American Idol season premiere recap: J. Lo, Take the Wheel?

The returning judge steamrolls new judge Harry Connick Jr. in the season 13 premiere
Ep. 01 | Aired Jan 15, 2014

TA DA! The Bronx Steamroller grants Hollywood access.


Austin Percario, 17, may be another familiar face -- he was shoehorned into the 10-member kids group InTENsity on The X Factor season 1. He tries Sia's "Titanium" and earns a comparison to "Justin Bieber at 5 a.m." from Keith Urban. Is that… good? I say no, but the judges say YES! The whole thing with Austin's "stage mom" is deeply unsettling until you realize they'd obviously scripted it in from the start. ("If I do go to Hollywood Week it will be without my mom"… "BRING HER IN!" Just, no.) Harry raises his hand and asks for a mop after they leave, joking that Austin's stage mom had just peed. Kids love pee jokes. Hey kids, are you watching this season of American Idol?

"I'm going to Hollywood without my mom!" Austin screams into the camera. He is not going to Hollywood without his mom. I've never been more sure of anything in my life.

Looks like Austin and Jillian uploaded a joint cover of Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" to YouTube, here.

Kaitlyn Jackson, 15, moves on more for her ingenuity and bright-eyed wholesomeness than incredible vocals, but I like her. She sings an original, "Another Angel," written after her grandfather had suffered a heart attack at the county fair, then passed away shortly thereafter. The song's almost too literal after she's just finished telling that story, but hey, she's 15. "If you can write a song like that and be inspired by that and need to write about that and you're 15…..." says Keith, who loves to build something up and just let it sit there. "You mentioned your grandpa had never heard it," says Harry. "I disagree." Oh God. I'm crying! First cry of the season! J. Lo tears up as she holds out Kaitlyn's ticket. "She's smart, and she has a heart," she gulps.

Keith London, 21: Oh hell yes. A "handyman." Production furiously licks its lips; they can work with this. I like this guy, a street-singer from Pennsylvania who names "lifting things for the elderly" as one of his regular odd jobs. He strikes me as a genuine person and not a reality TV product, which is rare. Keith's acoustic guitar cover of Katy Perry's "Roar" effectively shows the judges who he really was as an artist, as Keith Urban says. J. Lo didn't even like that song before now! But Harry resonates as the voice of reason yet again -- he likes Keith, but admit, "I don't think you're a good enough singer."

But, if his fellow judges were feeling something, Harry acquiesced, "that says a lot about the type of stars this show brings."  Oh no! It's only the premiere, and already he's compromising his musical integrity. "I was kind of alright with it, but I guess that's what makes it what it is…" he trails off. "That's entertainment." Ahhhh! Nooo! We have lost Harry Connick Jr. at the same time we have gained a go-with-the-mediocre-flow reality TV judge. I'm obviously over-dramatizing this, but I really would prefer more Tell It Like It Is Harry Connick instead of more Existential Crisis Jr. throughout the season.

A totally uncalled for offensive run -- through a ballroom full of empty chairs -- that ends in a limp = why I will never stop loving Ryan Seacrest. Touchdown, indeed, Ryan. You get all the touchdowns, you goofy little weirdo.

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Shanon Wilson, 24, has prompted Seacrest's football injury. The sweet, huge former defensive tackle from Houston is the first contestant I'm truly excited about tonight with his piercing-in-a-good-way rendition of Luke James' "I Want You." That falsetto is insane, so on-point the judges didn't even need to critique him at all. J. Lo started waving that golden ticket above her head before he even finished. "What, man, no key change?" joked Keith. Oh, I'm sure Shanon can do that, too.

NEXT: Ryan Seacrest hoists a cowboy

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