‘American Idol’ episode 3 auditions ranked: All 9 Hollywood-bound singers from worst to best — and what they should sing next

American Idol” auditions continued with the third episode of Season 20 on Sunday, March 13. Within the tour hours of cheers and tears, nine talented artists earned golden tickets to Hollywood, but there was one major misstep. So who was the best of the night? And did these aspiring stars choose the right songs? Below I rank each hopeful from the least impressive (but with room to grow) to a possible Season 20 frontrunner. I also throw in a song suggestion or artist I’d love to hear them cover.

Usually, I focus solely on the auditions that were successful but I would be remiss not to write about Taniya Boatwright’s audition of “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. The 17-year old wowed me, but it resulted in a “No” from judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. So if you read this Taniya, please audition next season because you were great. But without further ado, let’s get to this week’s audition rankings.

SEE Everything to know about ‘American Idol’ Season 20

Below are my rankings for all nine Hollywood-bound singers from worst to best:

9. Tristen Gressett: Tristen suffered from no shortage of confidence and has a unique voice that stands out from the rest of the competition. With his cover of a Billy Joel classic, he more than proved that he as the goods to excel in Hollywood. Saying that, with his harmonica and guitar, I was immediately brought back to Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” Tristen needs to tone it down a bit in order to stick around this season, but I would love to hear his version of Elton John’s “Rocketman”.

8. Cadence Baker: I love the phrase “diamond in the rough” and Cadence falls right into this category. With a risky, slowed down version of a Whitney Houston classic, she wowed the judges and let her vocals shine. On the flip side of the coin, her audition wasn’t exactly memorable either. Personally, I would love to see Cadence sing Faith Hill’s “Wild One” at some point in this competition since my gut tells me that she is going to be one to watch out for down the road.

7. Dontrell Briggs: Some auditions just stick with you long after they air and this is one I won’t forget. With an inspiring gospel song and a Chris Stapleton hit, he showed that he knows which songs are suited to his voice and how to nail them. Does he need a little work in terms of toning it down a little bit? Yes, but Dontrell was more than up for the critique and promised to work on it. Hoping for a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Nobody’s Lonely Tonight” this season from him.

6. Abigail Brooks:  With a fun personality as well as a voice that nobody expected, Abigail wowed both the judges and fans alike. Absolutely a contestant to watch out for in Hollywood since her song choices will be sure to skew older than more recent. Here’s to hoping for a cover of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Do I Love You?”

5. Mark Osborne: Mark’s audition was not only a gift to his mother but to America as well. With a classic voice that is sure to stand out from the crowd and give Luke Taylor some competition, Mark just needs to work on stage presence. He is definitely a contestant to watch out for in Hollywood. Personally, I would love to see him sing Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me”.

SEE ‘American Idol’ episode 2 auditions ranked: All 10 Hollywood-bound singers from worst to best

4. Emily Faith: Emily Faith provided the judges with a great vocal and showed no signs of nervousness whatsoever. I couldn’t help but think that she is going to go far in this competition. In terms of potential song choices down the road, I would recommend Kellie Pickler’s “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You”.

3. Ryleigh Madison: This high school student not only wowed the judges but, more importantly, showed that the next generation of “Idol” hopefuls are in it to win it. Her voice is great and there was no sign of nervousness to be seen. She should excel in Hollywood. In terms of song choice, I would recommend Loretta Lynn’s “It’s Been So Long Darlin'”.

2. Dakota Hayden: Dakota walked into “American Idol” with not only a great voice, but a swagger that is going to make him stand out from the crowd. He also has a personality that is eerily similar to Luke Bryan. Dakota seems to know what songs work for him solely based upon his audition choice but I would recommend either Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah” or Luke Bryan’s “What She Wants Tonight.” He is absolutely a front-runner in this competition.

1. Sam Finelli: This audition will go down in “Idol” history for two reasons. Firstly, Sam, despite being visibly nervous, gave a gorgeous vocal that evoked tears from viewers and judges alike. Second, Sam is showing that a medical condition does not define an individual and that anything is possible when one chases after a dream. This was by far the standout audition of the night and cemented Sam as one of the front-runners in this competition so far. As far as song choice goes, I would love to hear his take on “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz.

In short, while episode three saw the fewest auditions that resulted in advancement to Hollywood thus far, it was absolutely quality over quantity. If this level of talent continues for the remainder of the auditions, we are in for one amazing season.

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