'American Idol': Ellen DeGeneres makes her Hollywood Week debut

simon-cowell-ellen-degeneres-american-idol-s9-320.jpg "American Idol" finally welcomed new judge Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday (Feb. 9) night. How'd she do?

One hundred eighty-one "Idol" hopefuls descend upon Hollywood. Holly Hardin immediately falls out of her car. I guess "American Idol" is even more nerve-wracking than "America's Got Talent."

The contestants in the first round just come out and sing and then are either moving on or aren't. They are allowed to use instruments this time and they hit the stage in groups.

Skii Bo Ski and Katie Stevens are in the first lineup. Let's all remember how Skii Bo Ski got out of jail just in time for "Idol." Katie does "For Once in My Life"and I don't love it as much as her audition of "At Last" but it's still really good, especially for how young she is.

Skii Bo Ski sings "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and his voice is a little thin. Ellen's first comment, "You frighten me. You were like a leopard in a cage ... sexy and scary, it's a fine line." Hee. She doesn't know how right she is! Katie moves on, Skii Bo Ski doesn't and he's a big ham on the way out. Move it along, jailbird.

Vanessa Wolfe and Andrew Garcia are in the next group. Andrew does "Straight Up" on an acoustic guitar and it's awesome (though that opinion is somewhat colored by my fangirl love of the "Forever Your Girl" cassette tape). It's like Paula Abdul returns to "American Idol." Ellen gives us her best Paula-seal-clap and Kara compares Andrew to Adam Lambert. Wow, big shoes.

After a very sweet montage of Vanessa leaving home (and her mom crying, aww), she sings "No Rain" by Blind Melon and... ouch. It's not good. I really like this girl as a person but that was rough. Andrew Garcia and Tasha Layton move on, Vanessa goes home. She shouldn't have picked that song, it got totally away from her good country roots.

Going Home Montage. Cornelius Edwards, Maegan Wright, Amedeo DiRicco.

Janell Wheeler is up now with "American Boy." She's quite good with an acoustic guitar and is through with flying colors to the next round.

Instrument Montage
. Guitar, keyboard, guitar, keyboard. Wow, this episode is all over the damn place.

Haeley Vaughn is the next singer. She's got her guitar with her and does "Change." I'm not a fan. Her voice is little-girlish, but I suppose that's why she chose Taylor Swift. We also see Mary Powers in this group with "Sober" and she's got her Pink-rocker-chick vibe down really well. They both advance.

Ellen messes with the contestants a little by telling them to step forward, back, forward a little, left and then puts them all through.

Made it Through Montage. Todrick Hall, Charity Vance, Ashley Rodriguez.

Day Two dawns with Simon telling the contestants that this is arguably the most important day of their lives. Then he adds to their stress with the ominous: "Don't forget the words."

Jay Stone, the Blake-Lewis-beat-boxer, regales the judges with "If I Ever Fall in Love" and they stop him because he's not even singing. C'mon, dude. You have to just straight sing sometimes.

Lilly Scott is next with "Lullaby of Birdland." Great song, just great. We did that in my high school jazz singers group and I love it. I am instantly in love with this girl. She has a really interesting voice, she could totally get in on that Adele-Fiona-Corinne-Bailey thing. I don't think we've seen her before now, have we?

Lilly makes it through along with a guy named Sam, Jay Stone is cut.

Big Michael Lynche gets word that his wife has gone into labor but takes the stage and does "Waiting on the World to Change." It's nice but doesn't blow me away. He gets through though, along with... was that Michael Castro I saw? Hmmm. I don't think we even saw him audition this year. Interesting.

We now have Justin Williams, cancer-survivor and previous Hollywood Weeker, and Tim Urban, who I don't believe we've seen before. Tim does "Come Back to Me" and it's alright. He's got that floppy-haired Jonas-Brother-Justin-Bieber thing happening that I hear is all the rage with the teen girls.

Justin Williams does "Fly Me to the Moon" but he goes all wonky with the melody. He is far too excited about himself, so it comes off as pretentious.

Tim moves on but Justin doesn't, which is interesting.

Going Home Montage. Paige Dechausse , Erica Rhodes (whip girl from "Barney"), the Desimone sisters (thank heavens).

Maddy Curtis is up now with "The Nearness of You" and it's the wrong song. Way too big for her. Simon agrees. There's also Casey James with "I Don't Need No Doctor" and it's a mile better than his audition. Casey goes through, Maddy does not. Bummer for Maddy. I liked her but she kinda blew it with her song choice.

The first round is almost over. In the last group of the day are Didi Benami with "Terrified," a Kara DioGuardi song. It's great, really good. Totally sounds like a contemporary hit. The judges agree.

Crystal Bowersox is up now with "Natural Woman" and she's good too. She's got that hippie chick thing happening with her guitar and her dreads. They should both go through. And then they do! Good.

In all, 95 people went through after the first two days. Wow, that's just over half. Hollywood Week must be so intense. Like the opening scene of "A Chorus Line" set to "I Hope I Get It" stretched out over four days.

How'd Ellen do as a judge? Well, honestly, it's hard to tell. These shows are so chock full of brief clips and montages that all we really saw her do was crack a few jokes, give a few criticisms (though we weren't shown to whom they were given) and say a few nice things. Jury's still out on Ellen, though I can say definitively I didn't dislike her.

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Photo credit: FOX