At the top of the show, host Ryan Seacrest talked up the show, saying it would be more difficult because there were twice the number of contestants, 327. Perhaps new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were a little too easy in the auditions? Returning judge Randy Jackson said the season 10 talent is "on fire."
For the first round, contestants started by singing a capella songs. They came to the stage in groups of 10, but they were not competing with the others in their group. Afterward, the judges made an immediate decision on whether each contestant was moving on.
First up was Brett Loewenstern, 16, who admitted he had a lot of nerves. He shook his long, curly red hair before launching into a bluesy, heartfelt rendition of the Beatles song "Let it Be." When it came time for the results for his line, he was asked to step forward with a few others. He learned he's moving on. [Brett's performance]
The next group included Rachel Zevita, 23, who seemed surprisingly comfortable. We also heard from Thia Megia, 15, who got a little cheesy and lounge-y with her performance, wearing a bright striped, over-sized sweater. Also in this group was Casey Abrams, 19, who delivered a very relaxed, jazzy performance that elicited a standing ovation from the other contestants. All three moved on. [Rachel, Thia and Casey's performance]
Super confident Victoria Huggins, 17, performed next, demonstrating lots of energy and wearing a red-violet mini dress with matching red-violet boots! But her voice didn't live up to her confidence, as she sort of sing-talked some of it. Her phrasing was just not great. I'm actually surprised she was cut, though, because she seemed to have personality and positivity on her side. Her mom, who looked a little like Shirley Jones, wearing white turtleneck and vest, comforted her. In a voiceover, Ryan remarked that Victoria left with all of her 11 bags. Wow. I guess she really believed she would make it to the end. [Victoria's performance]
In the next group were Paris Tassin, 23, a medical assistant from New Orleans whose little girl has hearing loss as a complication of being born with encephalitis. Wearing a white lacy tunic and black leggings, she sang "My Heart Will Go On." I thought she had some really weird enunciation and was a bit harsh on the higher register. We also heard from James Durbin, whose story had been featured on a previous show (his father died when he was 9 and he's got Asberger's and Tourette's. He's also the father of a young son but has been laid off recently). He performed "Oh Darling," hitting another power high note, Adam Lambert style. He doesn't have the easy command of the stage that Glambert had, though. Also in this group was Storm Henley, who was Miss Teen USA. She wore a peach minidress with an oversized gray men's shirt and gave a forgettable performance. Lauren Alaina, 15, gave a textured performance which had a lot of soul in it. Lauren learned she was going through, along with James and Lauren. Storm is out. [Paris, James, Storm and Lauren's performances]
Perhaps the most talked-about back story so far has been that of Chris Medina, whose fiancee, Juliana, survived a serious accident that left her wheelchair bound with neurological damage. The judges asked about her, and Chris said that she's doing better all the time and is an inspiration to him. His performance this time around was a bit off-key, but the judges put him through to the next round. [Chris's audition]
After a montage of contestants stumbling, Steven told people, "Sing us your best song right now." Jacee Badeaux, 15, the golden-voiced kid with chipmunk cheeks, still sounded terrific singing "Broken Road." He's got such a pure tone and such great control. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of him. Only a year older, Robbie Rosen, 16, sounded very much like a boy band singer. Hollie Cavanaugh, 17, had been really nervous at her Austin audition. Looking more confident, she left it all on the stage, giving a powerful performance. All three of them seemed like they'd already been getting some styling tips, by the way, with Jacee in a brown button-down shirt, Robbie in distressed jeans, a long-sleeved white patterned T-shirt and a black jacket, and Hollie in slate-grey jacket, gray and white T-shirt, stretch denim capri pants and heels. All three made it through. [Jacee, Robbie and Hollie's performances]
Accountant Steve Beghun, 27, wearing a navy zippered shirt over a button-down shirt, was still confident, but his performance was sort of tepid compared to his initial audition. He was cut but took it in his stride. Also sent home were Sarah Sellers, Jacqueline Dupree, and belly dancer Heidi Kazam. Casey Abrams was hugging them all: "I don't even know half the people I hugged, but I just felt so bad." One guy who'd been cut wailed, "I have nothing, nothing." [Steve's performance]
We saw a montage then of people forgetting their lyrics, as well as people hitting bad notes or bombing on the stage.
Two couples who had been previously featured performed in the next group. In fact, the guys were rooming with each other, as were the girls. (What a set up!) First came estranged couple Rob Bolin, 23, who sounded a lot weaker than before, cutting off the ends of phrases. Still, he got stronger as he went, singing a blues song, wearing a white button down and a tan vest. There's something really appealing about his tone. Chelsee Oaks, 23, in a gray top and black shrug, gave a very controlled country performance. Both are moving on.
Next was the young couple who had met in a glee club (whose behind-the-scenes kanoodling had seemed very posed). Nick Fink, 19, was very much the crooner, giving a hammy, emotionless performance, looking every inch the lounge singer in an aqua V-neck T-shirt and a peach satin jacket. Jacqueline Dunford, 22, was bending a lot of notes, wearing a big blue fake flower on her head. I wasn't feeling it, but I didn't really like her initial audition either. Jacqueline is going through; Nick is not. This caused a lot of backstage tears for the two, plus pleading from Nick from the stage. [Rob and Chelsee, Nick and Jacqueline's performances, Nick and Jacqueline's results]
A number of contestants stuck with the songs they'd used to audition, including country singer Scott McCreary, 17; Jackie Wilson, 28; and Jerome Bell, 27. Despite the lack of creativity, they all made it through. [Scott, Jackie and Jerome's performances]
Dance instructor Tiffany Rios, 21, who has a very "Jersey Shore" look with big hair, tight dresses and a tan, got up on the stage and announced, "I'm tired of seeing people try to do what I know I can." She wore a tight black-and-gray minidress with a huge cross necklace and glitter in her hair. Her performance was a bit over the top, but she was right on the melody. Also in her group was fellow New Jersey auditioner Travis Orlando, 17, whose family had once lived in a shelter. His performance was a little rough, even though he still has great tone. Tiffany moved on, but Travis was cut. [Tiffany and Travis's performances]
Also moving onto the next round were Clint Gamboa, Julie Zorrilla, Naima Adedapo, the Gutierrez brothers, Molly Dewolf Swenson, Paul McDonald, Emily Ann Reed, Stefano Langone and Ashley Sullivan. We saw a montage of people celebrating and Ashley calling her mom in tears to give her the good news. After this cut, 168 hopefuls are moving on. [Video of happy hopefuls]
Next Wednesday, the dreaded group rounds and plenty of DRAH-ma!
Hollywood Week is the time to give it your all.