The penultimate American Idol auditions episode of the season opens with a strategically planned announcement of Katy Perry’s pregnancy — or, as Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie tease, the soon-to-be arrival of a “fourth judge.” How sweet.
With that out of the way, the contestants come fast, furious and full of backstories. That said, there are so many wannabe-Idols this time around that many get relegated to montages.
For instance, there’s high school student Makayla Phillips, 17, from Temecula, California, smooth crooner Devon Alexander, 22, from Sonora, California and dental school student Daniel La Rota, 24, from Birmingham, Alabama. They all make it through, but we can’t leave out Oahu, Hawaii’s Lou Dawg, 23, who has absolutely no idea who Lionel, Katy and Luke are, nor can he remember their names. Despite almost winning over the three of them with his original Jack Johnson-esque guitar-pop number, it’s a no for the clueless surfer. Bummer, dude.
Others we see fly by quickly include 22-year-old Oregon phlebotomist Emma Kate, Phoenix chalk artist Marcus Tinsley (who brings a pig with him) and Chase Jericho, 28, who is accompanied by the world’s sassiest violinist.
The first noteworthy hopeful of the evening, who we likely have a fair chance of seeing again as things move forward, is Mosean from Springfield, Missouri. The 23 year old had the misfortune of being the one to find his dead father two years ago, after he’d died from a drug overdose. With a child of his own to care for, Mosean is determined to lift himself out of his life circumstances and find a path to success.
All of his emotion pours through as he sings his original blues number, “Slipped Away.” Luke and Katy tell Mosean that he has “it,” and they want to invest in pushing him along in the competition. “Your talent is your way out of all this madness,” Lionel promises him. And with that, Mosean is off to La La Land.
Kat Luna & Alejandro Garrido
Kat is 19 and from Miami. She’s joined at the hip, not to mention heart, by her 26-year-old boyfriend Space Cowboy aka Alejandro Garrido aka Alejandro Cortez, from Pembroke Pines, Florida. Seriously, he can’t seem to settle on one name… but it doesn’t matter, because the tattoo-sleeved church-crooning cowboy is so damn good looking, I want to eat my remote control, no matter what he’s called.
By the way, remember the actual artist, Space Cowboy, of Lady Gaga “Starstruck” fame? And Gaga’s 2010 hit single “Alejandro”? Well, in keeping with the theme, Kat and Alejandro do a joint audition with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-winning A Star Is Born duet “Shallow.” Katy winds up comparing Kat to Dua Lipa, while Lionel tells the two of them, “I’ve never seen two people compliment each other so well.” The cute couple is of course on their way to Hollywood.
Sophia’s parents were both musicians. The 20 year old’s mom, Naomi Star, passed away a few years back and used to sing backup for the Moody Blues and Belinda Carlisle.
Sophia channels all the feelings from her loss into her rendition of Bishop Briggs’ “Water,” which she belts out while playing piano. Luke and Katy note the singer’s professional tone, with the latter saying her mother would be proud. Lionel tells Sophia she has several things working in her favor. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing her again this season.
Miami native Jimmy is 21 and comes from a long line of psychics. “I see dead people,” he proclaims, sans irony, ahead of his nerve-wracked, wobbly audition with Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” Katy thankfully stops him mid-song and asks him to do something a cappella. He goes with a Tori Kelly tune, which turns his fortune around in the eyes of the judges.
Luke and Lionel are a firm yes. Katy says yes, also, but warns that Jimmy will need a lot of work. Incidentally, the contestant tells the camera that his mother saw him snagging a ticket in a vision, seven years prior. Spooky.
Sixteen-year-old high school student Olivia is cute as a button and brings her entire dance squad along as support. She knocks Tori Kelly’s “Language” out of the park, which causes Katy to declare, “You are a delight. You have such a joy and positivity around you.“
Honestly, Olivia has one of the best voices we’ve heard so far this season. Given her dance background, she hopefully won’t get swallowed up during the dreaded Hollywood round.
Costa Mesa, California secretary Maria, 27, is wheelchair-bound due to a disability that leaves her muscles too weak for her body to properly use. That ain’t stopping this spirited singer, though. Marna zooms right in and wins Lionel, Katy and Luke over with her bubbly personality. She then gives a solid take on Lady Gaga’s ballad “Million Reasons.”
Luke compliments Marna’s incredible range and tells her she just needs to have a bit more cry in her voice. Katy then proceeds to coach her through a quick vocal lesson, before the 27 year old is handed her golden ticket.
Another singer filled with personality is Compton, California’s Tavia Smith, 29, who rolls in with her “girl-tarist” Terry. Though the pair have personality in abundance, Tavia’s lack of experience singing in public unfortunately shows through during her audition with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” The judges tell “T & T” to go gig around as a duo and get more practice.
Things go much better for Zack Dobbins, an 18-year-old from West Virginia who plays guitar and has an old-soul voice reminiscent of Kurt Cobain. Likewise, 26-year-old Ren Patrick triumphs with her emotional version of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” She explains that her ex, who she was with for eight years, made her feel worthless, and Katy even encountered the two of them at a party in Los Angeles, where the pop star apparently quipped to Ren, “Ugh, girl — dump him.” And that she finally did.
Lionel tells Ren, “As my grandmother used to say, the best form of revenge is success.” On that note, Ren sails on through to the next round.