The ninth season of "American Idol" premiered Tuesday night (Jan. 12) on Fox amidst widespread chatter about Simon Cowell, who announced Monday he was leaving "Idol" to bring "The X Factor" to the U.S. in 2011.

"Idol" kicked off its audition rounds in Boston, with Cowell leading the judging panel alongside Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi and Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham. While the episode featured a somewhat predictable mix of trainwreck auditions, potential stars and tearjerker segments, Beckham's presence and behind-the-scenes news about Cowell added a new dynamic. After 22-year-old Bosa Mora's audition, the former Spice Girl adopted a stance much like Abdul once did and stood up to Cowell, asking, "Why do you do that?" when he rolled his eyes as she was giving feedback. "It takes so much nerve to stand there and do that," Beckham said of the contestant's performance.

Beckham is the first in a series of celebrity judges (including Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry, Shania Twain and Joe Jonas) to fill in for new "Idol" judge Ellen DeGeneres, who herself is replacing Paula Abdul. DeGeneres will not appear during the first series of auditions due to scheduling conflicts with her daytime talk show.

Among the standouts who impressed the panel and earned a ticket to Hollywood were Boston student Ashley Rodriguez, who chose Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" as her audition song, and vocal coach Justin Williams, who performed the 1965 musical number "Feeling Good."

The "American Idol" audition epsiodes continue Wednesday night in Atlanta.