Welcome to “American New Year” …the “new year” in America, if you didn’t know, doesn’t start until American Idol starts and 1,000 years from now, I think we’ll be basing our calendar around the seasons of Idol. We’ll have B.C., A.D. and A.I. (after Idol). And while we already pretty much all worship Mariah Carey, she’s still writing more chapters in her legend. Oh, wait …what’s that? Oh, we need to establish some new Idol ground rules, I think. It’s not a Simon-world and it ain’t a Seacrest-world we’re livin’ in anymore …it’s a Mariah World. Hell, they might as well rename the show “Mariah Idol” or “Mariah’s American Idol” or “The Mariah Tyler Moore Show” …something.

Be warned – I love Mariah and she can can’t do wrong. What the word for that? Ah yes, “infallible.” If she says something even modestly funny, you had damn well better laugh. And if she’s in a bad mood, you had better be walking on egg shells. She’s the closest thing we’ve got to the “next Elvis” and she’s an American treasure. Pardon me if this seems overdramatic, but we’re talkin’ about Mariah. It’s like a complete cosmic mind bend, going on. Idol had made a reputation by making stars out of nobodies. Before Idol, we didn’t know Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, or Simon Cowell. Before Idol, we all probably thought Paula Abdul was just some 1980s throw-back celebrity. Before Idol, J-Lo was pretty much fading into obscurity. We didn’t know anyone named Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. But now we do.

Now, however, Idol has Mariah …or does Mariah have Idol? There’s something completely “off” with this experiment and I’m not sure how to handle it. She exists as a “thing” …somewhat of a cartoon character, if you will. She’s grown to a point of unimaginable, Michael-Jackson-esque  fame status …and yet, here she is. Not for 1-week, not for a “few episodes” …no …she seems like she really signed on for the full 40 weeks (which I’m pretty sure is how long this whole thing lasts). And …it’s …awesome. 2013 is already a great year. I also have a hunch that if anyone were to walk off a LIVE show and quit on LIVE TV, it would be her …and it would add to her legend, of course. A dark part of me would LOVE something like that.

Are you clear on the rules? It’s simple. Mariah rules! Got it? Yay. Then we can all enjoy weekly recaps and snarky comments and clever insights and brilliant critiques and we don’t have to deal with any ‘comments’ like “I’m already tired of Mariah” or “I hate Mariah” or “she’s ruining the show.” If the show’s ratings slip, or it seems less entertaining, there’s plenty of blame to go ‘round, but none should be aimed at Mariah.

Hey, hey, hey …I’m done with all the Mariah Rules …I’m ready to recap. Or should I say, I’m ready to Marecap (Mariah + recap …get it?).

For those of you who’ve been reading for TWELVE SEASONS, I welcome you back. I’m humbled you’re here, and I hope this season is as fun as ever. You love Idol, I love Idol, and we don’t apologize. Could it be better? Will it ever see audiences and ratings like it had during seasons 2, 3, and 4? Well …no …of course not. But that’s OK with me. It’s still the “formula” and “format” that works. A cold audition …in a lifeless conference room …in front of three (now four) people who can make you part of pop-culture, or send you back to your singing gig at weddings or as a music teacher not getting any younger. It’s brilliant in it’s simplicity, and last night they just jumped right into the heart of New York like we hadn’t been away for even a day.

Did anyone know there ever existed such a thing as “Camp Mariah” which I assume was the inspiration behind Camp Rock (and Camp Rock 2)? I certainly didn’t, but trust me, I’d have gone. Tina Tores was a former Camp Mariah stand-out, and she had the pictures of “young Mariah” to prove it, so she got a ticket. Mariah liked the pictures. Mariah looked at the pictures as if they possessed some sort of magical time traveling powers that she could use to be 19 years-old again. Funny …the only time Mariah looked interested in anything was when someone showed her pictures of herself.

Oh, divas of the world …you don’t have a clue how it’s done. That is how it’s done. If Mariah can keep this up all season, she’s going to win an Emmy and a Golden Globe …probably in the category of “Best Thing on TV Ever” or “Leading Superstar in a Show” or whatever.

James Bae showed us just because you look like Psy, and American loves a quirky Asian, we don’t love just any cute Asian (I’ll get some hits from Google searches for “cute Asian”). Hey James (if that is our real name), we loved you the first time we saw you, when you called yourself William Hung. Mariah suggested he think about DJ’ing, and although he didn’t resemble Justin Beiber in any way, he would’ve benefited from some Beiber-esque auto tune.

Christina “Isabelle” …why was “Isabelle” in quotes … lost a lotta weight, I guess. Keith Urban loved the vulnerability in her voice. She came from Berkley School of Music, so its not like she doesn’t have a pedigree. She feigned humility and nervousness, but shit …you don’t accidentally end up at Berkley and then hitch a ride to New York City, and have a voice like that, and not realize you have pipes. Spare me the modesty.

Cancer Kid-with-No Leg, Evan Ruggiero, should’ve been given a sympathy yellow ticket, but instead the judges refused to give sympathy. I just know some obnoxious idiot is going to get a yellow ticket soon, and that will be painful. Would it have killed them to give the kid a break? He would’ve been harmless in Hollywood. Bummer.

Jessica Kartalis was nominated by her family and went to the front of the line when Randy showed up like Willy Wonka and gave her a web won ticket. Poor girl should’ve refused to play the guitar in her audition, because she sounded pretty good until her out of tune guitar fired up and she forgot how to play whatever song she was trying to sing. What a gut punch ..see you next year, said the judges..

An Israelite named Shira Gavrielov received a Mariah, “shalom”, which is the best “shalom” anyone could ever hope to hear, outside of, say, a burning bush. If I heard her correctly, she already is the “Mariah Carey of Isreal”, so she was good …and she got four quick “yes’s”.

Then came Frankie Ford, who dropped outta school to pursue music and now he sings on a train to make ends meet. He’s not quite “all there” and forgot the words to “Sweet Dreams” and finally, barely, put it together and got a ticket. He’s fragile and he’s going to get KILLED in Hollywood. In fact, we might not even see footage of him and he may not even show up …poor guy.

Day 2 started with Benjamin Gaisey who sported a homemade Michael Jackson “Beat It” outfit and a Biz Markie wig, and he proved, yes, we are really kinda done with the bad auditions. Then again, my 9, 8, and 6 year old laughed uproariously, so maybe, “for the kids” we can show a few hopeless crazies every now and then. Like Rozanna Shindelman who couldn’t sing, even though her singing gave her immigrant mother, “cheelz” (translation: chills). Or later when we saw Albert Chang (aka William Hung 2013) and Idol showed they aren’t afraid to repeat old bits. It’s like retro-Idol. They all sucked. There was enough “train wrecks” to make it interesting.

I liked Sarah Restuccio, the redneck from rural New Jersey (something a midwestern guy like myself didn’t even know existed) and she’s a pretty-version of that Country girl from last year …who rode ATVs and shot bow-and-arrows? Mariah loved her immediately and said she could see “a complete package” and then Sarah effortlessly went from a Carrie Underwood audition song to a pretty convincing Nikki Minaj rap solo. Keep an eye out for Restuccio …from Jersey …the hurricane …sympathy and East Coast votes …seriously. Remember her name. Doesn’t hurt she was pretty cute, too.

And the last three worth mentioning are Angela Miller, with hearing loss in both ears, Gurpreet Singh “The Turbnator” Sarin who rocked a Smokey Robinsoneque voice, tons of personality, and a lavender turban (I can’t wait to see more of him, and it’s not because I’m playing up my acceptance of diversity …I just dug this cat), and Ashlee Feliciano, who’s parents adopted four children (after having three healthy children of their own) with Medical Complexities. Wow. People who do that …amazing. Ashlees voice was “eh” and “just OK”, but hey …if you’re gonna just give a ticket to give someone a thrill and an adventure, her story’s enough for me.

And that was that …and what did we learn? (1) Randy will repeat, verbatim, everything and anything Mariah says. (2) Ryan looked like he was playing the role of “group counselor” at various times because Mariah is not pleased, at all, that Nikki Minaj is on the panel (do you realize I only mentioned her twice this entire Mariahcap …er, Marecap?). Nikki Minaj is still in the early phases of her fame, which may not last past 1 or 2 albums (remember when we all though Missy Elliot was gonna be around forever?), and she’s really, really enjoying the ride. It’s refreshing …to see someone happy …because Mariah has lost the ability to feel “joy”. Which is perfectly normal. And Keith Urban …I bet he remembers fondly how it felt to be a “star” but surrounded by this group, he’s like an intern who got promoted or won an office pool who’s prize was a spot at the Idol judging table. Oh, Country fans …relax. I know he’s really popular in your world and on your radio stations, but this is a “pop” show looking for a “pop” star …Country is weird to most of us.

I think I’ll stop there. I’m so glad Idol is back and I’m even more glad you’re back. And if you’re reading this sentence, it means you just read 1,700 words recapping American Idol and you’re in an elite .00001% of World Wide Web readers …which is the percentage of all people who read my columns each week. Hey …some call it “no readers” …I call it “an exclusive club.” Welcome back and welcome to the club. Also, if you’re interested in joining your local chapter of Mariah Carey’s Fan Club, leave a comment and I’ll have a member of our dedicated spunkybean staff reach out to you and discuss initiation rituals, rites, and regulations.

Thanks, again, for reading and see you tomorrow and all season. Yay, Idol.

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