AMERICAN IDOL - "203 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" travels to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; New York, New York; Louisville, Kentucky; and Los Angeles, California, as the search for AmericaÕs next superstar continues on The ABC Television Network, SUNDAY, MARCH 10 (8:00 - 10:01 p.m. EDT), streaming and on demand. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) ASHTON GILL, LAINE HARDY Josh Vertucci/ABC
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

‘American Idol’ season 17 auditions #3 recap: two Georgians and best episode this season so far

Originally posted Monday, March 11, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Of the three episodes, this was probably the most entertaining one. Not every singer was a winner but there was plenty of talent. And the pacing, as MJ noted in her blog, was significantly better, especially hour two. 

It’s good to see Laine back. I enjoyed Nate, Riley and Wade.  Jeremiah touched me emotionally. And after focusing on older singers so far this season, a really good 16 year old in Madison finally pops up. Keep an eye on her. 

So far, we have seen 6 of the top 14. (Spoiler 14 is here.)

Laine Hardy is back! The season 16 yummy Louisiana taste of gumbo somehow missed the finals but he came back with more maturity. 

The twist: he came on to help out Ashton Gill but had no intention of auditioning. (Really?) The judges insist he sing a song and he overshadows her. Both make it to Hollywood but I have a feeling Laine will go further. 

Austin Michael Robinson - 15, Van Alstyne, Tex. - “Idol” loves small-town country boys. They feature at least a couple every year. And he fits the bill. Tractor? Check. Horses? Check. Lasso? Of course. Cowboy hat? Duh. “If Bieber and Alan Jackson had a child,” Luke Bryan cracked. He decides to do Josh Turner’s “Your Man,” Scotty McCreery’s signature song. He’s not as good as Scotty McCreery. Definitely needs more seasoning. But he gets votes from Luke and Lionel (not Katy.). No way he’s going to get far in Hollywood in my opinion. He does literally lasso Katy with a rope. 

Jake Puliti – 20, Etters, PA – He opts for an unusual pick: Montell Jordan’s “This is How You Do It.” He’s not terrible but it’s clear he got airtime because of the antics courtesy of Luke Bryan (dancing drunkenly) and Katy (doing the floss, then the worm.)

And look! Four unnamed bad singers in montage! Let’s move on...

Shawn Robinson – 21 – Duluth – He opts for a Jesse J song “Who Are You.” He’s pleasant and easygoing but does he have star quality? “I’m in love with your personality,” Lionel said. “It’s very unique in your own style,” Luke said. “Your presence is beautiful, it’s like this ray of light,” Katy said. (I interviewed him on Friday and will post it soon.) Katy wants him to dig in and hopes to “see another gear.” “Get sweaty,” Luke said. He goes to Hollywood. 

Nate Walker – 18 – Pittsburgh. He’s buds with Gabby Barnett. His grand-dad even vocally trained her. He opts for the piano with “Say Something.” He is clearly church trained and emotes like mad. It’s not annoying, though. “Your runs seem to fit your style,” Luke said. 

Wade Cota , 27 Phoenix. He is close to his mom. His biological dad beat him badly to the point of cracking his skull. It took two years for her mom to escape him. He has a sadness about him. “Nobody without a broken heart can write a song,” he said. He hit depth with George Ezra’s “Blame It On Me.” Luke compared him to Johnny Cash and he could sing soundtracks. He could be an interesting addition to Hollywood. Would like to see how he does.

Riley Thompson, 16, Mabank, Tex. This is an unusually quick audition for “Idol 2019.” She sings an original song “Oh Daddy.” She has an appealing, coquettish voice. “A country Lana Del Rey,” Katy said. She’s in. Two minutes and out.

Peter Lemongello Jr. – 19, Boca Raton, Fla. - For better or worse, his dad created an infomercial in 1976 and sold more than 1 million copies. He definitely brought a Tom Jones/Engelbert Humperdinck quality to his sound though he called it “mood rock.” His son follows his dad’s footsteps by singing Motown. Motown used to be standard for “Idol” in the early 2000s but not so much anymore. Peter is retro but not in a cool way. The cheesy dance steps don’t help. Katy says yes but thankfully, Lionel and Luke say no. 

Clay Page – 24, Elberton. He’s from a small town 90 miles east of Atlanta, the third Georgian so far featured. He does Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man.” His voice is unadorned with just the proper country feel. He’s sweet but I’m not sure if he has the proper star wattage. Lionel likes the story telling. Luke is big: “an infectious knack. A perfect not trying too hard delivery... You are not the best country singer in the world. You don’t have to be . You have us hanging on every word.” 

Drake McCain – 17 – Spring City, TN. Small town trope alert. He works at Piggly Wiggly to help his family. He has eight brothers, two sisters but none of the dad(s) are in the picture- just his mom. He has a Kid-n-Play haircut. He goes for a gospel classic Eye of the Sparrow. Katy, who grew up in the church, sings along with him. They harmonize effortlessly. Will he be able to do pop? We’ll see. 

Madison VanDenburg, 16, Cohoes, NY. After 16-year-old Mica Giaconi and 15-year-old Darian Baena get a few moments in the sun and are pretty good, “Idol” leads us to a talented 16 year old. She has a super warm, powerful voice, very pop marketable. Wow! Katy got goosebumps: “You could be the next Kelly Clarkson.” 

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, 25, Cantonsville, MD. Another church-raised “pastor’s kid,” like Katy. He’s a janitor and gets a chance to sing during that time. The twist: he’s gay, too. He came out at 22. And his family did not embrace it and do not appear live, only in photos. He wrote a song “Almost Heaven,” which questions whether there’s a place for him there. So much pathos, so emotional, an incredible song. “Those were some serous chords,” Katy said. “Do you know how good you are?” Lionel said his range and voice is incredible. 

Next episode is in a week. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

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