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'American Idol' recap: Season premiere

Steven TylerAmerican Idol (tv program)Michael JacksonJennifer LopezRyan SeacrestKelly ClarksonDave Matthews

"American Idol"kicked off its 11th season with a retrospective feel as it took us back to 2002 and reminded us of the moment when waitress Kelly Clarkson won the inaugural season. Video clips of Idol hopefuls as kids performing were flashed before our eyes. 

But you know what everybody tuned in for: the auditions! Some notables:

Sixteen-year-old David Leathers Jr. (who, let's be honest, looked 12) sang "Remember the Rain" and sounded as if he could have been the sixth member of the Jackson 5. And then Jennifer Lopez went on to ask him to sing a Michael Jackson song ... imagine that! (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Tap dancer Gabi Carruba from North Haven, Conn., whose wish was to see Steven close his eyes and cock his head to the side as he listened to her audition, sang a very breezy "Sunday Morning." And who doesn't love a breezy Sunday morning? (Verdict: Hollywood! And Steven closed his eyes!)

Nineteen-year-old Jessica Whitely, who has been auditioning and performing at talent shows all her life, got three No's (nobody likes an angry audition) and blamed it on being dehydrated. But wait, there's more! She promised to see the judges at the Texas auditions. Brace yourselves.

Shaun Kraisman, who looked, acted, and sounded like Ryan Seacrest. He even wore a suit. Hosting future? Yes. Singing future? Meh. (Verdict: No!)

Steven Tyler saying "Hot, humid ... just like your daughter" to the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Magrane. Umm ... awkward. But hey, his daughter's going through. Another Cardinals kid going to Hollywood (guess who the other one was?)

Amy Brumfeld, who lives in a tent in the woods with her boyfriend (still better than living in a van down by the river), gave a raspy, husky rendition of Alicia Keys' "Superwoman." Her voice is not as powerful as A.Keys', but man is her tone beautiful. And she sang it like she believed it. You go "hipsie" girl! (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Mawuena Kodjo from West Africa, who claimed his voice was both low and high. He even gave a sample, just in case we didn't believe him. Look, I'm all for people coming to America to realize their dreams, but, dude. He was so far out of tune that he needs to take a hot-air balloon ride to look for the tune, and he can come back once he has found it. Do not believe the people in the nearby streets. They just want to be on TV. (Verdict: No!)

Sales associate Ashlee Altise, inventor of the joy hop. You'd think somebody this confident-crazy would bomb in the audition, but her rendition ofThe Beatles'"Come Together" was surprisingly awesome. As Steven Tyler said, she's got "Fire, spirit, spunk." J.Lo said she liked a little bit of crazy. Yep, we need that crazy goodness on this show. (Verdict: Hollywood!)

Erica Nowak from New York, who predicted that Steven Tyler would be her ex-husband. She was rewarded with a hug from the Aerosmith frontman. But alas, a hug was not enough. Erica went in for the butt-grab as well. And you know what? Might as well hug the other male judge and touch his butt after the audition. Anything to get a golden ticket, right? Except she didn't get one.

Phillip Phillips from Leesburg, Ga., who was really born with that name (just like his dad). But don't let the name fool you. Phillip had what might be the best audition in Savannah. His performance of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" actually reminded me of Taylor Hicks. And just when I thought of that, J.Lo said, "It's like there's electricity going through your body." Yep, that's Taylor all right. I remember him well. But then when he picked up his guitar to perform another song, a different artist came to mind: Dave Matthews. The way he held the guitar and stomped his foot (I was actually waiting for the raised eyebrow), pure Dave. And his acoustic version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller": WOW.

So, 42 singers received the golden ticket to Hollywood -- good job, Savannah! Now on to the Steel Town as Idol visits Pittsburgh Thursday night. See you then!

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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