Last week’s “American Idol” auditions episode was filled with less-than-enthralling entrants, many who were inexplicably sent to Hollywood.
This week is redemption. Almost everybody featured showed a modicum of talent. And two of them are former contestants on “The Voice,” both of whom are not surprisingly exceptional.
And the final story involving a man who almost died after a nasty car accident ends the two hours with an inspiring performance of “God Bless the Broken Road.”
Sara Beth, 25, Roswell ‚CA (”You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse, “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John) - She is a mom of three with a perky personality and a sweater straight out of a “Scooby Doo” episode. The judges like her general upbeat attitude more than her singing. I think she’s got potential and is likable on multiple levels. Lionel says no. Luke and Katy say yes, though Katy barely does so. Not sure if Sara will be able to make it far in Hollywood given how green she is and the relative lack of enthusiasm from the judges. Or as she brightly said, “They didn’t hate it, which is rad!”
Tanner Charles, 20, Broken Arrow, OK (”Golden Eyes (Original)”) - The valet wrote a song for his girlfriend who has not heard it yet. So she shows up while he sings it. He is a little raw but emotes well. The song isn’t terrible either. Katy: “You are an artist. We can support you with some confidence. You have some doubt when you go higher.” Luke: “You’re one of the best I’ve seen in telling a story and you’re able to soar melodically.” He is going to Hollywood and has a shot at the live shows.
Mikey Burson, 22, Nashville (”Cold as Ice” by Foreigner) - He has an act singing with his mom at piano. That’s unusual! He looks like he’s straight out of a 1970s rock band and has a really pretty voice but lacks a little edge for a Foreigner song. Luke: “It feels a little loungey.” Katy: “I know you can sing but karaoke star doesn’t make you an American Idol star. I think you are in the discovery phase of life. You need to keep on discovering.” Lionel gives him a yes but Katy and Luke say no.
Adin Boyer, 22, Lake Forest CA (original song) - He has autism. Loud noises and the sun bother him. But he also has perfect pitch and is an excellent pianist. He is also a very good vocalist who brings an emotional truth to his being. Lionel: “I could listen to that all night.” Luke lauded his piano playing. Katy says yes with some reservations. Ditto Luke. But Lionel is a strong yes. Adin is a bit of a wild card. He definitely does not look like a star but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything on this show.
Wé Ani, 23, Harlem, NY (”Anyone” by Demi Lovato) - She has a Cyndi Lauper-style speaking voice. Of course, she has a resonant vocal voice, which bemuses the judges. She sings with both nuance and punch. Lionel: “You are amazing. That was ridiculous!” Katy: “Way to throw the curveball!” Luke: “I’m not going to get into science.” He said her speaking voice is akin to Frenchie from “Grease.” She gets three strong yesses. She might go far in Hollywood. By the way: she finished third season 11 on “The Voice.” So she is no ingenue. And it’s clear “The Voice” didn’t lead to stardom because she’s trying again.
Marybeth Byrd, 21, Armorel AK (”If it Hadn’t Been for Love” by The Steeldrivers) - She’s a radio deejay like Ryan Seacrest and they compare notes. And um, she is also an alum on “The Voice,” making it top 8 season 17. She possesses an engaging, stylish country voice. Luke: “From the first note, you had it.” Katy: “Don’t change a thing.” Three super enthusiastic yeses. She could easily make it to the top 10 on “Idol.”
BRE, 27, Burbank, Calif. (”All Night Long” by Lionel Richie) - We get zero background on her except she’s a dueling piano player so Lionel duets with her on his classic song. We hear more from Lionel than her so it’s hard to judge how good she is as a vocalist but she goes to Hollywood.
Olivia Soli, 20, Los Angeles (”Hello” by Lionel Richie) - She does this classic Richie ballad justice, providing her own sultry read on the tune. Lionel hugs her, saying she was able to make it her own. Luke: “I thought it was tremendous.” Katy: “You put Lionel Richie out of a job. You really reinterpreted it. You have a tremendous voice. So many runs, so much soul. You’re ready. You’re worth a shot. We may push you harder than others because we know there’s a diamond in there.” Three big-time yesses. She could land in the top 10.
Preston Duffee, 21, Hartsville SC (”Something to Write About “(Original)) - His mom died of suicide and they have struggled since then. He wrote this after her death. The song is just okay and it doesn’t quite land emotionally or vocally Lionel: “You nailed that.” Katy: “I feel like I’m seeing a young Luke Bryan.” Luke: “You’ve got a really bright future as a songwriter and your voice will grow and be stronger.” He is off to Hollywood. I am not sure how far he’ll get though given the competition for male country singers.
After a string of terrible, over-emotive musical theater singers, we get...
Emma Busse, 20, Vancouver, British Columbia (”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John) - She just came from a musical theater school and it shows. She doesn’t have a bad voice but she’s too mannered and lacks authenticity. Luke: “That slow vibrato has to go!” Katy: “You are on the cusp to cross over.” They give her a ticket to Hollywood though they don’t hand out actual paper tickets anymore. Luke serenades her musical theater style while she departs. I bet we won’t see her again.
Keelin, 24, New York (”Don’t Call Me” (Original)) - She has terrible stage presence with hokey choreography, but her own pop song isn’t bad and she sings it with verve. The problem is the whole thing feels too jokey to be taken seriously. Lionel: “Very clever. You are memorable.” Luke: “I think your singing you have to focus on those high-end notes.” Katy: “Reminds me of Meghan Trainor. That song showed some promise.” Luke says no. Katy sees something and says yes. Lionel also gives her a yes. I would be surprised if she makes it even to the semifinals but she is not boring.
Elijah McCormick, 21, Raeford, NC (”Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts) - He had a terrible car accident two years ago and had to learn to walk and talk again. They showed video of the accident. His car was horribly smashed and he flatlined a couple of times while being airlifted, then several more times on the operating table. He was in the hospital for 79 days with multiple surgeries. “It hasn’t been easy at all,” he said while watching video of him singing from the hospital bed. I’m not sure if he has commercial prospects, but his miraculous story definitely informs his performance. He has great vocal control while offering a load of soulful presence, so much so that Lionel cries. The three judges hug him. Luke: “The last person that I saw approach singing like you was Willie Spence,” the late Georgia singer who died last fall in a car accident. Lionel: “You hit one of those notes and I thought of Willie. God brought you back nine times for you to do something amazing.” Katy said he is fulfilling his destiny and the song was spot on. He noted that he was actually supposed to audition for “Idol” two years earlier before the accident. The judges bring his mom into the audition room so they could tell him the obvious good news: he’s off to Hollywood.
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