Entertainment Correspondent

They came out to line the corridors of the Grand West Entertainment Centre in Cape Town; anonymous faces in a crowd with stars in their eyes and hope in their hearts. For the lucky few, they would leave clutching the symbol that marks a journey that could change their lives forever: the Idols SA Golden Ticket.

Launching season 13 of the most anticipated reality music show in Mzansi, last night’s episode was as fascinating as a box of chocolates – you never knew what you were going to get. There was drama, intrigue, suspense, comedy, and a whole of SA’s favourite falsetto. R&B star and guest judge Donald, declared being a judge on the show as “one of the best experiences of my life”.

Season 13 got off to an eventful start when a somewhat tone-deaf contestant serenaded one of the judges with a love ditty that cracked Randall Abrahams’ funny bone – a monumental feat for a judge known to hardly ever show teeth, let alone chuckle.

But the Queen of Silent Tears, fellow judge Unathi Msengana, need not worry about being dethroned by Randall. As things stand, it looks like a box of tissues will get its own special place at the judges’ table.

In-between the auditory assault, the impromptu theatrics and the conflict, some true gems showed up to bowl the judges over.

The colourful Somizi Mhlongo was dazzled by a contestant he praised for being a “vocally honest” singer, while Donald could barely hide his delight at another contestant. “Your voice is intricate and particular. You have amazing potential and impeccable control,” he gushed.

Donald’s passion for talent was on such a high, he even gave another “potential” his Golden Disc, making the other judges’ votes null and void.

The introduction of the Golden Disc is a lifesaver for contestants during the audition phase. Each judge has one disc in each province that he or she can use to push through a contestant to Theatre Week, overriding the other judges’ votes.

However, receiving the judges’ validation is only one step in the Idols SA journey.

This new generation of hopefuls, some of whom were barely out of nappies and short pants when the show first aired in 2002, have a long way to go and will have to prove their mantle every single step.