Season 10 of “American Idol” on Fox is way different than the previous nine. The biggest change, of course, is the departure of a man who became synoymous with the show–Simon Cowell. But also gone are Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres, and in their places are rock legend Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, and pop icon Jennifer Lopez. Randy Jackson, who has been there since the beginning, is the lone returning judge. Last night as the festivities kicked off with this past summer’s New Jersey auditions, those trying out were equally intimidated and honored having the chance to sing in front of Tyler and Lopez, and it sure gave the show a whole new complexion. For one, these judges, especially Lopez, are not as apt to say “no” as quickly as Cowell was. As a result, 51 of these contestants made it to the Hollywood round. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from last night’s auditions….

HOLLYWOOD BOUND
22-year old Rachel kicked things off, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallaleujah,” which is fast becoming the most played out song in “American Idol” history. Jennifer said it wasn’t the best audition, and it wasn’t, and Steven said the same thing, but they saw enough to let her through. Would this be a pattern?…..15 year old Kenzie was let through, and was part of another new rule this year in which they lowered the starting age from 16 to 15. Steven wasn’t feeling it, but Randy and Jennifer let her through….25 year old Caleb had a fantastic, bluesy voice and Steven accented the audition with desk drums. This is a dude to keep an eye on….Tiffany Rios, who could have been auditioning for “Jersey Shore,” first showed how to make one’s hair look totally unattractive, then auditioned complete with opening her jacket to reveal stars on both boobs. Nice. But here’s the thing…she could actually sing, something I wasn’t expecting, and I’m sure the judges weren’t…..16 year old Robbie Rosen told some story about being wheelchair bound when he was 5 for almost a year with some disease, but getting better and being a follower of the show since he was (yikes) 7. He sang “Yesterday” by The Beatles and was really, really good, something that again I wasn’t expecting. Keep an eye on this kid, who looks like a mini-me version of Yankees’ pitcher Andy Pettitte…..16 year old Victoria from North Carolina was another character who, as Steven said, used every trick in the book to impress the judges. She wasn’t horrible, but good enough…..Melinda, whose parents are war refugees from Kosovo, was very good….then Devyn, who works in a burger joint in NYC where they sing at your table, “God Love the Child,” and was really good…Brielle, 16, sang “Endless Love” and also did a nice job…and they closed the night with Travis, a 16 year old kid from the Bronx, whose family had to live in a shelter as he was growing up. Travis did a super cool version of “Eleanor Rigby” and he’s another one we should keep our eyes on.

MAYBE NEXT YEAR OR MAYBE NEVER
Ivy Coast native Achille Lovle sang Madonna’s “Dress You Up” and it was flat-out horrible. Steven said “you just didn’t hit the notes,” and that was an understatement…..Melkia Wheatfall’s captured audition was about 5 seconds long, but she gets the award for name that sounds most like a breakfast cereal….they also showed a medley of bad auditions, and after one of them it was clear that Jennifer was going to have a hard time saying “no”….Chris, a contestant who was a boy scout, told us how he came up with a “don’t text and drive” campaign, sang “My Way” by Frank Sinatra and sounded like he had a balloon stuck in his mouth…Michael, a nerdy looking dude, told us how he burps when he’s nervous. But instead of burping his way through “Proud Mary,” he just sang really badly. Thankfully Steven just flat out told him that the show has a higher standard….Ashley Sullivan, a 25 year old certified whack job from Massachusetts and idolized (wait for it) Britney Spears and Liza Minnelli, didn’t have the worst voice ever but was really not good either. But Steven and Jennifer were both intoxicated by her weirdness and let her through, while Randy called them both “insane” for doing so….Yoji Pop was a 25 year old Japanese export who I’m convinced rehearsed all of the English words he can say, and didn’t say any more than that. He was really bad too, with all of his Michael Jackson impressions. They also showed a couple more medleys of bad auditions.

So that’s it…51 moved on to Hollywood, and next up (tonight) are the New Orleans auditions. That should be interesting and fun as well. See you all tomorrow….