Eddy Chen/ABC
TV Show
S16 E1
March 11, 2018 at 10:00 PM EDT

American Idol is back, despite having a very overwrought goodbye just a couple of years ago. But we live in the time of reboots, and if there’s anything that is truly American at this time in media, it’s to let something barely take its last breath before resuscitating it. This is American Idol!

So, we open on the voice of Carrie Underwood, because thank God we can still depend on her. She introduces us to the concept of what American Idol is and why it’s important, and then we completely gloss over Ryan Seacrest for a little bit because yeah. That leads us to our new panel of judges: Lionel Richie, “All Night Long” singer and father to great character actress Nicole, leads the panel of three. To his left is Katy Perry, America’s Teenage Dream and also purveyor of internet teen slang. And to her left is Luke Bryan, who is likely on a dirt road at this very moment. But American Idol isn’t about these three! It’s about finding the next great American singer, like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood or Crystal Bowersox. Okay, two out of three is not bad.

We start off auditions in New York. First up is Catie Turner, who is a self-proclaimed strange girl. She is a lot of energy. Catie decides to sing her own song, called “21st Century Machine,” which is historically a TERRIBLE decision. But after a rough start, she’s actually really good, and the song is legitimately worth a listen. Luke Bryan says yes, tentatively, as long as she agrees not to read what anyone says about her. But here’s the thing, Catie, if you’re reading. You are a strange bird. And sometimes that’s exactly what makes a good songwriter. So do your weird thing, girl.

Ron Bultongez shows up next, and he’s got quite a story: He’s an American immigrant from the Congo and is also the survivor of an abusive home. Luke Bryan says Ron is what this country represents, which is honestly super refreshing; good for Luke. Ron sings James Bay’s “Let It Go” and gets a yes from Luke but a no from Katy. It comes to Lionel, and he says no, too. Sorry Ron. But then Luke says he should have fought harder for him, and Lionel agrees because THIS IS AMERICA, LAND OF OPPORTUNITY. AT LEAST ON ABC.

Maddie Roppe sings “Rainbow Connection” and gives some low-key Brandi Carlile vibes — and she gets through, too. And then there’s Koby, who shows up with some crazy pants and a musical theater background. She’s also singing an original song, but it doesn’t feel as hopeful as Caty’s. The whole thing feels like Rachel Berry exploded. When Katy tries to tell her it’s not working, Koby just disagrees entirely.

After Koby, we head down to Nashville, where we relive a total disaster from six years ago. Harper Grace completely botched the national anthem and went viral for how terrible it was. But instead of giving up, she’s heading to Idol. My anxiety is palpable. She decides to sing an original song because these kids are trying to kill me. Turns out, she’s not terrible anymore. She follows up that with a song by Khalid, and you know what? Good for Harper Grace. She’s going to Hollywood.

Following Harper is Layla Spring, who’s here with her adorable sister, Dyxie. Yes, Dyxie with a Y. Dyxie performs “Blue,” even though she is an actual infant, and all of the judges vote yes and offer her a ticket for 2026. This is going to be TERRIBLE if Layla doesn’t make it. Layla chooses “Who’s Lovin’ You?” by the Jackson 5. She’s clearly not the best singer in the world, but she’s not bad. It leaves the judges hung a bit, but the vote comes down in her favor. Layla is going to Hollywood.

Benjamin Glaze is up next. He’s a cashier because that is how he thinks he can pick up girls. When he says he’s never kissed a girl (because you have to be in a relationship), Katy demands he kiss her on the cheek, and then she steals his first kiss! He’s so verklempt. And it shows during his audition, which is why all three judges say no. But he got a kiss from Katy Perry, and he tells his mom, and she gives him a high five. And that’s straight culture.
(Recap continues on page 2)

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