‘American Idol XIII’ premiere review: Meet Malcolm Allen, Munfarid Zaidi, Jillian Jensen (again)

The panel -American Idol” finally returned from the trash heap Wednesday night with its season premiere, and we have to say that we may be looking at a zero-to-hero situation here. While it is still very early on and you don’t always get a full sense of a judge’s personality until a live so, we’re impressed with everything so far. The judges are fun (especially Harry Connick Jr.), the singers are super-talented, and we actually find ourselves even enjoying the little things. Take, for example, the annoying pan-out shots of audition rooms that are no longer there.

The producers of the show listened to your feedback, and while there are still problems (sob stories, that “Idol chamber” thingy), almost everything is a net positive. We feel invested again, and entertained. That’s something that “American Idol” hasn’t really emphasized in quite a while.

What we’re going to do here is break up our quick-take on all the contestants by city, and then by whether or not the contestant has a golden ticket to their name.

Boston Acts Advancing

Marialle Sellers – Marialle was the first contestant to emerge from the bowels of that terrifying chamber, and performed a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade” that was soulful and solid. She’s got the Miley Cyrus without EVERYTHING ELSE that Miley Cyrus has.

Troy Durden a.k.a. Twerk Man – Is Troy Durden like Tyler Durden? If so, the first rule of twerking is that you shouldn’t talk about twerking. The second rule of twerking should be that you should NEVER, ever do it. Seriously. On another note: This guy got a golden ticket? He didn’t really sing so much as wail a few notes and hoped that something stuck.

Sam Woolf – Someone should tell this guy’s grandpa that Kevin O’Leary will probably sue him into the ground for him calling Sam “Mr. Wonderful.” Outside of that, we dig him. Also, the first person of the season to sing something current and refreshing in “Lego House.”

Ethan Thompson, Lindsey Pedicone, Jillian Jensen – We like the way that the “montage contestants” were shown; in addition to actually giving you a little bit of the performance, you got a moment or two of each singer explaining their journey on the show. Jillian also is the first “X Factor” contestant to be shown on this season.

Stephanie Hanvey – Probably the most “All-American” of all our contestants. She works as a lifeguard! She’s a Jennifer Lopez fan! She’s got a decent voice that needs some more polish! We don’t know why we are still using exclamation points! She is the sort of contestant that deserves to get through; there is something there, but it’s still early. A little bit of time and polish can get her there.

Morgan Diplatch – Clearly, the youth of America is going to come out this season, mostly because it is their first year of eligibility. A very good performance, but we liked Harry’s criticism of her by saying that she should be doing things that are a little more age-appropriate for the time being.

Taylor Hildack – The first contestant to get a “no” of the season, and at least she is not some sort of horrible joke act. She wasn’t that terrible; instead, she was just okay. The best thing that came from her performance actually was seeing the new judges in action doing what is the hardest part of it: Telling people “no” while giving them actual help.

Austin Percario – “X Factor” contestant #2! Austin was a part of the group inTENsity, which made it to the live shows during season 1. Other members, including Arin Ray and Ellona Santiago, have competed on that show. Also, stage mom!

Kaitlyn Jackson – This was the first real sad story of the season: A 15-year old that had a great voice, but also wrote a song about her grandfather, who nearly died while watching her perform at an event years ago. We’d like to know more about her besides that story, but we’re excited to see more of her.

Keith London – This guy is our favorite of the Boston auditions that we’ve seen: Energetic, unique, and reminds us a little bit of Casey Abrams when it comes just to his personality. We don’t know if he has the same sort of musical sensibility, but the most important thing is that like Casey, we just had fun listening to him.

Erin Christine – Another good singer, but she was used for some sort of unfortunate Twitter game that was one of the low points in the episode. It took the focus off of her.

Shanon Wilson – A big guy with a lovely voice that we weren’t expecting. With that being said, our favorite moment of this still has to be watching Ryan Seacrest try to play up the guy’s football background by running around, and then falling over a row of chairs.

Stephanie Petronelli – Clearly, Grace Potter is on the song list … but going in here in a cheerleading outfit is just so desperate, and suggests that you really just want to get on TV.

Sent Home in Boston

James Earl – He probably should’ve stopped before he sang. He was actually really funny and entertaining, but not anywhere near a good singer. He could actually be a comic.

Jacqueline Verna – Mostly, this audition existed so that Harry could teach us all about pentatonics. It was a funny little segments still, and we did a double-take before we realized that he was not talking about “The Sing-Off.”

Sam Atherton – First, this guy didn’t look any younger than 35. Also, he was annoying, off-putting, and he seemed to have some sort of awareness that this was some sort of a joke and he was only a step above completely awful and “massive train wreck.”

Austin Acts Advancing

Savion Wright – Okay, Savion at this point in the show passed everyone in Boston as the best audition of the night. He actually had a pretty good original song, a personality, and just this nice, comforting energy.

Terrica Curry, Justin Fira – We saw very little, but we like what we saw!

Madelyn Patterson – Great advice from Harry that he really didn’t give a chance to give out here. Madelyn has a good country voice, but he recognized that she was basically just doing a ton of runs in a “look how good I am” way. She needs to focus more on the melody if she wants to get further.

Savannah Young and Ben Boone – Why couldn’t we get more of these two? A similar sort of shunnery going on here.

Malcolm Allen – The moment that this guy came out there with that air guitar, we were ready to start to condemn him as a joke. But, he was good, even with the overdone “Superstitious” as an audition song.

Munfarid Zaidi – This was one of the suprises of the night! Not only was there good singing, but there was the glorious sight of Harry Connick cradling a young man from Pakistan in his arms like a baby while he sang. (This was some random bet Harry met out of excitement that he had a fan at the auditions.) So entertaining.

Sent Home in Austin

Durann Cree – The first contestant in the Austin auditions is someone who we actually thought was going to be good enough to advance, and she was better than some people who went through in Boston. Plus, her mom thought Keith Urban smelled nice!

Rolando Guerrero – We seriously thought that this guy was going to never let Jennifer Lopez go. That is all.

Were you entertained? There were some good performers, but above all, we just found ourselves smiling time and time again. A great start. Grade: A-.

Who was your favorite on the “American Idol” premiere, and did you like the new judging panel? Let us know in the poll below your grade, and also sign up for our CarterMatt Newsletter to get some more updates worth singing about via email.

Photo: Fox



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