It's that time again, friends!

Hollywood week is here, and that means (for many of us) American Idol has officially started!

The auditions weren't that bad this year, though. Producers want viewers to get to know the contestants early on, so they've been showing some of the better singers and their back stories. (Lots of sob stories this season!)

So here we go:

Ryan says this will be the toughest week of their lives, because this is Hollywood week, and THIS is American Idol!

How to stand out? Falling out of the van is a good start. Adding to the pressure? Performing on the most high profile stage in the world: the Kodak Theatre. (Really? The WORLD?)

Ellen is introduced, and tells the crowd that she knows what it's like to stand on a stage and please a roomful of people.

How will she be as a judge? Funny, we hope!

First round:

The contestants come out in groups of 8. They can either sing alone, or with an instrument. It's sudden death: they move on, or get sent home.

First up: Katie Stevens (17, Boston) very close with her Grandmother, who has Alzheimers. Nice, Katie! She reminds me of Kat McPhee (who should have won). Simon tells her she's quite good, Randy says she's a 'great natural talent'

Skiiboski Wheeler-- Ellen is frightened! There's a fine line between sexy and scary. Then just like that: half the group is gone (including Skiiboski, who isn't going down without a fight -- they still say NO).


Back from the commercial break, and the judges don't seem so happy with the singers. Ellen has some funny remarks, including telling one girl to put some shoes on because LA is a dirty place!

*Andrew Garcia (24, California)-- trying to make a better life for his family. Nice, cool version of Paula Abdul's 'Straight Up'! LOVE IT! Kara calls it genius, then goes on and on -- she is already getting on my nerves.

* Vanessa Wolf-- (20, Tennessee) country girl, who has never been out of town. This is a huge step for her, and she is nervous, especially after Andrew just KILLED it. Vanessa did NOT kill it. Ellen says she's unique, but says she's hiding inside and has to let it go.

Andrew moves on -- Vanessa is going home, along with lots of other hopefuls- they're not wasting any time!

Some early favorites are disappointing the judges in this first round: Cornelius Edwards, out. Maegan Wrigh, out. Amadeo DiRocco, out.

Note to talent: if you can't play the instrument, then DON'T play the instrument.