“American Idol” returned on March 11, with the same format and host (Ryan Seacrest) but on a new network (ABC) and with three new famous faces as judges: pop princess Katy Perry, country superstar Luke Bryan and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie.
Over its first 15 seasons on FOX, this reality-competition series made stars out of some of the winners (like season 4 champ Carrie Underwood) and judges (Simon Cowell became a household name and producer of such hits as “America’s Got Talent”). Kelly Clarkson, the very first winner of “American Idol” way back in 2003, just started as a judge on NBC’s “The Voice.”
While that show doesn’t reveal the identity of the contestants until after the judges have listened to them sing, “American Idol” has the hopefuls facing the panel face forward. These audition episodes make for must-see TV as much for the awful acts as the ones that sound and look like they could go all the way.
Once the live playoffs of “American Idol” season 16 begin on April 22, you will be able to predict the outcome of each episode in our predictions center. You can already make forecasts for the outcomes on such reality TV shows as “Survivor,” plus the winners of the Academy of Country Music Awards and both the daytime and primetime Emmy Awards.
Below, follow along with all the action on the March 12 episode of “American Idol.”
8:10 p.m. – Night two of auditions are officially underway as the judges stop in New York to kick off this episode. The first to audition tonight is an overwhelmed 15-year old named Mara Justine with an ambitious song choice of “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna. Her voice is pure, folksy and effortless and the judges quickly agree she is off to Hollywood. That was easy! Hopefully she’s a sign of great things to come tonight.
8:15 p.m. – Next up is another trio of teenagers including Andrew Weaver who is singing “Thinking Out Loud.” Luke compared him to a guitar-playing James Dean. Christina Jones is a passionate soul singer with a voice beyond her years that Luke called a “true thing of beauty.” Finally, Griffin Tucker, a blonde-haired surfer looking adolescent confidently accompanied himself on piano. All three were sent straight through to Hollywood.
8:20 p.m. – William Casanova raised the maturity level as the 26-year old belted out Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” He’s got a classic soul voice and easily hit all the right notes. Lionel felt he was a little nervous, but the possibilities are endless. Katy said he had a great voice and hit all the notes perfectly. I think he’s good, but will have to find a way to differentiate himself among other R&B voices in the music industry. Regardless, he deservedly received a golden ticket to Hollywood.
8:30 p.m. – The judges head out to Los Angeles for the next set of auditions looking for the best of the best in entertainment. Michelle Sussett is originally from Venezuela, which Luke can’t even pronounce. She considers herself a show woman who likes to make people dance, laugh and have a good time. She sings completely in Spanish while dancing around the floor, before turning on some background music and soliciting the judges to join her. Michelle might be more “show” than voice, but at least she’s entertaining. Katy fell over while dancing and had ask Lionel and Luke to pick her up off the floor. Katy thinks Michelle will make people happy, Lionel loves her personality and Luke said she could be a force to be reckoned with. The judges give the fearless entertainer a “yes” to Hollywood! I have to give Michelle credit for turning what looked like a potentially humiliating audition into something entertaining.
8:40 p.m. – Back in New York (they really jump all over the place editing this season) the next to sing for the judges is Misha Gontar. He’s a Ukrainian singer/songwriter who is singing a bizarre song nobody can understand. He’s an odd fellow, but somehow has an ability to entertain. Lionel said Misha just doesn’t fit into the “American Idol” basket and the judges ultimately send him home.
8:45 p.m. – I have high hopes for the next contestant who is a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Just 21-years old, Brandon Diaz is a long-haired rocker accompanying himself on guitar. He’s influenced by his father, a Cuban immigrant who is a singer himself. Brandon is singing “Unaware,” and he effortlessly nails the falsetto notes while simultaneously showing off power and emotion. This kid has a ton of charisma and is easily one of the best auditions of the season. Lionel was amazed by Brandon’s falsetto. Luke said he went too high. Katy said he’s the best male singer they’ve had so far and thinks he’s top 10 material. Brandon is off to Hollywood as a serious threat.
8:55 p.m. – Up next is Trevor Holmes, a swoon-worthy 27-year old heartthrob with a crush on Katy. Despite his girlfriend standing next to him, Trevor has no problem admitting this. He may be in luck, because halfway through his intro, Katy interrupted him to say he’s “so hot” and told him not to respect her haha. What does that even mean?She said if he doesn’t make it to Hollywood, he could just come hang out with her. Let’s see if he can sing! The verdict is in and Trevor has a romantic, warm tone as he strums the guitar and turns Katy into a gushing schoolgirl. I’m pretty sure Trevor’s girlfriend is going to dump him after this, but he made it to Hollywood!
9:05 p.m. – Down in New Orleans, the judges are setting up shop in Mardis Gras World to find authentic talent from the Bayou. First up in the Big Easy is Laine Hardy, a shy teenager singing “Hurricane.” He’s got a raspy voice that is so unique and cool! Without even trying this kid sounds like a star. Luke said if Laine’s not careful he might end up winning “American Idol.” The judges said there is fire in his vocal cords and he’s off to Hollywood! I’m excited to see where this young kid goes in the competition.
9:10 p.m. – Next up is what Katy calls a glamazon, Autumn Woods, singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Autumn has zero musicality had to be stopped by Katy. “Not tonight sugar plum!” was Luke’s response. From that point on a series of average to purely awful singers were shown being turned down.
9:15 p.m. – Gabbii Jones is next, whose father gave her 30 days to become a star before he sends her back to school. Gabbii is a spitfire and I love her sass. Singing “Dangerous Woman,” I have to admit I was hoping for more, but she does have potential. She has confidence to spare and a raspy, soulful voice but lacks some musicality. Lionel was more moved than myself and immediately stood up to hug her. He said there are things they can tone down, but the basic core of Gabbii is exciting. I’m cautiously optimistic for Gabbii, but she’s going to have to work hard to advance to the live shows. Gabbii’s headed to Hollywood! It’s hard not to like her.
9:25 p.m. – Hoping for a shortcut to super-stardom is Cameron Theodos, an energetic rocker that I think is a breath of fresh air this season. They need more contestants with a bit of an edge to them. The judges aren’t blown away by him, but sent him to Hollywood. I think he has potential and they shouldn’t count him out.
9:30 p.m. – Up next is Thaddeus Johnson who first auditioned during Season 9. Since then he has lost over 160 pounds. After hitting 390 pounds, Thaddeus considered taking his own life, but thankfully was able to turn his life around. He is singing his mantra song, “Don’t You Worry Child.” His voice is rich, powerful and full of range. Once again, Lionel stands up to hug Thaddeus. Inspired by his performance, the judges send him to Hollywood but Katy warned him he needs to show who he is as an artist.
9:40 p.m. – Next is a small-town girl who works in her family’s furniture store in Oklahoma and has always dreamed of being on “American Idol.” I have to say, this show does a much better job of connecting the audience to the contestants than “The Voice” does, which seems to be more about the judges. I was skeptical about this coming back, but I’m enjoying it. Rissa Watson is singing “When We Were Young” by Adele. Rissa has a fantastic understanding of musicality and the voice of an angel. Luke said she doesn’t need the guitar, her voice is the instrument that counts. Katy said Rissa gave her goosebumps all over her body. She’s headed to Hollywood!
9:50 p.m. – Garrett Jacobs is the next American Idol if his grandmother has anything to say in the matter! She’s always been his number one supporter and says he has a heart of gold. He’s a great looking guy with a ton of charisma and charming personality. He is playing “It’s a Man’s World,” which is no joke of a song. He’s got an odd voice that’s a bit nasally and he just doesn’t have the soul to pull this song off. The judges are blown away, but I don’t get it! He’s a nice kid but his looks are everything. Vocally he leaves much to be desired, but he’s off to Hollywood.
10:00 p.m. – We are down to the final audition of the night so let’s hope it’s a great one. Walking before the judges with the help of crutches is David Francisco, a 25-year old who was hit by a car after moving to Nashville and paralyzed from the waist down. By some miracle, David gradually regained some movement and feeling in his legs. After showing his inspiring story, David performed “Isn’t She Lovely.” He’s got a great voice! It’s a gritty, high-pitched tone in the vein of Stevie Wonder. As he sang, Katy burst into tears and became a blubbering mess. Lionel just can’t stop with the hugs tonight! He embraced David and called him an inspiration. He’s off to Hollywood! And that’s a wrap for night two of auditions on “American Idol.”