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Idol Worship: 'Idol' 8.1 Redux

We're off and running, Idol fans, with two cities down on the Season 8 audition tour and six more to go. Perhaps you noticed some subtle changes during premiere week's first two episodes? Fewer freaks, faster turnaround, and a fourth judge who's not afraid to speak her mind. Judging by Kara Dioguardi's screen time, it's obvious the new girl's there to shake things up, and we welcome it wholeheartedly.

As far as the contestants go, for every diamond in the rough, there's the just plain rough, and Season 8 looks to have plenty of both. But so far, we've been pleasantly surprised by the talent turnout, or what the producers chose to show of it. Of course, well before Tuesday night's premiere, we'd already heard about bikini girl and the blind guy -- both of whom did not disappoint -- but we weren't expecting the Winehouse-ian display put on by so many of the female singers. With music sales (and ratings) down, at least we can still count on good taste.

We'll leave the live-blogging and endless pontificating about people whose names we won't remember five minutes from now to other Idol obsessives throughout the Web, and save our thoughts for the Top 36. But in the meantime, here are our picks for Week One's most memorable moments, ranging from the good to the great. As for the bad and, inevitably, tragic, let us know: who made your list?    

Emily Hughes (Phoenix)
Not only can she belt Heart's "Barracuda" and look like she's not even trying, this singer of an all-girl band did her Idol homework: She's ready to go the Daughtry route! And with her ridiculously adorable look (think: Drew Barrymore with tats), it's no wonder they put her through to Hollywood first.

Ariana Afsar (Phoenix)
At 16, Ariana's expressive, soulful vocal style is way beyond her years and she knows it. She nailed her audition with the Corinne Bailey Rae hit, "Put Your Records On," which should put some of the older contestants on immediate guard. Ariana's a no-brainer.

Casey Carlson (Kansas City)
Talk about the whole package, little Casey Carlton, who could easily double for Paramore's Hayley Williams, is not only a great singer, but fully understands the art of emoting for the Idol cameras. Even Simon was swooning, and her cuteness sealed the deal.

Lil Rounds (Kansas City)
A tug-at-your-heartstrings story, killer vocal chops and a great name, Lil is poised to be this year's Melinda Doolittle and is off to a great start. Weeks away from the Hollywood round, Randy has already compared her to Fantasia and Mary J. Blige!

Alex Wagner-Trugman (Phoenix)
Consider the geeky Alex Arizona's dark horse, with that Joe Cocker vibe and the confidence to call Simon out on one of his trademark nonsensical quips. He may end up outsmarting them all.

Michael Sarver (Phoenix)
He's got the backstory and the soulful voice, but also has the odds stacked against him. Still, the burly roughneck with the gentle touch makes for the perfect makeover candidate. Bring it on!

Scott Macintyre  (Phoenix)
A blind piano prodigy reaches for the sky and we think, "What is this, Dancing with the Stars?!" Cynicism aside, it was fairly obvious Scott would go through, considering they saved his extended at-home segment for last. His rendition of "And So It Goes" felt a little Phantom of the Opera to us, but there's potential there.

Von Smith (Kansas City)
With a voice that needs no amplification, Von could learn a thing or two about volume control, but like the judges, he won us over too. Of course, going a little less Broadway -- like losing the hat -- wouldn't be a bad idea.

Michael Castro (Kansas City)
Jason Castro's younger brother was one of the most anticipated contenders rumored to be trying out this season. He picked a great song (Gavin Degraw's "In Love With a Girl"), had an, um, interesting look (somewhere along the line, Michael opted for the punk rock route rather than the hippie train) and claimed he'd only started singing 20 days prior. And guess what? It showed. He was kind of meh. So now a slew of contestants are undoubtedly cursing the Castro clan's good luck. But we'll give him another chance.

Asa Barnes (Kansas City)
We love a snuggly velvet teddy bear as much as the next guy (or girl), but wouldn't necessarily object to a bit more of a Chris Brown vibe and a little less Luther Vandross. Could Asa be our answer? His take on "The Way You Make Me Feel" certainly showed promise. -- Shirley Halperin

January 15, 2009 in American Idol, Music, Television | Permalink


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