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In the world's ultimate talent search, where the eyes of a nation are upon the best undiscovered singers in the country, where the audience has the power to make or break you, and where a million-dollar recording contract is on the line, there is only one rule: If you can sing it, bring it.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, Jason Block, Don Harpwood & Gordon Pepper, GSNN
Host Ryan Seacrest
Judges Mariah Carey
Randy Jackson
Nicki Minaj
Keith Urban
Mentor Jimmy Iovine
Announcer Mark Thompson
Creator Simon Fuller (based upon "Pop Idol")
EP Nigel Lythgoe
Ken Warwick
Cecile Frot-Coutaz
Simon Fuller
Trish Kinane
Packager 19 TV & FremantleMedia North America
Origins CBS Television City, Los Angeles
Web americanidol.com
Airs 8p Wed & Thurs, Fox
@American Idol

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Auditions 1
January 16

A new season. New judges in superstar Mariah Carey, country crooner Keith Urban, and live-action cartoon Nicki Minaj. And other twists and turns along the way that are way too complex to mention here and now. But now that Phillip Phillips is blowing up pop radio, it's time to find his successor. It's the song that will never end. It's American Idol... season 12.

We begin with the reigning Idol singing his hit single, "Home", the single that propelled him to the crown last year. Will lightning strike again? We'll find out in about four months. Right now, let's go searching for this year's flavor of the month...

AUDITIONS: Prudential Center - Newark, NJ
CALLBACKS: Jazz at Lincoln Center

... and our search stars with glam shots of the judges. I'm beginning to think that Clay Aiken was right. Can we get to the singing already?

We start with a step from Michael Buonopane (Saugus, MA; 27; shuttle driver). Of course we would know this if the judges just shut up already... Geez, he's trying to make an entrance here with "We Will Rock You". And then he just loses it. Thanks for the entertainment. Exit's that way.

Meanwhile, we have a big fan and an alumnus of Camp Mariah in Tenna Torres (28; Queens, NY; promotional model), singing "You've Got a Friend" by Carol Kane. And immediately she does WAY TOO MUCH WITH IT. But she actually does sound decent once you get past the vocal origami. Four yeses, and we have our first golden ticket of season 12.

NYC continues to deliver. James Bae (15, Long Island, NY, student) wants to be just like Justin Bieber. He says that America wants a character. He sings "One Less Lonely Girl" by Biebs... And it's the moment you're waiting for ... we're about to rip into a child. Or maybe James is gonna get him some Nicki or something... In any event. NO.

Christina "Isabelle" Pasqualone (21; Duluth, GA; student) was born in Boston, raised in Atlanta, and now lives in NYC. She says that she struggled with her weight. Since she decided to do something about it, she is 50 pounds lighter. But is she heavy where it counts? She sings "Summertime" from "Porgy & Bess". That, by the way, would be a "yes". Judges, agree with me. Right now. Do it... Did we mention she's an alum of Berklee? Okay, that's a yes!

Next up, a triple threat who's shooting for Broadway. When he was 19, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer. After 16 months of chemo and surgery, the cancer came back... and the end result... his leg was amputated in a life-saving operation. Meet Evan Ruggiero (21; Old Bridge, NJ; college student/tap dancer), who sings "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz. Definitely sounds Broadway with a hint of overexaggeration. Then he decides to play the guitar with "Wanted Dead or Alive". The season's an hour old, and we have this year's "Hot Guy With Guitar". Or DO WE? The judges don't see who he is. They say no, as Mariah promises to see him next year.

This season on AI, we turn the casting couch to America, as "star scouts" nominate their own Idols for consideration. To that end, Randy has gone to Staten Island to see Jessica Rose Kartalis (19; Staten Island, NY; student/receptionist) and invite her to the callback. She doesn't want to label herself, but she wants to be pushed to the right direction. We could have this season's "Hot Girl With Guitar". OR DO WE? Nicki doesn't think she's ready now, but maybe next year. The other judges... agree.

Shira Gavrielov (23; Brooklyn; singer/songwriter) is originally from Israel, where she grew up in a musical house. In fact, and she's the first AI wannabe to freely admit to this... she had a single out at 17 reach #1 in Israel. Can she get on the American stage with "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse? She sounds like a piano-friendly club vibe. Nicki thinks that she has it. It's a RESOUNDING yes.

That brings us to another Brooklynite, Frankie Ford (24; retail/busker), who found out that he was adopted at 8. He spends his days as an artist singing on the train after dreams of the business fell through. He sings the Eurythmics... eventually... "Sweet Dreams". Second time out is pitch perfect, but he needs to choose between the rock vibe and the soul vibe. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

DAY 2 is just as beautiful as Day 1 was. 27-year-old Benjamin Gaisey (Sinking Spring, PA; sales consultant) thinks he's a ladies' man. And in he comes with an MJ pleather Thriller jacket and a really bad wig. He sings two Babyface-penned songs for two female judges. And it's two nasally, two flat, two much for this writer to handle.

Make that three. "What part of it was terrible?" Chico's answer: "Beginning. Middle. End."

Rozanna Shindelman (21; Staten Island; medical billing/student) lives with her parents, who are very supportive of her talent. Let's see if that support pays off. She sings "To Know Him Is To Love Him" by the Teddy Bears. Very. VERY. Screechy. It's a no.

And it gets worse. It always gets worse. How worse? On a scale of one to "get that bleeping camera out of my bleeping face", it's a Mariah Carey lookalike.

Sarah Restuccio (17; Hammonton, NJ; student/farmer) is from the Blueberry Capital of the World. She likes shooting her arrow, riding her ATV, and listening to country music. And her gran is an opera singer. She's singing "Mama's Song" by Carrie Underwood. Props for taking on an Idol's song and being JUST GOOD ENOUGH to deliver on potential. And then she goes into "Superbass"... Okay, that's enough. You're through. Just... stop. We'll see you in Hollywood.

Albert Chang (25; Regal Park, Queens; receptionist)... he likes to sing. He was in chorus. Today, he's on his own with "The Phantom Of The Opera". Hit the hook.

Angela Miller (18; Beverly, MA; food services) has 40 percent hearing loss in her left ear and 20 in her right. She'll try "Mamma Knows Best" by Jessie J. And Angela knows herself best. Very impressive, very soulful, and very animated. It's a yes all around. Also in... these guys! Cue montage! Okay, no.

Brett Holt (28; Willow Grove, PA; liquor store clerk) is a huge AI fan. Just so happens Ryan has American Idol trivia cards. Anyway, he's auditioned seven times. Number eight... "When I Fall In Love" by Nat "King" Cole. And this audition ended before it begun, and there's no moonlight kisses in your future.

Gupree Singh Sarin (22, North Potomac, MD; college student), aka the Turbanator for his many many MANY color-coded turbans. He's never met a celebrity. Meet four. He hopes to translate his background in Indian classical music into a golden ticket with "Sunday Morning" by Maroon 5. Mariah likes light singing. Keith thinks it's too light. But still... he's going to HOLLYWOOD! Three to one, Keith dissenting.

Getting close to the end with Ashlee Feliciano (20; East Hartford, CT; student), one of many children, but only one of three biologicals. Her parents decided to adopt medically-complicated fosters/adoptions for the last 10 years. That's one of the best families I've ever heard. But it's about her rendition of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On"... which, by the way, is about as pure as it gets. After we get the family in, it's a yes, bringing the total from NYC to 41.

The auditions continue in Chicago next time.

"What are we talking about up here?" I don't know, Randy... I just don't know...

To see extras from this episode, go to www.americanidol.com.