Can “American Idol” exist with two divas on the judging panel?
America got its first chance to find out on Wednesday night when the new season of the FOX reality singing competition premiered, and there was no shortage of bickering.
(SPOILER! This recap contains details of the “American Idol” Season 12 premiere.)
After an introduction that reminded viewers of the amazing accomplishments of the true stars the competition has found over the years, like multi-Grammy winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and most recently the chart-topping Phillip Phillips, the diva dueling began.
Seated behind the judges’ table for their very first contestant, Randy Jackson made a comment about liking the drum major-style hat Nicki Minaj had positioned in front of her, prompting the first quarrel of the night.
“We can have accessories?” Mariah Carey asked. “I didn’t know that was allowed. But that was the last thing I’m gonna say.”
“Be nice,” Nicki said.
“I actually love the hat,” Mariah said.
“Thank you, but why’d you have to reference my hat, you know? What?” Nicki said.
Mariah then made mention of an allegedly awkward moment (not shown on TV) that she said she felt in the elevator on the way to the audition room.
“You said, ‘Stop looking me up and down, Mariah!’” she recounted.
As the ladies continued to quibble with each other, a contestant named Mike came in, putting the “Idol” judges’ names into Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
He didn’t have the chops to impress the judges, who finally stopped quarreling just long enough for his audition.
But, only just for a moment.
When Mike left the room, he tossed Mariah a compliment, telling her, “All I Want for Christmas” is “the best modern day Christmas song.”
“It sure was, wasn’t it, Mike,” Nicki said.
“Still is darling. No. 1 last year. Seventeen years later, it’s still No. 1,” a proud Mariah replied.
At that point, Nicki put her hands out in front of her and said, “Ooh, she’s a bitch. She’s a bitch. She’s a bitch.”
“If she called me something that begins with a ‘B’ and ends in an ‘itch,’ I rebuke it!” Mariah noted.
And with that — Season 12 of “American Idol” had arrived.
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But when the two women actually got down to the task of judging, they actually found themselves in regular agreement over both the talented and vocally challenged singers trotted out for Episode 1.
Both had kind words for James Bae, 15, from Long Island, New York, whose pitch put in him the arena of infamous “Idol” contestant William Hung.
Mariah suggested he could throw his passion into DJ’ing, and Nicki told him he was special, but just not for “Idol.”
And again the women were on the same page after watching the good audition from Frankie Ford, 24, a street performer from Brooklyn, who sang “Sweet Dreams.”
“What I think you have is an inner glow, which is always beautiful to see because you can’t manufacture that. You can’t put it on, it’s just there,” Mariah said.
“And that’s what makes me like you because I feel like you’re so different,” Nicki chimed in, practically finishing Mariah’s sentence. “I don’t think that you have the best voice here today, but there’s something about you (Mariah and Keith nod) that I think the people would like to see more of and you have this story to tell and I think it should be told.”
Frankie made it through to Hollywood as did several others, like Ashlee Feliciano, 20, from East Hartford, Conn., who wowed them with a rendition of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On.”
And as the episode ended, Nicki was captured sharing some kind words for her fellow judges – Mariah included.
“I feel like we gel well,” she said.
“I agree,” Mariah said.
And then came the other foot.
“I had to strangle one of the divas on the panel, but I [won’t] tell you who,” Nicki said.
A cool Keith Urban, who appears to be “Idol’s” new voice of reason and sensibility, kept it all under control.
“I loved it,” he laughed as the New York auditions wrapped up. “I loved being in-between Mariah and Nicki.”
“American Idol” continues on Thursday at 8/7c on FOX.
-- Jolie Lash