The ‘Idol’ hopeful known as ‘The Sauce’ returns with more seasoning and leaves with a golden ticket to Hollywood

Turns out Season 16 returnees Kay Kay, Tippy Balady, Isaac Streetman and Payton Taylor aren’t the only familiar faces from last season going to Hollywood.  The fourth Season 17 tryout round on Sunday marked the return of “the Sauce.” Or rather judge Katy Perry’s sauce. Florida teen Alyssa Raghu (short for Raghunandan) sneaked into the room as Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan attempted to block Perry’s view from seeing one of her faves from last season’s show who got into the top 24.

Unlike the foursome mentioned, we got to hear Raghu belt out a full -throated rendition of VV Brown‘s “Shark in the Water” while she played a guitar. It only took Perry a few seconds to know that “my sauce” was back and — the good news — better than ever. Last time around, she sang Ariana Grande‘s “Almost Is Never Enough” and Perry enthusiastically predicted she would make it into the top 10. The makers of Ragu spaghetti sauce even  got on the bandwagon and sent her a bunch of logo merch including tote bags and T-shirts.

SEE ‘American Idol’ Winners: Where Are They Now (Seasons 1 – 16)?

But her journey ended after a so-so attempt at Coldplay’s “Yellow” and kept her from making the Top 14.  How did she improve? As background footage showed, practice, practice, practice. She took dancing classes, performed live at over 200 shows and was home-schooled so she could focus better on her singing and develop more stage presence. Lionel weeps (as he does), Bryan gets goosebumps and Katy is proud that her sauce took their suggestions to heart and made it work.

“I didn’t come this far to only come this far. When I got eliminated, I realized it was very new to me.” Alyssa tells them. “And every single critique you gave me, I worked on that for the past year.” She tells Katy she feels so much more comfortable when she performs. “You told me I had to figure out who I was. I know I am Alyssa Raghu and I’m a pop star.”

SEE ‘American Idol’ Season 17 schedule: When are the live shows and grand finale?

When she goes up a register during a line in “Shark in the Water,” Lionel states in a proud papa voice, “She couldn’t do that last year.” Katy generously gives her one last piece of honest advice: “The guitar playing still isn’t at the level of your voice,” and she tells her to switch to an accompanist. And you just know she will. Below is her audition from last year. Compare and contrast!

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