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American Idol: Can Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez avoid the Sophomore Slump?

American Idol (and Randy Jackson) is back for Season 11 but for Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler this marks their sophomore year.  Can Lopez and Tyler find continued success without novelty on their side?

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Jennifer's frequent bouts of "goosies," her rather grating term for goose bumps, does not bode well for those hoping for a more discerning Idol.  Take the first contestant of the night, David Leathers, Jr. who was instantly compared to young Michael Jackson.  Seriously?  Sure, a 17-year-old who looks 12 and claims to be a ladies man may be endearing to some, but Michael Jackson he is not.

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Besides, lauding a perfectly average contestant only cheapens the process, especially when contestants worthy of the praise are introduced.  Speaking of cheapening the process, Steven Tyler was certainly in overdrive in the creepy-old-man-who-leers-at-young-girls-department, going so far as to remark to a 15-year-old Shannon Magrane's father that she was "hot and steamy."  Not his finest moment to be sure; its almost enough to make one long for last season's post-audition, slightly dazed Steven, who tells everyone they're beautiful, minus the creepy stare.

Thankfully for every baby-faced David Leathers, Jr., homeless Amy Brumfield and do-gooder Lauren Mink (who drew overblown praise from the judges),  there were some contestants who earned their airtime in the talent department.  So, if you are inclined to becoming invested in contestants early in the game, here are some recommendations:

Gabi Carrubba, a 16-year-old champion tap dancer,  scored a hat-trick with her natural exuberance and great performance of Maroon Five's, Sunday Morning.  Not only did she earn a ticket to Hollywood, she also got to meet Ryan Seacrest and managed to illicit the facial expression Steven Tyler makes when he hears good music.  What more could a girl ask for?

Colton Dixon, who the judges eliminated during Hollywood week last season, returns to support his sister, Schyler Dixon, and is urged to audition by the judges.  JLo instructs him to sing in order to make the judges feel stupid for their decision to eliminate him last year . . .  apparently they're slow learners.  Poor Schyler stands in the background as Colton overshadows her once again.  But all is well that ends well, since they both earn tickets to Hollywood, where Colton will likely continue to outshine his sister.

Then in the grand tradition of saving the best for last, comes Phillip Phillips, a 20-year-old from Georgia.  His rendition of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition" is remarkable ,but when he picks up his guitar and performs "Thriller" by Michael Jackson, all hope of not getting excited this early on, is lost.  His performance is reminiscent of a younger Dave Matthews and his passion for the music only enhances his appeal.  Add a lopsided grin, southern drawl, and humble affability to the mix and suddenly all bloggers the world over are ready to call the winner only two hours into the season.  Okay, maybe not all bloggers . . . just those with uncanny intuition who aren't afraid to throw caution to the wind. 

Caution . . . out.

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