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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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‘Idol’ pre screening in Atlanta included Bo Bice, Vanessa Olivarez

Vanessa Olivarez (season 2) and Bo Bice (season 4) came by the AMC Sugarloaf Mills pre-screening of 'American Idol," season 12. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Vanessa Olivarez (season 2) and Bo Bice (season 4) came by the AMC Sugarloaf Mills pre-screening of 'American Idol," season 12. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

‘American Idol,” for the first time, decided to do a pre screening of the show a week before its debut and brought out the judges for a satellite Q&A session with Ryan Seacrest out of Los Angeles.

They held screenings in several major ciites, including Chicago, Boston, Dallas and Atlanta, where we landed at Sugarloaf Mills AMC with a few hundred “Idol’ acolytes, plus two former ‘Idol” contestants who live locally: season 2’s Vanessa Olivarez and season 4’s Bo Bice. Oliveraz is currently in two bands: Granville Automatic and country quartet Mama’s Blue Dress. Bice is leaving in two weeks from Conyers to spend a possible year-long stint in the starring role on Broadway for “Pump Boys & Dinettes.”

We saw a 45-minute cut-down version of what will be the debut next week in New York (two hours on Wednesday) and Chicago Thursday.  I sat in the third row. It was a little daunting to see Nicki Minaj’s mug hovering over me like an alien creature.

Here are a few impressions from the screening:

- Nicki is as colorful and polarizing as you can imagine. She is – not surprisingly – opinionated as all get out. She sucks the oxygen out of the room, which doesn’t seem to perturb Randy Jackson but exasperates both Keith Urban and Mariah Carey. She dresses wild. She makes funny sounds. She interrupts others. She’ll put on a faux British accent. This could be fun for awhile but could ultimately be exhausting.

- Nicki will flirt with guy contestants, even getting one to take off his shirt. But she can be empathetic and sweet as well. And boy, she does make faces. When a Mariah fan shows Mariah photos of the two of them, Mariah asks to get copies. Watch Nicki’s eyes bug out.

- The producers seem to purposely keep a man between Mariah and Nicki, at least in the Chicago and New York auditions we viewed. When Keith had to leave for a prior event, they stuck Randy between them. There is a segment where Mariah and Nicki frequently argue to the point that Keith says, “I feel like a scratching post!” Meow!

- Watch for the contestant who has a stuttering problem but a great voice that elicited applause from our audience. Also, there’s a woman who can not only sing country but rap “Super Bass.” Plus, there’s a dude who evokes a bit of William Hung, which is not a good thing at all. We see eight singers. In general, it’s the usual blend of bad and good.

- Keith is calm, collected and nice, with brief but incisive comments. Mariah has a bit of Paula in her and doesn’t appear to be too harsh on the contestants. Nigel Lythgoe earlier had said he feels Randy is the toughest judge up there. I guess it’s all relative.

- During that earlier press conference, Nigel noted that he was upset when he saw “The X Factor” provide how well each act did in the voting in relation to each other. He claimed that he wanted to do that but was told no by Fox executives, afraid it might suppress voting. He doesn’t believe that. He also plans to bring voting order to ‘Idol” this season but is bummed that he is playing catch-up to “X Factor.” He also would like to show regional voting stats if possible. Nigel in the press conference praised Phillip Phillips but warned that one single does not make  a career. He said there will be no hip-hop/rap on “Idol” and Jimmy Iovine will return as the main mentor.

- Bo Bice found Nicki a bit much, compared Mariah to Paula and really liked Keith.

- There was a Q&A after the screening. I don’t think we got too much out of it but Ryan did ask if there’d be a group performance number with all the judges, something “The Voice” does every season. Then he decided they shouldn’t answer that. It could be fun! Mariah had a cold, as she noted multiple times, and wore these ridiculously huge diamond earings that were so heavy, her ear lobes were hanging low. Randy had strange studs on his collar while Nicki wore what appeared to be the outside of the Partridge Family bus.

Watching the "Idol" Q&A from the big screen.

Watching the "Idol" Q&A from the big screen.

- There were a lot of Nicki Minaj fans at the screening and screamed when her name came up. She got a ton of laughs, too.

Loganville 15-year-old Jason Brown brought a Nicki Minaj poster to the event. He has been following "Idol' since season 5. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Loganville 15-year-old Jason Brown brought a Nicki Minaj poster to the event. He has been following "Idol' since season 5. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

***

TMZ reports Britney Spears is not returning to “The X Factor.’ No surprise there.
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66 comments Add your comment

Rickster

January 10th, 2013
12:05 pm

First?

Still not excited about the upcoming season.

FarTrain

January 10th, 2013
12:24 pm

Nicki Minaj will get old very quickly and I may have to abandon the show early on to keep my sanity. Bet I won’t be alone either.

Deirdre

January 10th, 2013
12:25 pm

while Nicki wore what appeared to be the outside of the Partridge Family bus.

LOL!!!!! We might actually have a good time on the blog this season…if only to describe in varying degrees of hilarity, Nicki’s outfits.

Deirdre

January 10th, 2013
12:26 pm

BTW, Bo and Vanessa look great.

Mercedes S.

January 10th, 2013
12:55 pm

Should a 15-year old even know a Minaj exists? Btw, is that an “urban” spelling of menage?

I am getting excited about Idol, now. Nice pic of Vanessa.

Pitchy

January 10th, 2013
2:01 pm

Mercedes S., you probably never heard of Dr. Buzzard and The Savannah Band, but there’s a song there about Nicky, Nicky Minaj….I always thought that’s where her name came from. Very, very old album.

Pitchy

January 10th, 2013
2:02 pm

Been home since Friday with the Flu as my constant companion. Today I’m feeling much better, but still sick. What a horrible experience.

JTesla

January 10th, 2013
2:18 pm

“She’ll put on a faux British accent”

No, please no… make it stop before it starts.

♥ kelly&carriefan ♥

January 10th, 2013
2:55 pm

D, I agree. I might need to get a thesaurus to prep for this season. American Idol: Hot Mess Edition!

Deirdre

January 10th, 2013
3:44 pm

LOL, k&cf! I think we may be in for a huge snark-fest here on the ol’ blog.

JTesla

January 10th, 2013
4:05 pm

I’ll just have to remind myself everytime the judges start to annoy me that it could be worse. We could have Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez with Randy Jackson. Scary.

Sam-A

January 10th, 2013
4:08 pm

Pitchy: Sorry and hope you’re well on the way to being over the flu. They keep saying on the news that this one is a really bad deal! Take care of yourself. I had a flu shot 3 months ago, and so far/so good.

I don’t remember Olivia being so darned pretty – guess she’s really grown into her looks. Bo always was cute, and much more so now that he’s cut his hair.

NIkki will be a real treat I’m sure, especially for all of us who so dearly love the tight elastic jumpsuit/catsuit complete with bulges and cellulite – the Nikki-gal is perfectly equippped to “thrill” us all. But mainly, it’s the multi-colored cotton candy pompadours that will catch all the attention.

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:14 pm

Hahaha, a snark fest will be fun! I shall call her “(not so) Darling Nikki”. (Who remembers the Prince song? ;-) ) And D, don’t you just love the Aquarium? One of my very favorite places in Atlanta.

Pitchy, sorry you’re sick! This flu season is awful. Have you kept up on PP? (private practice, not philip.) I still need to watch this week’s. I kind of like how they’re focusing on one character each week, and I love Amelia, so this one should be good! I loved the Charlotte episode before Christmas.

Oh, and speaking of pp… meant to put my 2 cents in on the earlier “Home” discussion. It’s such a good, catchy song. I’ve really come to like it. He was very, very, VERY lucky to have been handed it. It would’ve become just as big no matter who recorded it (well, within reason. ;-) ). A case of the song transcending the artist, imo. I predict pp may fade in 2013. (Anyone surprised? LOL.)

Rickster, even with the strangeness of (not so) Darling Nikki, I am ready for Idol! Looking really forward to next week. I should be able to be around the blog a bit more now, than I have been. I’ve missed you guys. It’s been a rough last half of 2012, but I’m hoping and praying for 2013 to be a much needed fresh new start.

(Hi sis Sam, if you’re out there! Looking forward to catching up.)

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:15 pm

And your ears must have been burning, Sam, you posted while I was typing! :-)

Harriett

January 10th, 2013
4:20 pm

How long until we lose wordpress?

Jason

January 10th, 2013
4:22 pm

This event was sooo much fun!! I am the one with the Nicki poster. She actually did a very good job from what we saw last night. She was honest with the contestants, she was real, and unlike Mariah Carey, she actually answered her questions during the press conference. I was very impressed. She conducted herself very classily.

And Mercedes S., I love Nicki Minaj. She is a popular artist. She is inventive and talented and one of my favorites. :)

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:22 pm

Wordpress??
And why are we losing it?
Dang, I guess I have been gone a while…

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:30 pm

Jason, I actually read something similar in another column this morning. (I think it was the Yahoo “Reality Rocks” column, maybe?) Anyway, the writer went in all prepared to watch a disaster in Nicki, but surprisingly, liked her pretty well.

I may be snarky with my nickname for her, etc… but I will still give her a chance and see how she does. Next Thursday should be fun on the blog! :-)

Also, the same column (I think) was quite complimentary of Keith Urban. They said he didn’t talk much, but what he did say was “artistically astute” and intelligent. He focused on the music without the name-dropping of Randy. (Of course, Randy’s fave name to drop is Mariah… so now that she’s there with him, what happens? LOL.)

Let me see if I can find it and link for y’all. It was an interesting article.

Sam-A

January 10th, 2013
4:34 pm

Hi, Sis! And I don’t know what “wordpress” is either.

The best I can say about NM is, as I said a couple months ago, she was very kind to the little Brit girls, Sophia Grace & Rosie, when Ellen surprised them with her awhile back. She’s their fave, and she even sang with Sophia Grace, and let SG take the lead, on that Super bass song. She also gave them a shopping spree on her at Toys r’ us.

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:35 pm

Rodney Ho

January 10th, 2013
4:40 pm

Wordpress is the software to run this blog. We’ll be changing to a new blog system, or an existing one that other Cox properties use called Medley.

Rodney Ho

January 10th, 2013
4:41 pm

@Harriett. Soon. Very soon.

♥ kelly&carriefan ♥

January 10th, 2013
4:48 pm

Rodney, is this why some of us went and registered usernames with AJC a while back? I did it when it came up, but haven’t really used it…as I don’t regularly comment on anything but this blog. :)

Harriett

January 10th, 2013
4:50 pm

Thanks, Rodney! Just want to be sure I am aware when it happens.

Have a wonderful evening everyone. Counting down the days/hours!

Jenny

January 10th, 2013
4:50 pm

Ah, OK, Rodney… now I see. I thought we were just hosted by the AJC site. Didn’t realize it was Wordpress underneath.

When it changes, will it be transparent to us? Or will we have to go and register somewhere? (K&C, I remember y’all doing that, but I didn’t do it. I am sure “Jenny” will be already taken. Dang.)

Mercedes S.

January 10th, 2013
4:57 pm

I’m curious… Rodney, did you ever bother to read “Elimination Night”? People gives it *** out of four! And says:

“This send-up of American idol is narrated by an exploited assistant producer at ‘Project Icon’. The fictional show (which airs on the Rabbit Network – get it?) has two new judges, aging rocker Joey Lovecraft and diva Bibi Vasquez, known for her hit ‘Bibi from the Hood’ – and egos are clashing in spectacular fashion. It’s not clear whether the book’s unnamed author is an actual Idol employee, but who cares? Her (his?) fauxtell-all rings delciously true.

Pitchy

January 10th, 2013
5:40 pm

Have I missed the opening season for AI??? Hard to even remember which day I in. I saw the garbage truck flying down my street and forgot to put out the garbage. I had no energy to run to garage and put it out.

Thanks guys. Getting better. So glad the worse is over.

Pitchy

January 10th, 2013
5:42 pm

Jenny, yes I still watch PP. But Scandal is the “IT” show and can’t wait until this evening’s show.

AmyP

January 11th, 2013
6:40 am

I’ve seen Bo and Vanessa since AI…both are solid and honest artists! Happy to see that, even without the top prize, they are headed for greatness!

Mercedes S.

January 11th, 2013
9:26 am

Morning!
If you are tempted…warning might be in order. “Gangster Squad” is a vile,violent manual in how to kill people in the nastiest way. Why big names and respected actors (Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackle, Giovanni Ribisi, Sean Penn and EMMA STONE) ageed to appear in this predictable, poorly writte mess is a mystery. Josh Brolin tried to joke away his performance on the “Daily Show” last night; that’s how bad the movie is.

Sam-A

January 11th, 2013
9:36 am

Mercedes: The previews look terrible. Love Emma Stone, and agree – what the H was she doing appearing in it! She was on Ellen yesterday, and is a hilarious, adorable young lady, but this looks like crap.

I’ll either be watching “Zero….” or the Tsunami this weekend.

JTesla

January 11th, 2013
10:01 am

It’s funny that two of those actors will proably be crying about movie violence next month. I guess if the price is right…

Listening to the Best Movie picks for the Oscars, I haven’t seen a single one. Some people try to see them all, I pride myself on going years without seeing a single
one. Was Avatar nominated for that? If so that’s the last one I’ve seen.

Woodpappy

January 11th, 2013
10:18 am

Interesting…..I may already be tired of Darling Nikki (Yes I remember)…but I will wait and see first.

Harriett

January 11th, 2013
10:31 am

Morning!

I have seen Flight with Denzel Washington, and I saw nothing Oscar-worthy in his performance there. I plan to see Lincoln, possibly this weekend. Life of Pi is not playing anywhere near me, so I may not get to see it. I know I won’t get around to all of them anyway.

Sam-A

January 11th, 2013
10:37 am

JT – Yes, “Avatar” actually won “B P”. I didn’t see it – people who know my taste in movies suggested I wouldn’t like it, and all the blue would drive me nuts. I try to see all the films that look really good. Sometimes looks can be deceiving, sometimes I’m right on the money.

This time, I’ve seen “Lincoln” (bored), “Life of Pi” (gorgeous, but too long), “Beast of th…..” (depressing – didn’t enjoy at all – already knew all I needed/wanted to about the poor deserted people of New Orleans after the disaster), “Argo” – loved it, “Silver Linings….” – just sad, disliked first half, enjoyed the 2nd half – Jen and Brad very good in it, plan to see “Zero Dark 30″ very soon. The rest, not interested. I’m not sure why the French film was nominated for both “Best Pic” and ”Best Foreign Pic” – seems “Foreign” would have been plenty.

JTesla

January 11th, 2013
11:09 am

Out of curiosity I looked at the list and “Avatar” lost to “The Hurt Locker”. In the last 10 years I’ve seen 3 nominees for Best Picture, two of those were from The Lord of the Rings franchise which was also the last winner of the award that I saw.

Sam-A

January 11th, 2013
11:33 am

JT: Sorry! You’re correct. And “Hurt Locker” was a much-deserving film – gripping and frightening and beautifully acted and directed. Everyone expected “Avatar” to win.

JTesla

January 11th, 2013
11:46 am

Yep, that is why I thought it had won too.

Deirdre

January 11th, 2013
1:12 pm

Afternoon!

Yesterday the whole house came down with a terrible stomach virus, even Lucas. We’re pretty sure we got it at the Aquarium since 2 friends of my son’s joined us there and they also go sick. I haven’t felt that awful in a long time but things are slowly improving.

G

January 11th, 2013
2:21 pm

A quick observation about the “Home” song……..The song as an instrumental with background vocals stands on it’s own very well. I don’t know if pp adds that much to make the song that much better. jmo

Sam-A

January 11th, 2013
2:22 pm

D: Isn’t it nice you can “converse” with us all, and no danger of passing on, or catching, any foul illness! Sorry you guys all got sick. Does the flu hatch out that fast? It must really be potent. Hope you all recover quickly.

And Pitchy, sorry you’re still feeling poorly – gotta bet perked up before Idol next week. Did you feel like watching PLL? It was a “wow” kind of show.

G

January 11th, 2013
2:25 pm

@Pitchy…….Agree 100% that Scadal is the “IT” show. Fitz made the episode with only one line.

Mercedes S.

January 11th, 2013
4:00 pm

Sam-A and JT – of course you know that Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron used to be married…and Cameron very graciously congratulated his ex when she won Best Directing Oscar for “The Hurt Locker”. Most people thought he would win for “Avatar”.

Since it’s going to rain all weekend, Sam-A, there’s lot’s ofdry desert stuff in “Zero Dark Thirty” which is why I suggest it ove “The Impossible”. Both movies are excellent.

Has Rodney written anything about “Banshee” which starts on Cinemax tonight? Drama by Alan Ball, our local boy done good (”True Blood”).

Sam-A

January 11th, 2013
4:32 pm

You’re funny! Are you telling me we may have a Tsunami this weekend? I prefer “Zero….”;. but as I’m going with others, will have to see – will definitely see it no later than next weekend. Have you been to the Phipps theater since they remodelled? It’s a bit weird – sitting so close to the screen (and I was on the back row of one of the small theaters), in a big red lounge chair with leg rest! My elbow kept brushing by the button, and my chair kept going into total recliner mode!

Harriett

January 11th, 2013
4:44 pm

Happy Weekend, everyone. Idol week coming!! yaaay!

Mercedes S.

January 11th, 2013
5:28 pm

I’ve heard of that remodel, Sam-A, and better go – as long as they don’t serve dinner and drinks…

Jubie

January 12th, 2013
11:29 am

Hello everyone!! Can’t wait for Wednesday! I hope we have a good season, one more about the contestants and less about the judges.

Mercedes S.

January 12th, 2013
12:21 pm

Dream on, Jubie…

Sam-A

January 12th, 2013
2:29 pm

Mercedes:No dinner, thankfully. Seats are somewhat comfortable, but I still prefer the seats at the
AMC Barett Commons i n Kennesaw. But the leg rest actuallly kept my feet from going numb. You have to choose your seats at purchase, on a computer screen. If you go, make sure to pick atleast 7 or 8 rows back if possible, or if a small auditorium with just 6 rows, take the back one.

Mercedes S.

January 12th, 2013
9:04 pm

Thanks for tip, Sam-A. I like the idea of choosing a seat; that’s how I grew up watching movies.