"American Idol" teased everyone with clips of fights between new judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, but in the end singers Frankie Ford and Sarah Restuccio stole the show as the New York City auditions kicked off Season 12 of the long-running Fox show.
Minaj was fantastic as a judge and got, by far, the most airtime. Her comments were pithy, spot-on, original and showed a passion for music and young singers. Carey tended to speak more in platitudes but hey, she's MARIAH and spent half the show beaming at gushing fans.
Fellow newbie judge Keith Urban added sincere but forgettable observations in the first episode, while stalwart Randy Jackson was solid as always.
As for the singers themselves (you know, the real reason for the show), some real gems came out of NYC. Below is how I ranked them. Add your own thoughts in the comments, below.
1) Brooklyn's own Frankie Ford, who says he sings on the NYC subway to try and make money, was the breakout star of the night. His version of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" wasn't vocally amazing, but he has a sincerity and sweetness to his personality that brought big smiles from all the judges. Carey called it his "inner glow," with Minaj summing it up well: "I don't think you have the best voice here today .?.?. but there's something about you that I think the people want to see more of."
2) Jersey girl Sarah Restuccio loves country and her "beautiful tone" had Minaj predicting she could be a "humongous country star." But her artistic range, pairing a Carrie Underwood song with "Super Bass," is what really energized Minaj and the other judges. She's one to watch because she definitely won't make boring song choices.
3) Ashlee Feliciano, whose family has fostered and adopted a number of "medically complex children," closed the NYC auditions with a smooth-as-silk "Put Your Records On." Minaj, as usual tonight, summed it up best: "So pretty, so 'I wanna come to your show.' "
4) Gurpreet Singh Sarin, who's Sikh, wore a lavender turban and says he goes by "Turbanator." Sarin flashed a nice tone and charismatic personality. Like Minaj and Urban, I worry his voice may not stack up, but for now I'm a fan on the basis of his personality.
5) Angela Miller, who has hearing loss and looks like a pop star, performed "Momma Knows Best" well. As Carey said, she has a "real tone with a real soul behind it, and a beautiful texture."
6) Tenna Torres from Queens, who went to "Camp Mariah" as a kid, can flat out sing. Her slow, emotional version of "You've Got A Friend" got the chatty judges to listen quietly, with Minaj proclaiming, "We're all sitting in awe, blown away."
7) Nobody knows why Fox wrote the last name of Christina "Isabelle" in quotes, but her brassy version of "Summertime" got an "O-M-G" from Minaj
8) Shira Gavrielov said at age 17 one of her songs was No. 1 in Israel. She had a soulful voice, but didn't really stand out otherwise for me.