‘American Idol’ recap: season 19, Hollywood week, part 1

Claudia Conway competes on "American Idol" during Hollywood week airing March 21, 2021.  (ABC/Eric McCandless)
Claudia Conway competes on "American Idol" during Hollywood week airing March 21, 2021. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

It’s clear that this year, probably due to the pandemic and budgets, the Hollywood rounds have significantly fewer people.

Fox during the show’s heyday would fly upwards of 250 contestants to Los Angeles. ABC had already pared that down to about half that number in recent seasons. This year, it appears to be even smaller. At the same time, Ryan Seacrest this season never says how many actually singers are in Hollywood.

With fewer singers, they tweaked the format a bit.

For the first time, “Idol” has given the Hollywood contestants six genres to choose from: “indie-folk,” “pop,” “rock,” “R&B,” “soul” and “country.” (Personally, I have a hard time differentiating between “R&B” and “soul” but it’s just semantics.)

The singers sing and compete with others within that particular genre.

Of those who make it to the next round, they are now going to do duets, which is similar to the second round of “The Voice.” This is a change from the past when they would normally do “groups” and the contestants choose who to work with. In this case, the judges pick their duet partners.

Again, Seacrest does not say how many are left.

There will be a new episode of “Idol” on Monday night as well.

After next week March 29, we will know who the top 24 are.


Liahona Olayan, 17 — She was part of a sister/brother combo from the audition round. She could use a little work but has plenty of spunk and gets a super positive reaction.

Ammon Olayan, 18 — His voice is a bit thin. He isn’t bad, but he isn’t as good as Liahona. (He is cut.)

Liv Grace Blue, 17 — What little we hear of her “Ain’t No Sunshine” is a bit overwrought for my taste. (She is cut too.)

Laila Mach,15 — She was the one given support from “Idol” alum and now hitmaker Gabby Barrett during her audition. She is super pitchy. But there is talent here for sure.

Ava August, 15 — She brings nuance and interesting vocal ticks. She definitely has what it takes to make the top 24.

Laila, Ava and Liahona make the next round.


Drake McCain 19 – The teen with the Kid-n-Play hair came back from season 17 and goes country, and he’s pretty good. (I thought he should have made the live shows two years ago, so it’s good to see him back, albeit in a new genre.)

Caleb Kennedy,16 — He has a solid emotive voice.

Mignon, 27 — We haven’t seen her before. What little we hear isn’t bad.

Mason Picks, 23 — Another person we hadn’t seen yet. He sounds pretty good.

Cameron McGhar, 16 — She is not up to snuff and is the only one cut from this group.

Alex Miller 17 — This guy is so much fun. He is packed with personality. He reminds me of Caleb Lee Hutchinson, the Georgian runner-up from season 16.

Cecil Ray, 20 — His daughter is just two months old. After a false start, he pulls off a very respectable performance. Katy gives him a standing o.


RE’H, 27 — The military vet is just so so.

Celeste Butler, 23 — The cruise ship singer is trying to do too much. Katy’s assessment: “Sea sick.”

Xavier Washington, 22 — The Yale senior from Atlanta gets some back story for the first time since he was “montaged” during the auditions. He brings a lot of feeling to his audition and the judges are loving it. It’s a bravura performance. “They definitely felt it,” he said. “I felt it. I literally cannot stop shaking.”

Grace Kinstler, 20 Her audition hit 13 million views. She has a super-powerful voice, the type that could easily make the top 24 if she doesn’t mess up.

DJ Johnson, 18 — She has had serious confidence issues and probably needs a lot of therapy from childhood trauma. Her “Rise Up” is better than her original audition.

Celeste and DJ are cut. (I’m surprised by DJ!)

Indie Pop

Christina Daugherty, 28 — A high school teacher, she has a classic “indie-pop” singer-songwriter voice with a rasp and mild energy. I’m not sure she has enough charisma to make it to the top 24.

Hunter Metz, 22 — He doesn’t have a particularly great voice, but he is oddly compelling.

Graham DeFranco, 27 — We only get a snippet of him but the pilot clearly has a voice.

Cassandra Coleman, 24 — She starts a little trembly, but she picks up as she goes along. She is a solid performer and brings all of herself to the song. There is artistry here and a top 24 spot is likely.

All four make it through.


Anthony Guzman, 27 — He dressed like a Viking and sang standards. What little of “Fever” we heard is not all that distinctive.

She Nova, 27 — She is trying to Lady Gaga us, but she lacks the pipes.

Yurisbel, 25 — This was the Pitbull wannabe who had no business going to Hollywood. He is no better now.

Andrea Valles, 23 — We barely saw her in the auditions, so she gets a little preview. She is actually quite good and has a pop singer look.

Erika Perry, 26 — The woman with the enunciation problems shows up again, more interested in a man than improving her craft. Her first audition was not good. This is possibly more annoying. Is this actually “In the Air Tonight”?

Yurisbel, She Nova and Erika are cut, thank goodness. Anthony and Andrea make it through. Erika pulls a Karen and complains. “Are you sure?” she asks Lionel. Later, she adds: “I’m trying to not have an actual [expletive] fit.” She then says, “I’d like to speak to the manager.”


James Perdue, 28 — His “Simple Man” isn’t quite good enough.

Christian McGuckian, 21 — Another singer that should not have made it to Hollywood. There is no doubt she is not ready based on her first performance on this stage. Why she went a cappella is odd, but she does do better when given a beat.

Chayce Beckham, 24 — He is sober after a DUI and family deaths. He is a great singer and draws you in with his intensity. Lionel said he needs more animation in his voice.

No surprise James and Christian are out, and Chayce moves to the duets.


Mary Jo Young, 19 — She has zero performance experience but has a surprisingly nuanced voice.

Colin Jamieson, 22 — He is the former boy band dude I didn’t like the first time around. I’m still not a fan, but he has a nice smile.

Claudia Conway, 16 — Kellyanne and George Conway’s daughter comes back with a new brunette look. Her mom pops by. She is OK. Not great. Not terrible. (Her mom tries to sing, and it’s not pretty.)

All three make it through.


Vahhley, 23 — She is the homeless R&B singer with a two-year-old who is solid but not solid enough because she gets cut. Two others featured in auditions are also cut: Tryzdin Grubbs and Brianna Collichio.

Indie pop

Wyatt Pike, 19 — His facial expressions distract me. He is quirky, for better or worse.

EmiSunshine, 16 — We never saw her initial audition. It’s a little shouty.

Trinity Rose, 17 — What little of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” we hear is decent.

Lizzy O’Very, 20 — I didn’t mind her weirdness, but the judges were clearly not into it.

Murphy, 27 — He’s the upbeat blind busker. He remains probably too upbeat with his Jim Croce cover. The judges feel he lacks connection.

Wyatt, Murphy, EmiSunshine, Lizzy get through. Only Trinity Rose is out.


Only nine people compete in this genre, which tells you how unpopular this genre is in 2021.

Beane, 23 — Luke said no to him in the original audition. He was more sold on his ‘Bennie and the Jets.” It’s too precious for my taste. And it seems not remotely rock and more like Broadway.

Casey Bishop, 15 — She has a voice bigger than her age. And she sells it.

Christian Terry, 21 — He is very bluesy.

Althea Grace, 21 — She has a daughter with a liver transplant. She is confident and does a good job.

Everyone in rock makes it through except Christian.

A montage of singers that make it to the next round including Zach D’onofrio, Madison Watkins, Alyssa Wray, Jason Warrior, Alanis Sophia, and Amanda Mena, who is heard over the montage.

The final singer:

Willie Spence, 21 Douglas, Georgia One of the two Georgians who made it to Hollywood gets the final say. His “Diamonds” video went viral in 2017, and he tried to make a career in Los Angeles, but then his mom had a stroke. So, he returned home to take care of her. “You only get one mother,” he said. “I’d do the same thing again and again and again.” He goes for “All of Me,” and the judges are in love. He has an excellent R&B voice though he’s not quite in Ruben Studdard territory.

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