(NEW YORK) — All eyes were on American Idol’s season 12 premiere Wednesday night hoping to see fireworks between new judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, and they definitely delivered the drama.
Carey and Minaj started the night off with a little tiff over Minaj’s feathered hat sitting on the judges’ table. It got worse from there when one of the contestants told Carey “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is the best modern-day Christmas song.
As Carey noted the song went back to number one again last year, Minaj started calling Carey a bitch to the camera. Carey shot back, “If she’s calling me something that begins with a b, I rebuke it.”
More disagreements between Carey and Minaj were featured on the Idol season premiere, but there were actual auditions happening in between the fighting. Fellow newbie Keith Urban and veteran judge Randy Jackson sat in between the dueling divas as the panel listened to Idol hopefuls in New York City.
Here’s a sample of what they heard:
Carey super-fan Teena Torres actually went to the diva’s youth camp when she was 13. Torres sang a song by one of Carey’s own idols — Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” Carey and Minaj actually agreed on it, and all four judges gave Torres the go-ahead to Hollywood.
Christina “Isabelle” Pasqualone put a smile on Urban’s face with her take on “Summertime” from Porgy & Bess. Minaj said she saw Pasqualone going very far this season. Urban thought she was a natural singer, and he loved Pasqualone’s vulnerability. Carey loved her song choice, and Pasqualone made it to Hollywood.
Shira Gavrielov has already scored a number one hit in her native Israel, and she’s hoping for a shot at the American charts. Minaj called Gavrielov a “superstar” after her tryout with Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” The judges all voted to send her through to Hollywood.
Frankie Ford sings for tips on the subway in Manhattan, and he’s hoping to take his act above ground to the Idol stage. He started off singing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” but stopped after two lines due to nerves. Once he started again, Ford had the judges smiling with delight. Urban loved Ford’s big voice and personality. Carey said Ford had an “inner glow,” and he promised to work hard after the judges sent him on to Hollywood.
Seventeen-year-old Sarah Restuccio had a country flair even though she comes from New Jersey. Minaj liked her tone on Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song,” and Carey said she saw a complete package in Restuccio. Things took a left turn as Restuccio delivered a spot-on rendition of Minaj’s hit “Super Bass.” Urban and Carey didn’t quite get who Restuccio was as an artist, but Minaj defended her. In the end, the judges all sent her on to Hollywood.
Angela Miller suffers from hearing loss, but you couldn’t tell it from her rendition of Jessie J’s “Mama Knows Best.” Minaj said she felt Miller’s performance in her soul, and Carey loved her soulful tone. Miller is headed to Hollywood.
Gurpreet Sangh Sarin matches his turban with every outfit and told the judges he sometimes goes by “The Turbanator.” He sang Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” for his audition, and Jackson had him sing some Indian scales before he left. The judges thought Sarin’s voice was pretty, but they thought it might be a little too light for the competition. Jackson and Carey gave him a yes, but Urban passed on him. Minaj ultimately gave Sarin the ticket to Hollywood.
Ashley Feliciano tried out with Corrine Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” and Minaj called the performance inspiring. Carey thought Feliciano had big potential, and Urban complimented her tone. Feliciano comes from a big family that adopts kids with medical issues. The entire clan came in to hear that Feliciano made it to Hollywood.
Evan Ruggierio started off as a singer and dancer with dreams of going to Broadway, but his dreams got derailed a few years back when a battle with cancer forced doctors to amputate his leg. Ruggierio hoped a spot on Idol would help revive his dreams of stardom. He tried out first with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” but he was a little stronger singing and playing Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” Urban liked Ruggierio’s voice. Minaj didn’t think Ruggierio was strong enough for Hollywood. The judges all said no, but Carey and Minaj both said he’d encouraged them being there.
Jessica Kartalis from Long Island actually got a visit from Jackson inviting her to come audition, and she tried out singing an original song. She had a little trouble playing guitar, and Minaj thought Kartalis needed to come back next year. The rest of the judges agreed with Minaj but encouraged Kartalis to not give up.
Rozanna Shindelman sang the Teddy Bears’ 1958 hit “To Know Him Is To Love Him,” and she admitted it was a last minute song choice. Before her audition, Shindelman told the judges she only sang at home in front of her parents, and it was a performance only a mother could love. Jackson said, “Dude, it was bad.” Urban agreed, and it was a no for Shindelman.
Brett Holt tried out for American Idol for a seventh time this year, and he was hopeful this was his time to make it to Hollywood. After his off-pitch performance of the standard “When I Fall in Love,” it was obvious Holt will never make it to Tinseltown.
The Really Bad
Michael Buonopane came into the audition room singing a version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” with rewritten lyrics geared towards the judges. He then attempted to recreate turning the dial on a radio station singing different styles of music. He was clearly in his own little world as the judges started telling him it was a definite no.
Fifteen-year-old James Bae hopes to become the next Justin Bieber, and he tried out with a tone-deaf, mostly spoken take on Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.” It was so bad, Jackson actually commented on how nice it was outside in Manhattan that day. Carey suggested James might want to look into DJing, and Jackson asked James to never sing again. Minaj gave James a kiss on the cheek before he left, so at least he’ll have that to hold on to.
Benjamin Gaisey showed up in a ridiculous curly wig and a red, plastic suit he wore a few Halloweens ago. Benjamin sang a lackluster medley of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” and Babyface’s “Every Time I Close My Eyes” addressing the lyrics to Minaj and Carey. He continued with Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and accentuated the song with pelvic thrust. Urban hid under the desk after the thrust saying, “It’s not safe up there.” The judges tried to let Benjamin down easy, but Jackson finally told Benjamin his voice was terrible.
Albert Chang didn’t seem quite sure where he was before entering the judges’ room. His pitiful rendition of “Phantom of the Opera” had Minaj giggling and Jackson throwing up his hands.
Forty-one contestants from New York City made it to Hollywood. Idol auditions continue in Chicago Thursday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Fox.
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