Last night’s “American Idol” episode marked the start of Hollywood week, and it was our first glimpse at new judge Ellen DeGeneres, who took the place of Paula Abdul recently. The contestants were almost a sideshow to Ellen’s witty, hilarious banter, prompting at least one person (me) to not miss Paula one bit. Yeah, this season’s gonna be fun.

As for the 181 singers who made it to Hollywood and had to sing a cappella or with an instrument for the four judges, they would face “sudden death,” meaning move on to the next round or go home.
Talk about pressure. Here were the best and worst from last night…


Katie Stevens, who I don’t remember much of from the initial auditions, was awesome, but here is the problem–I didn’t write down what she sang last night and I don’t remember today….Andrew Garcia, who I had pegged as a serious contender a few weeks ago, did an acoustic guitar version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” that was positively mind-numbing. The dude can sing his ass off, and he gave the song the ol’ David Cook treatment. Look out for him, because as I see it, he’s already set the bar really high for everyone else. Kara even used the word “genius” about the arrangement……Janell Wheeler was very good but I don’t remember what she sang either (sorry people, I must have been half asleep last night!)……Haeley Vaughn, who is amazingly just 16, did an awesome job with a guitar on her shoulder….Mary Towers and Ashley Rodriguez also made it to the next round, as did Lilly Scott, who did a cool take on Ella Fitzgerald with an acoustic guitar. Kara called Lilly “refreshing” and I agree completely….Michael, whose wife was having their first child as he was auditioning, made it to the next round. Should he have been with his wife? That’s a good question, but based on how talented Michael is, he may have made the right choice…..Tim Urban, who I wrote down “eh” next to, moved on, but for the life of me I don’t know what the judges see in him….Casey James, the dude who took his shirt off for Kara and Posh Spice, brought his guitar this time, and dude can PLAY as well as sing…..then the show closed with two awesome girls with guitars–Didi Benami, from Knoxville, who sang Kara’s song “Terrified” and did a stellar job with it. Even Simon admitted to liking the tune….and Crystal Bowersox, who did a cool acoustic version of “Natural Woman.”


Skiiboski, whose real name doesn’t really matter, and neither does the way we all try to spell it, was turned away, but not after Ellen’s hilarious comment, “You frighten me.” She went on to tell Skiiboski to tone down his act, that he intimidates his audience with the emoting…….country girl Vanessa, who flew on a plane for the first time ever to get to Hollywood, gets the award for poorest song choice ever, with Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” I mean, seriously? Blind Freaking Melon?……16 year old Megan Wright didn’t make it but I don’t remember what she sang….and neither did Amadeo DiRocco, the dude who they showed having dinner with his huge Italian family during the first audition. Dude just didn’t bring it this time (the performance, not the family)…..Jay Stone, the human beat box dude who reminded us all of Blake Lewis, apparently had too tired of an act for the judges to advance him….Justin Williams, who they did a story on the first time about him being a cancer survivor, didn’t do enough this time….and young Maddie Curtis also failed this part of the audition.

So that’s it….tonight they break into groups, which usually brings out the dysfunction in all of the contestants, and really separates the contenders from the also-rans.

But either way, I can’t wait to see what else Ellen has to say, and it’s really going to get fun during the live performances. Welcome to Hollywood everyone, and see you back here tomorrow!