“You will never get a better start at stardom than right here, right now,” a serious Abrahams told the aspiring singers. “Make it count!”

But off-stage he had a dire warning: “The first ‘Rolling In The Deep’ I hear, I’m setting fire to the rain,” he grumbled, referring to the most-covered artist in this year’s auditions, Adele. “We’re looking for find a good original singer,” he explained. “Looking for ‘the next Whitney’ doesn’t mean we need another Whitney.”

Cliff was equally strict in his advice to this year’s singers. “After eight seasons we’ve gotten to the point now where know exactly what we want,” he said. “We can sort the wheat from the chaff very quickly and we don’t want the also-rans.”

“This is the no-nonsense Idols,” he warned. “Don’t waste my time.”

“I’m more excited than ever to see the wonderful diversity that our country has to offer,” says Msengana, who is returning for her second season. “I’m even more excited now that it’s my second time and also a little more relaxed,” she says, “and this year I won’t have all those pregnancy hormones running me ragged, so hopefully I’ll be less tearful!”

On Saturday, 18 February, entrants were screened by preliminary judges of highly skilled musos and those deemed promising returned on Sunday, 19 February to sing for a panel of television and music professionals. Only the very best contestants will be invited back in March to perform for Abrahams, Cliff and Msengana.

2008 Face of Africa winner Kate Tachie-Menson from Ghana turned heads at the auditions when she walked in on amazing long legs to try her luck as an Idol. “I’ve always wanted to sing,” said Tachie-Menson. “I actually tried out for Idols in Ghana and they told me to rather audition for Face of Africa and then I won that – but I still want to sing!”

Since winning FOA, Tachie-Menson has travelled the world as a model, but she would happily give up the glamorous lifestyle to be an Idol. “But now I have the ‘flu and its in my head and my chest and my nose - I don’t know how well I did,” she sighed.

The final audition round will be held at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Kliptown, Soweto, on Saturday, 25 February.

Season eight of Idols is a co-production between M-Net and Mzansi Magic and will be broadcast on both channels from June. As in previous years, Idols entrants must be at least 16 years old and no older than 30 on the day of their auditions, and all contestants must present a valid ID document to enter. A parent or a legal guardian must accompany entrants younger than 18 years of age.

Updates and further information can be found on the official Idols Facebook page at 'Idols South Africa', on Twitter @IdolsSA (hashtag #IdolsSA) and on the official Idols season eight website.