(Hollywood) — ABC’s American Idol continued on Sunday night with two more hours of auditions, and judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie traveling to New York, Los Angeles and Savannah, Georgia, in search of artists worthy of a coveted Golden Ticket to Hollywood.
The night also featured a moment in which Katy had to address one contestant’s love for her reported rival, Taylor Swift. More on that later.
There were a number of “yeses,” but here’s a look at just some of the standouts:
Crystal Alicea is a 20-year-old with flaming red hair, whose only previous performing experience has been singing karaoke around her hometown of Winter Haven, Florida. She used to get bullied about her weight and resorted to “self-harming” to deal with her anger. She’s since conquered her weight and insecurities, thanks in part to her boyfriend of seven years. Her performance of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” impressed all three judges, including Katy, who declared Alicea had “an ‘it’ factor,” adding, “I think you’re a little star…I would totally follow you on Instagram.” Crystal got three “yeses” and a ticket to Hollywood.
Hickory, North Carolina, native Johnny White’s mother struggled with drug addiction, and his dad spent nine years in prison. After shuttling between homeless shelters and foster homes, Johnny was finally adopted, but never felt like he belonged. Music became his therapy, and, with the help of his vocal coach, found the confidence to make it to the Idol auditions. His no-holds-barred cover of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” impressed Lionel, who also urged him to tone things down a bit. “You’ve got to make love to us, but you’ve got to have a little foreplay before you do it.” Katy called White “top 10 material.” He got three “yeses” and a trip to Hollywood.
Jonny Brenns, from St. Augustine, Florida, says his parents preferred education over music, but his urge to sing was just too strong. In fact, the six-foot, five-inch 18-year-old kept his Idol audition a secret from them. Jonny’s original tune, called “Blue Jeans,” had the judges mixed. Katy was a “yes,” explaining Brenns was “good looking,” and had a “sweet little sexy thing going on.” Luke was on the fence, until Jonny sang a little of Michael Bublé’s “Home” and added a second “yes.” Richie felt the singer was still a little green and voted “no.” Brenns got to call his parents and tell them he’s going to Hollywood, and have Lionel sing a little bit of his hit “Hello” to her over the phone.
Effie Passero, an assistant property manager living in Modesto, California, and a former opera singer backed herself on the piano as she sang her original song, “Troubled Mind.” Effie’s powerful voice brought the judges to their feet, with Lionel declaring they now had a “secret weapon in our arsenal.” Luke added that Passero — who sported a punk haircut and numerous tattoos — had the “whole thing going on.” Katy agreed, adding the singer had a voice they’d been demanding from all the contestants. All three judges shouted in unison, “You’re going to Hollywood.”
Amelia Hammer Harris, 26, comes from rock & roll royalty: her father, Jack Hammer, wrote such classics as Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and “Yakety Yak” for The Coasters, though she never actually met him until she was 16. Their relationship was strained, until he started suffering from dementia, at the age of 90, when they became “friends” while she cared for him until his death. Amelia’s soulful take on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” earned her a trip to Hollywood, though Richie warned that she needed to “find a couple of avenues you didn’t know you had” in order to go deep into the competition.
Maddie Zahm, a 19-yearold from Boise, Idaho, says music was always her passion, but a hormone imbalance caused her to gain 100 pounds and took away her confidence. Maddie, who now teaches music to kids with disabilities, was accompanied on her audition by one of them, a boy with Down Syndrome named Marcus. Maddie says his ability to come out of his shell inspired her to do the same. Marcus sat with judges as she performed “New Rules” by Dua Lipa. Then, in a touching moment, he joined her on Katy’s hit “Firework.” Perry noted Zahm had an “incredible set of pipes” and is “a good woman.” Luke said Maddie seemed “a little timid,” at times, before adding, “You got it.” She earned a Golden Ticket to Hollywood.
A montage of artists who didn’t make the cut provided one of the more awkward moments on Sunday, when Bryan asked a hopeful who had influenced him as an artist. “I’m sorry for this Katy — Taylor Swift — I love her,” he answered, referring to Perry and Swift’s alleged feud. “You don’t have to worry,” Katy replied. “I love her as a songwriter, as well.”
The American Idol auditions continue Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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