For the second week in a row, American Idol found Lionel Richie overcome with emotion thanks to a song from Dreamgirls. (Take note, future contestants!)
Sunday’s fourth round of Season 19 auditions ended with the arrival of 18-year-old Alyssa Wray, who commanded the judges’ attention before she even sang a note of “I Am Changing.” Watch:
Don’t get me wrong, Wray was very good, but I can’t help but wonder if she didn’t also catch the judges at the exact right time — specifically, the end of a very long day. The way they lavished this “once-in-a-generation” talent with praise, you would have thought she just won the whole season. (Who knows, maybe she will.)
“How lucky are we to say we knew her when,” Richie announced, as if he knows something the rest of us don’t.
Read on for more of this week’s successful auditions, including one that could not have been more emotionally exploitative — even for this show.
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LAILA MACH, 16 | This Gabby Barrett super fan kicked things off with an original piece that she calls the “angrier” version of Barrett’s song “I Hope.” While the judges pretended to totally know the song she was referring to, Mach sat down at the piano and absolutely killed it. At the risk of drawing the most basic comparison possible, it gave me “Driver’s License” vibes — a real showcase for Mach’s voice both in the bigger and smaller moments.
RE’H, 27 | After serving her country in the military, this one-woman hype machine served the judges an unforgettable audition of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls.” (Complete with full choreography? Yes, please!) The way the judges were responding to Re’h, I was starting to worry that she wouldn’t make it through — and was fully prepared to be appropriately outraged on her behalf — but it turned out that my stress was for naught. As usual.
MICHAEL GEROW, 16 | With lyrics like “You’re the one who drove the nice boy out of me,” this original song proved that Gerow is willing to be far more emotionally vulnerable than your average 16-year-old boy. (Trust me, I was once an extremely average 16-year-old boy.) The fact that he’s got a nice set of pipes didn’t hurt his chances of making it through to Hollywood, with Perry offering up those coveted (or are they cursed?) three little words: “Top 10 material.”
CAMERON MCGHAR, 16 | This was one of the most oddly drawn-out auditions of the night. McGhar was clearly nervous when she performed her first song, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” but the judges were eventually about to pull out a better, more confident second song. Not only did they make us wait through a commercial break to find out McGhar’s fate, but Perry even faked her out, saying, “I’m not going to roll tide with you… but I am going to roll the dice.” (It was the equivalent of “I didn’t like it… I loved it!” Who has the time for such shenanigans?)
BEANE, 23 | With his sweet ol’ grandma sending him good vibes from afar, this unassuming guy delivered a surprisingly soulful cover of VULFPECK’s “Wait For the Moment.” Personality and charm for days! And am I crazy, or does Beane appear to exist directly in the nexus between super corny and super hot (aka America’s two favorite flavors)? Just saying, he could turn out to be a dark horse in this competition.
ASH RUDER, 21 | The only thing more heartbreaking than Ruder’s original song about her father — whose addiction to hard drugs and liquor severed their relationship for years — was having her father join her in the room so he could hear her sing it. And it’s a darn good thing Ruder can sing, otherwise that would have been straight-up cruel.
HEATHER RUSSELL, 20 | This all-frosting-no-cake performer initially took Perry’s breath away with her cover of Perry’s own “Harleys in Hawaii,” but the audition ended with Perry telling her to tone it down with all the bells and whistles. According to Perry, Russell needs to earn that level of extra. I found this judging to be a little inconsistent, but I’ll chalk it up to her feeling protective of her own music.
CALEB KENNEDY, 16 | This cowboy seemed much older when he entered the audition room, but then the judges asked him what he does, and he said, “Hang out with my buddies.” So, yeah, he’s definitely 16. That said, his original song — performed with a nice gravelly country voice — was a definite crowdpleaser.
ABBY LEBARON, 19 | Despite working in social media, this gifted musician said she hasn’t shared her passion with the world for fear of being made fun of. Well, no one’s going to be making fun of her after that performance of Emma Bale’s “All I Want.” The range, the grit, the appropriate use of runs — I’m a fan.
MURPHY, 27 | OK, this audition actually got me kind of angry. Murphy has had a difficult life — he was born with half of his vision, he found his mom dead at a young age, and his father eventually lost his own battle with drugs — and he explained that music brought him peace. “It’s a bridge to somewhere I believed I’d never get to,” he said. There was a purity in his heartwarming performance of “Just the Two of Us,” so it was upsetting to hear Perry tell him that he’s “on the precipice of something cool” before telling him that he “needs to be more mainstream” in order for them to work with him. I wanted to yell at my TV, “Run, Murphy! Run before this show destroys you as an artist!” But alas, this show was taped months ago — and my TV is not a phone.
Which of these week’s contestants will you be rooting for in Hollywood? Cast your vote below (pick as many as you’d like!), then drop a comment with your thoughts on Week 4.