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'American Idol' Season 10 Premiere: A Star Is Re-Born in Steven Tyler

THR's resident 'Idol' blogger judges Season 10's premiere episode. Verdict: Jennifer Lopez might want to be more choosy, but the Aerosmith frontman could easily quit his night job.

Steven Tyler
Tony Duran/FOX

To quote Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler: “Well, hellfire, save matches, f--k a duck and see what hatches!” Never did I imagine such an absurd construct of the English language making its way into the national conversation, but it must be said: my thoughts, exactly. 

Season 10 of American Idol premiered last night to much fanfare and for good reason: two new judges, rocker Tyler and pop star Jennifer Lopez, sat at the table famously anchored by Simon Cowell for so many years. Looking to further spice up the franchise, viewers got to see a revamped opening theme, a glossed-up logo and new interstitials spotlighting the word “IDOL” in ginormous letters. Fox hopes the numbers will back up the hype, but I’m thinking they can rest easy knowing they have a new star on their hands: Tyler. 
From Twitter activity to the blogosphere, the verdict is in and the 62-year-old legend with the scrappy hair and big voice who likes to sing along with the contestants -- good or bad -- is a hit. His greatest accomplishment: making us forget for a minute that the season 9 foursome including Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi ever existed, but at the same time, reminding us that Idol is at its absolute best when it’s unscripted, unpredictable and unscrupulous. 
Two out of three ain’t bad, and we have Tyler (and Meatloaf) to thank for that, too. As for his compatriots on the other side of the table? Jennifer Lopez proved to be the nurturing, gentle, and forgiving presence that many had expected. You could practically hear a faint collective “awww” spreading in the back of the room (much like the occasional crew member’s belly laugh which would break out after a signature Tyler-ism) every time she felt the slightest bit conflicted -- which was almost all the time. That fact will likely be the biggest criticism heard from Idol loyalists in the coming days: that Lopez was too easy on would-be contestants who likely wouldn’t have recovered from a particularly stinging Cowell assessment. 
As for Randy Jackson? He didn’t stray too far off the dawg path, but there was an air of authority about him that hadn’t truly come out in years past. Some found it off-putting, especially coupled with Jackson’s new seat assignment in Cowell’s former spot. I, on the other hand, found it becoming of the judge who’s certainly paid his Idol dues and then some. But what was up with his new nickname for Ryan Seacrest, “Cresty?” Clearly, these guys spend way too much time together. 
But back to the unscrupulous part... No, there won’t be too many artificial put-downs, jarring reality checks or plain old mean-spirited commentary -- or any at all. We’re entering a new era of Idol, transitioning from “sleepy” in season 9 to syrupy in season 10. Have a Coke and a smile and sing your heart out! 
That said, the first try-outs (constantly touted as the “New Jersey” auditions, where in past years, it would have been billed as New York, as my Billboard colleague Monica Herrera so astutely noted in her recap) did offer some promising talent. Robbie Rosen, for one. The 16-year-old from Merrick, New York looks like he could have tried out for O-Town back in 2000, but his voice went way beyond boy band gimmickry. 
As it turns out, the 16-year-olds pretty much ruled the first round roost. There was Melinda Ademi, whose family immigrated from war-torn Kosovo, and Travis Orlando, who bookended the first episode with a rousing rendition of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” a perennial Idol favorite. Victoria Huggins was another talented teen, belting “Midnight Train to Georgia” with the gusto and enthusiasm of a Rachel Berry disciple. Also impressive: Devyn Rush, the singing waitress from Ellen’s Stardust Diner in New York City, otherwise known as the pedestrian nightmare that is the corner of 51st Street and Broadway, the potentially hunky Caleb Hawley, and Briell Von Hugel, who’s got music in her blood and a heartwarming backstory (her doo wop-singing dad beat throat cancer): the perfect Idol package. 
It all made for a promising start until star-breasted Jersey girl Tiffany Rios made an appearance, though to her credit, the girl can sort of sing. Still, the joke contestants have always had a heavy presence in these early rounds and season 10 was no different, saving its silliest star, 25-year-old Yoji "Pop" Asano, for almost last. Talk about lost in translation, here was your quintessential somewhat delusional Idol hopeful putting on a circus show: Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” sung in the key of tone deaf (see video below). Amusing? Sure, but also kind of insulting to an artist on the level of Lopez. Or perhaps embarrassing, as in, I’m embarrassed for her, a woman who’s sold tens of millions of albums, to have to sit through such TV drivel. The same goes for Tyler, a legend in the rock world. Both looked like they want to press fast forward and get to the good stuff. 
Then again, the fact that Lopez had such difficulty turning down the borderline performers, like the meh Rachel Zevita, to the point where she questioned her very decision to sit at that judging table (“Why did I sign up for this?” Lopez wondered aloud at one point), doesn’t bode well for the live shows. If one thing is a sure fire momentum killer, it’s a bad call and the broken record factor, which is apparently exclusively reserved for Cowell. 
So what of Simon? Was he missed or did Tyler satisfy Idol fans’ OMG quotient? No doubt an element of gravitas was painfully absent, but also conviction. When Cowell would say, “I believe you are a star,” we followed like faithful minions – for nine years straight! It’s going to take a minute to readjust, so be patient. And, unlike last season, let’s maybe take it easy on the new kids this time around. 
But enough of my rambling, what did you think of season 10’s first episode?