Photo: Eliza Morse/ABC
Photo: Eliza Morse/ABC

‘American Idol’ notes: Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Acworth’s Camryn Leigh Smith, Lauren Alaina

Originally posted Tuesday, February 18, 2020 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Acworth worship leader Camryn Leigh Smith received the honor of being the first singer on the 18th season debut of “American Idol” Sunday night on ABC. 

(ABC is promoting this as season 3, which it is on that particular network after 15 on Fox.)

At age 16, she came across as sweet and collected. The audition itself went about as well as any audition could go. She performed a nuanced, confident take on “Big White Room,” by Jessie J

“It’s been my song for eight years,” Camryn said in an interview. (She had back-up songs ready to go just in case including “A Million Reasons” by Pink and the Fugees version of “Killing Me Softy.”)

Smith said coming into the audition with the right attitude in Savannah made a difference.

“I was not freaking out because of my mindset. If I got a golden ticket, that’s amazing, a great opportunity. If I don’t, I know that’s not what I was supposed to do. It was fun. I was singing in front of famous people but they’re just people. And they were nice!” 

There was a moment during an interview with the producers where they asked her if she had ever been to Hollywood and she looked flustered and said, “Is that in California? L.A.?”

In actuality, she said she went to Hollywood as a child during a two-week family trip that also included the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. She just blanked out.

Smith said she has been writing her own original songs, about a relationship gone bad, friendships, her faith. 

She is from a church family and they attend Four Points Church in Acworth. 

But like Katy Perry, she wants to sing secular music as well. She began taking voice lessons at age eight and discovered the likes of Tori Kelly, Christina Aguilera and Jessie J. 

Home-schooled since first grade, she is graduating in May a year early and planning to attend Hillsong College in Arizona while focusing on her music career. 

Camryn previously tried out for “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” when she was much younger but she said now is just the right time in her development to succeed at a talent show of this caliber.

The judges were duly impressed with her audition and Perry gave her a standing ovation.

“When you dug into that note toward the end,” Perry said, “it gave me hope for the third season of ‘American Idol.’”

Luke Bryan added: “It’s so natural and easy for you at this age is just remarkable. So I’m a big time yes.”


AMERICAN IDOL - Ò301 (Auditions)Ó Ð ÒAmerican IdolÓ returns to ABC for season three on SUNDAY, FEB. 16 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after dominating and claiming the position as SundayÕs No. 1 most social show in 2019. Returning this season to discover the next singing sensation are music industry legends and all-star judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, as well as Emmy¨-winning producer Ryan Seacrest as host. Famed multimedia personality Bobby Bones will return to his role as in-house mentor. (ABC/Eric McCandless) ARTHUR GUNN
Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC

Not surprisingly, the opening Nielsen numbers for “Idol” were down from season 17: 8.1 million and a 1.5 18-49 rating vs. 8.65 million and a 1.7 18-49 rating a year ago. It’s a relatively modest dropoff and a far cry from the show’s peak in its early years when ratings would exceed 30 million. (Nobody gets those types of numbers anymore)

Ratings are falling across the board for nearly all broadcast TV shows as more and more folks go to streaming services.

And here is the full schedule this season, which will feature 18 episodes. Last year, they did 19. Although the season starts earlier, there are fewer Monday episodes. 

Sunday Feb 16 – Auditions (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Feb 23 – Auditions (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Mar 1 – Auditions (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Mar 8 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Mar 15 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT) 
Monday Mar 16 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Mar 22 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)
Monday Mar 23 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Mar 29 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)
Monday Mar 30 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Apr 5 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)
Monday Apr 6 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Apr 12 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Apr 19 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday Apr 26 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday May 3 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday May 10 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)

Sunday May 17 – TBA (8-10 ET/PT)



I saw Lauren Alaina live earlier this month at Buckhead Theatre, part of a sold-out tour. This was her last solo date before opening for Blake Shelton.

What is so great about Alaina is that despite all the challenges she has faced over the years, from bulimia to a stepdad’s death to vocal issues to public boyfriend break-ups, she comes out still shining bright.
Alaina, who favored snug sparkly dresses that night, sung her biggest hits including her No. 1 sing “A Road Less Travelled” and a few minor ones that the audience treated like big hits. 

She and her band were super tight and several times, she synced exactly to the music video behind her. 

Alaina also wrote a song for her stepdad, who passed a couple of years ago from cancer, called “The Other Side.” She told the audience about how angry she was at God about his illness but on his death bed, he told the family he saw heaven and was amazed. “There was so much peace inside that house during a time of darkness,” she said. (She danced to the song during “Dancing With the Stars,” which she said was a highlight of her time there.)

Alaina also praised her parents and despite the fact they were not at all wealthy, “I didn’t know we were poor. We had a whole lot of love in that house” in Rossville, GA, she said. She then promoted her foundation My Kinda People, which gives money to other charities. 

Several of the songs she sang (including “The Other Side” and her single “Ladies of the ‘90s”) will land on an EP “Getting Good” she is planning to release early next month. 


Jennifer Hudson performed a lovely tribute to Kobe Bryant during the NBA All-Star game over the weekend. The song? “For All We Know.”


Carrie Underwood is releasing an inspirational book next month called “Find Your Path” and doing a small book tour hitting Los Angeles, New York Connecticut and Nashville. 

Her current single “Drinking Alone” is struggling, stuck at No. 30 on the Mediabase country airplay charts. It could wind up being her worst-performing single of her career in part because it’s unlike anything else she has ever released as a single.


Nick Jonas is the new coach and the other three (John Legend, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson) join him to sing “Jealous.” Its 18th season debuts Feb. 24. Yes, the show has been airing two cycles a year so it now has caught up to “Idol” in seasons. 

For an Australian Fire Fight fundraiser, Adam Lambert + Queen re-created the band’s original six-song Live Aid set from 1985. Highlights from the concert will air on Fox TV on Saturday, February 29 from 11 p.m. to midnight. 

For any fans of either the band and/or Lambert, this is a treat:


“Idol” singles watch

Country #15 and climbing: “I Hope” Gabby Barrett

Country #23 and climbing: “In Between” Scotty McCreeery

Country #30 and climbing: “Drinking Alone” Carrie Underwood

Country #49 and falling: “Getting Good” Lauren Alaina

Urban AC #12 and stalled: “PTSD” Fantasia

Christian AC: #30 and climbing: “Wanted” Danny Gokey

Christian AC: #37 and climbing: “Way Maker” Mandisa


AMERICAN IDOL – “108 (Showcase/Final Judgment)” – Idol hopefuls head to Exchange LA in downtown Los Angeles for the Showcase Round, where contestants perform solos in front of a live crowd and the judges. Following the performances, the judges sit down with each contestant for the Final Judgment and reveal which finalists made it through to the Top 24, as the search for America’s next superstar continues on its new home on America’s network, The ABC Television Network, MONDAY, APRIL 2 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT). (ABC/Eric McCandless) CADE FOEHNER
Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC

tI’m not sure what to make of the social media war going on between Maddie Poppe and Cade Foehner from season 16. He first wrote that his wife Gabby Barrett would be a huge star, the biggest ever from season 16. Maddie took issue with this. Then he changed it to her being the most successful Idol alum ever. That didn’t make things better.

MJ has the entire long sequence here. 

Socia media trolls harassed him some more and then he made things worse by bringing up Christ.


Kelly Clarkson Kellyoke performances of recent vintage including “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” by Olivia Newton-John, “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)” by Travis Tritt, “We Belong” by Pat Benatar, “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne and “Toxic” by Britney Spears. 

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.