'American Idol' comes back to Austin for second round
This is that rare weekend in Austin when bona fide superstars mingle with virtual unknowns who hope to one day replace them in America's musical spotlight. Crowds are large, and security is tight only those with the proper credentials get in. Some will have a terrific time; others, inevitably, will head home disappointed.
Austin City what Festival? You're kidding, right? ACL has got to be a cakewalk to crash in comparison with the impenetrable "American Idol" bunker set up at Barton Creek Resort.
The TV show's producers, its new judging panel and a ridiculous amount of security personnel were on site Friday and Saturday to pass judgment upon the hundred or so hopefuls who'd made it through the first round of Austin auditions in August. At the end of the day, the contestants would either be sent home or given a golden ticket to Hollywood to appear on Season 10 of the Fox musical reality competition.
Those auditioning were off limits to the press, but the show's judges were made available to answer a few questions. Familiar Randy Jackson, stunning Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler (who, appropriately for October, couldn't have looked more like a scarecrow if he'd had a pole jammed up the back of his shirt and straw poking out of his sleeves) riffed through about 10 minutes of press queries while host Ryan Seacrest stepped in to guide the occasionally rambling banter back onto the rails.
There has been little opportunity to see the new judging panel in action, and fans have been curious about what sort of chemistry the trio would have. After all, the additions of Aerosmith frontman Tyler and singer/actress Lopez were announced less than a month ago, and Austin is only their third stab at this.
From the brief amount of time I saw them working together, two things come to mind: First, there is a surprising level of comfort and camaraderie among the trio; and second, with Lopez and Jackson giving the lion's share of responses, who would have pegged the historically outrageous Tyler as the quiet one?
Lopez and Tyler weren't the only new elements of what could be a make-or-break season for "American Idol' (the program showed real ratings vulnerability for the first time last year, possibly stemming from lackluster performances from the contestants and the judges).
If the new set looked like an art deco science lab, it wasn't immediately apparent who would replace departed Simon Cowell as the show's evil doctor. The popular Cowell was the first to jump ship last season, heading to his new Fox talent show, "The X Factor." His exit was followed by the postseason departures of Kara DioGuardi and freshman judge Ellen DeGeneres.
My money's on Lopez doling out the most tough love. And the judges apparently handed out plenty of it Friday, when most hopefuls left disappointed. Saturday was better, with Tyler calling the level of talent "unreal."
"Unreal," Lopez said. "I think
we put through the first 15 people straight. We haven't had a run like this before."
No premiere date has been set for Season 10, but the show usually debuts in January.