American Idol Hollywood Week

February 11, 2010 11:00 pm

Ellen Degeneres finally made her much-anticipated debut on the first episode of Hollywood Week and quickly dispelled rumors that her role would be nothing more than a joke-cracking softie.  After telling one contestant that they were “boring” and another that they were “scary”, it became pretty obvious that Ellen is no mere substitute for Paula, although both are certainly more warm-hearted than Simon, Kara, or Randy.  By the end of the show, it actually felt to me that she’d been behind the judges’ desk for quite a long time and I’m already totally comfortable with her.  Now, on to the contestants…

Normally I don’t start blogging at this stage of the season due to the fact that we’re not seeing all of the singers perform.  Let’s not forget that at this point last season, Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta hadn’t even been spotlighted yet and it was all about Danny Gokey and Lil Rounds.  But with that being said, there have been several standouts that have caught my ears and eyes.

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX – If it’s possible for a favorite to have already emerged for me, it would be Crystal…although we know how quickly that can change.  The single mom’s impassioned take on Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” was unique and powerful, and the fact that her competitors spontaneously joined in as background singers tells me that she’s a well-liked contestant.

ANDREW GARCIA – Is there anyone who wasn’t charmed by his acoustic version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”?

LILY SCOTT – The blonde sandwich maker who sang Ella Fitzgerald’s “Lullaby of Birdland.”  Charming, quirky, and talented.

HAELEY VAUGHN – It’s hard to forget the black teenager who likes to sing country songs!  More than anyone else so far, she’s got that hard-to-define star quality (like her obvious idol, Taylor Swift).

CASEY JAMES – Ever since he took his shirt off for Kara, it would be easy enough to write off this Brad Pitt look-alike as mere eye candy…but don’t.  He plays a very decent blues guitar, and his vocals on John Mayer’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” were fine.

– Another sweet blonde singer with a guitar…and this one’s pretty!  I loved her inventive interpretation of Estelle’s “American Boy.”

A few other contestants are on my map, but not totally blowing me away as of yet:

– It would difficult to imagine him not making the Top 24 when the TV cameras have followed his wife into the delivery room as Mike competes in Hollywood Week.  I almost feel like the fix is in…like he’s the show’s version of The Blind Side or something.

DIDI BENAMI – Another blonde guitar player, but this one with Brooke White/jumbo-sized emotions.

KATIE STEVENS – The cute teenager who’s been caring for her sick grandmother.

MARY POWERS – Strong vocalist who is driving me insane with her strong personality.  Her take on Pink’s “Sober” was a bit of a carbon copy, and I’m hoping she doesn’t make the Top 24.

What do you think?  Is Ellen fitting in as an Idol judge?  Have any contestants stood out for you?  Sound off below!