“American Idol” returns on February 27 for its fifth season on ABC and 20th 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.
This season the judges embark on yet another nationwide search for America’s next singing sensation. Auditions were held in Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California. If given a golden ticket, hopeful idols will advance to the Hollywood round. In a new twist this season, three contestants will be given a Platinum ticket, which allows them to skip the first phase of Hollywood week.
SEE Everything to know about ‘American Idol’ Season 20
Below, follow along with all the action on the Night 1 season 20 premiere episode of “American Idol.”
8:00 p.m. — Last year, singer-songwriter Chayce Beckham topped gospel powerhouse Willie Spence to take the Season 19 crown. His self-penned debut single “23” hit #1 on the iTunes chart following his final performance. Beckham is currently signed to 19 Recordings, but has yet to release a full-length album. His second single to date was “Can’t Do Without Me” with Lindsay Ell. But that’s enough about last year, let’s see if the judges find a diamond in the rough on tonight’s first episode of Season 20 auditions!
8:10 p.m. — The 20th season of “American Idol” kicks off with aspiring singers speaking the words to Kelly Clarkson‘s #1 coronation song, “A Moment Like This.” Things quickly move to the first audition, Noah Thompson, a 19-year old construction worker from Louisa, Kentucky. As a kid, all he thought about was playing music and being famous, but where he’s from those opportunities don’t come along. Noah lacks confidence, but his friends know he’s meant to do more than hang sheetrock. Noah walks into the audition room with his guitar and explains to the judges that his buddy signed him up for this audition. Noah strums his guitar and begins singing “Giving You Up” by Kameron Marlowe, and his Southern drawl reveals the classic country voice we expected. This audition isn’t particularly giving me a “WOW” factor, but he’s a solid singer with a good personality and handsome features. He’s the type of good Ol’ Southern boy we’ve seen do well in the past. I will say he has a nice, unique tone going for him. It’s a bit higher than his speaking voice and took me off guard. Luke doesn’t want touch Noah’s accent, but he wants the youngster to be more deliberate and clear on the chorus. Lionel calls him “badass” and “believable.” It turns out the judges not only love Noah, they love his best friend Arthur too! They tell Noah’s buddy he has what it takes to become a manager and everyone has a good laugh before the aspiring idol grabs his golden ticket to Hollywood!
8:20 p.m. — The next contestant is a little less traditional. Normandy is a 29-year old “gamer” from Baltimore who has an extremely high-pitched speaking voice, a carrot purse and bunny shoes. She apparently has an online following and calls her fans the “Kitten Nuggets.” The quirky woman fixes her makeup with a lemon sponge and says people have written her off in the past because of the way she talks. Luke says she looks and sounds like she just walked off the set of a children’s program. Today she will perform “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner for the judges. Her singing voice is nothing like her childish speaking voice, and Katy storms off, yelling, “I will NOT be set up!” But she returns and Normandy continues to a sing. The judges smile, but they look like they need more. Katy asks Normandy to sing Adele. As Normandy performs “Set Fire to the Rain,” the judges keep telling her to open up and give them more, but she sounds good! Lionel loves her character and the judges decide to roll the dice on Normandy. She’s off to Hollywood!
8:35 p.m. — Before the next audition, Seacrest explains the Platinum ticket to the contestants. Just three will be handed out during the audition process and the judges have to vote unanimously on the recipients. Those singers will bypass the first round of Hollywood week. The next contestant is named Nicolina and she’s an 18-year old from Toronto. Nicolina is singing “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles. As the timid girl begins to open up her voice the judges smile with impressed faces. Nicolina just gets better and BETTER as this goes on. Katy felt Nicolina’s whole life story in that song. Lionel calls her “ridiculous” and “infectious.” Luke says Nicolina navigates everything beautifully. It’s a triple-yes for Nicolina!
8:45 p.m. — The next contestant is 24-year old Tyler Allen from Mobile, Alabama. He says he’s from the “Dirty South” and is dedicating his performance to his nephew who passed away in April. Him and his mother were in a terrible car accident and died instantly. Tyler will audition with the song he always used to sing for his nephew while he rocked him to sleep, “I Believe In You and Me” by Whitney Houston. I can actually tell his rendition is more inspired by gospel singer Kim Burrell, who performed this song for Whitney at the BET Honors years ago. This is also a song close to Lionel’s heart, because he played piano for Whitney on this song in the film “The Preacher’s Wife.” Katy is a total wreck and is sobbing so hard that bubbles are coming out of her nose. Luke thinks Tyler has a perfectly unique sound. Tyler will be heading to Hollywood.
8:55 p.m. — Next up is a glittery cowgirl named Maddie Belle Glidewall, a 19-year old from Glasgow, Kentucky. This girl has a lot of personality! Maddie’s mother has a huge crush on Luke and gets to slow dance with the country judge. For Maddie’s audition she’ll sing “Redneck Woman” by Gretchen Wilson. Maddie is fun, but her voice is all over the place. Her timing is completely off! The judges have a good time with Maddie, but they ultimately reject her. Next we see a couple brief clips of other hopefuls: 16-year old Camryn Champion from Lumberton, New Jersey and 17-year old Danielle Finn from Los Angeles. Both teens get some coaching from the judges’ panel and both ultimately earned golden tickets to Hollywood.
9:10 p.m. — The last audition of the first hour is Grace Franklin, a 15-year old from Detroit, Michigan. Oh, and she is the granddaughter of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. No pressure! Grace never fully grasped who her grandmother was because she was always just grandma to her. Grace knows people will expect her to sing just like Aretha, but she’s her own artist with her own voice. Grace performs “Killing Me Softly,” the Lauryn Hill version. I’m not sure how I feel about this audition, because she goes off key a few times, but then hits some amazing vocal runs a moment later. I think she has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure her voice is fully “there” yet. Luke calls it “sleepy” and “subdued.” Katy asks for another song. Grace then sings “Ain’t No Way” by her grandmother. Grace has a nice voice, she’s just not the powerhouse Aretha was. I hope she continues to push forward in her own way without feeling the need to copy grandma. Katy wants to push Grace through, but Lionel thinks she needs more time to come out of her shell. Ultimately, “Uncle Richie” has to let Grace down and tell her she won’t be going to Hollywood.
9:20 p.m. — The second half of Night 1 kicks off with Huntergirl, a 23-year old from Winchester, Tennessee. She sings “Riot” by Rascal Flatts while strumming her guitar. This performance is a little one-note for my taste, but Luke has goosebumps and he’s the country expert. Katy says Hunter’s voice cuts through like a knife. Luke writes down “Top 10” for her and compares her to Miranda Lambert. Luke says this is his favorite female country voice he’s heard in five years of judging “American Idol.”
9:35 p.m. — Next up is Cole Hallman, a 22-year old from Manasquan, New Jersey, whose sister Katie is a huge “AI” fan. Katie has a chromosomal deletion, which means she’s missing part of her chromosome. It affects her IQ and causes behavioral issues, but she’s Cole’s number one fan. He strums his guitar and sounds like a natural even though he’s only been playing for five years. There’s an easiness about Cole, so it’s no surprise he works at a surf shop. Luke calls him an “authentic voice” and appreciates that he didn’t try to make it too “fancy.” Cole’s mom and sister enter the room in time for the judges to give Cole the “Yes” to Hollywood.
9:45 p.m. — The next audition is Delaney Renee, an 18-year old from Berkley, Massachusetts, who was discovered by the mother of a child she babysits. Mom secretly recorded Delaney singing a song from “The Little Mermaid” and after she posted it on TikTok it immediately went viral and got 18 million views. The next day they were contacted by “American Idol.” Today Delaney is singing “Opportunity” by Sia. The judges like Delaney’s voice, but hope she can “roughin’ things up.” Regardless, she’s a diamond in the rough and they send Delaney to Hollywood.
9:59 p.m. — As the auditions have continued throughout the night, Luke still can’t get over how much he loved Huntergirl. He calls her up and invites her to sing at his Bar in Nashville. She’s overjoyed, but things get even better for the country singer when the judges show up and present her with this season’s first Platinum ticket. Huntergirl will get to bypass the first round of Hollywood week! Next, songwriter Taylor Fagins auditions hoping to share a piece of his heart with the world. The 26-year old from New York sits down at the piano and begins to perform for the judges. His song about Black lives lost to policemen strikes an emotional cord. Lionel calls it “powerful” and “heavy.” Lionel says we need Taylor’s song in 2022 and he’s very proud of him. Luke calls it “magical” and Katy is glad Taylor didn’t keep that to himself. Taylor is heading to Hollywood.