American Idol recap: Have we already met some front-runners?
This is getting exciting, Idol friends. It's only our second audition outing, but already it looks like there are some real contenders for the season 19 crown. Honestly, if a few of the contestants below don't make it into the Top 10, what are we even doing here? Unfortunately, with so many golden tickets being handed out, there have to be some rejections handed out as well. In this round of auditions, the judges meet Ace Stiles, a 16-year-old who came out as transgender two years prior. His voice is intimate and stylized, and the judges think he needs a little more time to develop his talent. He is so close it's heartbreaking! Thankfully, there are some big wins for contestants betting it all on American Idol in the mix, too. Here's the next batch of singers we'll be seeing again in Hollywood. Some might surprise you — in both good and bad ways. So that's fun.
Amanda Mena / 18 / Boston, Mass.
"Golden Slumbers" by The Beatles
Idol wastes zero time getting into a great audition. Can Amanda Mena sing me this song every night? Just kidding, then I'd be crying all the time. Her rendition of this Beatles song is so freaking gorgeous! There's so much control here, and her higher register sounds strong. It's an easy yes — the judges would like to see more from Amanda.
Liahona Olayan / 16 / Wahiawa, Hawaii
Ammon Olayan / 17 / Wahiawa, Hawaii
"Listen to My Heart" by Liahona and Ammon Olayan
Well, look at these two nuggets! A sibling duo! They're the oldest of eight kids, and they write songs together, and they have a sibling handshake. How nice! They decide to sing an original together for their audition, and although I'm usually anti-original songs, this one is a jam. Liahona is the real stand-out — even Luke is pretty sure they could take her to record a song right now and get her on the radio — but the judges decide to send both Olayan kids to Hollywood. We'll see how they do solo!
Anthony Guzman / 27 / Santa Rosa, Calif.
"Cry Me a River" by Julie London
"Never judge a book by its cover," says Katy Perry once she realizes that they will definitely be sending this man, dressed as a Viking and wielding Thor's hammer, through to Hollywood. Anthony might not be the best audition of the episode (Luke doesn't think his audition was a "huge artist moment" and votes "no" on Hollywood), but that Viking can sing! He'll need to show off a few more tricks to last in Hollywood, but his voice sounds nice and smooth on this jazz classic. Both Katy and Lionel vote him through but pretty much give him the same advice moving forward: lose the gimmick and take your talent seriously.
Hannah Everhart / 17 / Canton, Miss.
"Wayfaring Stranger" by Johnny Cash / "At Last" by Etta James
Hannah Everhart — truly, a Country Katy Perry, as the ladies decide during the audition — will be an interesting one to watch during Hollywood week. She's naturally gifted, but the judges agree that she needs to push herself more. Her nerves seem to come into play as well, and Luke ends up stopping her part-way through her song because he sees her self-consciously trying to figure out how the judges are reacting. When she admits that originally she was going to perform "At Last" but wanted to play it safe, the judges want her to sing that for them, too. Doesn't she know saying you're going to "play it safe" is blasphemy in a singing competition? She reveals much more depth to her voice and shows off a little more energy in this second song. The judges move her forward to the next round, but tell her to come prepared to work.
Calvin Upshaw / 26 / Marks, Miss.
"Falling Out" by Calvin Richardson
Idol's coming for your emotions tonight. Calvin has arrived at the American Idol auditions looking for a second chance in life. He spent some time in prison and wants to change the path his life was on, not just for him but for his young son, as well. Calvin wants to be a positive example for him. His audition is a little all over the place, technically-speaking, but there is something engaging and emotional there. The judges realize someone like Calvin could really benefit from Hollywood week, and they are more than eager to hand over a ticket. It will be "the experience of a lifetime," Lionel assures him.
Casey Bishop / 15 / Estero, Fla.
"Live Wire" by Mötley Crüe / "My Funny Valentine" by Sarah Vaughan
Who is this person, and can we just automatically send her through to the semi-finals? Casey says that she's never really performed outside of singing in her bathroom, so when she opens her mouth and starts belting out a Mötley Crüe song, it's startling. She has so much power and nuance for someone with seemingly zero training. Besides loving rock music, Casey also dabbles in jazz, so the judges ask to hear her sing something from that genre. She goes with Sarah Vaughan's version of "My Funny Valentine" and somehow sounds even better than she did on the rock song. The dynamics in this song really show off what she can do. Luke compares it to the surprise and excitement that came from Alejandro Aranda's audition. "I think she's the damn winner of American Idol, period," he says.
Yurisbel / 25 / Miami, Fla.
"Fireball" by Pitbull
I certainly have a soft spot for anyone who refers to himself as "a walking empanada." Still, I was truly surprised when Lionel and Luke gave Yurisbel the go-ahead for Hollywood Week simply because he's such a good time. He definitely brings the party — he even gets Luke Bryan up and dancing. And then down on the floor dancing. This show has gone off the rails at this point. Katy says that she thinks "it's fun, but [she doesn't] think anyone would ever trust [her] again" if she voted "yes." The boys don't seem to have that problem. They want to bring the dancing to Hollywood Week.
Chayce Beckham / 24 / Apple Valley, Calif.
"What Brings Life Also Kills" by Kolton Moore and the Clever Few
Chayce seems like a shoo-in to go pretty far on this show (Katy declares him "Top 5"). He's a forklift driver, he's had some dark times recently, and it was his family who pushed him to bet on himself and audition. He's got a great rasp to his voice and immediately hits you with the emotion of the song without even trying. Luke Bryan is clapping within the first line; he's so excited. Afterward, he does tell Chayce to work on keeping the audience emotionally engaged throughout the entire song, but otherwise, he's in. Lionel loves how "believable" Chayce is. He gets three "yes" votes without any hesitation.
Cassandra Coleman / 24 / Columbia, Tenn.
"The Way It Was" by The Killers / "Apologize" by OneRepublic
Cassandra performs a lot for her social media followers, but singing to an audience face-to-face is something new and scary. Like Casey though, you'd never know it once she starts singing. Lionel tells Cassandra that her voice is "about as angelic as it's going to get" and Luke loves how natural of a performance she gave. It was an easy listen and that's not something they get from everyone who walks on the Idol oval. They ask Cassandra if she's also a musician and she claims she's a self-taught, mediocre piano player, but then she sits at the piano and easily crushes a OneRepublic song. I'm already looking forward to hearing Cassandra sing again in Hollywood.
Willie Spence / 21 / Douglas, Ga.
"Diamonds" by Rihanna
Willie! Willie had a health scare not too long ago and is working on getting himself healthier. Since then, he's working on other goals, too: going after a singing career. He's almost in tears as he tells the judges that he doesn't "see [himself[ being anything but a singer." The guy has a powerful, crystal clear voice, and he nails this Rihanna song. Luke says that he never wanted the performance to end; he was enjoying it so much. Lionel tells Willie that he had chills from the first note and was impressed by his phrasing choices. He calls him "an undeniable star." That's a good audition, people.
We still have several audition episodes to go, but do you see any front-runners in this bunch?