Season 12 of "American Idol" kicked off on Tuesday night, and there was the usual mix of sob stories, awful auditions and terrific talent.
Of the three new judges, Nicki Minaj stood out the most, and not because of her wild outfits and hairstyles. The hip-hop princess genuinely seemed to root for the contestants, giving words of encouragement to the ones that were rejected. On the flip side, her over-the-top faces (included several side-eyes and eye-rolls towards Mariah Carey) provided comic relief.
We didn't hear or see much from Mariah, save for a few "darlings" and lots of hair stroking. Keith Urban seemed to come off as the "nice" one but was quick to say "no" as well. So, who were the 5 standouts from the New York auditions? Here are our picks:
1. Evan Ruggiero
Evan was an aspiring dancer who was diagnosed with cancer and had his leg amputated. "Idol" loves to milk these sob stories, but Evan was truly someone who persevered. His first song to Jason Mraz wasn't great, but his second to Bon Jovi was much better. We agree that it wasn't strong enough for Hollywood, but his story was compelling and worth highlighting:
2. Frankie Ford
Frankie was another sob story -- he was an adoptee who sang on the subway to make money. Like Evan, his first attempt did not go well. But once he got his nerves in check, his powerhouse voice emerged. Is he this season's Joshua Ledet? Listen:
3. Benjamin Gaisey
With his "Thriller" Halloween costume and Jheri curl wig, Ben was ready to put on a show. Nicki Minaj's reaction to his pelvic thrust was hilarious. When uberdiva Mariah Carey says you're over the top, you're over the top:
4. Sarah Restuccio
The 17-year-old farmgirl gave an decent (but slightly off-key) performance to Carrie Underwood. But her real talent -- and personality -- emerged when she performed Nicki's "Superbass," complete with custom lyrics. The judges were blown away:
5. Angela Miller
Angela really didn't have a sad backstory, aside from having partial hearing loss in both ears. But sometimes a voice just speaks for itself. She was by far the best vocalist that viewers saw -- mark our words, she will go far: