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American Idol premiere recap: Atlanta and Denver Auditions

As the farewell season kicks off, ‘Idol’ brings back some memorable faces to judge the new hopefuls

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Michael Becker/Fox

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

Welcome to American Idol season 15, also known as the farewell season to any and all of you who care about the face of 21st-century popular culture.

That is correct — for those living under a rock, it is the farewell season of Idol, with only one more crooner to be crowned. On the other hand, this is my first season to be recapping, but trust — you are in good hands. As an avid watcher and a one-time audition victim (Rascal Flatts, mind you), I feel prepared. Though God may not have blessed my broken road to Hollywood, he did lead me straight to you.

There will be loads of memories to reflect on, but before we start the reflecting, we have to, you know… start the season. We open with Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman’s (!!!) first moments from season 1, but as the camera pulls out, we come to present day and watch today’s youth watch the classics like Kelly and Carrie get crowned victors.


To kick off the final season, we start in Atlanta with Michelle Marie, who is the same age as the show — 15. She’s a superfan who loves a good early-Taylor-Swift sparkle sundress. We see where she grew up, which is usually a sure sign that she makes it through. I can’t imagine that the first up wouldn’t get a pass. She opts for a sweet version of LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue.” She shines brightest in the songs most complex moments, earning a ticket to Hollywood and a near-heart attack for Jennifer Lopez when her entire family storms the room to congratulate her.

As part of the final season, previous contestants have been invited back to the auditions to screen talent. Some of them are welcomed with emphatic admiration (Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken) and and some of them are welcomed by stories of the contestant’s parents’ admiration (Taylor Hicks, Soul Patrol et al). Oh, these kids and their Snapchats and Twitters…

Following Michelle Marie is Josiah Siska, an 18-year-old from Georgia who has a Luke Bryan speaking voice. You know exactly what I’m talking about. He chooses “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash. It is nothing like Luke Bryan. Keith is immediately intrigued, and when Harry Connick Jr. says at the end, “We’ve never heard anything like that,” he’s not lying. It’s a cross between a ’60s country throwback and a mock-Tarantino spaghetti western theme song. It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but he gets three (well-deserved) yeses from the judges and moves on to Hollywood.

Lindita from Kosovo comes next. Ryan points out that she lost 150 pounds for this audition. Lindita says that people would tell her that she could sing, “but she’s really fat.” So in response, she lost the weight and then came to audition with “This is a Man’s World,” permanently banishing her haters forever. No matter how you describe her, her performance is wonderful, but hardly polished. The judges’ comment on how untamed the runs are, but it’s three yeses anyway.

Travis “Billy Bob” Evitt, 25, waltzes in while the judges are on a strange stretch break. He’s from Florida, wears overalls, calls himself a “fat John Travolta.” He also appreciates Jennifer Lopez from her “fly girl days.” He choose Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” It’s a great performance at one in the morning next to a bonfire after five PBRs, but it’s just not strong enough for the judges, especially in the farewell season. Billy Bob cries, cause Billy Bob’s a crier, and he goes home with no ticket in hand.

NEXT: When Dr. Quinn meets funk