Sunday’s edition of “American Idol” is the fourth of five episodes showcasing the audition phase of the competition. On March 17, we will see another 12 hopefuls singing for the three judges — Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie — in the hopes of being given a ticket to Hollywood. In advance of Sunday’s show, be sure to check out our rundown of all the contestants who auditioned on night 4 of season 17.
Which of these dozen will number among the 150 contenders who made it to this next stage? At the end of their whirlwind week in Hollywood, only 40 of them moved on to the next round. That took place at at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Honolulu at the end of January. where they auditioned for judges again. (Spoilers: The men and women who made the Top 40.)
Only half of these acts will make the Top 20. Those artists then performed twice more for the judges: first in solos and then duets with celebrities. In the end, just 14 of them are going to sing on the live shows, which begin on April 17. At this point, you will be able to predict the outcome of each episode of “American Idol” 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.
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8:00 p.m. – The “American Idol” bus continues to tour the country tonight, meeting contestants from all walks of life. Who will impress the judges and make it to Hollywood? Who will humiliate themselves? THIS is “American Idol.” Let’s get started!
8:08 p.m. – We kick things off with a special celebration of Katy’s birthday! Cupcakes, cotton candy and a birthday song from Dolly Parton! What could be better? How about some good singers worthy of a golden ticket? Up first is a big Katy fan by the name of Jessica Whitely. She enters the stage with so much excitement that Katy jokingly called security to take away her “stalker.” Jessica auditioned seven years ago and her vocals were pretty atrocious. Let’s see if she’s gotten any better. She starts off with a pretty obnoxious belt and then goes into playing her guitar along with screaming her original song “Idol.” It’s terrible. Lionel tells her to set down the guitar and sing a cover. She tries “The Box,” which is one of Katy’s songs, and she still sounds like she’s stuck underneath a Ford F-150 and screaming for her life. For a second I thought the judges had completely lost it and were about to send her through, but alas, Jessica was sent packing once again.
8:12 p.m. – Perhaps Jacob Moran is more promising. He’s a small-town Michigan native who grew up in a musical family. He works in a nursing home and regularly entertains the residents. Jacob chose a terrible audition song (“Dangersous” by Ariana Grande), but he has a nice voice. He’s got plenty of vocal tricks and a high voice, but he’s got no experience singing in front of an audience. I’d like to hear him sing something else. Luke compares him to the lead singer from Rascal Flatts and Katy says Jacob has the best voice they’ve heard in Kentucky. Lionel says he’s “dumbfounded” and I think the judges must just be desperate at this point. Jacob is fine, but the gushing is a bit much. Perhaps he can impress me in Hollywood, because that’s where Jacob is heading!
8:20 p.m. – Back in the Los Angeles auditions, we are getting our second glimpse at some returning contestants. Once in a while the judges tell contestants to come back another year and Kay Kay, Tippy Balady, Isaac Streetman and Payton Taylor took them at their word. All were sent to Hollywood, but we didn’t hear any of them sing!
8:25 p.m. – Up next is one of last year’s favorites, Alyssa Raghu. She was eliminated in the Top 24 and hopes to come back stronger than ever this season. She’s been taking dance classes and sung in over 200 shows to prepare herself for this moment. She picks up her guitar and starts performing for the judges. She’s calm, cool and confident as she belts it out for the judges. I find her voice completely average and she struggles with her upper register, but once again the judges overreact. Tears, Lionel? Really? Calm down. Alyssa is sailing to Hollywood, but at least Katy kept it real and criticized her sub-par guitar skills.
8:42 p.m. – After a series of embarrassing auditions, the judges chug coffee trying to stay awake. Then, in walks a tall drink of water by the name of Colby Swift. Colby is a country boy and he’s got jokes! A rough childhood led to Colby turning to his sense of humor to get through the days. His mother abandoned him when he was just nine years old and he hasn’t seen her since (he’s 18 now). Thankfully, Colby’s dad is incredibly supportive and his son’s biggest fan. Singing “Cast No Stones,” Colby is as old-school country as it gets! His voice is a little unrefined and Luke asks him to sing without playing the guitar. The judges want to give Colby a chance, but the kid is all over the place. I would be a hard, fast “No,” but the judges love his personality and his star power. Katy says he needs a LOT of work, but Lionel says he’s got unteachable magnetism. Despite all of his flaws, the judges are taking a chance on Colby and he’s heading to Hollywood!
8:48 p.m. – We are heading out east to New York, where last year’s champ Maddie Poppe auditioned with “Rainbow Connection.” Now, one of the most unique voices I’ve heard this season is taking her shot at stardom. Evelyn Cormier is singing “Wicked Games” and she’s got a seductive, jazzy voice that’s a bit alternative sounding. I love that she has her own sound and she makes interesting phrasing choices without sounding contrived. She’s a total weirdo and I like it a lot! Katy says it’s one of her favorite voices she’s ever heard in her life. Lionel compliments her unique sound. The judges are totally GUSHING. I mean, I liked her, but I feel like the judges are on hallucinogenics or something. Everything is earth-shattering to them. Anyways, Evelyn is deservedly heading to Hollywood!
9:00 p.m. – The next contestant is Ashley Hess, a 27-year old who got a late start to music, which has given her a lot of self-doubt. Pushing her doubts aside, she’s auditioning for the judges with “Don’t Know Why” on the piano. Within seconds, Luke is fist-pumping with excitement. Ashley’s got a pure, gorgeous tone and knows how to work around the musical scales with little effort. Eager for more, the judges pull their chairs next to the piano to get a closer look at Ashley’s talent. Not phased, Ashley nails it again, even with all three of the judges up in her grill. Beautiful! Luke loves her control. Katy thinks she could win. Lionel says she is fabulous. Ashley is off to Hollywood!
9:12 p.m. – “American Idol” loves to get into the odd stories behind each contestant, and now we’re seeing Elizabeth Gaba, who showed up to audition with her mother along with the biological egg donor who made her pregnancy possible. Singing “All I Ask,” Lionel quickly says “Wow” in reaction to Gaba’s average vocal performance. She does improve as the song goes along, but her tone is grating to the ears at times. Overall, it was a solid audition but things get taken up a notch when the egg donor joins in to sing a duet. The judges think it’s “so good,” and Katy begins to cry, but my dog clearly agrees with me because his head tilted to the side when their harmonies went off key. But my dog isn’t a judge and Gaba is heading to Hollywood!
9:23 p.m. – Peach Martine is the next to walk in, singing “Zombie,” with her golden locks perfectly twirled down to her hips. Katy asks if she’s a robot and the judges look absolutely perplexed by her performance. Katy wants her to sing something more soulful and “let go.” The audition was bland, but next she sits at the piano to sing an original. Not the most vocally talented, but at least now we’re seeing some serious personality and Peach has her own sound with this. I would send Peach home immediately. She does nothing for me at all and Katy agrees, but Luke and Lionel send Peach to Hollywood. Katy checks her back to see if she’s actually a robot.
9:35 p.m. -Up next is Dalton Elliott, who has been playing guitar since he was four years old. Now the father of a three-year old, Dalton had put his music behind him to pursue a responsible career in construction. Now he’s giving his dream one more shot. Dalton has a solid country voice, but I feel like we’ve heard a hundred of these already this season! I guess he’s not much worse than the rest of them so they might as well send him to Hollywood too. I’m not impressed, but the judges think he’s a masterful storyteller. Only Katy tells the truth and says his face looks like a beet when he tries to hit high notes. Dalton is off to Hollywood.
9:45 p.m. – The next nervous contestant is Katie Bell, an aspiring actress and model with an interest for the finer things in life. If she wins, Katie thinks she can save the ocean. She’s not sure how, but she will find a way. She’s singing “Golden Slumbers,” the Jennifer Hudson version. Well, she sounds nothing like J-Hud and in fact she sounds awful. Why don’t they STOP HER! I hope they don’t lie to this girl. Luke says “Yes.” Oh, for F’s sake. Lionel says she has a “sound” but it needs to be developed. Well, everyone has a sound! It doesn’t mean they’re a singer. Lionel says “Yes,” and Katy thinks she’s a star in one way or another. Well, it ain’t for singing, but Katie’s going to Hollywood. What is wrong with these judges? Luke collapses and seems to be in love. All I can do is roll my eyes.
9:59 p.m. – Tonight’s final contestant is Lauren Engle, a 27-year old auditioning with her brother-in-law accompanying her on guitar. Last year Lauren and her husband, Garrett, were involved in a terrible car accident and he didn’t survive. After losing him, Lauren realized she has nothing left to do but pursue her dream. She’s singing a song she wrote for her husband called “Compass.” Lauren has a nice country tone to her voice, but she struggles with her upper register. Her backstory was so heartbreaking, I feel like a total jerk for not liking this performance at all, but it’s true. Perhaps she’s just too emotional to sing, but this isn’t good. Katy compliments the lyrics to the song and Lauren’s strength. Despite the imperfections, the judges send her to Hollywood. And that’s a wrap for tonight!