AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) JOHANNA JONES
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

‘American Idol’ season 17 debut recap

Originally posted Sunday, March 3, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The new “Idol” auditions are no longer focused on a single city, even for a period of time. In the first hour, they jump from Louisville to Idaho. Yes, Idaho. Later, they go to New York, then Hollywood. 

Idaho gives the editors the excuse to play the only popular song with the word “Idaho” in it, the B-52s “Private Idaho” and display lots of potatoes.

But the reality is that the cities are meaningless because the judges end up seeing folks from all over the place, based on where the producers send them. The Idaho auditions, for instance, features women from Nevada and South Carolina.. In Hollywood, a dude from Buffalo, N.Y. performs. 

And has been the case for awhile, it’s almost all positive vibes now. There also seem to be fewer auditions per hour with the pacing less frenetic than it used to be on Fox. Hour one featured just five, four of whom got through with no conflict at all from the judges. Hour two had seven. Some of the background stories also seem longer than they used to be and even the time spent on the auditions wasn’t quite as truncated.

I was surprised that it took well into the second hour before the first singer under the age of 18 showed up. In fact, he was the only one of the 12 people featured who couldn’t vote. 

I am not sure I heard anybody that had me super excited beyond Walker. Laci was intriguing as well. 

SIDE NOTE: Since hardly anybody comments on this blog anymore, I am offering another option. Deirdre, who has been informally moderating the discussions going back to season five, has opened a Facebook chat room if you want to discuss the show in real time (either EST or PST). Feel free to sign up here. It’s a closed group so Deirdre will monitor for trolls. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/David Williamson) WALKER BURROUGHS
Photo: David Williamson/ABC

First up: Walker Burroughs, 20 years old, Birmingham. The home of Taylor Hicks, Reuben Studdard and Bo Bice brings someone entirely different. The red-headed cousin of Clay Aiken and John Stevens (visually at least) plays the piano and does a lovely rendition of singer songwriter Ben Rector’s “Love Like This.” He has a warm, inviting voice. Katy said he’s “top ten material... You have a super pro vibe.” He does a cutesy rendition of Lionel’s “Hello,” too. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) JOHANNA JONES
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Johanna Jones, 23, Las Vegas, fast food burger chef. She loves potato chips so Katy and Luke race heart. She is a little overly stylized but her “I’m Not the Only One” has some pretty moments.  She makes it through but I have a feeling she won’t be around long in Hollywood. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/David Williamson) KAI THE SINGER
Photo: David Williamson/ABC

Kai the Singer (Khalifa Harris), 19, King Street, S.C.. I guess there’s Chance the Rapper, so why not Kai the Singer? Sob story alert: She’s from a poor family who lived in and out of shelters. They now reside in a tiny space stuffed with eight people. She doesn’t even have a bed. Her church flew her to Idaho. Her Ed Sheeran cover of “Thinking Out Loud” is soulful and raw, if a little flat. “I think the nerves got the best of you,” Katy said. Given a second shot, she does a super pretty version of “My Girl,” changing the lyric to “Music.” She is likable and relatable. They loved her on the piano and she’s through. Everyone gets teary eyed. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Nicole Rivelli) TYLER MITCHELL
Photo: Nicole Rivelli/ABC

Tyler Mitchell, 26, Florien, La. Small-town southern boy alert: he has the accent, the aw-shucks attitude and the job (oil field mechanic). He covered Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around” and has a great voice. But he’s stiff and does not have the performance chops. Hollywood might be a struggle for him.

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00 - 10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Kelsey McNeal) VOKILLZ
Photo: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

Vokillz, 24, Buffalo. Toward the end of hour one, they finally conjure up a joke contestant. A man in a scary mask singing what he dubs “mystic death trap metal.” He scares Katy by offering a gift they think is a dead rat but is actually a necklace. And his singing is a terrible as you can imagine. Katy and Lionel hide in mock terror. 

HOUR TWO

Margie Mays, 25, Wilmington, De, dog walker. This hyperactive, burping girl seems almost like a throwback to the early years of “Idol.” Just ridiculous in so many ways. She burps when she’s nervous. She can’t stop moving. She makes bird sounds. She is entertaining though clearly not “Idol” material. Just all over the place. But she gets two yesses anyway. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) MYRA
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Myra Tran, 19, Vietnam. Although this is “American Idol,” a few overseas folks pop in on occasion. She arrived just a year ago stateside. She sings “One Night Only” and she has a super strong voice. She gets three yesses easily. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) UCHE
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Uche, 24, Sugar Land, Texas, wedding singer. He has charisma and he’s attractive but his voice is just okay while doing “Ain’t No Other Man.” The dancing detracted from his singing. Even when he sings standing still, he’s very gospel but needs some work. Luke says no because he needs coaching, then changes his mind. Lionel says no, too, but also changes his vote. So he goes through. No way he’s going to make the finals. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) LACI KAYE BOOTH
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Laci Kaye Booth. 23, Livingston, Texas, college student. She and her musician dad have a bond over music. “I’m living my dream through her,” her dad says. She covers a Merle Haggard song and there is something about her voice that is just different enough to make her interesting. “A diamond in the rough,” as Katy sagely said. There is potential there. Will she blossom or wilt in Hollywood?

Nick Rogers, 17, Denver, student. He gets no introduction but sings a seductive song to Katy, who says, “I could be your mother.” (Yes. She’s twice his age!). He shows that cockiness you’d expect from someone with such a boy-band friendly look. Katy liked his flow. He said his influences were Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, then he throws in Lionel. When asked if he knew a single Lionel Richie song, he could not come up with a single title. Despite that, he makes it through. 

Tiffanne Le May, 20, Las Vegas, food delivery. I like this girl’s vibe. She comes across as chill and easygoing. I really like her voice, too. Superbly emotive. She also happens to know Lionel Richie, which makes him much happier. “I love your sunny disposition,” Katy said. “Open your mouth a touch more,” Luke Bryan said. “The enunciation.” (What? Constructive criticism????) I am watching out for her in Hollywood. 

AMERICAN IDOL - "201 (Auditions)" - "American Idol" returns to The ABC Television Network on SUNDAY, MARCH 3 (8:00Ð10:01 p.m. EST), streaming and on demand, after first making its return to airwaves as the No. 1 reality show launch for its inaugural season on the network during the 2017-2018 season. (ABC/Josh Vertucci) NICK TOWNSEND
Photo: Josh Vertucci/ABC

Nick Townsend, 26, Tekamah, Neb. (now in L.A.), production assistant. Serious Danny Gokey sob story alert: His older brother had taken his own life. Then his younger brother did the same thing. What? The poor guy. “My brothers want me to keep pursuing my dream and would be proud I’m here,” he said. “I can’t quit.” He’s a bit rough around the edges but the depth and darkness there. Lionel says his voice has “natural cry. In our business, we call that money.” Katy says she has power and level and likes his “beautiful dynamics.” Luke Bryan likes his simplicity and it’s easy to listen to. 

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About the Author

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