The Season 12 premiere of "American Idol" wasn't nearly as predictable as expected. In fact, there were quite a few surprises as the top TV talent competition kicked off its new season.
Check out what surprised us-and what didn't.
The diva drama was showcased right off the bat
We knew the diva drama between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj would be addressed (how could it not?), but it was a shock how fast producers of the show got right into it, especially after all the talk about how the divas' feud was overblown. The first contestant of the day literally interrupted the ladies' bickering over accessories, of all things, and by the end of his audition the B-word was being flung around, albeit in a playful way. (We think.) Add a few comic-book style graphics ("Ka-pow!") and you've set the stage for a season that's sure to be filled with fireworks.
We actually liked Nicki
Surprise, surprise! While the rapper has been getting a bad rap for her on-set antics, the premiere episode showed a kinder, gentler Nicki Minaj. In fact, she was downright likeable, and the first to console the dream-crushed contestants. She even made one rejected boy's day by planting a red kiss on his cheek. That said, she needs to keep the British-speaking alter ego at bay -- that's where we draw the line!
The judges weren't pushovers
Thinking back to two seasons ago and then-new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, who were so afraid of hurting anyone's feelings in the early auditions that they came off as total softies, we kind of expected the same for this crew. The Demon of Screamin' and J-Lo learned quickly (Randy wasn't having it!), but this batch of newbies are being harsh from day one. In fact, this season a sad back story doesn't make you a shoe-in, even if you have a decent singing voice. (Just ask Evan Ruggiero, who lost his leg to cancer, gave a really good audition that had the judges singing along, but still didn't get the gold).
And for the record, a personal invite from Randy does not guarantee you a golden ticket to Hollywood, either. New this season: People can "nominate" "Idol" contestants. (You know, people who may not be all that excited about stepping in front of the spotlight, and may need that extra push). So it was good news for Jessica Kartalis, when Randy Jackson showed up at one of her shows with a personal invite to audition for the show, right? The singer threw caution to the wind and sang an original, but got off track with her guitar playing. The judges told her to come back next year, which just goes to show that Randy showing up at your gig doesn't mean squat.
The Mariah emulators were out in full force, but the show's resident rapper had a fan too
Amid the endless array of auditions by enamored Mariah Carey fans, one country-singing contestant did her rap homework and rattled off Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" like nobody's business. Nicki was loving it (Mariah? Not as much), and it was a complete turnaround for the blueberry farmer who started out her audition with a predictable Carrie Underwood song.
Keith Urban is funny
If you only know Keith Urban's more serious side (his struggles with addiction have been well documented, and the liner notes to his "Get Closer" CD contain a mushy love letter to his wife Nicole Kidman), you'll be surprised to find that on "Idol" he's downright funny. Who knew the Aussie country singer had such a wit? He hid under the table during one crazy audition, and told one over-the-top contestant, "You need to come out of your shell, brother." Well spoken, mate!
"American Idol" Season 12 airs on Wednesdays and Thursdays on FOX.
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