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American Idol Returns: Spirit of Paula Abdul Lives in Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler

"Let her in the door, put water on the flower, 'cause I think it's gonna grow."

A metaphor for this whole season, really, but that was how Steven Tyler described the first aspiring popster put through on the season premiere of American Idol.

Actually, that made the most sense, grammatically speaking, out of nearly everything that the Aerosmith frontman said in tonight's episode—yet, to give him credit, we always knew what he meant, even when he told a girl "I think you got the what it is."

Hey, we're used to that sort of thing around here.

RELATED: Kid Rock slams Steven Tyler's Idol gig

No one has been informed where their bliss is yet, but Tyler has already put words together in a new and exciting manner, and Jennifer Lopez finds it hard to say no (she spent much of the first hour grrring in frustration, brushing her hair out of her face and looking skyward) and is the one to offer hugs to contestants who start crying before they've even started to sing.

"Whatever happens here, it doesn't define who you are. You're going to be fine!" was how J.Lo proceeded one letdown.

"You're so adorable. The way you sing and the way you act, it's not for American Idol," she gently told Ashley Sullivan, a Liza Minnelli wannabe, who burst into tears upon hearing that—prompting Lopez to change her mind and say "yes," followed by a Tyler "yes" and a Randy Jackson "no."

"I'm gonna personally work that into something good," Tyler vowed.

Hmm, does this behavior—odd word combinations, rejection softened to the point of acceptance, heavy-handed accessorizing—remind you of anybody?

Then again, there was never a featurette about Paula Abdul shooting lascivious glance at the comely female contestants and letting out a variety of wolf whistles and heated growls, so Tyler has definitely distinguished himself in that respect.

In terms of "playing Simon," veteran judge Randy is at least acting as the voice of reason this year. But whether Tyler and Lopez turn out to be the recombinant Paula or they manage to distinguish themselves in ways beyond their eight-figure salaries remains to be seen.

Randy, in all his blasé glory, may have had the best line tonight, when a frustrated boy scout informed the judges that he'd been singing for years, and "I think people would tell me if I sucked."

"Really?" retorted Randy. Because, really, what else was there to say?

Fifty-one Idol wannabes made it through from New Jersey. First-round auditions continue tomorrow. Names to watch from tonight include Robbie Rosen, Melinda Ademi, Devyn Rush, Caleb Hawley, Brielle von Hugel, Kenzie Palmer (the first 15-year-old to get through via the new rules) and Travis Orlando.

(Originally published Jan. 19, 2011, at 7:10 p.m. PT)

MORE: American Idol promises "frightening" confidence and "heat" for the 10th season

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