There are always going to be more than a few duds when the contestants start performing for viewers' votes on American Idol. It's a given.
But while it's also really exciting to see who's going to burst out of the pack on night one (ahem, James Durbin and his zebra tail), Tuesday was also a test for the new Idol judges. Randy Jackson's verbal contributions to the competition are well-documented, but would Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, off to a swell start so far, continue to make Simon Cowell's absence a nonissue?
Well, we hope the censor is getting paid per bleep...
"That was f--king crazy good! [Bleep, bleep!]" Tyler exclaimed, covering his mouth on the last two swears with a little paddle the show crafted especially for his profanity, as he raved about Durbin's hard-rocking cover of Judas Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Comin'."
Indeed, kudos to the Adam Lambert disciple for his no-holds-barred performance, but word to the wise: Yea for the vocals, nay for the zebra tail. Let's not get too cocky just yet.
Then there was Paul McDonald. He was already melting hearts with that soft, sing-you-to-sleep, coffeehouse vibe. Tonight, he channeled Rod Stewart on "Maggie May" and--if you like Rod Stewart, anyway--we like to think he won over any remaining doubters.
Country boy Scotty McCreery, who crooned John Michael Montgomery's "Letters From Home" like a pro, was another smooth standout. He, of course, hasn't yet proved that he can excel at anything other than country, but he sounded divine tonight.
It sounded at first like Stefano Langone was going to get tripped up by doing a note-for-note rendition of Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are," but he jazzed it up with runs and notes that Mars doesn't bother with, ultimately turning it into a stand-out performance.
And Casey Abrams showed no effect of the illness that sidelined him last week, spinning his throwback magic with Screamin' Jay's "I Put a Spell on You."
"You are in-your-mind good and out-of-your mind unreal," Tyler responded. "You are, as Randy says, as good as it gets!"
But the judges were ready to send flowers to Jacob Lusk after a wise-beyond-his-years performance of "A House Is Not a Home" that would have made Luther Vandross proud, according to Jackson.
"It's divine intervention that brought you here," Tyler told him.
But while J.Lo and Tyler chimed in when a performance was obviously bad ("OMG," indeed, Jordan Dorsey), Randy had to disagree with his colleagues more than a few times, finding karaoke where the other two found sincerity, and pitchiness where the others heard emotion.
Both of the newbies, for instance, "ooh"-ed and "aah"-ed over Robbie Rosen's version of Sarah McLachlan's "Angels," but Randy put the kibosh on the party right away, assuring Robbie that he wouldn't feel so happy with the performance when he watched it over again.
Meanwhile, the judges were into Clint Gamboa's first-out-of-the-gate take on Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" (a ballsy choice) and Brett Loewenstern's stab at the Doors' "Light My Fire," but both were way too easy-listening for our taste. Maybe you can get away with waiting-room music when you're singing Stevie, but Jim Morrison? No way.
The top 12 ladies lay their cards on the table tomorrow.