Well, despite a god awful teaser of Lopez… well, walking… Season 11 of “American Idol” didn’t fail to have some classic AI, entertaining moments as we kick off the season in (do they always start here??) Savannah, Georgia. Home of the extremely young and talented, the gayest of the gays and way too many Steven Tyler fans, though that’s probably just because Georgia- like Australia and India- is about 20 years behind and is only just now hearing about this crazy new rock band called Aerosmith. All together though, they make for a pretty interesting opening show.

While many choose to skip over the auditions and hold out for Vegas week or even “Top 20s” (or whatever random number they go with this year), I’m a beginning to end kind of guy as I love to pick my faves early in the competition though typically the true stars don’t shine till they hit Sin City. You might notice that Donovan is no longer the welcoming face at the top of this article, well, we unanimously came to the decision that since the show is taking on a “kinder image” with Lopez and Tyler falling in love with every fresh face that hits the stage, we’d hit back by having our bitchiest writer- me- take the reins on the reviews. And speaking of…

So, the show opens to a HARD sell of: “Wow, it worked for Kelly Clarkson, who’s next??” You know who’s next, Carrie Underwood years later and not too too many other than that. As Idol continues to rake in the viewership as the leading show in its time slot for 8 years running, it nonetheless takes on a barrage of (not completely undeserved) rants for constantly changing styles, rules, judges, for becoming lazy about truly criticizing the performers, ridiculous and marketing obsessed half-time shows/entertainers and most importantly failing to produce a true music star in years.

Let’s get right into it though: Lopez looks gorgeous as per (must be the soul suckin on that 24 year-old dancer bf), Tyler stumbles in on the arm of what must be a 17-and-three-quarter year-old and Jackson continues to play the role of a guy who tried the Subway diet but couldn’t say no to the extra mayo. But, we’re not here to judge the judges- who am I kidding, I’m be doing that throughout the season as well- rather, let’s look at the “talent“. First of a reported 10,000 applicants is David Leathers, Jr.: 11 going on 17. I’m sure they demanded a couple pieces of ID for this man-child of a self-proclaimed ladies man. Setting aside the boring intro of him faux-picking up some girl much out of his league, what bothers me about this kid is the accolades the easy sistas- Tyler and Lopez- rain on this pitchy, will be kicked out Vegas day one, singer. It definitely sets the stage for what will likely be a helluva lot of golden tickets that raise the hope of tons of kids who really have no chance of ever seeing the inside of the Kodak theatre.

David Leathers Jr. “Remember The Rain”

Second up (and don’t worry, I’m not rating EVERYone, just the ones that really stood out to me) was smart-Gabi Carrubba. Why do I call her that you ask? Because this girl flirts herself into the graces of the only person who actually matters when trying to win this show: exec producer, Nigel Lythgoe. First off, what the HELL is he doing there? Maybe I just never noticed it, but how weird is it that Skeletor himself from “So You Think You Can Dance” would sit through these early auditions, and so close to what turns out to be a lunatic more than half the time when they hear a “no” from the panel. Regardless of his motives for being there, this girl is smart to hug and smile at him as we deep down know he and he alone pushes his golden choice to the top of this competition. And, surprise surprise, Gabi makes it through. Next up, the losers…

Gabi Carrubba “Sunday Morning”

We start the sad sacks with Jessica, the football game anthem singer gone terribly wrong. I’m guessing they only ask her sing at the high school rallies as her belted and busted voice doesn’t require them shelling out the ten dollars it costs to rent a microphone. Randy’s reaction to her is classic as the show edits in 20 seconds of silent horror before he utters: “Awful” in perfect succinctness. A quick break from the failures, we get tall as a model and skinny to match Shannon who gets a resounding and deserved “yes” from the judges and a wholly inappropriate verbal ass slap from Tyler in front of her entire family and her truck of a baseballing father. CLASSIC drug-addled Steven.

Next up: the token gay, Joshua. BUT, where I typically take a pretty agro stand on the downplaying of sexuality and outness on these shows, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they finally allow an early contestant to have words like: “My boyfriend’s outside” come out of his mouth. And then… we see why the evil and I argue bigoted Nigel Lythgoe allowed it: cause this kid is awful in every way. His performance is atrocious and gay in all the worst ways possible. Then, as he predictably attempts to prove his talent with another terrible song and gets herded off, the bitch loses it. Sobbing with a cigarette in hand- of course- to what assuredly must have been his mother, he proceeds to lose his shit and scream: “Seriously, get outta my face!!” and drop some f-bombs. Way to represent the gays Joshy [insert slow clap here].

The show proceeds with a few more winners and losers but who stuck out to me were two of the final performers: Lauren Mink, the disabled adult centre worker and Philip Philips (adorable), the scruffy good boy who works pop’s store. Lauren is my pic of the episode: a beautiful blonde with a sweet story to boot, this girl screams country and can even sing it well too. I just love her song choice and her whole shtick and only hope she isn’t a one-hit wonder like so many before her. If she can make it through Vegas, this girl has the history and the voter base to make it happen IMO.

Lauren Mink “Country Strong”

Finally, the show closes by bringing out some pretty decent eye candy as the furry and plaid-wearing, rustic guitarist takes the stage with a killer voice and some instrumental talent to boot. He’s unfortunate to follow a season where the “good ol’ country boy” Scottie took it all (and failed miserably once produced), but , if he works his unique angle well enough, he could have a chance.

Phillip Phillips “Superstition” & “Thriller”

Overall, a good episode, and I’m not very nice so that’s decently high praise. The judges had classic moments of slutiness, bluntness, over-niceness (you should be able to guess which adjective goes with which star ;), and the singers actually delivered. Realizing that parading freak after freak may have been funny in the early years but now looks more cruel, the show is taking a better direction I think in showing the actual TALENT that shows up to audition. Let me know what you thought by commenting below- especially if you think I’m completely off here ha- and let’s get ready for a crazy season with hopefully more than a couple stars showin’ up to sing.

Donovan’s Take

Even though I’ve passed on the American Idol torch this season to Adam’s more than capable hands, I couldn’t publish this post without inserting a few comments. I definitely agree with Adam and love, love, love Phillip Phillips. Back off Adam, he’s mine for this season. In addition to him, I’m rooting for Colton Dixon. I was shocked SLASH irked that he didn’t make it last year. He was so good and got cut at the last moment. Obviously this year he’s a shoo-in. The judges practically begged him to audition even though he was just there to support his sister. Definite live show candidate here.

Colton Dixon “Permanent”

She has no shot in hell of making it far, but I liked Amy. I got sucked in by Idol’s manipulative editing skills. Amy Brumfield aka “tent girl” had me crossing my fingers hoping she’d make it through. She had a much better voice than I thought she would. Sadly it won’t be enough to make the Top 12 but earned her best sob story of the night.

Amy Brumfield “Superwoman”

If Amy was the sob story of the night, the winner of the funniest segment was that Ryan Seacrest look-a-like. How eerily awesome did he sound like Seacrest? Creeeeeeeeepy.