For those who still read my American Idol recaps and still watch American Idol, I’ll start a little melancholy. This is how it all started for me and spunkybean. Not long after the calendar flipped to the 2000s, I thought I’d start blogging and writing. This was before Facebook. Blogging was social media. Blogs were the future. Write a blog. But …write about what? I didn’t know. I had just turned 30, had a wife and a baby, and I thought I might try some writing, try some stand-up comedy, that I might try some improv theater, and along came American Idol and I got wrapped up in it like everyone – probably a little too much. So I wrote about that. In 2002, blogging was like long-form Facebook (which is why Facebook and Twitter are known as micro-blogging). I voted with my landline phone. Everyone did.

Was I funny? Was I interesting? Was I a 30-something married guy with a kid trying to think of something to write about? Yes. Writing about American Idol every week was fun, because I always wished I could sing, and I like singing, musicals, and the nuances of performing and what separates a Michael Jackson from a Tito Jackson. That “it”. American Idol was finding “it.” I wrote. Analyzed. And then I began emailing the link to my blog out to people, and suddenly I had readers. Thousands? Hundreds? Hardly. I had dozens, on a good day. It was enough. It was fun and I plodded along writing about something I loved – American Idol and myself. Oh, yes. I’m an egomaniac and I thought blogging was the ultimate in self aggrandizing ego stroking. Perfect for an egomaniac like myself. My blog was actually called “Don’s Ego.”

There I was, blogging about myself and American Idol. Then a friend said he wanted to start a pop-culture website. And I had been getting brilliant weekly write-ups about Lost from a guy named EJ, and I had a friend, Myndi, who knew more about TV than anyone I’ve ever known, and I convinced them to stop talking about TV (Myndi) and sending emails about Lost (EJ), and instead help me populate a blog.

And. Here. We. Are. I won’t get into my lack of contributions for the last 2+ years, but that’s the brief history of it all and why you might be here reading my American Idol recap as you have been for more than a decade. Sigh. A decade of writing. I really kinda thought I’d have a book out by now. Pish, posh. Never you mind about that (but please buy my book whenever I get around to writing it). You read my blog, and I thank you. And if you only read spunkybean for the American Idol stuff, well, you’re actually missing out because everything EJ and Myndi write is better than my stuff and, well, you’re especially missing out on EJ who’s easily one of the best writers I know. Hell, I’ll read things he writes about shows or movies I’ve never even seen.

But …this …is American Idol …recap! And I’m going to recap it like back in the day. I’m going to document everyone that we see make it through to Hollywood and speculate, predict, and sometimes scold the judges (who I always assume are reading my recaps) for wasting our time with some of the Golden Ticketers.

Season 15 kicked off with a half-hour pre-show giving us a little history, and make no mistake,  American Idol is history. It made history. It invented a genre. Before American Idol, there wasn’t a show with auditions and then 8 straight weeks of LIVE episodes. Aside from Saturday Night Live, and sports, there isn’t much on TV that’s LIVE. Before American Idol, we actually fully accepted voice-tracked singing on award shows and halftime shows. American Idol dared superstars to do what these amateurs were doing …singing LIVE. The pre-show could’ve been much longer, but maybe they think we know it all, already.

J-Lo, Harry Connick Jr., and Keith Urban are all back for the final season with the ageless Ryan Seacrest guiding us along the way. Oh, Ryan. American Idol may be riding off into the sunset, but you’re still everywhere and producing, and running iHeart and E!, and you’re just getting started.

Harry Connick, Jr. must’ve hired new joke-writers because he was on point. Maybe he hired Patton Oswalt.

Last night’s two-hour premier followed the tried and true format – back story. Charming entry into the room. Audition. Golden Ticket. Cheering. And for me, that’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s a show about singing and not about how society doesn’t have proper mental health programs. Let’s get right to the stand-out performances.


Lee Jean was our first sob-story (lost his brother in “an accident”) and he had an amazing soft tone that almost sang to the sadness he holds in his heart from the loss of his brother. Closing my eyes, he sounded like Sean Mendez. Harry told him he needs work, but he easily got a golden ticket.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell (15) – She and her family turn on their generator to watch American Idol and the fact she lives that way might qualify as child-abuse. What she lacked in vocal skills, she made up for in pure charisma I couldn’t turn away from and Harry called it, “funky, and stellar.” As always, it’ll be interesting to see how this small-town girl (actually she’s a no-town girl) does in the Hollywood grind when she’s forced to work, play, and sing with others.

Sonika Vaid – A daughter of immigrants from India had a nice, pretty, sweet sound but was nothing special, but, she’s gorgeous and if pop music teaches us anything, they can clean up her sound in production, but the first step is to look like Selena Gomez. Off she goes to Hollywood and we’ll see how Americanized this girl of Indian descent truly is. The judges loved her more than I did.

Reanna Molinaro – She handcuffed Harry after she, Harry, and Keith performed a one-act play about resisting arrest that I’ve titled “Arrested Idol.” Reanna can definitely sing, and Harry called it good. All the judges called it good. She definitely benefited from being a police officer and being charming and nice to look at. Singing alone didn’t get her a ticket.

Joshua Wicker – This guy auditioned a mere 3 weeks before he and his wife were expecting a child, which means his Golden Ticket will take him away from the wife and baby. I might be inclined to say his lackluster performance of “Stay” was a yawner, but American Idol has become a show about crowning the next guy-with-a-guitar, so he might have a real chance.

Jordan and Alex Sasser – Husband and wife and baby all auditioned together, but not together. More like against each other. If you didn’t watch, I won’t tell you if Jordan or Alex was the husband, or vice versa. The wife was merely cute. The judges were underwhelmed and didn’t give her the ticket. Her husband (again, I won’t tell you if that’s Jordan or Alex), sang Celine Dion (to the point he cried) and as long as he can get to the Top-1o and sing only Phil Collins and Michael Bolton classics, he can win.

Oh, how I miss when a voice won, and not a smokey, whispery voice.

Kerry Courtney – A boy with a sad cancer-in-the-family backstory was all over the map with his Death Cab for Cutie cover, and J-Lo hit it on the head – quirky. The music world is full of “quirky” and my gut tells me he absolutely can’t win this show, but like Harry said . . . I kinda liked it. Why not. There’s been worse people send to Hollywood, and this guy was humble and might really work hard.

Shelbie Z – This overweight hair dresser from Alabama was a bit of a show-stopper with a booming voice and personality to spare, or as J-Lo put it, “had a little fight in her.” Harry didn’t “like” her, but “loved” her. Shelbie could be a sleeper. If anyone’s gonna knock off a guy-with-a-guitar, maybe it could be a tacky, unsophisticated, but charming diamond in the rough.

Second Chancers

Sylvia Lee Walker – You might think she was obnoxious, but Keith Urban and I would love her long winded monologue about her show pigs and broken collar bone and the fact she graduated high school at sixteen.

Shevonne Philidor – Auditioning for the sixth time she finally made it. She’s a mix of Alicia Keys and Usher. That’s probably not right. But she’s unspectacular vocally, and her look is sorta borrowed from others.

Kory Wheeler – Another returning hopeful sang a soulful, boyish Elton John tune and the fact he didn’t make it previously shows how tough it is to make it on Idol and how inexact the science is in picking who goes through. In these early stages, Idol producers are trying to send kids to Hollywood who can be the next Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, or Carrie Underwood. They want to avoid an accidental David Cooke from making it, winning it, and ending up dead-in-the-water when the show ends.

Laurel Wright – She tried in Season 13 and was good then, good last night, and I can only guess they specifically asked her to sit out for a year and promised her she’d get through this season. I thought Laurel was that good.

Final Thoughts

Been saying it for years, but I loooooove that spend less time on the train-wrecks and crazy people, and more time showing us who Fox likes as early favorites. I’m so happy it’s back, again, and I don’t know what I’ll do from January until May next year, so let’s enjoy this one, final ride together. Let’s make fun of things that need to be ridiculed and celebrate what a wonderful 15-year-journey this had been.

Thanks for being here and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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