You gotta come see the baby.
Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/ABC
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American Idol is back on the audition beat. We’re hopping around the country looking for the next great superstar, and you’re not alone if you get confused as to which city we are in at any given point. Try to keep track by counting how many sleeves Katy Perry has. Let her sleeves be your North Star! Now, on to the auditions…

First up, a man in black. Not the Man in Black, obviously, but 22-year old goat farmer Trevor McBane does count Johnny Cash as one of his idols. The other most important person in his life? His 81-year-old best friend, goat farm partner, and grandma, Nan. Nan seems like a great broad. Trevor sings “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band, and he’s got some grit in his voice that Lionel loves. According to Lionel, “it’s not the right note, it’s the real note.” Tell that to the whole slew of flops who soon follow Trevor, am I right? Trevor is going to Hollywood and I think Nan might be tagging along? She takes some credit for his success for loving him so much. Everyone needs a Nan!

Maybe that would’ve helped the next hopeful at the Nashville auditions? Trained opera singer Audriana Bolton cites Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera as her inspirations, but when she performs Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” she does not impress the judges. She will not be moving on to Hollywood, be she can, however, do the Mariah whistle tones, which must be a great party trick. Silver linings!

We get a little montage of definite “um no thank yous” including a dog named Coco who enjoys crapping all over the floor during auditions. Is this a sign for the rest of the Idol season? Please say no, Coco. All of these “no”s clear the way for cutie-pie Genavieve Linkowski. She’s the oldest of 10 kids, and don’t worry — they are all there to prove it. She sings “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, and you can tell the judges are into it because as Genavieve plays the piano all three of them have goofy grins on their faces. She has a lot of work to do, but Luke hears magic in her voice. How many hotel rooms will the Linkowskis need to rent in Hollywood?

Our next country gal is Kenedee Rittenhouse, and she hails from the same small town as the original Idol country girl, Carrie Underwood. She chooses Carrie’s “I Told You So” as her audition song, and the judges are not feeling it. If you’re going to tackle Carrie, you’d better come correct. But they are enamored with her look and her personality, so they let Kenedee sing “Firework” to see if she can hit those Katy Perry notes. She does! Some people just have to fight harder for their golden tickets.

Brandon Elder, a construction worker from Alabama, does not have to fight hard — to get his ticket to Hollywood or turn us all into puddles on our living room floors. His story is heartbreaking. His biological mother was a teenager when he was born, and she traded him for a car to a couple who also were not ready to care for a child, and eventually he was adopted by his mother, Patricia. She was a single parent who worked multiple jobs to give Brandon the life he deserved. When Brandon was 14, Patricia was diagnosed with breast cancer, and eventually lost her battle in 2016. If you’re not already a weepy mess: He sings an original song he wrote about his mother. Songwriter extraordinaire Lionel Richie is especially moved. Brandon may not have the greatest voice just yet — he only started singing to cheer up his mother while she was sick — but he has the ability to convey emotion.

In much lighter news, contestant Cody Martin walks in to his audition singing “Happy Birthday” to Katy in honor of her big day and the judges hear enough to push him through to the next round based on that alone. I guess we should never knock “Happy Birthday” ever again. Noted, judges.

Speaking of birthdays, we meet Victoria McQueen, our very own Idol Baby. She was born on June 11, 2002 — both the day American Idol first aired and the age cutoff date for this year’s competition. THIS IS DESTINY, PEOPLE. Victoria is a spitfire and she backs up her fun personality by nailing Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.” This is an easy yes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Victoria does in Hollywood. (Recap continues on page 2)

Britney Holmes, a vocal teacher from Frisco, Texas, leads a whole package about how badly the judges want to be moved. They are seeing a ton of talent, but the golden ticket is about more than talent. Give Katy Perry “some chill bumps.” Um, does she know they’re called “goosies” on this show? Or was that trademarked by J. Lo? Whatever you call them, Britney can sing, but she isn’t connected to the music. Surprisingly, she gets turned away. So do a bunch of other hopefuls who do not have goosie-inducing voices.

Enter Dominique. He sings Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You,” and it is basically all goosies. Most auditions I can’t wait to get through and move on to the next. Dominique? I wanted a five-song set. The judges were also feeling the “chill bumps,” and they’re excited to see what he brings to Hollywood. Probably more goosies, right?

Lionel, Luke, and Katy also hear something special in Amalia Watty’s version of “You Were Always on My Mind” back in NYC. She’s originally from Anguilla, and moved to New York to attempt to have a relationship with her birth father. When that didn’t work out, she used the pain to fuel her music. The judges think she brings a unique, cool vibe to the competition.

Another unique contestant is Daniel Etheridge from the Nashville auditions. He was an army brat who found a love for country music as a self-described “small, chubby Asian kid” in Austin, Texas. People are usually surprised when he starts belting out country songs, and even more surprised when he is so gosh darn good at it. After hearing his audition song, the judges want to know if he has any original music. He does! It’s a song he wrote for his little sister after she started getting bullied by kids for telling them that her brother was famous. So, yes, it is emotional. And yes, Daniel is going to Hollywood.

He’ll be joined by Taryn Coccia and Payton Taylor, sisters who live in Nashville and make their living singing in the Nashville Airport. Big twist, y’all: Payton supposedly only came today to play guitar for her little sister, but Katy senses the rock star standing off to the side and has Payton audition as well. THEN KATY SAYS “YES” TO PAYTON AND “NO” TO THE LITTLE SISTER. It is cold. Thankfully, Lionel and Luke decide not to ruin a sister bond for all of eternity, and both Payton and Taryn get golden tickets. The Lionel and Luke bromance (Lionel is teaching Luke how to play “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” on the piano, isn’t that precious?) has saved us all. But mostly Taryn and Payton’s relationship.

Next arrives a person named Samothias who is obsessed with his hair and plays Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” on the piano to middling response. He’s going through, but he has some things to work on, is what the judges are saying.

All of this stalling is to make room for the Final Sob Story of the night, which comes in the form of Marcio Donaldson from Compton, California. It is a genuinely moving story. He and his sister were put into the foster system as kids, and when his sister had a son and was unable to care for him, Marcio stepped up and took little Rashaad in as his own. This was six months ago. Marcio is auditioning not just because it is his dream, but because he wants to set a strong example for Rashaad. And Rashaad comes with him to the audition! And Luke Bryan MUST get his hands on that adorable baby! Marcio sings “Jealous” by Labrinth, which is emotionally devastating on its own, but it wouldn’t matter anyway — Marcio singing to little Rashaad is about all the emotion one reality singing competition show can take. Marcio isn’t technically perfect, but he is emotionally gripping. He’s going to Hollywood. And hopefully so is Rashaad because that baby is the cutest baby in all of baby history.

Well kids, we have one more round of auditions to chug through before we press on to Hollywood. Is everyone hanging in there? More importantly, where do you fall on the “chill bumps” versus “goosies” great divide?

Episode Recaps

American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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