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‘American Idol’ Recap: Auditions End With Several Diamonds in the Rough

american idol
ABC/Eric McCandless

Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie on American Idol on March 16, 2020.

The final American Idol auditions in the pre-Coronavirus era are upon us. (These were, after all, taped last year.) As ever, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan aim to sort out the best of the best, though the future of the show’s live episodes remains unclear given the current public health crisis. 

Some folks, like Robert Taylor, Aliana Jester, and Makayla Brownlee sail on through with ease. (Aliana even brought her adorable support Frenchie along for the ride.) Meanwhile, Justin Oliver, 24, opts to sing Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” only to find that one of the song’s writers, Phredley Brown, is the Idol house piano man. Phredley feels Justin’s “energy could have been better,” and thus it’s a no all the way around from the three judges.

Here are the last round of kiddos who made an impression:

Grace Leer

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t remember American Juniors, as the Idol spin-off with far younger contestants aired for a lone season, way back in summer 2003. One person who hasn’t forgotten the series, however, is Grace Leer, who was 11 when she made it to the Top 20. Now 27, she’s relocated to Nashville and is back to try her luck as an adult by singing The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table.”

Grace exhibits some impressive control over her voice, but Katy wants her to try a sad country song. The hopeful goes with Patsy Cline standby “Crazy,” and all three judges reward her with a resounding “yes.”

Franklin Boone

Durham, North Carolina music teacher Franklin, 27, plays guitar while crooning Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams” for Lionel & Co. His soulful take prompts Luke to say, “Way to be that first-note kind of singer. I mean, the first note you hit told me a big ol’ story about you. I just see the recording artist and so much artistry in you.”

And with that, Franklin is going to have to bid farewell to his students for the time being.

Roselyne Carter

Roselyne “Rozzo” Carter hails from the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles and has a powerful voice that was nurtured in her church. She admits that she’s lived through some hard times and pours all of that raw emotion into her take on The Pilgrim Travelers’ gospel standard “Mother Bowed.”

Once again, Katy says she’d like to hear a different song, so Roselyne goes more contemporary with John Legend’s “So High.” Lionel tells the contestant, “That was what you call a natural talent. It’s your interpretation that just knocks me out.”

Katy adds, “I think you embody what American Idol stands for.” Roselyne is off to nearby Hollywood with a golden ticket.

Megan Knight

During the DC auditions, the stir-crazy judges hop a boat and bring the next contestant, 21-year-old Megan, with them. She plays guitar and belts a Glen Hansard song, but her voice is a little too vibrato-filled to really seal the deal. Still, the judges are feeling that fresh air whipping in from the Potomac, and their generosity rises to the surface. The three of them give Megan a pass to La La Land, then re-enact the famous “I’m flying” scene from Titanic. Never change, Idol.

Gilberto Rivera

This 23-year-old ball of flamboyant energy struts in with his long mane of hair, a sparkly rainbow muscle shirt and bright red kinky boots. Just when you’re braced for his audition to be godawful, Gilberto actually turns out to have a decent set of pipes while giving us Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”

“We’re in this business of uniqueness, you are clearly unique,” Lionel tells the Orlando native. Katy tells him to lose the theatrics and crazy outfits and go with his talent as the main focal point. Lionel is a no, but Katy and Luke send Gilberto on through.

Demi Rae

Poor Demi has anxiety because she feels she doesn’t look like the other girls she sees on social media. Same, kitten. She’s also spent a chunk of her early life dealing with her dance instructor dad being in and out of jail. Like with Roselyne Carter earlier in the evening, you can feel Demi’s inner angst as she belts Noah Cyrus’ “Mad at You.”

Luke tells her she has the “natural cry” that the three judges are always looking for. Lionel adds, “I can’t imagine what you’re gonna be when you realize, ‘oh my god -- I got this’.” And off Demi goes to Hollywood.

The rest

Also making waves tonight are 18-year-old subway singer Jahzan from Kingston, Jamaica, promising dude-with-a-guitar Jordan Moyes from Provo, Utah and flame-haired Amber Fiedler from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The latter just happens to be 38 weeks pregnant, and tells the judges she plans to give her baby girl up for adoption.

The night ends on an up note with Amber’s stunning audition with Etta James’ “Trust in Me.” Next up, the show moves on to the Hollywood round on Monday night.

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