‘American Idol’ Recap: A 17-Year-Old Standout Gets The First Platinum Ticket Of Season 21

The judges are looking for music's next big thing in 'American Idol' season 21 and find a frontrunner in the February 19 premiere.

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Happy 21st birthday, American Idol. The long-running singing competition is kicking off season 21 with the first round of auditions. The first contestant of the new season is 16-year-old Haven Madison.

Haven’s dad is the lead singer of a Christian band. “She’s always wanted to be a musician. She’s always wanted this,” her dad says. Haven sings her original song “Fifteen” as her dad plays the guitar. “Your songwriting ability is incredible,” Lionel Richie says. Katy Perry tells Haven that the “vocal decisions you made they were just so on another level. And they’re so you and authentic.” Haven is the first contestant of season 21 to get a golden ticket to Hollywood!

American Idol
Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan in the premiere. (ABC)

Next up is Lucy Love, a 28-year-old mom-of-two from Arkansas. She performs Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through The Grapevine” for the judges. The judges like her voice, but Lionel wants her to strip away all the gimmicks of her performance. Lucy gets a second chance to prove herself and sings Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” Katy and Lionel are on their feet, with Katy even wiping away a tear. Luke Bryan admits that he had written her off, but Lucy “proved me wrong.” Lucy is on her knees as she gets a ticket to Hollywood.

Colin Stough Has The ‘Magic’

Colin Stough is a small-town guy from Mississippi. The 18-year-old has been raised by his mom for most of his life. He strives to break out of his small town and make something of himself. He impresses the judges with his performance of “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Luke declares that Colin is “what American Idol is about.” Katy says Colin has the “magic” stuff they’re looking for.

Colin gets a “yes” from all three judges. “That kid was born to be a star,” Katy says after Colin leaves the room. Outside, Colin bursts into tears over getting a golden ticket.

Lyric Medeiros is the daughter of Glenn Medeiros, the singer of the 1980s hit “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You.” The Hawaii native performs a sweet rendition of Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It.” Katy doesn’t want Lyric to be “cute and safe” with her performance. Lyric sings a second song: Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.”

Michael Williams
Michael Williams during the season 21 premiere. (ABC)

They stop Lyric during the performance. Katy gets up from her seat and “fights” Lyric to see if she can show some grit. There’s a voice there, that’s for sure. But can she compete? Lionel thinks so and wants to see Lyric up against some “brawlers.” Luke doesn’t think she’s ready for the competition. Katy is the deciding vote. “There’s something inside of me that’s like I gotta give her a shot,” she says. Lyric is going to Hollywood!

Zachariah Smith is 19 years old and currently a grill cook at Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory, Mississippi. He stuns the judges with his rendition of “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp. Lionel loves Zachariah’s rasp and growl. Luke tells Zachariah to “burn the apron” because he’s destined for Hollywood. Zachariah easily gets a ticket to Hollywood.

Iam Tongi Brings The Judges To Tears

Iam Tongi has one of the most moving auditions. His dad passed away a few months ago, so he dedicates his gorgeous rendition of “Monsters” by James Blunt to his father. Iam brings Luke and Lionel to tears and receives a standing ovation from all the judges. Katy tells Iam that his voice is “so magnificent.” Luke adds, “You just did everything perfect.” Lionel says, “The story is one thing. Your delivery of your story was phenomenal.” Iam get a “yes” from all the judges — he’s going to Hollywood!

After Katy dresses up as an extravagant Vegas showgirl, Michael Williams walks into the audition room. The 21-year-old performs a dreamy rendition of “Talking to the Moon” by Bruno Mars. Katy is swooning over Michael and throws out names like Shawn Mendes and Harry Styles. “I think you’re top 10 material. I think your vocals are amazing,” Katy tells Michael. Michael’s future is looking very bright because he’s heading to Hollywood Week.

Megan Danielle steps in front of the judges next. The waitress from Georgia has shifted her focus to Christian music. She performs “You Say” by Lauren Daigle. Turns out, Lauren has a show in Vegas and stops by American Idol. She comes in during Megan’s performance and sings with her. It’s a super sweet moment.

“What you have is a real honest rawness,” Luke says to Megan. “It’s like unpolished diamond stuff going on.” Katy follows up with, “You’ve got that girt in your voice. It’s so authentic.” Megan gets a “yes” from every single judge and a golden ticket.

Tyson Venegas Gets The Platinum Ticket

Tyson Venegas
Tyson Venegas in the season 21 premiere. (ABC)

Tyson Venegas is just 17 years old and has traveled from Vancouver to compete on American Idol. He had a speech delay when he was younger and music helped develop his speech. Tyson is a huge fan of Lional. Tyson transcends the audition room with his performance of “New York State of Mind.”

He gets a standing ovation from the judges. “That was amazing,” Lionel says. Tyson’s mom is brought in to hear the judges’ praise. “That performance was spot on perfection,” Lionel adds. Luke tells Tyson that he is “exactly what we look for, what we pray for.” The judges give Tyson the first platinum ticket of the season. This means he’ll coast through one full day of Hollywood Week. Lionel admits that has never “seen anything that gifted” since they got here.

Jack Nicora shows up with his bird named Mango. the 19-year-old is a huge fan of doo wop music and sings “In The Still of the Night” by The Five Satins. While the judges sing along, they don’t think Jack is ready for American Idol. Jack gets a “no” from all 3 judges.

The final performance of the night is from Kya Monee’, who was Willie Spence’s best friend. Willie, the runner-up of season 19, tragically passed away in a car accident in October 2022. Kya was Willie’s duet partner during Hollywood Week that season, and they forged a “very close friendship.”

Kya Monee'
Kya Monee’ in the season 21 premiere. (ABC)

She reveals that 3 days before he passed away, Willie told her that she needed to go back to Idol and chase her dream. “He was supposed to be here with me today,” Kya says. She decides to sing “I’m Here” from The Color Purple, a song she and Willie picked together.

Kya gets emotional during her performance and is full-on crying by the end. She gets a standing ovation from the judges. Lionel gets up and hugs her. “That performance was so emotional, so heartfelt, so divinely guided in the glorious name of our dear brother,” he says. Katy tells Kya that her performance was “on another level,” and she was “connected to the pain.” Kya gets a golden ticket to Hollywood, and you know Willie is somewhere out there so proud she’s still going after her dream.