While Wednesday night's (Jan. 19) season premiere of "American Idol" saw the judges mostly playing it safe, things got a whole lot feistier during Thursday's New Orleans episode -- so feisty, in fact, that at one point Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson even showed some skin.
In perhaps another sign of the "Jersey Shore's" bizarre influence on "Idol's" first week back on TV, Tyler and Jackson lifted their shirts and flashed their abs for the cameras, Situation-style, when 23-year-old Jovany Barreto decided to unbutton his own shirt after performing Luis Miguel's "Contigo En La Distancia."
At other times, the looser vibe also led to some better judging, as Tyler and Jennifer Lopez seemed more comfortable rejecting the worst contestants. Jackson even channeled a bit of Simon Cowell's snarky spirit and was especially harsh with 18-year-old Alex Attardo, who revealed that he had attended a camp for grooming "Idol" hopefuls, then shouted his way through "Proud Mary."
"Maybe we should cancel the camp," Jackson said. "Honestly, it was terrible. You come here because you want the truth, right?"
Cowell's absence was still felt when New Orleans' more middle-of-the-road hopefuls stepped up to sing, though. Twenty-four-year-old Jacquelynn Dupree and single mother Paris Tassin's auditions were passable, but not perfect by any means, and both women -- to say nothing of those watching at home -- would have benefitted from more criticism.
Younger contestants continued to make a strong impression, aided by "Idol's " lowering of its age limit to 15 this year. Fifteen-year-old Jacee Badeaux drew collective "aws" from Tyler, Lopez and Jackson with his performance of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay," though he might have made an even bigger impact by singing a Justin Bieber song -- or any contemporary song, for that matter, as oldies but goodies continue to rule the tryouts.
"American Idol" continues next Wednesday (Jan. 26) with auditions in Milwaukee, Wis.