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'American Idol': And so it begins ... without Paula

I can't believe it, but I'm really sad about starting this season of American Idol without Paula Abdul. Even sadder given the news that Simon Cowell's out after this year. Are we going to tune in for Randy Jackson? I think not.

Anyway, we won't see what the chemistry of the panel is like with new judge Ellen DeGeneres just yet because during the audition rounds, a number of guest judges rotated through.

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First up, in Boston, is Victoria Beckham, who is just thrilllllled to be there.

The first contestant we meet is Janet McNamara, a woman who says she's only been singing well "for like two years," and her proof that she is singing well is that she wins the AI Karaoke video game. People. I win this game, too, and I assure you, I cannot sing. So clearly we're leading with our first delusional contestant. She psychs herself up "like I would for a job interview, jumping up and down in the bathroom beforehand." They show her running into the room, telling the judges that she is prepared because of the game (Simon finds this particularly amusing), and then she jumps into "Pocketful of Sunshine" just the way she sings in the video game. Horrendously, shrilly and with lots of awkward running around. It's awful. They ask what their characters think, and Janet tells them that Simon likes her 90 percent of the time and "Paula really likes me," but she's gesturing at Kara DioGuardi. Kara says: "I'm not Paula." It's a no, and she looks shocked, but she tells them it was wicked awesome.

Kara and V:

Don't they look thrilled with how this is going so far? Yeah, me too.

Maddy Curtis says this is so surreal because she has been watching the show "since I was 8." She is 16, and she comes from a family 12 kids, several of whom have Down Syndrome. (We get to meet her family, so I'm hoping she is good.) She sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and she is sweet and good. They judges love her sweetness and find her very authentic. She's through to Hollywood.

Pat Ford is really annoying and sings "Womanizer." No, sings is not the right verb. Randy tells him he'd like to hang out, but he should stop singing forever.

Jennifer Hirsch, Claire Fuller and Jess Wolfe all get tickets. By noon, Ryan Seacrest says, only women have gotten tickets to Hollywood.

Amadeo Diricco gets the "family footage" treatment, too. They're a close Italian family. They eat so much that I'm starting to think it's the intro footage for a contestant on The Biggest Loser.  He sings Muddy Waters, and his voice is OK, but he has a lot of tics. V says he has a powerful voice, and Simon says he has lots of likability. He gets a ticket!

Spiritual guy Derek Hilton says he's always been "gradutating" toward music. He also thinks he sounds like Chris Brown and the Eagles. He sings "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" through his nose and with a lot of affectations. Simon says it was like there were 20 of him, and every one of them horrible. He's out.

Montage of no, with lots of tears, including Mom tears.

Mere Doyle is an anime fan and hand makes a lot of costumes. She also wants to be a star in Japan, badly. She sings Janis Joplin, and she'd be slightly bearable in a karaoke bar if you were drunk, but no. Simon says she was verging on terrible. She's stunned. She says singing is her life and she wants to make it as a singer. Simon says, "I'd like to fly to the moon, but I can't. [Pause.] Actually, I bet I could." He's got the bucks for it.

Luke Schaffer and Benjamin Bright get golden tickets, too.

Andrew Fenlon really doesn't enjoy the waiting, and he's really over being interviewed. Simon asks why he's there, and he says, "I'm here to audition for American Idol; it should be fairly obvious." He says he's going to sing "House of the Rising Sun"; "do you know that song?" He sings a soundalike version, and his voice isn't bad, just kind of weird. Kara asks if he is angry, and he says he's just tired of waiting, and she is NOT. AMUSED. She says that he is wasting his chance and that she really doesn't like him. He gets lots of nos, but Simon says he is starting to grow on him. At first I thought he just didn't know how to talk to people, but after seeing him talk to Ryan afterward, that was a total put-on. Annoying for sure!

Montage of badness.

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Ashley Rodriguez comes out and sings "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys. They love her. Kara says she is her favorite today. Simon says, "Some people have got it, and I think you have got it." That sounds like a quote from the video game. Hollywood!

Drummer Tyler Grady fell out of a tree a few weeks ago and shattered his wrists so he's still got casts. He dreams of being a front man.  He sings "Let's Get It On." The girls lurve him. So do the boys. He gets the golden ticket!

At the end of the first day, 18 total got said tickets.

Lisa Olivero is a waitress who taught herself to sing. She tells the judges that she finally decided to try out because she watches Idol and thinks she is better than most of the people on the show. She's not. They let her go on for-EVER. Randy says she is nice, beautiful, but it was rough.

Montage de no.

Mike Davis sings "Yesterday" and is good. Or as Simon says, "You're a confident young guy, without being obnoxious."  He's the first golden ticket of day two. His mom cries. Awww ...

Katie Stevens is 16 and gets the "family history" edit -- she is close with her grandma, who has Alzheimer's. Katie connects with her through music. "I want her to see me succeed in my dream before she forgets who I am," she says. Then she sings "At Last," first to her grandma, then to the judges. I'll admit it. I'm crying. Kara says it's amazing for someone who is 16 to be able to sing like that, and the others think she has a natural talent. Her giant family is thrilled! Even Ryan cries!

At the other end of the spectrum is Joshua Blaylock, who is 28, so this is his last shot.  V says he has "a nice little voice." Simon doesn't think he has presence for his age. There is a lot of back and forth about his assertiveness, but then he makes it to Hollywood after they mess with him for a while.

Montage of whaaaa?

Justin Williams got diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and calls it a humbling experience. He says this (Idol, I guess) would prove that he didn't give up.  V thinks everything about him is nice, Kara thinks he's memorable. He gets a unanimous golden ticket.

Norberto Guerrero is ... well, look, I could barely watch this part because I knew the guy was going to embarrass himself, so I'll leave it to Simon, who says he sings like a 3-year-old, is dressed like LaToya Jackson, and on top of it all, he has a beard that is really weirding him out. It's a no.

Bosa Mora's parents are from Nigeria and always wanted to pursue music, but they are getting their chance through him. Simon thinks he's kind of boring, but he gets his ticket! "I'm ready to work!" he declares. His parents are so sweet!

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Leah Laurenti has a goal to be a singer, though she was raised in a family where she wasn't allowed to sing secular music. Randy liked her surprising jazzy vibe. Kara says she really needs to know that she is good; she's so emotionally on the brink. She's headed to Hollywood!

32 folks are headed to Hollywood from Boston.

So there were some good contestants, some terrible ones, but let's talk about the real news. I missed Paula, but this went so fast, actually, that it wasn't a constant thought. Victoria Beckham brought a nice energy to the judges' table.

But seriously. Can you imagine this without Simon? No way. No how.

Tomorrow? Atlanta.

What did you think about the season premiere?

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