At the top of the second episode of the second season of American Idol 2.0 on Wednesday (Mar. 6) night, we’re flung back to Idaho to watch the second coming of Courtney Penry, who first tried for glory back in 2011. With a nickname like The Crazy Chicken Lady, this should go well.
For her latest audition, Chicken Lady, now 25, stomps her feet, claps her hands and whips her hair through Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute.” Her voice is too sharp, but judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan torture viewers by having her do another tune (“Girl Crush”). After pleading that she’s put in the work and gigs every weekend, Lady somehow gets a golden ticket.
Logan Johnson is a 20 year old from Boise, Idaho who emulated his older brother’s drug addiction and ended up hooked on painkillers. However, Logan announces to Lionel & Co. that he’s been sober for eight months before launching into, well, “Sober” by Demi Lovato. Before sending him through to Hollywood, Luke Inadvertently shades Demi by telling Logan he’ll really shine “when we get you good songs.”
We now go back to more auditions in L.A., where Eddie Island, 25, saunters in with an acoustic guitar adorned with googly eyes. Eddie is the “unofficial mayor of Nashville” — something that happened, he explains, after he traveled to Nashville for a Paramore concert and simply never left the city. His performance of original song “Stay OK” prompts Luke to say, “I think you have to be in our life.”
In Louisville we meet 28-year-old strawberry farmer Kason Lester. Katy flirting with semi-handsome hopefuls during the audition process got old early on last season, but clearly she didn’t get the memo. Kason attempts Chris Janson’s country hit “Holdin’ Her,” and it’s mediocre. Naturally, he’s pushed on through to La La Land.
Karli Ryan is a 17 year old whose dream “is to become a star.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as we learn that Karli’s mom Chera auditioned for Idol 15 years prior. This should give all of us who actually watched Idol 15 years ago an existential crisis — but just for a few seconds, because we’ve gotta get through this thing.
Anyway, Karli sings an original number called “Gimme Back My Heart” while playing piano, and draws a comparison to Kacey Musgraves from Katy. Alas, Karli hits a speed bump on her road to stardom, as it’s a no from everyone but Luke. Fame is a cruel mercenary, sweetie.
An overly long, cartoonish and borderline offensive chunk of time highlights Juan Pablo, 26, a rideshare driver from Mexico who now lives in Los Angeles. He croons a “painful, sad love-making song” in Spanish that causes Katy to faux-swoon and put on a Spanish accent. Everything about this segment screams “stereotype,” and the only redemption is that Juan Pablo is given a golden ticket.
Moving along, we meet Shayy, a 17 year old from Midlothian, Virginia who became legally blind a year ago due to a tumor in her brain that doctors were able to partially remove. Despite having to be led by hand in front of the judges, Shayy displays more confidence than a lot of the auditioning contestants we’ve seen thus far. Her moving rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” gets Lionel to turn on the waterworks.
“You have what we cannot teach,” says Luke. “We cannot teach letting the music flow straight from the soul.” With that, Shay is off to Hollywood.
Two more gents make it through in the forms of Ethan Payne, 15, and Landen Knowlton, 23. Ethan is a kid from Macon, Georgia with cystic fibrosis, who once landed the opportunity to sing on stage with Luke Bryan — something the two of them recreate for Ethan’s audition. Meanwhile, Tupelo army sergeant Landen orders Katy and Luke to do push-ups in a yuk yuk bit before he gets his ticket. See you in Hollywood, fellas.
The appearance of Disney showtune-loving newlyweds Kimberly and Bernie is a throwback to the nastier, Simon Cowell-ier days of Idol, wherein laughs were conjured at the expense of clueless hopefuls. This particular pair stare unironically into each other’s eyes while belting out Cinderella tune “So This Is Love.” Honestly, it’s enough to make you want to microwave Tinkerbell. After their less than magical response from the judges, Kimberly and Bernie declare, “We may have gotten a no today, but we still have ‘happily ever after’ together.”
The night winds down with unassuming Alejandro Aranda from Pomona, California. He’s a warehouse worker who started busking in the streets four years ago and feels unqualified for Idol. His audition with original song “Out Loud,” however, tells another story, as he displays a voice and guitar-playing skills that visibly leave Luke in awe.
“You, my friend, are so talented, Lionel tells Alejandro. The judge then requests the 24 year old do one more song, on the piano, where he proves to be a multi-talent.
“I just feel like I’m in the presence of greatness,” Luke says. “It was like watching my favorite movie.” Katy adds, “I think you’re the winner. I think you’re really special.”
We’ll see Alejandro again in Hollywood. Until then, Idol returns on Sunday (March 10) with more audition antics.