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JAN
17
1 years

'American Idol' Season 12 Premiere: Former Finalists React

"Change is always good," season two winner Ruben Studdard tells THR. It's a sentiment shared by alums Melinda Doolittle, Brandon Rogers, Kimberly Caldwell and Casey Abrams, among others.

melinda doolittle brandon rogers kim caldwell split L

American Idol is back!

So seemed to be the general sentiment on social media the night of Jan. 16, when season 12 premiered with new judges Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban joining series vets Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest on a search for the next superstar singer.

But did the excitement extend beyond Twitter and Facebook to actual Idol alums? We tracked down a few finalists and asked for their snap judgment on night one.

Ruben Studdard (season two winner): “This is the first time I've watched a first episode in years and it was kind of exciting to see these new judges together. Change is always good for any show. Welcome back, American Idol!” (@RubenStuddard)

PHOTOS: The Next Season of 'American Idol': Will It Work?

Kimberly Caldwell (season two):Idol was smart to stop first in New York City because they came to represent this year! The final singer of the night, Ashlee Feliciano who sang “Put Your Records On,” was a major standout, and her inspiring family made me fall even more in love with her. I think if the rest of the cities rise up to this standard, we are in for a real treat. Idol has always known how to pull at our heart strings and I definitely teared up at least once. So ... nice job, Idol! Of course,  there was the most talked about subject: Mariah and Nicki -- two smoking hot divas. And Keith Urban is so lovable, he's kind of the Paula but still pretty honest about giving a deserving "yes." I’m so glad to see my guy Randy Jackson holding down the fort for the original cast. Successful first night! Let’s see if our early favorites make it past Hollywood week. That's the true test!” (@_kimcaldwell)

Melinda Doolittle (season six): “One episode in and I'm already loving Idol this season. The judges are refreshingly honest, and I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Mariah on just about everything. On top of that, the contestants sound phenomenal! I will withhold any further judgment until the live shows, though. As we've learned, a lot can be done in editing.” (@mdoolittle)

STORY: 'American Idol': Forecasting the Season 12 Premiere Ratings

Brandon Rogers (season six): “With the mounting pressure from similar talent shows and speculation about their slow slide into irrelevance, Idol chose to spend the first part of the show explaining why they're still the best around -- and proving it. Despite all that's been said about the diva drama, this season may turn out to have the best combination of judges yet. I'm especially impressed with Nicki Minaj. Everyone expected her to be too "hood" or "street" (whatever the current euphemism for ethnic is) for a show that tends to skew towards Middle America and an older audience. I found her to be vibrant and intelligent, albeit quirky. She'll be the most polarizing element of the show this season... much to Idol's credit.” (@brandonrogersLA)

Scott MacIntyre (season eight): “All four judges are talented performers in their own right. They know what it's like to audition, and they know what it takes to make it. … It's exciting to have three completely new personalities at the judging table, along with Randy to make sure the show holds on to its roots. … Nicki surprised me. I think Randy's personality has finally met its match.” (@ScottDMacIntyre)

Casey Abrams (season 10): "I think Keith seems pretty chill. Nicki had some interesting things to say in a very weird way. It was more entertaining than I expected. The vibe between Mariah and Nicki made me very nervous though. It was kind of scary seeing Nicki smile at Mariah while saying, "Oh are we gonna start this now" -- it felt a little Jersey Shore-esque, but I did mostly agree with what they were telling the contestants. There were very interesting stories and voices going on. Like Frankie Ford, Shira from Israel and the last girl. Plus, I wanna sitar jam with Turbanator. And Albert Chang was very fun to watch. It's a better vibe than I expected for this season." (@CaseyAbrams)

Twitter: @Idol_Worship