After 10 seasons of "American Idol," is it really possible to promise that season 11 will “deliver the most talented season of singers yet”?
Regardless, it appears that the juggernaut of reality shows will deliver a season of surprises.
Among the auditioners for this season's "Idol," which debuts Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Fox and continues Thursday at 7, is Johnny, a young, good-looking boy from Florida who works at an Italian restaurant but looks as if he should be displayed on the shopping bags at Hollister. As soon as he opens his mouth to sing, you’re expecting a Backstreet Boy but get a Jason Mraz/the Script hybrid — with way cooler runs. Johnny gets barely five seconds into his audition when Steven Tyler says, “Should we just vote right now? No, keep singing.”
Ten seconds later he’s interrupted again, this time by Jennifer Lopez. “What do you do again?”
“I work at an Italian restaurant,” Johnny says grinning.
“Keep singing!” Lopez shouts.
The next audition to throw viewers for a loop comes from someone who knew last season’s winner, Scotty McCreery, and even beat him out in a local talent competition. Once he starts singing, you’ll know why, although don’t let his 10-year-old-boy looks fool you. This kid’s actually a senior in high school nicknamed “Mr. Steal-a-Girl” for his amazing vocal ability to make the ladies swoon.
And then there’s Reid from Wisconsin, a quirky, goofy guy with a very interesting song choice.
“I’m here to sing for you guys. It’s happening, what? It’s actually happening!” Reid says as he shakes his head and psyches himself up for the audition of his life.
“What are you singing, man?” Randy Jackson asks as all three judges look down at their papers, seemingly embarrassed for the guy.
“The theme song to 'Family Matters'!” Reid replies confidently.
A theme song? An "Idol" first.
And then magic. He starts scatting, snapping and tapping his feet, and pretty soon you’re moving right along with him to his cool jazzy vibe.
“You’re crazy!” Tyler exclaims, laughing. “That was genius!”
“A mark of a great performer is that you never know what they’re going to do, so you can’t take your eyes off them," Lopez says. "You have that."
It's entertaining TV.
But no other audition will be quite as unbelievable as HeeJun from Korea. Barely speaks English. Nervous as all get-out. Can’t stop shaking his arms. And then he busts out a mean Michael Bolton “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?”
“I am really impressed and shocked,” Jackson says.
“Nobody tells me that kind of stuff,” says an overwhelmed HeeJun who seems to be equally surprised. “But you guys are telling me, so ”
So it’s gotta mean that guy was good.
The judges have solidified their positions as the new "Idol" gurus, delivering great chemistry and feedback, if a little on the predictable side.
And of course you can expect the googly-eyed girls begging Steven Tyler for a hug or a kiss while Jackson and J-Lo cheer them on.
But no matter how crazy the auditions get, there’s nothing like watching each hopeful contestant burst through the audition doors with a golden ticket in hand (even if that audition room is on the USS Midway in San Diego, an unusual and impractical place to hold them, for sure).
It almost doesn’t matter what else happens or how far they get, because in that moment everything is right with the world. In that moment, some future superstar is getting a taste of what it really means to make dreams a reality.
So hold on tight, America. In the words of HeeJun:
“Hollywoooooooooooooooooooood I’m coming!”
Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment for the Deseret News.