‘American Idol” season 19 episode 3 recap: third audition episode

"American Idol" continues the search to find its next star in Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; and Ojai, California, on the Feb. 28 episode. Among them was Ronda Felton. (ABC/Christopher Willard)
"American Idol" continues the search to find its next star in Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; and Ojai, California, on the Feb. 28 episode. Among them was Ronda Felton. (ABC/Christopher Willard) RONDA FELTON

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

The first Atlantan pops up on the show during a montage

Week three of “American Idol” featured guided meditation, kazoos, a handpan steel drummer, a jingle writer, a self-described “extraterrestrial” and Lionel Richie duetting on a Commodores song with a contestant’s mom.

In other words, it was just another week in the “Idol” audition handbook, a studied two-hour blend of humor, emotional storytelling and occasional decent vocal talent, too.

I don’t know if I saw anybody tonight that could win “American Idol” but the judges were super high on Cecil Ray, Mary Jo Young, Hunter Metts and Ronda Felton.

And again, the judges put a contestant through who had no business going to Hollywood.

Cecil Ray, 20, Cameron, Texas, machine operator (”Talkin’ Tennessee” by Morgan Wallen) - He lost a friend, a brother and uncle to suicide. He is a teen dad. “I’ve had to learn to find the light in the dark.” He has some charm and an interesting tone that is different. Luke wants him to stop waving his hands so much by forcing him to keep his hands in his pocket. Then he has him snap his fingers. Luke: “I think you are absolute perfection. What I’m trying to get you to do. You have ants in the pants. If you can start chilling out. Your voice is really distinctive.” Katy: “You are a fireball... You remind me of a country Justin Bieber.”

Samantha Sharpe, 25, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, singer (”Titanium” by David Guetta) - She is part of a family group but as a solo artist, she isn’t bad. She has a lovely alto and gets a yes to Hollywood.

Graham DeFranco, 27, Rockwall, Texas, aerial pilot (”Part One” by Band of Horses) - He is likable and has a warm, delicate singer-songwriter voice. He said he lacks confidence in being a singer full time. Lionel: “You have a gift you haven’t gone for 100%.” Luke said he has a very “listenable” voice. Lionel encourages him tp look in the mirror every morning and confidently say, “I am Graham DeFranco!” He gets three yeses.

Tom McGovern, 28, Allentown New Jersey, jingle writer (original song) - He sings a delightful jingle about auditioning and random trivia about the judges. (Lionel plays tennis! Katy has very crowded bottom teeth! Luke’s first name is actually Thomas.) Katy thinks he could be the next American Jingle Writer but no for American Idol. He goes home.

Mary Jo Young, 19, Cleveland, Ohio, real estate associate (”You Broke Me First” by Tate McRae) - She is awkward and goofy when she’s not singing. She said she has only started singing on TikTok and such over the past year. She has no live audience experience. Despite her odd persona, her vocals are surprisingly powerful with real nuance. She said she had never sung for her mom so they brought her in to sing to her. It’s a sweet moment. Katy likes her vulnerability and is reminded of Julia Michaels. She has promise and is going to Hollywood. Luke predicts top 10.

Xavier Washington, a 22-year-old Atlantan and Yale University senior, is part of a montage and gets through with some soulful singing and a great falsetto. He is followed by cruise ship singer Celeste Butler from Oceanside, California, then Drazi, a 20-year-old Las Cruces, New Mexico singer. All go to Hollywood.

Christian McGuckian, 21, Easley, South Carolina, maid (”Girl Crush” by Little Big Town) - She is super nervous. She is way off tune at the start and her nerves clearly have overwhelmed her. Luke said she has some potential but she is off keeping time. She is not remotely ready for this. But they give her three yeses anyway, qualifying as one of the most mystifying picks of the season. She has no prayer of making it through Hollywood.

Olyasdream, Vladivostok, Russia. They are auditioning in Ojai, California, so they brought this New Age woman to play some sort of thing called a handpan. It’s clearly a joke situation. And her vocals are nothing special and Katy said she isn’t really here to “compete in this world.”

Alanis Sophia, 19, Wesley Chapel, Florida (”Anyone” by Demi Lovato) - Her mom, who named her after Alanis Morissette, had her when she was 19. ”She’s a hero to me,” she says. This feels very “Gilmore Girls.” Her mom got her a toy “Idol” mic and she uses it for her audition. Alanis comes across as sweet and innocent and her vocals are clean. Her innocence is both her strength and weakness. The judges laud her “purity” of voice and spirit and she moves to the next round. This type of singer has made the top 10 before but rarely gets the votes to get all that far.

Jeremias William, 23, Apopka, Florida, firefighter “(Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd) - The judges play “When the Saints Go Marching In” on the kazoo before Jeremias showed up. Back story alert: he is from a family with eight siblings in a two-bedroom house. “I knew I always wanted more,” he said, “but it’s hard to believe that there’s other things out there.” After high school, a lieutenant at the fire department recruited him to EMT school. He cries when the fire department sends him good wishes. He has a very clean voice, which doesn’t necessarily work for such a gritty-style song. Katy said he’s missing that “smoke... You got to find it.” He doesn’t make the cut. (Yet Christian made it?) He handles the rejection with grace.

Timmy Skelly, 23, Sandwich, Illinois, server - He is singing a duet with his mom “My Funny Valentine.” It’s adorable and he gets to move forward. Clearly, we saw the tail end of the audition but it was a pretext to show little clips of romantic moments with other contestants, including Erika Perry’s “love” letter to Ryan Seacrest.

Erika Perry, 26, Orange County, California, (”ET” by Katy Perry) - She says her nickname is “ET” due to her out-of-this-world alien nature. She says her No. 1 goal is to meet her soulmate and secondarily, to “be a star.” Priorities? She had a lot of haters in high school who found her eccentric. And a former boyfriend found her unmotivated so she’s out to prove him wrong. Her enunciation (or lack thereof) is super annoying but she has a very pop feel. Luke: “Is this a different language? Is this English?” Lionel: “Is this a style or is this a gimmick?” Katy: “She has probably never been given a single bit of constructive criticism in her life.” She asks her to get rid of the gimmicks and try again. Katy has to force her to “enunciate the words.” Katy says she’s likable but suspects Erika doesn’t think she is so she uses all these pretentious vocal ticks. Katy says nobody has probably given her the love so she says yes. Luke says she’s too far from getting out of the bad habits and says no. Lionel doesn’t get it but being the nice guy, gives her a “very sparing yes.”

Hunter Metts, 22, Franklin, Tennessee, software developer (All the Pretty Girls” by Kaleo) - He brings his sister along to support him. She quit a job with Disney so there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest. The singer-songwriter has an emotive tenor that is a wee bit slight and mildly grating at points but evocative at others. But the judges embrace him and he gets three yeses. Luke and Katy foresee top 10. He does have the look and feel to bring in the votes.

Ronda Felton, 19, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (”One Night Only” from “Dreamgirls”) – The final singer of the night almost always has a compelling back story. Ronda had a single mom who was homeless and had to live in shelters, cars and friends’ apartments. But Ronda is grateful for her mom. “Never stop fighting,” her mom said. While she sings, Lionel cries. She brings a lot of pain and heartache to the song but she is no Fantasia. I wasn’t moved the way Lionel was. As soon as the judges say yes, Ronda runs to the door and brings in her momma. They hug. It’s a touching moment. Her mom’s favorite song is “Zoom” by the Commodores so she gets to sing it with Lionel.

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