The 'American Idol' Honor Roll: Jersey's Got Jazz
The 'American Idol' Honor Roll: Jersey's Got Jazz
You mean it's the new season of American Idol already? Never thought it would come.

Well, here we are again -- five months of looking for the next big thing, or whatever closely resembles it nowadays. And, in my case, being disappointed that it isn't the person I wanted it so badly to be. There's also the bit about all the new furniture -- the judges, the rounds -- there's just a lot of things moving that I can't quite wrap my head around them yet!

Good thing is, after watching last night's Idol premiere, I wasn't thinking about all those changes. Heck, I didn't even pay that much attention to Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. (They didn't stick out like a sore thumb, which is a good sign in my book.) That means enough time to do what I did last year: find the standouts, dig up more about them, and devote a few column inches to the cause.


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First stop of the season: underwhelming New Jersey. Is it just me, or have I seen all of this before? Perhaps the one thing that stood out for me is the fact that the producers featured a lot of female auditions -- perhaps an answer to criticisms of having three straight white guys with guitars winning? Well, we've got a lady on my first American Idol Honor Roll of the season, so it worked. Kinda, because we also have a guy (and a WGWG at that). But ladies first, yes?

Honoree #1: Devyn Rush

Yes, the singing waitress who voice Steven called "delicious." I liked her tone -- not sleepy, but not in-your-face either -- and the way she took control of the song, especially halfway through the number. That, and anyone who recommends a sandwich called the Walter Cronkite Kobe Beef Burger is cool in my book.

But she's not exactly a newbie either. A trip to her Facebook fan page reveals that the 20-year-old Philadelphia native originated the role of Anna in the musical Spring Awakening, from its workshop days to its off-Broadway debut. (She wasn't part of the Broadway cast. If she stayed, perhaps she'd be as successful as Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff.) Right now she and her band are doing the occasional show in New York, performing songs like this:


Honoree #2: Caleb Hawley

My colleague Carla Patton couldn't have said it better: "Looked like he just rolled out of bed, sang like he rolled out of heaven."

Then again, perhaps the "rolled out of bed" bit is inaccurate: The man is busy! The Berklee graduate (he took up jazz composition) has written and produced three albums, won a bunch of songwriting competitions in New York, and has performed alongside Dave Matthews and Edwin McCain. And to think the Wisconsin native wanted to be a baseball player. (Go listen to his stuff on his website -- his songs are pretty much in between Jason Mraz and Ray LaMontagne.)


The one thing I liked most about him is his very unassuming attitude. He had this feel-good vibe during the audition, and judging from his tweet after last night's Idol aired, I think he's that way in real life, too.

And there it goes -- the first two standouts on my list. Are they on your list too? Did I miss anyone? Most importantly, should we expect to see them when the real competition kicks in?

(Image courtesy of Devyn Rush's Facebook page)

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