American Idol recap: The Tragedy of the Original Song
True Life: Original songs make me super uncomfortable.
But that seems to be the theme of tonight’s auditions — and maybe even this season. Creating music is a difficult task y’all, but this new crop of American Idols live for it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it fails miserably. And sometimes, we just hear about all the good songs Lionel Richie has written. Let’s review.
We go a lot of places tonight, but to start, we land in Savannah, Georgia. Everyone in Savannah is apparently a professional musician. Well, everyone except Crystal Alicea, whose performance experience is just karaoke. The big reason for that is that she has no confidence in herself because she got bullied as a kid. In turn, she self-harmed, which is a heavy way to head into the first audition. But Crystal isn’t self-harming anymore, and she’s wearing a great jumper and she has a really cute boyfriend and she’s auditioning for American Idol. People love Katy Perry! She chooses “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith, and it’s very good. Good enough to make Katy Perry cry, which is then followed by Crystal crying, who then explains her story again to the judges. Katy Perry tells her she’d follow her on Instagram, and then Crystal goes to Hollywood. I’m crying, I don’t even know why, and I just want people to succeed.
Following Crystal, we get a Texan girl named Kristyn Harris who takes care of horses and does trick riding. That means she does things on horses that I struggle to do, you know, not on horses: standing on her hands, hanging off the saddle, etc. She sings “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” and Katy Perry jumps up with Luke Bryan for some line dancing because this show is insane. After a lot of praise, it’s Luke Bryan who makes the painful announcement that yodeling isn’t universal. Shame on Luke, because Carrie Underwood is an American treasure. But after a yes from Luke and a no from Katy, she makes it to Hollywood on Lionel’s vote.
And just like that, we’re back to New York because Idol knows no boundaries! No jet lag! We meet up with Jonny Brenns, whose parents doesn’t know he’s auditioning because this is like a 21st-century Footloose situation. He’s a tall drink of water, and he’s made it up here from Florida. He’s singing “Blue Jeans,” which is an original song. I’ve trained myself to shun original songs, but this kid’s voice is dreamy. Do kids still say dreamy? Can I just say “wig” and have it encompass everything? He splits the team down the middle, but Katy Perry gives him a pass, and then Katy makes him call his mom. Jonny’s mom doesn’t believe it, and the kid says, “Lionel Richie, will you talk to my mom?” because I can’t stop crying.
Anyway, hard pivot to Los Angeles, which is where people with more melanin than me go to become famous. Ricky Manning is up first, singing an original song about being lonely in Los Angeles. Y’all, I’ve been in New York for six months, and Ricky, day care worker from West Hollywood and also my second husband, I SEE YOU. It helps that the song and his voice are very nice. He makes it to Hollywood because this city really is full of angels! But then Idol feeds into my biggest fears and shows a montage of failed original songs, proving that I’m not insane: An original song is a RISK. After that train wreck, Effie Passero shows up with, you guessed it, an original song. Her voice is insanely powerful. The judges don’t comment much on the song, but honestly, I think that’s fine. The voice will serve her well…in Hollywood!
Back in Savannah, Tyler “Cougar” Gordon shows up and is apparently able to cover six different octaves. He sings his entire audition with his eyes closed, and I’m not entirely sure that he sang words. At the end of the day, all three judges say no. Good try, Cougar. After Cougar gives it his best, we see Savannah’s final audition: Johnny White comes in from Hickory, North Carolina. Johnny was adopted at 7 years old. He’s at Idol auditions because of his teacher, Ms. Finley, and I need this in movie format. He’s singing “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” It’s one of the first auditions of the night to send chills across my arms because you know how much this means to him. For a second song, Lionel makes him pull back a lot, and he’s still incredible. Ms. Finley will be proud because all three judges see the potential, which means he’s going to Hollywood. And then I literally scream because Ms. Finley is there with him!! And that’s the end of hour one, which is good, because I’m out of Kleenex. (Recap continues on page 2)
At the start of hour two, we get Caleb Lee Hutchinson, who has come to Idol auditions with his parents. He’s absolutely country because he has a deep voice and includes his middle name when introducing himself to people. He sings “If It Hadn’t Been for Love,” and it gives me some serious Josh Turner vibes, if you knocked his voice up a couple octaves. He makes it through with flying colors. Following Caleb Lee is nanny Shannon O’Hara, who goes after “When We Were Young” by Adele. There’s a super understated approach to her performance, but you can’t deny how talented she is. Shannon is leaving the East Coast for the first time because she’s headed to Hollywood.
After that super humble performance, Amelia Hammer Harris comes up. Her dad is Jack Hammer, the man who co-wrote “Great Balls of Fire,” because that’s no big deal. They don’t have the best relationship, but she’s here anyway, because she’s got her own road to walk. Amelia sings “Gimme Shelter,” and the judges love her because she’s “sultry,” but they do add that she’s got to focus up and get down to being THE American Idol. Regardless, she’s going to Hollywood.
After a stretch of contestants who decide the best way forward is to bring the judges gifts, Ryan Zamo is the end all, be all. He brings them some cosmetics before singing “Gravity,” and by that, I mean he sings “Gravity” in about seven different keys. He doesn’t get close to Hollywood, but girl, he. is. glowing. After that disaster, we get the most adorable little twins who decide to sing “Runaway Baby.” The first up is Julian Sposato. His brother Milo chimes in next, and honestly, they are so much better as a duo. They’d be fine on their own, but there’s clearly so much chemistry when they’re together. They both get tickets to Hollywood. Following that adorable duo is Les Greene, the trendy, suspender-clad crooner who chooses “A Change Is Gonna Come.” He starts off insanely slow, and I think, “Eh, here we go,” but it builds to this incredible place, and I’m here for Les. His voice takes a lot of effort, but the judges put him through.
The final audition of the night is a wonderful girl named Maddie Zahn, who works with special needs children. She suffers from PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which caused her to gain a lot of weight. She hit a pretty low point, but then she met her best friend, Marcus, who has Down syndrome. She met him by accidentally walking into a room where Marcus was singing a Katy Perry song. Honestly, y’all just need to watch it, because it’s just as over the top as it sounds. Sincere, yes, but GOD production really packed it all into one audition. Marcus comes in and sits with the judges while Maddiesings. She’s chosen “New Rules” by Dua Lipa because this show is has absolutely no boundaries. My favorite part of the whole audition is that Marcus does not even pretend to clap for her because Marcus is over it. Then they make Marcus get up and sing with Maddie, and you know that those long Idol days have caught up to Marcus. I’m with you, bud. Maddie goes to Hollywood, and Marcus goes home because I think the kid has absolutely earned it at this point.
And with that, two more hours of Idol auditions are in the books. Who’s your favorite from the night? I know we’re supposed to invest in Maddie, but am I weird for being super down with the twins, Les Greene, and Effie? Hit the comments, and we’ll see you
IN HOLLYWOOD on Monday.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.