There were over 10,000 hopefuls who tried out for the first season, but it was the audition of 17-year-old Steven Ware that viewers saw first.
“I want to be an American Idol because I have a deep appreciation for music and I think that this would be a helping part of me to get my music heard by the whole world,” Ware said before auditioning for judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.
What Ware probably wasn’t prepared for was the brutal honesty that became synonymous with American Idol.
“I’m here to do a job and I’m going to do something which I think is going to be a shock to the American public,” said Cowell in episode one. “We are going to tell people who cannot sing and who have no talent that they have no talent, and that never makes you popular. We are going to show the audition process as it really is, because shows in the past have not shown the brutality of auditions. Auditions are horrible places to go. And I am warning you now, you are about to enter the audition from hell.”
After Ware’s cringe-worthy rendition of “My Girl,” Cowell stood by his promise to not hold back.
“Steven, Steven, Steven stop!” interrupted Cowell. “Christ. That was terrible. I mean, seriously terrible.” Jackson agreed, saying it was “really bad.”
Ware’s audition introduced the American public to what exactly American Idol would be: a showcase for tone-deaf singers who thought they could sing, as well as promising future talents like Kelly Clarkson, who went on to win the first season.
The audition process was forever changed.