American Idol Season 1 Recap: Kelly Clarkson Makes Her Debut!

Justin Guarini Kelly Clarkson American Idol Season 1

Every American Idol season 1 episode is on Youtube…except for Group 2 performances. I’ve got the full episode on my hard drive, so I will be able to recap it all. However, I found every performance, including the video package, performance and judges comments, which is most of the 45 minute (sans commercials) episode. It will do!’

Weirdly, two contestants–Gil Sinuet and Justin Guarini–performed Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in The Sky.” I only remember that happening once or twice during the semi-finals when a guy and a girl sang the same song, but on different nights. Poor Gil didn’t stand a chance. 

After only fleeting glimpses of Kelly Clarkson during the audition and Hollywood rounds, she finally makes an appearance. And Simon blows the call. Again, don’t listen to them when they say they knew Kelly was a star from the moment they laid eyes on her. In the line up, Justin gets the pimp spot, and Kelly the second to last. It’s the one two punch. Kelly blows everyone away with her performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” 

Like Group 1, the contestants will receive help from the vocal coaches and stylists (who are only giving advice. The kids pay for their own outfits at this point). The singers perform live with only piano accompaniment. Hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest interview the contestants post-performance in the “red room.” 

Alexis Lopez – I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor – She’s one of the youngest performers, at 17 years old. She had a “nerves are getting the best of me” backstory during the Hollywood round. She wears her mother’s skin-tight clothes, of which, she claims, her dad does not approve. Her voice is striking. And she seems older than 17, at least when she sings. She comes across as “marketable.” Randy thinks she’s grown. Paula agrees. Simon thinks she has a “fantastic” voice and looks “sensational” but doesn’t like the karaoke song choice.   VIDEO

Gil Sinuet – Ribbon in the Sky by Stevie Wonder – His tone is pleasant, but not dynamic. He gives the performance all he’s got all he’s got. However, he lacks charisma and star quality. Paula thinks he came out of his shell this time. Randy liked a few of his runs, but picks on sharp and flat notes. Simon points out that he doesn’t “look like the American Idol” but he “sounds like the American Idol.” He says, “I’m not going to name some names” but notes that he’s up against some guys who look the part more than he does. coughjustincough   VIDEO

Angela Peel – Run to You by Whitney Houston – The judges really liked her audition. But this particular performance. Hm. If you’re gonna take on Whitney, you better be up to it. She’s not. Randy liked it, but points out that she did too many runs. Yes. And some pitch problems too. Paula thought she made it her own. Simon agrees with Paula. He really liked the performance. Hm.  VIDEO

AJ Gil – All or Nothing by O-Town – Weirdly, he chose to sing the National Anthem for his audition. But it got him through to the next round. And he says some military people he ran into appreciated it. AJ’s singing is mediocre and off-pitch at times. But he understands how to play to the camera, which the smart contestants realize is important when it comes to connecting to viewers at home. Randy wasn’t “blown away” by it. “I’ve seen you better,” he says. Paula agrees with Randy, noting a “lack of energy.” Simon calls him a “boring performer” and hated his laugh in the middle AND his shirt. “I think you’ve blown it.” Welp.

Tenia Taylor – Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston – Tenia is dressed like she’s going to the prom. She has a good tone, but she’s nasally, shouty and pitchy times. Her phrasing is dull. Paula delivers what will become her go to backhanded compliment: “You look stunning.” Randy misses the “hoochie shorts” she wore in Hollywood. OK then. He didn’t think it was “amazing.” Simon calls the song choice “ambitious” and adds, “I don’t think you’re that good.” Tania wonders if Simon sings, which annoys him. –   VIDEO

Alexandra Bachelier – Save the Best for Last by Vanessa Williams – Alexandra is Tenia’s “best friend.” She consoles Alex after she reads “mean” comments on the American Idol website. She delivers an amateur performance. Besides hitting bad notes, she loses breath continually through the song. Her phrasing is atrocious. And she looks like a deer in the headlights. How did she get this far? “That was definitely Miami karaoke to me,” says Randy. “You have a lot of competition in that room,” says Paula. “It wasn’t good enough,” says Simon.     VIDEO

Jazmin Lowery – You Put a Move on My Heart by Tamia – This gal is good. Her range is impressive, although her backstory revolves around her constant vocal issues. She’s one of the best so far. Paula noticed her nerves. “You did a real nice job.” Randy, inexplicably, hated it. Weird. Simon disagrees, and calls her performance “brilliant.” He likes that she’s “real” and has a “natural talent.” Yup. That performance wasn’t perfect, but it felt authentic.  VIDEO

Jamar – Careless Whisper by George Michael – Jamar has a big personality, but his voice doesn’t match it. He’s flat through the entire song. By the end of the performance, he’s reduced to pointing and yelling, off key. Randy thinks he’s done better. Paula is not “crazy about the song selection.” She suggests that the key was too high for him. Simon says, “You shouted the song.” Yep. “Nothing else to say,” Simon says. –   VIDEO

Kelly Clarkson – Respect by Aretha Franklin – AND NOW WE GOT A SHOW. Kelly simply blows the roof off the joint. Her American Idol debut is SENSATIONAL. Kelly demands your respect, and y’all better give it to her. Randy calls it “very very very very….good.” Paula says, “You did us proud. Way to go.” Simon proceeds to be a total moron. “I don’t know what to say. You have a good voice. I couldn’t remember you from the previous rounds.” He only remembered Kelly swapping places with Randy during her audition. But not her singing. Man. Hope that crow Simon eventually ate tasted good. But he’ll never admit that he blew this particular call.   VIDEO

Justin Guarini – Ribbon in the Sky by Stevie Wonder – Justin struggled with the song in rehearsal. Let’s see how he does! And….poor Gil has got to be crying in the red room. Justin makes the song his own with lovely phrasing and dynamics. And he’s got the CHARISMA. Paula says he gave the song “quiet sincerity” and she really enjoyed the performance. It wasn’t amazing for Randy. He liked him better in Hollywood. Simon thinks Gil sang it better, but Justin has the “X Factor.” It’s a phrase Simon has used several times so far. Two years later, he’d debut a talent show “X Factor” in the UK.  VIDEO


6.9 million votes the night before! Three contestant will move on to the live shows. During the pre-reveal chat with Ryan and Brian, Kelly admits that she doesn’t like to watch herself on television. Next, the judges predict which contestants got the most votes: Randy: Justin Paula: Justin Simon: Justin. But first a very awkward and poorly produced Ford Focus commercial, featuring the contestants! 

And the first place winner is: Justin Guarini. The judges guessed correctly. The singer shares how seeing the Jackson’s “Victory” tour inspired him to become a singer.  Next TA-MI-KA is back to snark at the performances. 

Next, the judges predict the singer in second place: Randy: Angela Paula: Alexis Simon: Gil. WROOONNNG. Coming in second place, is of course, our girl KELLY CLARKSON. She’s so happy she’s crying. After Simon said all the stupid stuff about Kelly the night before, he “got a lot of calls this morning” about her. I’ll bet.

After the break, Gil admits he has a crush on Paula and asks her out on a date. “I would be honored,” she says. Yikes. I wonder if that date actually happened. Next, the judges predict the third chair: Randy: Alexis Paula: Alexis Simon: Alexis. And now…wait for all hell to break loose… It’s AJ Gill. INEXPLICABLY. Because…that performance the night before was NOT GOOD. AJ did not see that coming. Simon sits, with his arms crossed. “He’s a nice kid. But I’m sorry. I think the voters made a mistake.” I agree with Simon. 

Justin Guarini, Kelly Clarkson and AJ Gill join winners Tamyra Gray, Jim Verraros and Ryan Starr from the previous weeks as finalists. 

Next time: Group 3 and the WILDCARD. The show will choose five eliminated contestants to sing for the 10th spot in the final.

About mj santilli 34526 Articles
Founder and editor of, home of the awesomest fan community on the net. I love cheesy singing shows of all kinds, whether reality or scripted. I adore American Idol, but also love The Voice, Glee, X Factor and more!