‘American Idol’ Season 12 Premiere: Mariah Carey And Nicki Minaj Play Musical Chairs

Lisa Timmons | January 17, 2013 6:06 am

We’ve seen the promos, the blurry clips on TMZ of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj feuding while a terrified Keith Urban rocks gently back and forth in the middle. American Idol fanatics, Lambs and Barbz — Season 12 finally here! And we get to experience it TOGETHER. We’re so blessed.

It’s finally starting! Cue opening. Tuning, plugging in stuff. This is the music biz!

Suddenly, there’s a white guy with an acoustic guitar I don’t recognize. My instinct is to run away, but he clearly won last season and his name is Phillip Phillips. Then there’s a face I recognize, Jennifer Hudson‘s. Oh, J-Hud! She helped sell me on Weight Watchers. God, I am so old. This will be fun for you guys, experiencing American Idol through my cataract-ridden GRANDMA EYES OF CONFUSION.

Excitement montage! Skinny Randy Jackson! Keith Urban is so dainty he makes me feel like a lumberjack. Nicki Minaj has arrived…with a concealed weapon, Mariah is convinced. Speaking of whom, MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING. The Honey Train has officially pulled into the station. Cue an army of dolphins singing! LOVE. Cue the melodramatic statements about music that have no basis in reality.

“If there was no music, I would not be alive.” Yay! Crazy families.

How many captain’s hats does Nicki have? How many times will we see airquotes from Mariah? At one point, she muses, “How can you not find some amazing talent?” Ooh, girl, we about to see. Shit’s about to get FESTIVE FOR REAL. Nicki Minaj’s first marching band hat has arrived and it’s causing a stir.

Mariah makes a deliciously passive-aggressive comment about Nicki’s furry hat tassel. “We can have accessories? I didn’t know it was allowed.” HA! And in the middle of Mariah and Nicki squabbling over accessories, the first contestant, Mike, literally stomps his way in. I think his schtick is pretending to be a human radio station. It’s…not working. Mariah is wearing the face of a woman who is going to go home tonight and see if she is in fact contractually obligated to interact with maniacs. “NICK, CALL DEM LAWYERS!”

The first Mariah Carey superfan shows up in jean shorts with long, unkempt strings dangling. I’m not loving this look even though I appreciate her attempt at vintage Mariah. Her name is Tenna (pronounced “Tina”) and she’s 28 and adores Mariah.

“Shut up!” Mariah exclaims, incredulous that anyone has ever even heard of her. I wrap her false modesty around me like a thick, warm Snuggie.

Tenna presents Mimi with pictures of the two of them taken years before, at Camp Mariah, which Carey appears to be trying to keep for the time being. I’m not sure they were a present, but Tenna is smart and rolls with it. Meanwhile, Nicki is going to be an endless source of eye-rolling GIFs and giant gnashing teeth.

While listening to Tenna, Mariah appears to be posing for her senior pic, giving her giant butterfly ring primo placement. The singing is mediocre, but this chick was smart to bring Mariah proof of her superfandom and I applaud her genius maneuvering. Tenna leaves and we see her bawling at getting to meet her idol. I would tease, but I feel her reaction is 100% appropriate because MY GOD, THIS IS MARIAH.

It’s a montage of YESES! Suddenly, Kim Kardashian (or a lookalike) is auditioning in shoulder pads and a yellow skirt and guess what? She’s GOING TO HOLLYWOOD! A quirky guy wearing a scarf on his head is also GOING TO HOLLYWOOD! I love Mariah’s blank stares. She alternates between entranced and terrified and I enjoy not being able to tell the difference.

Uh-oh, here comes James Bae and even though I hope he’s secretly amazing, I’m pretty confident he’s going to be our first jokey audition. This is going to be exploitative and I am already tense. I want to adopt him and protect him from this cold, cruel world underneath the safety of my virtual Mariah humility Snuggie.

His performance is exactly what I expected, but let’s see how the judges handle him. Mariah is quite sweet, suggesting in a guidance counselor sort of way that he could fulfill his dreams by becoming a DJ. Nicki’s pretty straight with him but offers to give him a pity hug, and I’m pretty confident James is going home and changing his FB relationship status to “It’s complicated.”

A cute blonde white girl tells us a sad story about how she used to be heavy which prompts Randy Jackson to share his weight gain struggles. They bond as I imagine J-Hud and I would over a discussion of our first Weight Watchers weigh-in. It’s all VERY TOUCHING. She’s introduced as Christina “Isabelle” and I’m choosing to interpret these quotes to mean this is short for Christina Allegedly Isabelle.

She belts out her version of “Summertime,” blissfully warbling how “the cotton is high.” Mariah appreciated her shrieks in between playing scenes from Mean Girls in her head on an endless loop. I think this girl is a yes, but I got distracted by Mariah taking a moment to remind us that she was born singing “Summertime” and I suddenly envisioned Baby Mariah singing to butterflies and birds from her cradle as they sewed her a beautiful christening gown made of Swarovski crystals.

And now, a sad story. A cute, tap-dancing guy in red pants, Evan Ruggerio, tells his story of battling bone cancer. The big reveal in the end? He explains that to survive, he had to have his leg amputated. He pulls up his shorts and with that, the ante is upped. I’m dead curious to see how the judges will react if this guy doesn’t deliver. It will be a real litmus test for the rest of the season.

Evan enters with a guitar strapped to his person and starts singing a Jason Mraz tune. It’s very weird and stilted, so the judges give him a second try, even though they seem to be mentally preparing themselves for the worst. To their credit, even though he did better the second time around with a cover of Bon Jovi‘s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” it wasn’t good enough to push him through to Hollywood, and the judges tell him as much. I’m loving that this panel is giving REAL TALK. But it’s not a total loss, as the image of Mariah mouthing “I’m a cowboy” will surely live in Evan’s heart forever, as it will in mine.

Ha! When Keith Urban opens his mouth, I’m reminded that he’s Australian. And it’s a delightful surprise every time.

Okay, so now this season, it looks like you can nominate someone to be on the show. It sounds kind of like What Not To Wear, only instead of Stacy and Clinton, you get Randy Jackson in a tux with a yellow rose. Sad face. Introducing Jessica Kartalis, who was nominated by her mom and whisked away by Randy to audition and it’s not great. Randy’s clearly thinking, “They sent me on a ferry to Staten Island for THIS?” Jessica is a no and she’s totally thinking, “Thanks Mom, for MOMINATING ME.”

Nicki seems comfortable playing bad cop and I’m enjoying what she brings to the panel, including potential bloodshed. Also, I love how Keith Urban says “guitar.”

International contestants! It’s like Epcot! SHALOM from Mariah. Israeli singer Shira brought her special tiny audition shorts for the occasion and we learn she already has a hit single in Israel. She’s a yes, and I realize when Nicki is talking to her that Mariah is actually here to judge Nicki’s judging.

In between auditions, Keith accidentally spills on Nicki and Mariah’s bodyguards nearly swoop in. Also, did anyone else catch a glimpse of the makeup artist who looks exactly like Nicki, complete with a captain’s hat? Am I the only woman in America with no captain’s hat?

Let’s meet Frankie Ford. My first impression is that he has nice teeth and I love his argyle sweater. I hate people who sing on the train, but I will look past this prejudice for Frankie because he seems sweet. I hope he’s good. Nicki explains New York City to Keith Urban and then Mariah explains trains to unicorns. After this chit chat, Frankie suffers a false start but he pulls it out the second time. Mariah talks about Frankie’s “Inner Glow,” which I’m confident will be the name of her next perfume. He gets a yes and Keith Urban gets to say, “Frankie, you’re going to Hollywood,” which I suspect might be the sole reason he voted yes, but I have to admit, I would have done the same.

QUICK OVERALL RECAP: If I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that a GUITAR SPELLS DOOM. Leave them at home, fellas!

After the commercial break: TOP HATS! CLOWN WIGS!

What is going on with the seating arrangements? Mariah and Nicki keep swapping seats and I’m suspecting there’s a power move at play in which Randy and Keith are mere pawns.

Cue the nut in the red plastic MJ suit. I bet it smells AMAZING. Still, I’m not hating. I love a good, old-fashioned nut. He shows up in a crazy curly wig, which they joke about and then cut quickly to a smiling Nicki in her finest clown wig. Oh editors! Speaking of editing, did the ladies switch seats AGAIN? I’m confused, but I love this guy and want him to get a record deal immediately. But because I’m not in charge, he gets a no.

Now we meet Rozanna, who confesses that she usually doesn’t sing in front of people, unless she’s serenading her parents in Central Park, which bodes fantastically for her performance. She’s a belter and it’s not working. Outside, Mom confesses to Ryan Seacrest, “She sings everywhere.” I add in my head, “Just not in front of people.” Well, she has powerful lungs, I’ll give her that. But she’s so thin and her hair is so dark and severe, I feel like she’s a sexy spectre from an Asian horror film. I’m both terrified and titillated.

Bad people montage. Ha! Some guy farted! Mariah and Nicki switch seats again! Failed contestants shun the cameras! Guys, I feel like they’re montaging the best parts of the show.

Meet Sarah, a 17-year-old from a city in New Jersey which claims to be the “blueberry capital of the world.” I’m airquoting because that’s a pretty bold statement and I don’t have time to Google this factoid. Sarah does it all! Mudboggin’! Archery! Blueberry farmin’! But can she sing? She serenades the judges with Carrie Underwood‘s “Mama,” and because Mariah and Nicki are the veteran country music artists on the panel, they assert Sarah will have a great career in country music. Keith knows his place and barely utters a peep. Then she busts out with an impromptu ode to Nicki and they really love her. She’s a yes!

At this point, I have to commend Mariah for resisting the urge to burst into song. Another awkward Asian guy. Idol, stop trying to make William Hung happen…again! I am already uncomfortable with where this is going. Also, I’m starting to suspect Nicki is from every borough in New York City. REPRESENT! Meanwhile, we know he is going to be terrible. This is awkward to a place I can’t handle until he starts shrieking a song from Phantom. Then I have to laugh. I do love that Nicki manages to turn this into a dig at Mariah. But still, he’s a no.

Red top hat girl is my new hero. Suddenly, Nicki is British. Mariah hates it. A BAD BRITISH ACCENT IS HER THING. Poor Keith. Nobody wants to do an Australian accent. More changing of the seats. Introducing Angela Miller! Her thing is having bad hearing and wearing lacy black biking shorts under her dress. She’s not bad and actually is probably one of the best so far. I tip the captain’s hat I just ordered online to her. Keith does a cute shimmy to show how much he enjoyed her performance and she gets a yes. The guy with the mullet in her family is SYKED.

Now, we see Brett Holt crooning to the panel. (BRETT HOLT!) I love a weird-looking person delivering an amazing performance. This better not be a Susan Boyle fake-out, oh wait, that’s exactly what it is. More psychedelic things start to happen, involving a frog in a tuxedo and suddenly, I want the entire season to be this guy’s dream. He’s not going to Hollywood and nobody is there to comfort him. I’m adopting him too. Welcome to Lisa’s Home for Wayward American Idol Rejects.

The next contestant prompts Mariah’s best quote of the episode: “You’re having a lavender moment that I really like.”

Gurpreet is on the scene and his thing is having a turban in every shade of the rainbow. He sings and Keith gives his best Nicole Kidman impersonation with big, pursed lips and gives a no. Nicki is keeping it real with a no. Mariah gives him a yes and so does Randy. It looks like Gurpreet is done-for until he has a lightbulb idea and talks about the marigold turban he has that matches Nicki’s wig perfectly. Ultimately, Nicki’s love of fabulous headgear clouds her judgement and THE TURBINATOR IS GOING TO HOLLYWOOD.

Saving the most dramatic for last, we now meet Ashlee Feliciano. Her family fosters children with severe medical issues. These adorable kids are killing me. The only thing missing is Sarah McLachlan and Joe Cocker warbling a duet in the background. YOU’RE GOING TO HOLLYWOOD, ASHLEY. Sorry, that was my uterus voting. ONTO THE SINGING. So sick of the belters. I love that she picked a perfectly appropriate audition song and was cute overall. Those precious siblings are going to have to wait for her to come back from Hollywood because she gets a YES. In fact, Nicki is so inspired, she’s leaving early to go adopt some medically complex cats.

Mariah sings her vote for the first time and it will also be her last sing-vote because Mama needs to get home to Dem Babies.

Cue the nostalgic montage. Remember the last two hours? Keith Urban survived. I’m excited and exhausted for what the future holds for us in Chicago.

HATS! FIGHTING! PRESS-ON NAILS! DEEP DISH PIZZA! Let’s do it all again tomorrow!