American Idol’s 11th season kicked off on Wednesday night with auditions from Savannah, Georgia. Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, and Jennifer Lopez went about their prelim business of saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the hopefuls’ trip to Hollywood. Ryan Seacrest carried the show in his typical professional manner, though this year a ‘wannabe’ Seacrest showed up and delivered the famous line, “Thisssss is AMERICAN Idol!” in impressive style.

There was the 15- year old daughter of former Cardinal pitcher, Joe Magrane, that stood six-foot tall and belted out an eight-foot tall bluesy number. Then there was the 24- year old girl who couldn’t afford a hotel room, and had been camping outside in a tent during the week-long auditions. And for the male-demographic, we were introduced to the NFL cheerleader, who not only had the “it” look, but sang pretty well too, not that the men listened that much.

Of course no first week of Idol would be complete without the absolute performance disasters. Yes, we had the young man from Africa who could barely speak English, but wanted to be the first African Country music star…really? Where are your friends and parents when you are thinking about this? And yes, we had our over-confident young men and women, that were apparently tone-deaf as well, that acted like they were heading to the electric chair when they weren’t given the famous ‘Golden Ticket’. Note to the American Idol viewer- if the pre-performance interview segment of the next contestant shows an over-the-top, diva-like person, you will likely see them bomb in the next few minutes.

Then came the last contestant of the Savannah auditions. The 20-year old son of a pawn shop owner, Phillip Phillips. Yes, so nice, they named him twice. Phillips casually walked onto the platform, wearing jeans, a plaid shirt, and sandals and shyly introduced himself with his charming southern accent. However from that point on there was nothing shy or ordinary about Phillip Phillips. He started by singing Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with the flailing, electric energy of Joe Cocker, James Brown, and Dave Matthews all rolled into one. Though the song’s melody was still there, the arrangement was completely different and fresh. After his performance Jennifer Lopez stated that he appeared to perform with electricity running through his body. Steven Tyler just shook his head in awe, while Randy Jackson told Phillips to pick up his guitar and “give us more”. It was at this point that most of America knew that we were watching a star being born right before our very eyes. Phillips strapped on his guitar and jumped into his acoustic version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. It was one of those ‘goosebump moments’ when you knew you were experiencing something special. His sound was again very Dave Matthews-like, his confidence years ahead of his time. Phillip Phillips had performed his amazing rendition of “Thriller” in pure superstar fashion.

Obviously it’s far too early to tell if Phillips will win this season of American Idol, but there is no doubt that his father should be looking for more help down at the family pawn shop, because his son Phillip is going to be to busy in recording studios and concert venues to work there anymore.

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