Welcome to American Idol season 14, you guys! It’s finally here. Good for you for sticking with it.
I’m new to the Idol recapping game (be nice!) and am sincerely looking forward to experiencing this blissful and infuriating ride with you over the next few months. Loyalty is important in TV viewers, and we are not short on it here.
So season 14 is off and running. We open and Ryan Seacrest is in outer space! This starry backdrop is a message from Fox: This is no regular season of Idol. Everything has changed.
Ryan introduces us to the top 24, but before you panic, it’s not really a spoiler. It’s a (not-a-Ford-commercial) music video that features the voices of the top 24 and shots of the backs of their heads or their silhouettes—no faces—in angsty settings. I’m a little uncomfortable because it’s so unfamiliar, but isn’t that, after all, what this show needs? The good news is, everyone sounds good, and they sure look super hip. (Well done, costume department!)
After fancy new opening credits, we learn that the search for stardom will start with the judges’ hometowns—not to be confused with X Factor‘s creepy “judges’ homes”—and first up is Keith Urban’s beloved Nashville. (Yes, he’s Australian. Ignore this fact.)
We enter the audition room to be greeted by Keith, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr. God, I’ve missed their faces. First up is 17-year-old Riley Bria, who shares Keith’s pretty hair and his pretty blue eyes. He’s actually Keith, just 30 years ago. He’s even played onstage with Keith before! So we know the kid’s got talent. He sings—of course, Keith’s “Georgia Woods”—and he’s good! He’s pleasant and effortless and Keith promises that he can “shred on the electric,” so off to Hollywood he goes! Congrats, Riley.
Next up is Priscilla Barker, a perky and pleasant (though, I’m sorry, mildly irritating?) 19-year-old with nine siblings, which is an overwhelming thought. A sweet rendition of “Delta Dawn” is performed, and it’s definitely better than Monica Geller’s. She’s got an old school country charm, but I’m not sold on her voice. But, before we get to her audition fate, we must meet Priscilla’s mom, who is in love with Keith and once touched him at a concert, which is totally alarming. Keith agrees: When Priscilla asks if she can bring her mom in, he says “This doesn’t sound safe at all.” Such a reasonable man. But this is prime-time television, so Priscilla’s mom meets Keith while wearing a long knit vest. Sigh of relief that she is not a murderous fan.
Anyhow, J.Lo passes on Priscilla, but the teen gets a golden ticket by way of a confusingly enthusiastic yes from Harry and a wishy-washy yes from Keith. Ugh, we’re making mistakes already, judges! She’s not ready.
Third up, Cameron Bedell takes on Ray Lamontagne’s “You are the Best Thing” with guitar in hand. The 25-year-old has a really pleasant singer-songwriter vibe but not in the cliché way that American Idol has really come to embrace in recent years. He’s casual; he’s cool; he gets three yeses. The poor thing’s fly is definitely down, but who cares?! CAMERON IS GOING TO HOLLYWOOD.
(As a side note, can we discuss how much Keith loves Nicole Kidman? That tattoo! It’s just such a commitment. Well done, Urban family.)
NEXT: Where’s Nicki Minaj, and why does Harry need Purell?