Night Two: ‘American Idol’ Lets the Good Times Roll In The Big Easy

What can you say about an episode that included Randy Jackson‘s old football coach, a chubby 15-year-old soulfully crooning “Dock of the Bay,” a mother of a special needs child who brought Jennifer Lopez to tears and a kid who won a radio station contest for a Steve Tyler lookalike? The “American Idol” crew pitched its tent in New Orleans for the second night, and while it turned into a bit of an anticlimax from the much-anticipated two-hour premiere, it was not without its own affecting moments.

Steve Tyler
was generally on good behavior, though he greeted Texas marketing analyst/food blogger and lipsticked singing hopeful Sarah Sellers with “Where did you get those lips?” as the bespectacled librarian type completely transformed herself with a rendition of Bob Dylan‘s “Make You Feel My Love,” earning her a Gold Ticket to Tinseltown. “You had me sold from the second you laid eyes on me,” said the Aerosmith frontman, doing that thing he does so well…shamelessly flirting with the ladies.

That was after 21-year-old piano and vocal teacher Jordan Dorsey‘s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” had J. Lo cooing, “I’ve got goosebumps all over my body,” further cementing her as Paula Abdul‘s emotional counterpart on the current panel and sending him to the next round as well.

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Having a pair of pop-rock icons on the panel has made more than one of the Idol hopefuls star-struck. Cuban shipbuilder Jovany Barreto confessed that Marc Anthony was his idol and that Lopez herself “a goddess in my eyes,” then climaxed his operatic performance in Spanish by pulling off his shirt, joined by Tyler, who revealed an impressive six-pack, and Jackson, refusing to lift his T enough to show us his man boobs.

Raised in nearby Baton Rouge, Randy got a surprise when Mississippi native Jacquelyn Dupree brough some old pictures of Jackson along with his high school football coach, as Tyler wondered, apropos of who knows what, if he ever had to paddle the Idol judge in the (bleeped-out) ass. We also learned that the Louisiana state reptile is an alligator.

Sixteen-year-old, red-headed Brett Loewenstein proved the left-field talent of the evening. Think Glee‘s Chris Colfer or Adam Lambert, except sporting a flaming crimson mane, held in place, as it were, with baby oil. His parents showed up to talk about how he’d been bullied as a kid, but he earned a Gold Ticket on the strength of a lovely a cappela “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Said J. Lo: “His hair was very well-conditioned.”

Shaggy Gabriel Franke admitted he’d once won a radio station Steve Tyler lookalike contest, but the real thing thought his mouth looked more like Mick Jagger‘s, while Randy wondered aloud how Steven knew so much about that part of the Stones singer’s anatomy. And while he looked like a rock, Franke tackled a rather animated version of Lady Gaga‘s “Bad Romance” which earned him a unanimous thumbs-down from the panel, though I thought it was an admirably risky choice.

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There was one Susan Boyle moment, when pudgy, child-like 15-year-old Cajun Jacee Badeaux charmed Jennifer Lopez (“He’s so cute”) with an unexpectedly moving cover of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” which had Tyler crowing, “A double helping of ooh yeah.” As the youngster sang the lyrics “wasting time,” he pointed to his watch, a gesture that Randy seemed to get a particular kick out of. This kid is one to watch, a potential keeper in the competition.

This second audition show wouldn’t be complete without one soap opera, provided by 23-year-old Paris Tassin, the single mother of a special needs child, who chose Carrie Underwood‘s “Temporary Home” as her audition song, with the lyrics directly referencing her daughter, which had J. Lo bawling like a baby. “I could feel what you were singing, and that’s what music is all about,” she said, before anointing her with one of the 37  trips to Hollywood given out in the Big Easy.

Just a couple of comments on the responses to my first three pieces. Yes, I underestimated the sales success of David Cook and I spelled Kris Allen‘s name with a “Ch,” so mea culpa for that. And while critics have been bemoaning the absence of Mr. Cowell, bloggers and fans seem to be energized by the new line-up of judges.  “Pleasantly surprised” is one of the most frequent comments so far. The ratings for the first night were off just over 10%, which in the new parlance of “flat is the new up,” or “down slightly is the new up” isn’t bad at all. We’ll see how that plays out over the next few weeks as well.

So far, so good, as the judges begin to establish their rhythm, and, unlike past panels, seem to genuinely enjoy each other. What do you think of Steven Tyler flirting with the contestants? Creepy, or cute?  Is J. Lo too nice? Will Randy ever ditch his patented answers? Do you miss the joke acts? Did you see anybody over the first two episodes that has a shot at the whole enchilada? Do you still miss Simon? Do you like the kinder, gentler American Idol? Discuss.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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