American Idol season 11 kicked off January 18 with a debut night of auditions from Savannah. The show started off on the right note with two acts that impressed judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and Randy Jackson enough to rank among the 42 singers who earned tickets to Hollywood.
David Leathers Jr. of Fayetteville, NC, was up first to sing for his supper. The baby-faced performer, who claimed to be 17 and a high school senior but looked closer to 12, once competed against—and allegedly beat—Idol season 10 champ Scotty McCreery in a local talent contest, so the bar of expectation was set high. And David didn't disappoint. His rendition of Century 21's Remember the Rain was clean and smooth. Steven called it "beautiful." Randy likened him to a "young Michael [Jackson]" and asked David to sing a MJ song, and of course, the youngster obliged, and once again rocked the airwaves. A trio of enthusiastic yeses sent David packing for Hollywood.
Also faring well early in the season 11 premiere was 16-year-old champion tap dancer Gabi Carrubba of Connecticut. The teen told host Ryan Seacrest that she hoped her voice would push Steven to make "the face" that he makes when he hears real talent. After a hug for show executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, Gabi sang Maroon 5's Sunday Morning. Jennifer "loved the choices that you made" and Steven said "thank you God" and "this may be your magic moment." The trio sent Gabi on to Hollywood unanimously as they marveled over her age and her ability to control her voice.
Watch as more American Idol auditions air Thursday night on FOX.