American Idol: Jennifer Lopez pales in comparison to show's leading men

On Thursday night, it became clear that Jennifer Lopez's beauty and superstar status are not enough to make her stand out from the strength of Idol's male stars.

(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Ryan Seacrest, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban arrive at the American Idol XIII premiere event, on Jan. 14, 2014, in Los Angeles.

On Thursday night, American Idol ushered in Day 2 of their 13th season. If you happened to read yesterday's article covering Wednesday's premiere, you already know that Harry Connick, Jr. made a huge impression. Unfortunately, despite all of his charisma, the viewership was at an all-time low for American Idol. It's unlikely that this news is a surprise to anyone who has followed the show over the years.

Idol, in its longevity, has become the grandfather of all singing competitions and they've had their fair share of ups and downs. In terms of highs and lows, if last season was a singer, it would have been a bass, for sure. The combination of Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was a train wreck and Randy Jackson was predictably useless.

The only bright spot on the panel (aside from Nicki's hair) was Keith Urban. On Thursday, Keith proved that he wasn't just a good judge by comparison; he's still a good judge, which is a relief because we can't heap the responsibility of turning an aging show around just on Harry's shoulders, as strong and buff as they may be.

The decision to bring Jennifer Lopez back was a curious one since she was never a stellar judge and now, without Steven Tyler's nonsense and Randy Jackson's apathy, she seems a little out of her depth and brings little to the show beyond being a big name tie-breaker.

Nevertheless, Idol has gotten a lot right this season, so we can forgive them this misstep. Besides, after giving viewers the gift of Ryan Seacrest for thirteen years, there's nothing we can't forgive. If one needed to be reminded of Ryan's priceless contribution to the show he gave another example on Thursday. After contestant Gaddy Basil Foster delivered a truly heinous vocal to the judges, he explained to Ryan that he didn't get a ticket because he was a little bit too nervous. Ryan, feigning complete sincerity asked, "You think that's what it was?" For those who recognize and appreciate sarcasm, Ryan is a delight to watch.

Well, that's enough mooning over Idol's trio of talented men. It's time to talk about the contestants, which is never an easy thing to do this early in the game. Getting invested in contestants this early on is like naming baby cattle at the slaughterhouse - not a wise use of time. Still, after one covers Idol for so long, fans come to expect great things. They demand that their writer provide her insight and uncanny ability to foresee the destiny of each and every contestant. It's a heavy weight to bear but the fans will not accept anything delusions of grandeur are a freebie.

So, staring into the looking glass, a few contestants rise to the top, while some others sink right to the bottom.

Of course, every season has its share of Rick Rowlings who, as Harry so accurately put it, "disrespect the process," but even some of the hopefuls who leave with a golden ticket in their hands are destined to quickly fall by the wayside as the competition progresses.

Spencer Lloyd will likely thrill many of the younger girls with his boyish good looks, but Harry made it perfectly clear that he only got a ticket based on his image. But cuteness aside, his voice was not memorable and he chose a Colton Dixon song. Just when you thought you escaped Colton's annoying devotional performances, Angie Miller resurrected them in Season 12 and now, we have Spencer. Oh joy.

Then we have Tristan Langley, the son of Nikki McKibbin, the second runner up of Idol's inaugural season. Tristan (who seems to eschew his mother's sense of style, which can only be described as Meth Addict Chic, by being super clean-cut) was hard not to root for, especially after the clips of him as a four-old running to the Idol stage to present his mother with a rose. But despite his lineage, Tristan is clearly not ready for American Idol. The judges all knew it but, like Spencer Lloyd's image, Tristan's back-story was just too tempting for the judges to pass up.

Then, there are the really talented contestants who the judges don't want to send through because of their image. David Luning, a singer-songwriter, gave a moving performance of an original song that left the judges wondering if he was too morose for Idol's happy (read: pop) image. Thankfully he made it through to Hollywood where he'll no doubt either sell out and thereby lose everything that makes him great or stay true to who he is and get lost in the midst of other more flamboyant contestants who may not be as talented but do make for better reality TV.

Brianna Oakley returned even more determined after being cut in Hollywood last season. She easily earned another gold ticket and while she'll never win, her voice is impressive and her exposure to the process has given her a boost of confidence and chances are she'll make it further in the competition this year. 

So there you have some of the notable contestants from Austin and San Francisco . . . oh, well them, and the nameless man in the T-Rex shirt who the judges apparently didn't think had an image problem, since he also earned a ticket to Hollywood.

It's an imperfect science, this judging business.

And now it's time to turn it over to you. Have you seen any contestants that you think have what it takes so far? And what about the judges; are you as easily enamored by wit and a charming smile as some others around here seem to be? Sound off in the comments!

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