For better or for worse, American Idol is back.
The show wasn't even a minute in and it felt like "for worse." American Idol had morphed into a Disney fairy tale. And while that may be great for the would-be winner, it didn't seem as if it would be so much for viewers.
"From dancing with your first love to your first lullaby, music finds a way to seep into your soul and move you like nothing else can," intoned a faceless, but familiar, narrator as scenes from across America flashed across the screen: a farm, a high school basketball game with a cheerleader singing the national anthem while in uniform, a barbershop, a baby's nursery.
"It gives you hope and makes you proud. Music moves you. And so the adventure begins, to uncover the finest talent this nation has to offer. The journey will take us to every corner of this country with no voice left unheard, from the dreamers to the lullaby singers. They are the fabric of America and they could be stars in the making. I should know. Because it happened to me."
That was Carrie Underwood, 2005 winner, y'all. And that made all the sense in the world. (Too bad first winner Kelly Clarkson is otherwise contractually obligated to rival singing competition, The Voice.)
"We're back. I've waited a lifetime for this." No, you haven't new-old host Ryan Seacrest. It's only been a year.
And then the first contestant showed up and all bad feelings go away.
And, just to drive it home, there was the audition saga of the second contestant to get viewers coming back for more: Ron Bultongez from Plano, by way of "escaping from the Congo."
"This is so much bigger than me. I'm here for my son and for the life that I want to provide for him," Ron said. "What's more American than coming to America to follow your American dream and end up on American Idol?" Judge Katie Perry clapped.
Bultongez sang "Let It Go" by James Bay.
Perry does not have a poker face; you could see the no. But Judge Luke Bryan said, there were "layers and layers to your voice." He was a yes.
Perry copped to her what her face was already saying with, "Not yet. You know how to imitate ... but it needs to be developed."
Judge Lionel Richie: "We don't know who you are yet. This is an identity business. I want you to come back with your identity. Take some time, develop it, and it's gonna be fabulous, I'm telling you."
Luke to Katie: "I should have fought for him. He's so right there on the bubble. I should have fought you."
Lionel and Luke start chatting and witness an Idol miracle!
Lionel, whispering backstage: "I gotta tell you something. I can't get Ron out of my head."
Luke: "I wish I'd a fought for him."
Lionel: "Let's just get him back. What do you think?"
Lionel, when they get back to the judges' table: "I can't get this guy off of my head. I just don't want to miss this opportunity."
And then Lionel changed his vote and said he wanted to send Ron to "LA, Calif." And then the judges gave him a problematic nickname or nicknames: "Ron from the Congo," and then "Congo Ron" and then Katie's attempt at an accent of some sort with "Can't Go Ron."
We now know that Katie can be vicious, savage or if you're being nice, the sarcastic truth-teller; Lionel will be the one with all the good stories and advice; and Luke will be the nice one.
"When you look at what we're trying to do about American Idol, it's not about what me and Lionel and Katie are doing. It's about watching the star be born, right there in front of your eyes," said Luke Bryan.
Harper Grace of McKinney has had her heart set on stardom since she was little.
Her first brush with fame, though, was when she sang the national anthem at a 2012 FC Dallas game when she was 11 and the video from it went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Well, she brought her "dream board" and her guitar to her American Idol audition. And slayed with an original song, "Yard Sale" and drove her point home with Khalid's "Young, Dumb and Broke." Perry called her a "dream for Hollywood to kind of carve out."
One of the items on her board is to try out for American Idol "and maybe win." Well, she's on her way. Her ticket is now punched to Hollywood, and maybe even back to sing the anthem for FC Dallas.