Amanda Mena, 18, Boston, horse handler (”Golden Slumbers” Beatles — The show’s cold open features Amanda’s vocals and some visuals of her before we see her in the audition room. She is by no means a clean singer, but the flaws in her voice make her more interesting. She emotes well. She is super promising, better than anybody from the first episode and could very well end up in the finals. (She appeared five years ago on “America’s Got Talent.”) There is no feedback. Katy Perry just says, “1...2...3...” And the three all say, “You’re going to Hollywood!”
Then a bro-sis combo:
Liahona Olayan (16) and Ammon Olayan (17), Wahiawa, Hawaii — They sing an original song about sibling rivalry, and it’s entertaining. Liahona steals some riffs from Doja Cat. They harmonize well, but Liahona has a better voice. Katy says they are on the right path and liked the song. She thinks Ammon needs more vocal help but compares Liahona to Lorde and Alessia Cara. They both get yesses.
Anthony Guzman, 27, Santa Rosa, California. (”Cry Me a River” torch song, not the Justin Timberlake version). He dresses up in a ridiculous caped Viking outfit and carries a Thor-like hammer. He has all the makings of a joke contestant like the German Speedo dude last week. But surprise! He sings standards! He’s pretty good. “Never judge a book by its cover,” Katy says. Luke says no, but Katy and Lionel give him a yes. He may have to drop the Viking schtick and be serious if he hopes to make it through Hollywood.
Hannah Everhart, 17, Canton, Mississippi (”Wayfaring Stranger/At Last” by Etta James) — The producers love to feature singers who have heavy Southern accents and have never flown a plane before. Hannah fits the bill. She also has a passing resemblance to Katy Perry, courtesy of her doe eyes. She is very nervous at first singing “Wayfaring Stranger,” and they ask her to start again. She then gets through her audition and despite a decent raspy voice, misses some notes. She also keeps facing the pianist, and Katy has to guide her to face the judges. She isn’t quite good enough, but they give her a second chance with “At Last,” which is significantly better. She is very charming in a naïve way. She clearly needs some training but gets a ticket from the judges. I am not too confident she’ll make it to the live shows.
Calvin Upshaw, 26, Marks, Mississippi, printer line manager (”Falling Out of Love” Calvin Richardson) — They return with another Mississippi resident. He has been incarcerated and has a son. He is another technically imperfect singer who brings out the emotion, the pain and the trauma in his life into song that makes him compelling. He cries even before they give him the ticket to Hollywood. He could use a therapist as much as a vocal coach.
Casey Bishop, 15, Estero, Florida (”Live Wire” by Motley Cruë/“My Funny Valentine”) — She has very little singing experience. She likes 1990s rock and classic blues, an interesting combo. She has a promising rock voice with some real power. Katy asks her to sing some blues, so she opts for the Sarah Vaughan version of “My Bloody Valentine.” She does pull this off, too, beautifully. I could see as a finalist here. “She’s the damn winner of ‘American Idol,’” Luke Bryan says. Let’s see how she develops.
Yurisbel, 25, Miami (”Fireball”by Pitbull) — The Cuban immigrant is introduced like the Viking dude: a joke. Is he? He has a super deep speaking voice, a vibrant personality and a shiny super shiny shirt perfect for clubs in South Beach. He wants to be like Pitbull. Sadly, he can’t sing at all, but he’s fun to watch. I’m sure he is good with the ladies! So yes; joke!!! But in a purely entertaining way. He also has a passing resemblance to Luke, and Luke at one point tries to copy Yurisbel’s hip action and fails miserably. Oddly, Luke says yes. Katy is smart and says no. Inexplicably, Lionel says yes simply because he is fun.
Chayce Beckham, 24, Apple Valley, California, heavy machinery operator (”What Brings Life Also Kills”). He suffered from a drinking problem and moved back to his parent’s home. He has a solid raspy voice, but the song didn’t draw me in. Luke was locked in immediately but tells him to maintain the momentum. The judges are quite taken, and he gets three yesses. Katy even says he could be top five. I found him a bit forgettable.
Ace Styles, 16, Tulsa, Oklahoma (”Addicted” original) — He is transgender and tells his story of that realization. The back story is a unique one for “Idol.” During a play, he was forced to change in a closet. His vocals are overly stylized and are not my taste. Luke said the introverted nature of his voice isn’t quite ready and says no. Katy agrees. He needs to mature and hopefully comes back. He looks so hurt. Poor kid.
The judges explain that no’s are hopefully fuel for fire to come back.
Cassandra Coleman, 24, Columbia, Tennessee (”The Way It Was” The Killers/ “Apologize” OneRepublic) — Wow. I am in love with this woman’s voice. So much texture and beauty. “That is about as angelic as it’s going to get,” says Lionel. She hasn’t done much performance before, and Lionel challenges her to play something on the spot on the piano. So “Apologize” comes out fully realized. She is self taught but has God-given skills. Luke: “You are a new voice that the world has never heard.” I can’t wait to hear her again in Hollywood.
Willie Spence, 21, Douglas, Georgia, caretaker (”Diamonds” Rihanna) — He’s from a small town not far from where Luke Bryan grew up in Leesburg. This past year, he had a health scare due to being morbidly obese. He went from 600 to 400 pounds. He is also a powerful soul singer. The song is a bit one-note for an audition like this, but he has an impeccably broad array of vocal skills. Luke: “I did not want it to end!” Lionel: “You’ve demonstrated exactly what we’ve been looking for... On the first note, I had chills.”