Been dying to know what Katy Perry got up to on her 34th birthday? The suspense ends now: She was in Louisville, Kentucky for American Idol auditions, with fellow judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. That celebratory segment at the top of Sunday (March 17) night’s episode kills off about one minute. Only 119 more to go!
Jumping right into it, Jessica Whitely, 26, is a KatyCat who first tried out seven years back, when Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson were doing this thing. Jessica crashed and burned then, and her attempt at redemption tonight with original song “Idol” shows that time has not done her vocals any favors.
In a final bid to save herself, Jessica treats us all to her take on unreleased, before-she-was-famous Katy Perry obscurity “The Box.” Katy quips, “That’s not exactly how it goes, but I love the interpretation.”
It’s a no all around for Jessica… again. Side note: This is what I’m missing the SyFy channel’s Leprechaun movie marathon for?
Next up is Dansville, Michigan nursing home worker Jacob Moran, 24. He makes such an impression with his rendition of Ariana Grande’s dance-floor fave “Into You” that Katy declares, “Well, if I didn’t have all my hairs lasered off, they’d be standing up.” And away Jacob goes to Hollywood.
The next singer up to bat is Alyssa Raghu from Orlando, Florida. I’m glad she reminds viewers that she made the Top 24 last year, because I never would have remembered on my own. Now at the wise age of 16, Alyssa announces with confidence, “I know I’m Alyssa Raghu and I’m a pop star!”
After her audition with V V Brown’s 2009 chestnut “Shark in The Water,” Alyssa easily sails on through to Hollywood, where, according to another segment, she’ll join fellow Season 16 Top 24 contestant Kay Kay.
Colby Swift, 19, is a tall country boy from Midfield, Texas who notes, “A prayer got me here.” We’re given his background story, which involves his mother leaving the house to pick up ice cream nine years prior and never coming back. (Presumably, she left to split up with her husband. Though whether something much darker happened, it’s not clear.) After crooning Cody Jinks’ “Cast No Stones,” it’s clear that Colby’s voice isn’t the greatest the judges have ever heard. Still, he’s got a spark.
“I don’t know a kid that’s ever walked in here and been more me at 19,” Luke says. Katy adds, “You’ve got something, but it’s inconsistent… It needs a lot of work.”
Lionel and Katy push Colby on through, but I can’t see this particular kid surviving Hollywood Week.
At 19, Evelyn Cormier is already a reality show veteran, having appeared on something called 90 Day Fiancé. More impressive are the married teen’s vocals while singing Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” If you close your eyes, drink chamomile and listen in the clip above, it’s like being transported back to some lost Lilith Fair performance, circa 1998.
“Literally, one of my favorite voices I’ve ever heard in my whole life,” Katy announces.
“I think when you have a really amazing band behind you, it’s gonna be something crazy,” Luke adds. Lionel is equally impressed, and thus Evelyn snags a golden ticket.
A further flurry of kiddos who make it through include: Peach Martine, 16, who claims to be a singer, songwriter, film composer, varsity cheerleader and “lifelong straight A student” — but not a robot; Elizabeth Gaba, 19, a USC student who brings along her mom and her egg-donor mom to her audition; piano-playing dental hygienist Ashley Hess, 27, from Fremont, California; and 26-year-old construction worker Dalton Elliott, who put his music career on hold and left Nashville to be more present in his young son’s life.
Meanwhile, in walks full-time Atlanta musician and model Katie Bell, 19, to disrupt the evening. All three judges are smitten when “the Gisele of Georgia” (thanks, Luke) sweetly sings Jennifer Hudson’s version of The Beatles’ Abbey Road classic “Golden Slumbers.”
Lionel tells Katie to continue to develop her sound, but all Luke can do is fall flat onto the floor. The lovestruck country crooner, 42, later says of the 19-year-old contestant, “That’s a damn situation right there.” Gross.
The episode wraps with Lauren Engle, 27, who explains that her other half, Garrett, was killed last year when they both were involved in a tragic car accident. Lauren says she’s honoring her late husband by carrying on with what they both loved to do: music. Accompanied by her brother-in-law on guitar, she sings an original song, “Compass,” that details the journey she and Garrett made together.
Moved by Lauren’s story, Katy, Luke and Lionel all vote Lauren through to the next round. Next up, the audition antics conclude for the season when American Idol airs again on Monday.