Oh, friends, I am a little embarrassed to admit that Idol totally got me with that Maddie Poppe prank. They introduce an extreme goth chick as “Lady Mapo” and I thought, here we go with Idol needlessly mocking people, and then she starts singing and rips off her wig and there is that little pop star we know and love! I was had! I’ll blame it on the fact that we are in hours nine and ten of auditions. Maddie’s not the only contestant from last year to show up—her boyfriend and runner up Caleb Lee Hutchinson pops by with a friend who is auditioning (but surprisingly does not make it through) and both Catie Turner and Dennis Lorenzo stop in to say hi. This last installment of auditions isn’t the strongest one we’ve seen, singing-wise, but overall it’s a nice celebration of the series to lead us into Hollywood Week.
Before we get there, though, let’s see who else will be joining the rest of those golden ticket holders.
Jade Flores, 22, Waxahachie, Tex.
“Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter
Well, what a little bubble of joy Jade Flores is. She’s so excited to be on this show, singing for Miss Katy Perry, that honestly I worried this was another joke audition. But it’s not! She just loves life that much. And you know what? She deserves some good things. She shows off her authentic country voice and makes it easy for the judges. There’s talent, there’s personality, there’s a ticket to Hollywood.
Christiaan Padavan, 19, Hampton Bays, N.Y.
“Vienna” by Billy Joel
You know when I decided I couldn’t love Luke Bryan any more than I already do? When he heard Christiaan was from the Hamptons, saw him wearing a popped collar, and the only question he had was, “Do rich ladies loaded up on wine hit on you?” Luke’s the best. But we’re here for Christiaan. The power in his voice is surprising! With one note the judges know they’re sending him through, so they spend the rest of the time embarrassing Christiaan’s girlfriend by having her come in and sing too—she’s not bad but Christiaan will pay for that.
Ryan Hammond, 25, Modesto, Calif.
“Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith
Ryan, who like Katy Perry grew up singing in church, struggled with his weight his whole life and recently lost 170 pounds after having weight loss surgery—a surgery which almost killed him. Katy calls him a miracle and once he starts singing, tells him he sings like a miracle, too. She wants him to work on smoothing out his runs, and Luke also mentions some technical issues, but overall the judging panel is impressed. Emotion will trump technical perfection every time, Idol hopefuls!
Chloe Channell, 16, Pace, Fla.
“Stupid Boy” by Keith Urban
You guys, remember when Keith Urban was an Idol judge and openly wept all the time? I miss Keith. I’m excited to see Chloe choose one of his songs for her audition. As if she needs any more country star magic in her corner. She’s friendly with Mr. Kenny Rogers, who then hooked her up with 90s country stud Billy Dean to teach her everything she knows. Billy plays guitar for her audition. Both Luke and Lionel are like, little lady you don’t even know how good you got it. She’s another tiny, perky country singer to add to the list in Hollywood. The true test doesn’t come until they all start competing against one another.
(Recap continues on page 2…)
Emma Kleinberg, 21, Bel Air, Md.
“American Privilege” by Allen Stone
Perhaps the reason I miss Keith and his tears so much is because they made me feel so comfortable with my level of crying. Here comes Emma and her brother Alex, who is bipolar and suffered a traumatic brain injury after attempting suicide during a manic episode. Emma has such a positive outlook on the whole thing and the love between them is so strong, I am a mess. Anyway, her singing is great, too. There’s a cool rasp to her voice and as Luke points out, she picked a song that really showcased everything she has to offer. She’s only 21, but she has the confidence and control of a longtime pro.
Zebulon Spencer, 27, Dudley Shoals, NC
“Porch Swing Angel” by Muscadine Bloodline
From the state championship title in clogging to American Idol contestant. That is a journey, Zeb. Even better, Zeb’s just met his biggest fan: Luke tells the country singer that he has the best country voice he’s heard both this and last season. That’s, um, bold, Mr. Bryan. Even Katy “Top 10 Material” Perry is like, maybe hold off on that? All three of the judges see potential in him, and ultimately, that’s what earns him his trip to Hollywood.
Jorgie, 23, Los Angeles, Calif.
“Heaven” by Jorgie and the Jorgies
Even just reading that header you must be thinking this is a joke audition, right? But this is serious, people. Jorgie came to L.A. from Israel after growing tired of having to live in the closet amongst his conservative family. This audition is him coming out to his family. His voice isn’t the best we’ve heard but it is certainly surprising, especially after that Katy Perry impression he does to kick things off. It’s not great, Bob. But it does lead to Katy doing an impression of Luke that is truly beyond my wildest dreams and I will be watching it on replay. What a gift!
Nick Merico, 22, Miami, Fla.
“Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
Katy finally finds her crush! I mean, she waited long enough, didn’t she? Nick is a former child actor pursuing his true passion for music and when he walks into the room, Luke immediately calls him “a hunkosaurus.” When Luke notices a handsome man, you know the guy has a presence in the room. He also performs his audition from the piano and gives a sultry little spin on the Amy Winehouse song. This kid knows what he’s doing and it works.
Jackson Gillies, 19, Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Make It Rain” by Foy Vance
If you thought Idol was going to end this round without one last Sad Story, I feel like you haven’t been paying attention. The final audition belongs to Jackson, a young man who has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since he was three, and at 14 was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease called Hidradenitis suppurativa that causes deep, painful skin abscesses. When he was first diagnosed, he couldn’t walk for two weeks. But music saved him and the genuinely positive guy comes to share his gift with the judges. They warn Jackson that there is some stiff competition this season and he’ll have to bring it every single time if he wants to succeed, but they see real potential in him. We’re closing up shop on a hopeful note.
And thus ends the auditions. I’m so proud of us. Now it’s time for the hard part. See you guys in Hollywood!