“American Idol” returns on March 3 for its second season on ABC and 17th overall. As always, Ryan Seacrest is the host of this reality competition series. Returning to the judges table are country superstar Luke Bryan, pop princess Katy Perry and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie. A huge part of the appeal of “American Idol” are the audition episodes, which 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.
Over the course of five episodes (the next airs on Wednesday. March 6), we will see the three judges give upwards of 150 contestants that coveted ticket to Hollywood. By the end of Hollywood Week, the judges will have culled these would-be winners down to just 40. These lucky few who made it to the showcase round got an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii where they auditioned for judges again, this time in front of guests staying at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Honolulu. (Spoilers: The men and women who made the Top 40.)
Only half of them made the cut. Those Top 20 then took turns performing on their own and with celebrity guests. Fourteen of them got put through to the live shows, which begin on April 17. At that point, 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.
Sunday’s two-hour kick-off of season 17, which starts at 8/7c, includes five of the 24 cities that hosted season 17 “American Idol” audition: Coeur d’Alene, ID; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Louisville, KY; and New York, NY. Below, follow along with all the action on the March 3 premiere episode of “American Idol.”
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8:00 p.m. – Unknown singers from around the country are hitting the audition stage of “American Idol” in hopes of becoming America’s next superstar. Another chapter of “American Idol” history begins as Luke, Katy and Lionel travel the country to find the Season 17 winner. Let’s get started!
8:10 p.m. – We’re kicking things off in Louisville, Kentucky with a 20-year old hopeful named Walker Burroughs from Birmingham, Alabama. Walker has orange hair, wire-framed glasses and a quirky disposition. This is probably going to either be a total disaster or one of those auditions that shocks everyone. Singing “Love Like This” by Ben Rector, Walker takes a seat at the piano to show off his musicianship. Okay, the kid can play! He’s got a solid voice as well, perhaps we have a little Elton John on our hands! He sounds a little Broadway, but the judges look impressed and I’m just glad he god Luke to quiet down for a few seconds. Katy found him “natural, cool, effortless and dope.” She already called him Top 10 material and Luke says Walker reminds him of how untalented he is. After being asked to sing a Lionel song, Walker sits down and plays “Hello.” I like any 20-year old who can sing a Lionel Richie song on command, so he passed my test! After handing him his ticket to Hollywood, Katy discovers Walker is a “ginger” and proclaims, “You’re going extinct!”
8:20 p.m. – Let’s check things out in Idaho, which is a first for “American Idol.” Hopefully they have more than potato chips to offer this competition. Johanna Jones is from Las Vegas, but decided to take the hike up to Idaho to audition. So far, Katy is the most entertaining thing about this segment, describing how she met her boyfriend through In-N-Out Burger before inhaling a bag of potato chips and telling Johanna in a deep, possessed voice, “SING!” Johanna complies and in walks a some guy that looks like Clint Eastwood to accompany her. Johanna has a passable voice with completely contrived musical choices. Singing “I’m Not the Only One” by Sam Smith, my guess is the judges will appreciate her ability to carry a tune, but I’d pass on her instantly. As predicted, the judges ate up this performance and called Johanna “the package.” That’s usually code for, “you sound average but you’re gorgeous so you get a Golden Ticket.” Anyways, Johanna’s going to Hollywood!
8:25 p.m. – Following Johanna’s success, we see a collection of misfires from contestants who weren’t so fortunate. Unfortunately, they don’t even show the performances, just sobbing hopefuls walking away with their dreams left behind in a dumpster fire. It’s okay kids, not everyone’s purpose is to be an “American Idol.”
8:35 p.m. – To keep things on the up and up, in walks a little ball of energy wearing a blue, plaid skirt and holding a guitar. Kaleefah Wilson aka Kai the Singer, is a 19-year old from South Carolina who had a rough upbringing. Basically her family is poor and eight kids are growing up in a tiny house furnished with lawn chairs. Now, Kai is hoping to change her family’s luck and provide a better life. Singing Ed Sheeran‘s “Thinking Out Loud,” Kai sounds like a hot mess. Dammit I was really hoping she would slay this song. Ugh, this is rough to watch. Such a cute, likable girl who just sounds like a total train wreck. The judges feel bad for her and are desperate to give her another chance. “Try without the guitar,” they suggest before asking for a completely different song, this time on the piano. Kai sits at the piano and sings “My Girl,” and this time her voice is only mildly off-putting rather than completely tragic. Scratch that, it’s equally as bad. But the judges love her spirit and for God’s sake the church paid for her to get to this audition. Katy is sobbing and someone’s going to need to bring her a yellow highlighter so she can fix her eye makeup, but anyways Kai is off to Hollywood! I truly hope she can pull her voice together so her actual music can match her inspirational story.
8:45 p.m. – Let’s head up to New York and see what talent is there. I mean, there are thousands of fantastic, out-of-work Broadway singers that could use a big break, right? So I guess I’m a little surprised that the first contestant is a big, bold country singer named Tyler Mitchell. He’s not used to cameras or the glitz and glam of TV, but his family believes he has a God-given talent. Before he begins to sing, Katy gets to what’s important and asks if she can see how big Tyler’s hands are up close. Singing “Whenever You Come Around” by Vince Gill, Tyler actually surprises me with a smooth, effortless voice. It was on its way to becoming the best audition of the night before Luke ruined it by singing along. Anyways, this is the type of obscure person from the middle of nowhere that makes “American Idol” great. As Katy said, “a star is born.” Lionel thinks Tyler struck oil. And Luke, the country expert, told Tyler to just smile through the awkward times and America will love him through it all. Tyler is off to Hollywood! I like him.
8:55 p.m. – Up next is a mystic, death trap metal singer by the name of Volkills (I probably spelled that wrong) who walks in dressed like the cousin of Skeletor and he’s singing an original song called “American Creature.” Katy and Lionel hide behind the desk while Luke relishes the sounds of Satan. As expected, it is awful. Lionel says “No” because he can’t imagine how he could sing duets with other contestants. Katy gives a surprising “Yes” and thankfully Luke sends this guy packing. Katy later confessed she only said yes because she didn’t want him to murder her. Next!
9:05 p.m. – Out in Los Angeles, hopefully we can find some more talent. Up first is Margie Mays, who burps when she’s nervous. You gotta be kidding me. Margie is freaking out and can’t even get her full name out in front of the judges. There’s nothing funny about this at all to me. I’m so annoyed. Finally, Margie begins to sing and she’s got a soft, whispery voice that veers off key throughout. Take her away! I hate everything that’s being sung. Then, Katy has the nerve to tell this girl that she’s a star. Lionel, the voice of reason, says he needs to check into a home. Luke and Katy vote “Yes,” and I’m completely disgusted. Lionel says “No,” and appears to be the only judge at full mental capacity. Ridiculous.
9:10 p.m. – Back from a quick break, we are blessed with a montage of hot mess performances which, in fact, are only slightly more offensive than a couple of singers that have made it to Hollywood tonight. One guy at least got a “Yes” from Katy by stripping since his voice was terrible, but still no luck from Luke or Lionel.
9:15 p.m. Next is a young woman named Myra Tran and I’m hoping she can take this competition up a notch. She’s a 19-year old from Vietnam who has a dream of becoming a star. In sixth grade she was blown away by Whitney Houston‘s voice and since that moment she’s wanted to be a singer. Please let this be good. The good news is that she sounds like a functioning human being when she speaks to the judges. Singing “One Night Only” by Jennifer Hudson, Myra’s voice transforms into pure divahood. Praise be! Finally a girl who can saaang! She overdid the ending a little bit, but I give full props to this girl for finally bringing some real chops to the competition. Luke compared her to Kelly Clarkson and Katy mentioned how music transforms language barriers even though Myra has been speaking English perfectly well throughout. Lionel tells her to rule her zone because she’s going places. Starting with Hollywood! Queue “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
9:25 p.m. – Up next is a colorful character named Uche’, who comes from the church with a lot of personality. He’s ditching gospel to sing pop music and show young gay/bi children that God loves them too. Singing “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera, Uche’ has unfortunately choreographed this routine and I feel like someone spiked the punch at cheer camp. Katy tells him to stand still and sing, so he does while reciting “God is Able.” While this is much better than awful, to me this was still just okay. Katy likes his spice, so she says “Yes.” Lionel says “No” because he’s wise. Luke is concerned about how much coaching Uche’ will need. After comparing Uche’ to Bootsy Collins, Lionel changes his vote to “Yes” and Luke complies. I guess Uche’ is going to Hollywood.
9:35 p.m. – We’re picking things up in Denver with country singer Laci Kaye Booth. She grew up listening to Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. Her parents were just teenagers when Lacey was born and her musician father wasn’t around much as he chased his own dream. As a teenager, Laci and her father reconnected through music and it healed their relationship. Singing “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard, Laci is accompanying herself on guitar and sounds good. She’s a somewhat soft, raspy voice and doesn’t sound like typical country singers on the radio. Katy calls her a “diamond in the rough” because she sounds different than everyone else. Luke says she “slayed it” and thinks she’s very close to being a world-class artist. Laci is going to Hollywood!
9:42 p.m. – We return with 17-year old Nick Rogers awkwardly serenading Katy before busting out some serious rap game. I’m uncomfortable. Katy loves his flow. I hate it. He says his influences are Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Lionel Richie but he can’t name a song by Lionel. Nick has no business in this competition but the judges pass him through to Hollywood. Lame.
9:47 p.m. – Next is Tiffanne Lemay, who is quite the opposite of Nick. She’s arrived solely to confess her love for Lionel. She brought a vinyl record of his and all the judges sign it. Tiffanne proceeds to sing “The Best Part” by H.E.R. and I’m a little surprised that she can actually sing! She’s got a beautiful voice that fits contemporary R&B like a glove. She knows how to use her voice and doesn’t push outside of her range. Nice! Lionel loves her style and Katy loves her sunny disposition. Luke suggests she work on her annunciation, but Tiffanne is headed to Hollywood!
9:59 p.m. – A young man named Nick Townsend approaches the judges and reveals that his older brother, who was in the Air Force, recently died of a suicide. Heartbreaking. After losing his brother, Nick went to Japan to teach kids and perform. While overseas, Nick got another call that his younger brother had taken his life as well. Devastating. Going to Japan is Nick’s biggest regret and he believes he left his little brother when he needed him most. Singing “Let it Go” by James Bay, Nick is belting his heart out for the judges. I’m going to emotionally separate myself from the heart-wrenching backstory of this performer and be blunt. His voice is sub-par. The judges, however, like it much more than I did. Nick is off to Hollywood! I hope he can grow as a singer in the upcoming rounds because he seems like a nice guy who needs a break.
10:00 p.m. – That’s a wrap for night one of auditions. Frankly, I’m underwhelmed by what we’ve seen today and I can only hope more talent is on the horizon! We’ll check back in on Wednesday night.