American Idol‘s ninth season premiere was chock full of really sweet people with big, adorable families and heartwarming backstories (as well as a peculiar lace-doily headband courtesy of Victoria Beckham). And while I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel good to see the tears and cheers and hugs that resulted from these folks getting their Golden Tickets from the judges, I also can’t sit here and pretend they won’t be gobbled up and digested like plates of delicious bowtie pasta when the competition heads to Hollywood. I mean, seriously: Affable Italian guy who almost crushed Ryan Seacrest in an out-of-control group bear-hug? Sweet and self-possessed teenager whose affection for her four brothers with Down syndrome practically moved me to tears? Kid who works in Boston harbor on something called a “Codzilla”? I’d invite all of the above (and their respective clans) to a raucous Idol viewing party — if I actually allowed people to speak a single word when “my show” is airing — but watching any one of ’em take a confetti shower at the Kodak come May? That’s about as likely as getting through an episode of Idol without Kara uttering some variation on the “commercial”/”package artist”/”pretty” theme she loves most of all. Thankfully, one or two Boston wannabes struck me as potential semifinal fodder, if not quite achieving Kradisonian* heights. But after spending two hours on the amuse-bouche — guess who’s become a fan of Top Chef since last Idol season? — I’m ready to chow down on something a little more substantial during Wednesday night’s Atlanta auditions. In other words, Mary J. Blige better get it percolatin’, ’cause I’m waitin’, in this Idolrie**.

What did you think of Idol‘s season 9 kickoff? Which (if any) auditioners got you dreaming of speed-dialing? And what’s your excitement level for the Season Which Will Be Subsequently Known as Simon’s Farewell Tour? Check back in the early morning on the homepage for my full episode recap — where I’ll reveal the singers who impressed me much and wax poetic about my thousand points of rage. And until then, check out our gallery of Simon Cowell’s 12 Meanest Critiques, my blog post suggesting potential Simon replacements, my musings on why Idol will be a-okay without Mr. Nasty, and interviews with five awesome Idol alumni about Simon’s exit — as well as an interview with Fantasia Barrino, embedded below — then head on over to Twitter and start following me @EWMichaelSlezak. Matt Giraud (somebody sign him!) would want you to!

* This is a real word. Srsly.

** This too.

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