‘American Idol’ final season 19 audition episode

Madison Watkins performs an original tune about her dad during the fifth and final season 19 "American Idol" audition episode.  (ABC/John Fleenor)

Credit: ABC

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Madison Watkins performs an original tune about her dad during the fifth and final season 19 "American Idol" audition episode. (ABC/John Fleenor)

Credit: ABC

Catie Turner shows up again in a surprising way

It’s hard to believe, but during the Fox heyday they would air seven audition episodes. In 2006, these episodes averaged almost 32 million viewers a week.

ABC this season is airing five audition episodes, averaging 8 to 9 million viewers a week. Considering all the changes going on in TV viewing, that isn’t half bad but this final audition episode definitely felt like an aging train chugging into the station on fumes.

There were some good singers here and there but nothing a loyal “Idol” viewer hasn’t seen many times before during the previous 18 seasons and 200-plus hours of auditions.

This episode featured several tear-jerking stories, a staple of the show. There was a lot of pain and shyness tonight as contestants sang original songs focused on very personal stories. Some resonated better than others.

Two former finalists from years past popped up in surprising ways.

But my favorite tonight was the girl who could still sing despite cystic fibrosis. Otherwise, let’s get on to Hollywood next week and start paring down the contestants!


Madison Watkins, 25, Fayetteville, Arkansas, hair model (”Your Little Girl,” original song) - She is a former “America’s Got Talent’ contestant who plays an ode to her dad. She is bright and vibrant with a voice that possesses depth and nuance. Lionel: “You gave a package of sunshine.” Luke said she is the “total package.” Katy compared her to the Britney Spears “Crossroads” move “in a bottle.” She gets to Hollywood and has a solid shot at the live shows. I’m not sure why they didn’t bring her dad into the room to watch her sing the song and soak in some extra emotion.

Two Katy Perry fans are paired in a montage and both get through.

Liv Grace Blue, 17, Studio City, California (”I Kissed a Girl,” Katy Perry) - She does a cutesy acoustic version of a Katy Perry song. Her vocal ticks are a bit cloying but she’s pretty good. Katy: “I see a little of myself in you.”

Ava August, 15, Laguna Niguel, California (original song) - She has deeper, more breathy voice than Liv. I’d favor her over Liv. Lionel: “You have an old-soul sound that feels very new.”

Deshawn Goncalves, 19, Cleveland, Ohio, college student (”Everything Must Change,” Nina Simone) - His parents were so young they didn’t know how to raise Deshawn and his dad ended up in jail. Once his dad got out of prison, he taught him how to take care of himself and pushed Deshawn to be a better person. He got straight A’s and ended up with a full scholarship to college. He emotes well but I’m not sure he has the charisma to go far in this competition and get votes. Katy says there’s a “purity and light” about him and that, when he sings, he has an angelic grace. He is an easy yes for the three judges.

A montage of sports folks who try to be singers including Alana and Cameron Allen. The judges make lots of sports analogies.

Then it’s Tryzdin Grubbs, 15, Columbus, Ohio (”Before You Go,” Lewis Capaldi, “Nobody,” James Arthur) - He is in a sports town but chose to sing during a fifth-grade assembly. He was teased and bullied for it. But here he is five years later trying out for “Idol.” He has a lovely tone but is clearly nervous. Luke stops him early because he senses a lack of confidence. “It’s not quite up to what ‘American Idol’ is.” Lionel says fear can be your worst enemy. Luke has him do his second song and he comes on much stronger and shines. They give him a shot. He may struggle in Hollywood. We’ll see.

Andrea Valles, 23, Houston, wedding singer (”Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac) - We hear part of her audition and it’s not bad. Katy says she was hypnotized in a sense but not sure if that’s a good thing. Without a request from the judges, Andrea tries a second song. She is far more animated vocally this time. Katy ponders and says she has to sing with the urgency and heart of her second audition, not her first. She makes it through.

Kiko, 24, Las Vegas (”10 Years,” Alejandro Aranda) - He has some good pedigree. His brother is last year’s Francisco Martin who was signed by 19 Recordings, the record label arm of the producers behind “Idol.” Kiko is good but he isn’t as good as Francisco. Katy doesn’t think he is quite there yet and believes he needs work. She says no. Lionel says there is a quality about him later in the audition that he fell in love with and gives him a yes. Luke says he’s not ready and it’s a no.

Zachary D’Onofrio, 19, Wesley Chapel, Florida (”Golden Slumbers,” The Beatles) – He tried out and made it to Hollywood in 2018 as the Sinatra dude with the disconcerting combo of a squeaky talking voice and a deeper timbre singing voice. But he didn’t make it to the live shows. This time, he does a passable but hardly heart-clenching Beatles cover. Katy is confused and wants more. He brings in his girlfriend. Surprise! It’s Caty Turner, the delightfully quirky finalist from 2018. They sing a duet. Katy thinks Zach is a turtle but has to take steps to stand out. Lionel, sticking with the analogy, says he needs to come out of his shell. Katy is a yes with a question mark. Luke and Lionel are, too.

There are gimmick singers: a woman who does ventriloquism with a sock, a dude who is “sexy and he knows it” and a German woman with lots of scarves.

Brianna Collichio ‚15, Spencerport, New York (Scars to Your Beautiful,” Alessia Cara ) - She has cystic fibrosis and prone to lung issues. Many with her disease perish in their 30s, but she isn’t deterred. She ended up in the hospital right before audition but they were able to reschedule. “If I didn’t have faith, I wouldn’t be here,” she says. Fortunately, her lungs are not scarred and her voice is not at all raspy. In fact, her voice is beautifully faulty. There is something vulnerable and laced with pain behind her performance that is compelling. Lionel thanks her for her bravery: “I loved your texture, your high end. The nerves were there in the beginning.” Luke says there are things to work on but she still knocked it out of the park. Katy calls her “the walking miracle.” She gets three yeses.

Danny Falco and Colin Jamieson are best friends, ever since their days together in a New England based boy band, Kik-It, that opened for Kesha and Big Time Rush. Danny was also a contestant on “The X Factor.”

Danny Falco, 28, Taunton, Massachusetts (”You Found Me,” The Fray) - He is a good performer who has a weird grating nasal feel when he pushes hard. Katy says it “feels a little put on. The transition from boy band voice to the rock voice is like running over a speed bump at 50 miles per hour. Luke says he’s not using his voice smart and it’s “abrasive to the ear.” The judges say no.

Colin Jamieson, 22, Boxford, Massachusetts, wedding singer (”Six Feet Under,” Billie Eilish) - I am not liking his falsetto or his breathy middle range. Luke says there were too many breaths but liked his chorus. Lionel said there is something there. So he gets to Hollywood. Go figure.

Vahhley, 23, Brooklyn, New York (”One Moment in Time,” Whitney Houston) - Sad story alert: She lives in a homeless shelter with a young son. She brings justice to a Houston classic, funneling all her heartache and hope into one audition without over-singing. The judges are enchanted and she makes it through.

Steven Paul, 28, Los Angeles (”Play Something Country,” Brooks & Dunn) - His mesh shirt does not mesh with the country song he sings. It’s super cheeseball but inspires Luke to whip out his guitar and sing along. It’s fun but not “Idol” material. “I can’t take my eyes off your nipples,” Luke says. He calls Steven an “imitation” country singer, not an authentic one.

Wyatt Pike, 19, Park City, Utah, college student (”Best for You,” original song) - His original song addresses his younger sister and her mental issues. He has a very busker feel to him because it is what he’s done before on the ski lift line. The song isn’t very good but he does have a passable voice. The judges like him far more than I do. Luke: “You’re totally cool, totally unique... Get comfortable being forced outside of that.” Katy compares him to pottery and he was going too fast to the point that it could all collapse but says he has immense talent. Lionel says he’s a fabulous storyteller and the only person he’s boxing with is himself. I’m not sold, but he is going to Hollywood.

Jackson Snelling, 18, Austin, Indiana (”Please Listen,” original song) - He has a brother with mental issues and he himself has autism. He says after his dad died when he was just 7, he felt blocked until he began writing songs. He wrote one for his brother to explain that their dad is not coming back. He has a fine voice but the emotion behind it didn’t really hit the way others with comparable originals did this season. Katy says he needs more experience and has to fine-tune his vocals to another level. He gets three no’s. They invite him to come back and he may just do it.

And now the final audition of 2021:

Althea Grace, 21, Chicago (” Saturday Morning,” original song) - Sob story alert: Her daughter Lennon got really sick when she was 11 months. She had liver failure and needed a transplant. She was in a coma and was near death when, by a miracle, they found a liver for a little child her age. Althea’s song about her daughter is just okay. Luke says she has Stevie Nicks qualities. Lionel says she has a “cut through” voice but needs more confidence. Katy basically says she lacks fire but sends her to Hollywood anyway.