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This was a strong start for Season 8.  I loved the recap, which usually feels forced, and the new judge makes perfect sense. Paula is known for critiquing appearances; Randy listens for musicality; and Simon looks for marketability.  It seems fitting that they would bring in a song person, since song selection is probably the biggest factor in "American Idol."  I'm surprised they've waited this long.  Hooray for Kara DioGaurdi, who will forever be known as the other judge. And she can SAANNNGGG!

Luck (along with a month and several other rounds) plays a big part in getting through to see the judges.  However, things to watch for are people who are very casually dressed and don't take their auditions too seriously.  This is how we found today's Idol superstars, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and David Cook to name a few.

Also, if you recognize anyone from a commercial, there are probably high expectations for that person.  This is the case with Emily Hughes, who sang "Barracuda".  She has a great voice, and they were promoting her before the season even started.  Unless something drastic happens, she'll make it to the finals.

Other people to watch are Arianna Afbar, Michael Sarver and JB Ahfua.  I can pretty much guarantee Michael a spot in the semifinals unless he forgets his lyrics during "Hollywood Week", but JB will really need to come out of his shell to make it any further, even with his great voice.

If you are on "Idol", you want to perform in what we contestants called the "the pimp spot" (for lack of a better term), a.k.a last performer of the night.  It is rare to go home when you sing last.  For this episode, they featured the extremely talented Scott McIntyre.  Not only do I guarantee him a spot in the finals, I consider him a contender.  And if he doesn't win here, I'm sure "Dancing With the Stars" will nab him...

Who do you think will actually make it as a finalist?  Do you think we have a sleeper in this group?

A couple of side notes:

I'm not ashamed to say that I was in a five-guy group in high school called Sexual Chocolate (a reference to Eddie Murphy's "Coming to America").  When we sang for my wedding, we changed our name to Spiritual Chocolate so no family members were offended.  Maybe we should have changed it to Spiritual ChAcolate...

At the beginning of the show, there was a guy dressed in a barrel.  I actually did a show earlier this year that he attended - in that barrel!  Someone pushed him into a pool and I was scared to death.  He honestly looked like he was going to drown!  I'm glad to see that he made it out OK.

Throughout the season, I will be answering questions that I receive from you.  Here is the first one:

Jackie Ellis from Tampa, Fla., writes, "Do you have access to the Internet while on the show? Could you go to 'Dial Idol' for instance to see how they tallied the votes?"

We did have access to the Internet.  Many of the contestants were intelligent enough to avoid any sites that had anything to do with "Idol", while others (myself included) allowed ourselves to get stressed by what we read on the message boards and sites like "Dial Idol".  The sites proved to be fairly unreliable in anything other than making us feel self-conscious.  If I had any advice to give to the new contestants, it would be to avoid the Internet while participating in the show!!!

If you have a question for me: e-mail me at staceypro@yahoo.com or hit me up on facebook or MySpace.com/philstaceymusic

Tomorrow, I'll dig a little deeper into the actual audition process....  See if you can spot the contestants I will say to watch for based on the above criteria.  Until then, be blessed.