Published January 19, 2012
Season 11 of “American Idol” kicked off in Savannah, GA last night with a flashy new set with “IDOL” spelled out in white neon lights–and the return of judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.
Right out of the gate, the judges were knocked out by an exceptionally confident 17-year-old with his rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Never Can Say Goodbye.”
“He looks like he’s 12,” opined Lopez. “Like a young Michael,” marveled Jackson.
With a unanimous vote from the judges, David “Mr. Steal Your Girl” Leathers, Jr. was off to Hollywood.
Savannah’s pool of vocal talent continued to impress the judges throughout the two-day auditions, with 42 “American Idol” hopefuls earning the coveted Golden Ticket to Hollywood. Host Ryan Seacrest called it “one of the best starts we’ve ever had.”
Tyler, for his part, was particularly impressed with 15-year-old Shannon Magrane, daughter of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Magrane.
After meeting the extended Magrane family, Tyler joked with the World Series veteran about the weather in Boston during the summer, calling it “hot, humid and happening–just like your daughter.”
After a long, uncomfortable silence, Lopez broke the tension in the room by saying, “What a beautiful family.”
In spite (or perhaps because of) Tyler’s inappropriate comment, Magrane is on her way to Hollywood.
Tyler also had a chance to interact with superfan Erica Nowak, who gleefully squeezed the 63-year-old’s behind.
Unfortunately, Nowak’s rendition of Joss Stone’s “Super Duper Love” underwhelmed the judges. “Best note you hit was when you grabbed my ass, you know that,” said Tyler.
“American Idol” hopeful Amy Brumfield, who is unemployed and lives in a tent deep in the Tennessee woods, belted out a soulful rendition of “Superwoman” by Alicia Keyes.
With that, Brumfield earned a Golden Ticket. “Out of a tent and into Hollywood! What a story,” said Jackson.
Wrapping up the auditions in Savannah was Phillip Phillips, Jr. who works at his father’s pawn shop in Leesburg, GA. With his shy smile and Southern charm, Phillips, Jr. easily won over the judges by singing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” followed by a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on acoustic guitar.
“It’s like you have electricity going though your body,” said a wowed Lopez. Jackson described the 20-year old as a “true artist.”
Naturally, Phillips, Jr. got his Golden Ticket.
Next up: Ryan Seacrest and the judges head to Pittsburg, PA.