The revival of ‘American Idol’ is here! The highly-anticipated competition series returned with epic auditions and some very unexpected moments. Here’s a rundown of what went down.
The long-awaited American Idol revival has arrived with a fresh makeover and many new faces! The two-hour series premiere opened up with an endearing voiceover about the importance of music from season four’s winning contestant and mega country superstar, Carrie Underwood. New judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie also helped to open up the show by talking about their excitement in joining such a fantastic series that’s influenced so many over the years and what they hope to bring to the table during the season. Ryan Seacrest also talks about his thrilling return as host. Auditions started in New York and definitely brought out all kinds of eager and unique dreamers hoping to get their chance to go to Hollywood and become a big star. Let’s take a look at who got the spotlighted in the premiere episode of what’s sure to be an incredible season!
Catie Turner takes the stage first with nervous yet fun-loving energy. The cute, awkward 17-year-old from Pennsylvania talks about not being popular and fears that Katy will think she’s strange before taking to the stage with her guitar to perform her original song, “21st Century Machine.” The judges impressively smile when she sings the tune, which is about the way the media negatively affected her as a child, with a memorable voice. Katy with a K commends Catie with a C on her “spectacular” songwriting skills, and Luke calls her brilliant beyond her years. Lionel loves the sound of her voice and can’t help but be fascinated with her brain. All three judges vote yes and send an emotional Catie off to Hollywood.
Ron Bultongez walks out to audition next with a guitar in hand and reveals how he spent the first half of his life in Africa before immigrating to the U.S. for safety reasons 10 years ago, with New York being his first taste of America. He touches upon his struggles with an abusive father and how it led him to want to be a better father to his own son. The brave young man sings “Let it Go” by James Bay with an emotionally charged yet delicate voice. Katy expresses that although she knows about his story, she doesn’t know who Ron is yet and only knows his imitation while singing, and Lionel wonders if it’s too soon for him to compete or not. Luke gives Ron a yes, Katy says not yet, and Lionel seals Ron’s fate by holding him back and telling him to come again when he polishes his own identity, which is sure to be fabulous.
But…Ron’s story doesn’t end there. After sending him off the stage, Lionel keeps insisting that he can’t get Ron out of his head, and they want him to come back. As he returns to the stage, Lionel tells Ron that he knows he’s puzzled as to why they brought him back. The judges tell him t’s because he wants to change his vote to a yes, and they send a shocked Ron off to Hollywood giving him a chance to show them what he can do.
Maddie Poppe from Iowa is next, and she strums her guitar while crooning to “Rainbow Connection” from the 1979 film The Muppets Movie. Lionel tells the 20-year-old blonde singer that she has a storyteller voice, while Katy compliments the “distinctive quality” in her vocals. All three judges say yes and send her to Hollywood.
Kobe, a 26-year-old musical theater actress who lives in Colorado, is the next hopeful to sing on stage. The prepared performer, who went to school for opera in college, sings an original song a capella called “Never Stop,” and her high-range vocals leave the judges swinging their heads around and looking like they want to cover their ears with cringing faces. After the intense performance, a feisty Kobe says she’s not leaving without a golden ticket, but Katy takes a stand and tells her she’s “not a pop star” and gives her a no. Kobe then looks to the other two judges for a hopeful yes, but it doesn’t quite go the way she anticipates. Lionel tells her that her “voice is not going to work for records,” and Luke explains that he thinks she’s going the wrong route with the type of music she portrays. Needless to say, Kobe does not get a ticket to Hollywood. She’s not happy about it all.
The next segment of the auditions takes place in the heart of country music, Nashville, Tennessee.
Harper Grace, who made headlines for performing the “worst National Anthem ever” at a 2012 televised major league soccer game when she was just 11 years old, is up first in Music City. The now 16-year-old Texan walks out with her guitar and a dream board she made that includes “try out for American Idol (and maybe WIN)” on the list of her many goals. She decides to sing an original country tune that pleases the judges. Katy tells her the song is “well-written” before Luke asks her to sing one more song. She chooses her own rendition of “Young Dumb & Broke” by Khalid. All three judges compliment Harper on her voice before Katy asks to see her dream board and writes “going to Hollywood” on it, getting her one step closer to winning.
Layla Spring from Kentucky, who has an adorable little sister, Dyxie, who wants to be just like her, looks to impress the judges next. Layla, 16, walks out with 7-year-old Dyxie in tow and explains that they’re going to sing a song together first and then Layla will sing her own song. The eager judges tell them to go ahead and Dyxie takes the lead by singing “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes. After some cheering from the judges, Luke asks Dyxie if they can vote on her to which she laughs and replies, “I don’t care.” All three judges give her a playful yes and a golden ticket to come back when she’s of age in 2026. Layla then continue her audition by belting out “Who’s Lovin’ You” by The Jackson 5. Katy tells Layla that going to Hollywood would be valuable to her because she’d learn so much, and Lionel gets serious by saying that the music business is “a mental game” and not just about looking cute. With a firm mixture of tough love and advice to stay strong, they give her the golden ticket to Hollywood.
Benjamin Glaze, who calls himself socially awkward (especially around girls), walks out on stage next. After proclaiming that he’s never kissed a girl or been in a relationship, Katy playfully demands the Oklahoma native to come up to her. “Come here right now!” she exclaims, while a nervous and shocked Benjamin hesitantly walks over to her. Katy turns her head for him to kiss her on the cheek, but just before he does, she quickly sneaks a kiss on the mouth. Benjamin looks like he’s about to burst with both embarrassment and happiness. “Well, that’s a first!” he says. After taking a minute to recover from the unexpected kiss with deep breaths and some water, the 20-year-old starts singing “Levels” by Nick Jonas. Luke tells him to hone his craft a little more and gives him a no, while Katy calls him sweet but advises him to take a bit more time. Lionel tells him to practice more and come back in a couple of years. Even though he’s not going on to the next round, he scored majorly with the kiss from Katy.
The next set of auditions for the episode is in the land of entertainment, Los Angeles, California.
Nico Bones, a 22-year-old rocker who walks out with an electric guitar and amp, is the first to audition in the City of Angels. He sings the children’s song, “Nobody Likes Me (Guess I’ll Go Eat Worms),” while a horrified looking Katy starts rocking and banging her head. At the end of the performance, Katy hilariously belches before muttering, “I think you’re dope.” Lionel disagrees and tells Nico he’s happy he stopped the song when he did, and Luke wants to hang out and chug a lot of beer with him. Eventually, all judges vote no and Nico heads home.
Noah Davis from Arkansas steps out next, and Katy quickly becomes smitten when they both connect on the slang term “wig.” After talking about how he’ll oddly buy an alpaca if he wins American Idol, the 18-year-old sings “Stay” by Ariana Grande while playing piano. The judges are so touched by his chilling performance that they get up and go give him a hug. Lionel then tells him if he wants an alpaca he can have an alpaca, and they give him the golden ticket.
Alyssa Raghu, a 16-year-old who shows up with the support of her close dad, is up to sing next. The Orlando native chooses “Almost is Never Enough” by Ariana and Nathan Sykes and is brought to tears after she impresses the judges. Katy tells Alyssa that she believes in her, and Luke says she’s “so easy on the ears” before the top 10 contestant gets the clear to go to Hollywood.
Sardor Milano, a 26-year-old Moscow native who was the 2015 winner of The X-Factor Russia, is the next contestant. The Russian checks his pitch before he screamingly sings “I Want You” by Luke James. The judges are speechless. Sardor is on his way out the door with the advice that he’s talented, but he should try out for Broadway or something like it instead.
Zach D’Onofrio is a sock-collecting 16-year-old with a high pitched voice and a dream. He walks out and starts off his audition by gifting socks to all three judges. With a deep tone, he belts out Frank Sinatra‘s “The Way You Look Tonight” and pleasantly surprises the judges. They’re so enamored by the Florida native that it starts a dance party — Katy with Zach and Luke with Lionel. They tell the Harry Potter lookalike that he “puts the ‘u’ in unique” and give him the ticket to Hollywood.
Grace Walker, a 15-year-old from San Juan Capistrano, California, sings “Paris (Ooh La La)” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, but her effort didn’t capture the judges’ hearts, and they tell her to come back next year.
Dennis Lorenzo, closes out the night when he confidently but humbly steps out in front of the judges. After telling the story of his tough upbringing — his father was murdered when he was only 5 — he’s ready to show the judges how music heals him. The 26-year-old strums his beat up acoustic guitar and sings a heartfelt rendition of “Unaware” by Allen Stone. The judges have nothing but kind things to say, and Luke even tells the Philly native that the feeling his singing gives him is the reason he’s a judge. One yes, one heck yes, and one screaming and hollering yes gets Dennis the golden ticket to Hollywood!