting to their voices changing. I thought 16 was too young too, but whatever.

There were a few contestants last night that were very good, but I don’t think we’ll see any of them in the Top 10 in May. There may be a couple who might make it past the Hollywood round, but nothing past that.
One thing I’m glad they cut back on was the back-story. I don’t recall seeing very much of that last night. There was one piece where we saw one 16-year old kid talk about how he was in a wheelchair until he was five for some reason that I wasn’t really listening too, and how the neighbor who was in a wheelchair told him that he would get out one day but the neighbor wouldn’t. Then he killed it with a great rendition of The Beatles’ “Yesterday”.

The other backstory I remember was a Snookie wannabe (they were in New Jersey) who showed us all just how she does her hair. I’m really not sure why they showed that, or why she was that color orange, or why she was so proud of her boobs and her butt (like she’s the only one who has those). Then she came out all crying, telling Jennifer Lopez that she’s her idol, she loved her in Selena, that’s why she wanted to be a singer, she can’t look at her… blah, blah, blah.. Then she calmed down and opened her jacket and whoa, there she was with stars on her boobs prompting one of the funniest lines of the night by Steven Tyler, “What’s with the jujubes on your oo-oo-bes?” (Yeah, I had to look that up, but it was fuuuunnny).
She sang some song, I don’t even remember what, and not well. They were ready to send her packing but she asked for another chance and somehow got it. This would have never happened in the Simon Cowell “one and done” days. But, she did, and she used it to her advantage as she sang Celine Dion’s “Power of Love” and really had great control of her voice, and hey, you know what? This girl can actually sing.

So, there was the first night of the New American Idol, Season 10. A lighter, fresher, friendlier Idol. I am really looking forward to this season with this judges’ panel. I think once Lopez gets her bearings she’s going to bring a lot to the table. Tyler is going to be Tyler, which is great. They made a good team last night and there’s no reason not to think it can’t build from there into a very successful season.