American Idol Season 1 Rewind Recap: Hollywood! Where’s Kelly?

It’s time to travel back 20 years for week 2 of our American Idol season 1 rewatch!  After one night of auditions, FOX devoted the following night to a one hour Hollywood round episode.

Co-hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest open the show. 10,000 auditioned. 121 remain. “Three days of new songs and new challenges,” is how Dunkleman describes the Hollywood Round. “30 will remain in the hunt to be the American Idol.” 

The “Hollywood” round in 2002 is AKSHUALLY taking place at the Pasadena Civic Center (where Simon presently tapes his show, America’s Got Talent).

Day one: Lines of 10

For Day one, the familiar lines of 10 (“A chorus line from hell,” Dunkleman describes it) will sing in front of the judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. At the end of the day, the group will be cut “almost in half.”

Each contestant steps forward to sing a verse and a chorus from a song, without any accompaniment. 

“I do not believe if Aretha Franklin entered this competition she would win”

Remember the days when Simon would flat out tell contestants they don’t have the right look? After informing Jacquette Williams she doesn’t look like an American Idol, she shoots back, “SAYS WHO.” Randy disagrees, citing Aretha Franklin as an example, and Simon declares, “I do not believe if Aretha Franklin entered this competition she would win (!!!). Jaquette, the gal with the voice, but not the look, is cut.

Singing shows have changed so much over the last 20 years. Simon would never criticize a young singer’s body, clothes or face on AGT.  He regularly praises and sympathises with talented acts that may not fit the cookie cutter mold.

The day progresses. Lines of 12 take and leave the stage. They cry or jump for joy, depending on how it goes. However, singing? Other than Jacquette, and a joke contestant who dresses as Zorro, there is precious little singing. 

At the end of the day, the remaining singers find out that it’s going to be a long night. Yep. GROUP ROUNDS.  Dunkleman explains that in the real world, artists are often thrust into situations where they have to learn quickly, and then nail it.

Day two: Group Rounds

The pianist teaches the girls “I Say A Little Prayer for You,” and the boys “For Once in My Life.” The group will be split into threes along gender lines. It’s nighttime. The girls keep rehearsing, while the boys relax in the jacuzzi. But nobody sings well the next day. Or if they did, the performances are left on the cutting room floor. 

After the group rounds, another 20 singers will leave the competition.


Familiar Idol tropes that started in season one: For instance, the classic montage of groups who keep FORGETTING THE WORDS. It’s a grab bag of missed lyrics, including from the nasally A.J Gill. Jim Verraros is up. The show pushes his deaf parents backstory again. Although he got to bed early the night before, he’s still terrible. He’s the only one to survive his group.

Before the break, the show teased another familiar trope: The mouthy contestant who has the audacity to talk back to the judges (with producers likely riling them up). Josh Crompton swears he memorized the song. Nevermind, though. “I have a record deal,” he says confidently. “so I’m not worried about it!”

I don’t care. I’m going to be famous

Narrator: Josh, in fact, does NOT have the lyrics memborized. “Well I liked it, so I’m happy,” Josh insists when Simon asks. “Don’t tell me I didn’t try,” Josh whines. “This is PATHETIC,” Simon shoots back, uttering a soon to be familiar catch-phrase. And while Josh’s groupmates make it through the round, he does not. Afterward, he complains that Simon never gave him a positive attitude. Boo hoo.

But Josh doesn’t care, because record deal, fame and fortune are absolutely coming his way! Said 20 years ago…what’s his name again?

Next, it’s a group That Doesn’t Get Along. In other words: One Member is an A***ole. One group of boys had to be four. Three of them complain that one member never showed up for rehearsals and had a total attitude. Unsurprisingly, the jerk is tuneless. But the singer, Khaleel Chiles, doesn’t suffer for his attitude. The entire group is through.

Hilariously, the judges don’t learn names, referring to all the contestants by their numbers.

Just wait. The good singers are coming…or not

Natalie Burge sings with the weirdest vibrato. She directs her performance straight at Simon. It works. He acknowledges that she hogged the stage and overshadowed her singing partners. But he considers her selfish attitude part of her drive. “Welcome to the music business” he says. “I’ll see you at the Grammys” she replies.

After a bunch of terrible singing, Seacrest promises that things turned a corner after dinner. But do viewers actually hear any singing from contestants who advanced? Nope. Almost half-way through the episode, and it’s been missed lyrics, off-key singing, cat fights and contestants mouthing off at the judges. But good singing? What’s that?

I know you are, but what am I

And then, hoo boy. The producers assemble the contestants eliminated from the group rounds on stage. Why? Just to cause some drama. Jules Sanchez, who underwent a painful eyebrow wax after the judges dissed his audition look, acts as spokesperson for those tossed aside. “I remember the hearts that you broke through this audition, and the souls that you stomped on, and how you degregaded (sic) people,” he tells Simon, who can barely hold back laughter. “You comment on people’s originality? Your persona is not original.”

He moves on to Paula and asks if he thinks she would have made it this far. “I’ve been rejected 100s of time,” she replies. Yeah, this dude is not very bright. And then he offers Randy a chance to work out at the gym with him. OK then. At that, a bunch of “offended” people leave the stage. Probably after the producers beckon them.

“You are where you are now, because you are a loser”

Randy replies that he’s not trying to be a superstar. “You need to lose a lot more weight. You need to live in the gym.” In the year of our Lord, 2022, no talent show would ever tell a contestant that they needed to lose weight. But as fans know, direct criticisms of how people looked was a common thing on Idol until Simon left the show in 2010. Randy also mocks his outfit. And then Simon finishes him off, “You are where you are now, because you are a loser.” He’s there because he’s immature, and his attitude is terrible. Calling someone a “loser” doesn’t help them.

It’s the third and final day. The 45 singers who remain will perform acapella solos in front of the judges. Fifteen will be cut by day’s end. 

Day three: Solos. Finally the good singers arrive. Except for one

And finally the contenders emerge. Tamyra Gray sings “Get Here” by Oleta Adams, which gets the crowd on their feet.  Khaleef Chiles, the lazy group member, sings “Daydream Believer” by the Monkees. He jumps into the audience to flirt with the girls. He’s decent. Ashanti Johnson sings “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. As do a bunch of other people Like Brad Estrin and  Nikki (McKibben) Ozment

Akelee Relliford begins singing “Save the Best for Last” by Vanessa Williams and stops. The crowd steps in with the words. She keeps forgetting, unfortunately. Alexandra Bachelier (I Swear by All-4-One) and Tenia Taylor (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough) are best friends. Will they survive the round together? Jim VerrarosJustinn Waddell, Desiree Grenier, Corya Butler, Jamar Simmons,  and Natalie Burge also sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Now, it’s viewers first glimpse of Christina Christian singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. Isaac Manning, Delano Cagnolatti, and Ryan Starr, also perform the classic song. Alexis Lopez is touted as one of the youngest contestants at 17. She sings Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle.” And ending the day…Justin Guarini performing his own special version of “Get Here.” Cut to contestants watching, slack jawed.

Despite what the judges say in 2022: Initially, the show did not care about Kelly Clarkson

And then Kelly Clarkson takes the stage. KIDDING! Other than about 3 seconds at the top of the episode, Kelly is nowhere to be found. In the present day, Randy, Simon and Paula can spout all the hindsight revisionism they want. But it’s obvious production did not consider her a contender before the live shows began. 

Notable: American Idol producers were looking for a POP STAR. The song choices are all pop and R&B. Not a country, rock or indie song to be found.

Next, the judges assemble to “choose” the Top 30. Interestingly, during their deliberations, they reveal several contestants who advance–Justin Guarini, Kelli Glover, and Tamyra Gray. They assemble the “best” 15 singers in a room to deliver the good news.  

The judges go BACK to the room to decide the fates of the remaining 30 singers. The contestants are split evenly into two rooms. Now, the elimination becomes more like “THE ROOMS” from later seasons. The second room goes through. How do we know this almost immediately? OH LOOK THERE’S KELLY CLARKSON. It’s further proof that the producers and judges DGAF about her at this stage of the competition, as she was NOT part of the initial “Top 15,” considered the very best of the bunch. 

After Simon spouts off a “fake out” spiel (I’m sorry blah blah blah…but you’ve made it) Kelly literally runs up to him, and pushes his chest, hard, with both hands. Heh. 

And then then judges deliver bad news to the remaining 15 singers. Randy keeps it short and sweet. Tears!

The episode ends with an edited package announcing all 30 semi-finalists and which of the three weeks they will perform. 

Watch the Full episode

Next week: Group one performances and results, which will be combined into one recap.

Semi-finals Week 1

Voting begins! Three singers will automatically advance each of the three weeks. But an additional episode will be devoted to a Wildcard round. Six contestants chosen evenly from the rounds perform for the judges. The panel choses one singer to round out the Top 10.

Tamyra Gray – “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” by Jennifer Holiday
Jim Verraros – “When I Fall in Love” by Doris Day
Adriel Herrera – “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain
Rodesia Eaves – “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees
Natalie Burge – “Crazy” by Patsy Cline
Brad Estrin – “Just Once” by James Ingram
Ryan Starr – “The Frim-Fram Sauce” by The King Cole Trio
Justinn Waddell – “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge
Kelli Glover – “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston
Christopher Aaron – “Still in Love” by Brian McKnight

About mj santilli 34693 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!