Last night I was lucky enough to find myself at American Idol’s advanced world premiere screening event at AMC Hoffman Theaters in Alexandria, Virginia. It was an all-night event that included the screening of Season 12’s very first episode, followed by a live Q&A with the judges and host Ryan Seacrest.
Check out my full recap and review of the show after the jump and sound-off below!
Ok, so first things first…let’s get the pleasantries out of the way shall we?
After watching the very first episode it’s clear this season is going to be a smash hit! Not only does it have all the elements that make for great TV, but the production value and quality of Idol’s 12th season has been kicked into high gear. What’s great about the show is even with all the cast shake-ups and unfamiliar faces it still has that classic “American Idol” feel, but this time with a new class of world-trained superstars chosen to pick this season’s brightest start.
To be quite honest, the contestants were extremely talented and personable—much more than Idol’s rivals like ‘The Voice’ who focuses more on the judges than the singers and ‘The X-Factor’ which has failed [once again] to establish anyone memorable or even successful once the show goes off. Idol, on the other hand, hasn’t forgotten its roots and remains true to finding amazing vocalists who can be polished into artists. One contestant in particular that stuck out was 21-year-old Lazaro Arbos, a Cuban immigrant who suffered from a severe stutter but is ironically was able to overcome his speech impediment by singing. The self-professed lamb opened his mouth and his voiced soared impressing the judges and even bringing Mariah Carey to tears. It was inspiring. It was emotional. It was classic Idol.
Randy (“The Old Dawg with New Tricks”) – Randy is the new “Simon” in the sense that he’s the lead judge sitting at the head of the table now. His critiques have generally stayed the same ranging from “You’re pitchy,” to “Dawg that just wasn’t good,” but it’s nice to see Randy get the recognition he deserves as Idol’s longest standing and original judge. His familiar face is comforting in spite of the huge retooling made to this season.
Keith Urban (“The Quiet One”) – For starters, Keith Urban had every female member of the audience eating from the palm of his hands—every time his face came on the big screen the ladies in the audience swooned in lusty delight. Sadly, his judging style didn’t have quite the same effect and many of his opinions came off as very “fluffy” and Paula Abdul-esque. In his defense, much of his camera time was cut short in favor of the gun slinging shade Mariah and Nicki threw at each other for the entire hour (yes, the entire hour).
Nicki Minaj (“The Class Clown”) – From the first episode it’s overwhelming clear that the producers love them some Nicki Minaj—this first episode was without a doubt “The Nicki Minaj Show”. Not only did the singer/rapper receive the most camera time but she was presented as the “star” of the show—and rightfully so as she offered the best sound-bites, hilarious critiques, and wore series of over-the-top ensembles that would make even Lady Gaga blush. As much as I wanted to hate on her, I couldn’t because she’s absolutely magnetic on the screen and exciting to watch.
I will say that her style of judging is rather precarious…from the very beginning she makes it known that she isn’t looking for the next “Whitney Houston” or “Mariah Carey” saying, “that’s not what music is about these days.” Nicki continuously advocated for sub-par singers with questionable talent and pretty faces (i.e. Ashlee Feliceano and Griffin Peterson) to be sent to Hollywood explaining that “people don’t want a just a singer, they want a character”; implying that image is everything and talent, specifically vocal talent, comes second. In her defense, I’ve heard ‘Pink Friday’ in its entirety so I understand why she cannot relate to serving good voice, but still…her comments left a bad taste in my mouth and really opened my eyes to the inner workings of her artistry—Nicki is not here for musicianship and vocals and never has been.
Mariah Carey (“The Rambling Diva”) – Mariah Carey, the new mother of twins, came off unsurprisingly as very nurturing and comforting in her critiques and words of wisdom. Introduced as a “global icon”, it’s no secret that this woman knows all there is to know about both the technical and emotive aspects of singing so it was quite a shock to watch the world-class-belter offer ZERO technical vocal advice that someone of her stature and regard would be expected to do. In fact, for much of the show she appeared bored, a bit groggy and at times like she’d rather be anywhere else in the world but Idol. When the 18 million dollar judge wasn’t laboring a “yes” to a phenomenal singer or saying “no” to those who should never pick up a mic, she was busy crossing swords with her new found frenemy, Nicki Minaj.
Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah Carey – Let me be the first to tell you that this feud is far from a hoax used to trump up ratings. These two women genuinely do not care for each other and neither have any qualms about making it known. At one point Mariah interrupted Nicki’s critique to disagree with her to which Nicki shot back, “Oh I wasn’t talking to you.” Later after going back in forth in what seemed to be playful banter between the two ladies, Nicki told Mariah in point-blank fashion, “You ain’t got it like me,” implicating that Mariah should just be quiet and stay in her place. Mariah, being the world class shader that she’s always been replied, “…and I don’t want it,” accentuated by a dramatic eye roll and a flamboyant hair toss. I can’t stress enough how apparent and very much in the forefront their disdain for each other is—so much so that even the contestants and fellow judges began to comment on it.
Overall: All in all the show seems like it’s going to be FOX’s most entertaining season yet! And as much as it pains me to say this, Nicki Minaj was an incredible choice as a judge—the camera loves her and after the season so will much of the world. If the inevitable weekly catfights between Carey and Minaj aren’t enough to make you tune in each week, season 12 is sure to have something for everybody from amazing singers, great stories, and a legitimately successful panel of judges to help usher in a new wave of Kelly Clarksons, Fantasia
“I Hate The Gays” Barrios, and Carrie Underwoods. This…is American Idol!