American Idol recap: Success Can Be a Drag (Queen)
If at first you don't succeed, throw on your best kitten heels and try again
You know, it’s easy to dog American Idol for rebooting itself after such a short hiatus, but the world changes quickly, and tonight’s episode is a crazy reminder of that. As auditions wrap up, America is reminded of how much we’ve evolved and how Americans come in a lot of different forms. Now that’s not to say the winner of this season won’t be a white guy with a guitar, because that could definitely happen. But there are a few twists that might just surprise you. Let’s discuss it.
The night starts with Gabby Barrett, a 17-year-old who has the most adorable relationship with her dad. On top of that, she’s serving up all kinds of Daenerys Targaryen realness with some platinum blonde hair, and I would die if dragons descended down while she tackled Carrie Underwood. But unfortunately, only an underwhelming silence falls because singing Carrie is like a suicide mission. She considers taking on a second Carrie song, but the judges push her to do something that features her voice, so she sings a church hymn, because if you’re singing for Jesus, you’re singing from the soul, y’all. She nails it and gets three yes votes to Hollywood. Praise the Lord! Literally! Following her is Caitlin Lucia, who decides to tackle “I Kissed a Girl.” She super undersells her talent and does a low-key version that completely crushes it. Caitlin is a shoo-in to Hollywood.
Amelia Presley shows up: She’s sixth cousin to Elvis Presley. Naturally, she sings “Heartbreak Hotel,” but she’s hardly the last one. We get a montage of Elvis singers, and I’m just going to go ahead and assume for me and you both that we’ll likely not need to know any of their names. I know that’s harsh, but like, who hasn’t passed out on a toilet and called it a skill set, ya know? Amelia doesn’t make it. Of course, that leads us to an actual Elvis impersonator, Drake Milligan. And while he’s been very good at that, what he really loves is country music. So he ditches the family recycling business to audition for American Idol. He does a very good rendition of George Strait’s “You Look So Good in Love.” Drake gets three yeses and moves forward.
After a collection of clips that remind us that Katy Perry loves a good snack, we’re treated to a musical treat from Mylon Shamble, who does a beautiful Macy Gray-esque version of “Stand by Me.” She sails through. She’s followed up by Lee Vasi, an adorably nervous 20-year-old who manages to get it together REAL QUICK to sing “Zoom” with Lionel Richie, and outside her parents are losing their minds. For her official song, she takes on Toni Braxton. It starts out so strong, but then it literally falls apart everywhere. Like, it’s not good. But this is the new American Idol. Dreams are achievable here! So they put her through anyway because why the hell not?
Tory N. Teasley shows up in partial drag to sing Cee Lo’s “F— You,” but he presumably doesn’t make it forward. Jarom Eubanksfollows with an upsettingly bad version of “Losing My Religion,” and then comes Michael J. Woodard, who is admittedly as awkward as his predecessors. He stumbles through the first couple of notes, and you want to root for him because it feels like something is there. And when he tears into the meat of Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain,” Michael makes good on all that awkwardness. With three votes yes, he moves onto Hollywood.
Next up, we have a nice white girl with braids who teaches Luke Bryan to do some really unfortunate dance moves. But we’re from the same neck of the woods (what’s up Johnson City!), so I have to root for her. Her name is Brielle Rathburn, and she chooses “Gravity,” which hasn’t fared well for many people this season, but Brielle locks in enough support that she heads to Hollywood. Next up, we have Carly Moffa, who moved to Nashville to pursue her dream as a singer, and it turns out she’s running out of money fast. Her dad thinks she needs to move home, but her mom is all about Carly’s career. Carly decides to sing an original song (yikes!) and says, “I let the lion out!” a lot. The song? Not the best. The voice? Pretty good. She gets her golden ticket and her mom loses it. (Next: Seriously, judges?)
Next up we have Ayana “Rose” Lawson, who has quite a backstory. Her family has been homeless for a few years, and she had to grow up pretty fast. But she takes on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” in a performance that’s a pretty wonderful combination of guitar and voice. And in a really startling turn, she gets three no votes. Way harsh, y’all. Samuel Swanson follows up Rose’s devastating departure in jewelry and a head wrap because I’m in love. He grew up in Alabama, but he’s a New Yorker now, and he’s ready for the next step. Samuel tackles “Let’s Stay Together.” The judges send him to Hollywood, even though he clearly has a place to stay. I’m sorry, I’m just like…not getting over this Rose situation. Judges are out there giving tickets to Hollywood like free gym membership trials, but they can’t give Rose a pass to Hollywood? Chill out, judging panel. While I was typing this, a truly bad singer didn’t get through. Justice is trying to be restored, I guess.
On the final day of judging, Luke Bryan is all fired up because a Georgia Bulldogs game is on, and he can’t focus. But Jurnee can’t be bothered because she has an audition and a New All-American Story. Jurnee has a wife named Ashley who’s about to deploy with the Army. Mind you, Jurnee is 18, so this whole situation is all kinds of intense, but fine, sure, I’m here for it. She sings “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Regardless of Jurnee being a married 18-year-old and me deciding to be strangely judgmental about that, she does a pretty solid Andra cover, and there’s no reason to call it premature. Jurnee goes to Hollywood. And then Luke Bryan decides to crash a local wedding because he heard they’re fans of him. What a time.
But here’s the thing: Ada Vox is the real show. Ada auditioned as Adam Sanders back in season 12 and got a lot of negative feedback for being perceived as gay and for being a bit more effeminate. It was enough that it almost drove Adam to commit suicide, but instead of that, he bucked up and showed up harder than ever before. Trolls? Well, screw the trolls because Adam is gone. Ada Vox is here, and she’s a beautiful drag queen. And when Katy is curious, Luke pulls up a picture of Adam from the season 12 auditions. But again, this is now, girl. And with an INSANE version of “House of the Rising Sun,” it’s pretty clear that Ada can make it through. I’m not saying that the makeup is perfect because BLEN. DING. MATTERS. But I have big dreams for Ada, and if we can keep getting those kind of songs…I think Ada is going to crush it. Get ready, America. Success is a drag, queen.
Starting Monday, 169 hopefuls will move on to Hollywood week. Who are you rooting for? Don’t you wish that one person in the comments would stop posting the final 14? Have you said the word “wig” since Katy said it three weeks ago? All questions that I can’t answer for you! Let us know, and we’ll see you tomorrow for the next stage of this big ol’ American dream.
Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.