Is it too early to predict that we’ve already found the next American Idol? Because Sunday’s episode, just the second week of the show’s 20th season, definitely introduced at least two major contenders.
Let’s start with this week’s Platinum Ticket recipient, 17-year-old Kenedi Anderson, who blew Katy Perry’s mind with a piano-based reinvention of Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” The performance was heavily promo’d, but no truncated tease could have done it justice. Not only did Anderson completely reimagine the song in her own ethereal style, but her voice is absolutely insane and her instincts are spot on. It was a flawless audition and a total no-brainer to send her through to Hollywood. The Platinum Ticket was merely the icing on the cake.
My other favorite new voice in Week 2 belonged to Leah Marlene, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from — I kid you not — Normal, Ill. A former hockey player who apparently hit her head too many times, she oozes personality and puts forth a distinctly unique style. Her nervous laughter eventually gave way to a surprisingly gorgeous rendition of One Direction’s “Steal My Girl,” and I was immediately sold. Her voice is so good, Perry went cross-eyed. My only gripe is the Catie Turner comparison; Marlene is a completely different vibe. Watch her audition:
Read on for a breakdown of the other singers from Week 2 that you’ll be seeing again in Hollywood:
BETTY MAXWELL, 27 | Known for her impressions of children’s characters, some of them actually good, this former Miss America went the most pageant-y route possible with a performance of “A Moment Like This,” Kelly Clarkson’s winning song from Idol‘s inaugural season. It was such a broad choice that I was actually prepared to be disappointed, only to be pleasantly surprised by Maxwell’s big voice, over which she exhibited decent control. Detecting a certain something in her, Perry asked Maxwell to sing a country song, and she picked Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” — a good choice, even if it does beg the question of whether Maxwell only knows songs released by Idol winners. The consensus among the judges was that Maxwell tends to go too big, so she’ll have to rein it in, but even Luke Bryan acknowledged that she has “a lot to work with.” That’s not nothing. Click here to watch.
MIKE PARKER, 27 | This next audition went down like, well, “Strawberry Wine.” The Virginia-based carpenter infused his nice, smooth performance of Deana Carter’s country ballad with genuine emotion, all of which he conveyed without getting too showy. The judges appreciated that, with Lionel Richie emphasizing that “simplicity is king.” Perry also pegged Parker as Top 24 material, which was… oddly specific. Click here to watch.
KELSIE DOLIN, 18 | From the moment that Sufjan Stevens song started playing in the background, I knew that this young lady was going to have a sad backstory — and did she ever. Dolin’s grandparents essentially adopted her and her sister, who was born addicted to opioids “and all kinds of junk,” before the state could take them away. She dedicated her performance of Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” to the memory of her grandmother, a perfect piece for Dolin’s pure, innocent sound. During a follow-up performance of Adele’s “When We Were Young,” the judges tried to get Dolin to give them more power, a challenge she met well enough to bring Richie to tears. Watch:
LUKE TAYLOR, 20 | Not since Scotty McCreery has Idol given us a voice this low. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” sung even lower than the original, was an unsurprising choice. The real surprise here… was that he made it through. Don’t get me wrong, the guy’s got potential, but where was the excitement? Perry wasn’t sold, but with yeses from Richie and Bryan, this booming bass will live to sing another day. Click here to watch.
AARON WESTBERRY, 20 | The judges saw heartbreaker potential in this laid-back grocer based on his raw performance of Sam Hunt’s “2016.” Perry wasn’t wrong when she said he gave off Owen Wilson energy. He was easily the most chill contestant of the night, with a voice that just makes you melt. No crazy range needed. It was also extremely fitting that Owl City played as he exited the audition room — that’s the exact vibe I get from him. Click here to watch.
ALLEGRA MILES, 18 | We didn’t get to spend too much time with Miles, but I’m sold on the judges’ impressions alone. A talented songwriter with a beautiful voice, she’s someone I’m looking forward to seeing again in Hollywood. Click here to watch.
CHRISTIAN GUARDINO, 21 | No one was expecting the soul that escaped this man’s mouth tonight. Rocking glasses, a gold chain and some ripped up jeans, Guardino absolutely blindsided the judges with a beautiful take on Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” His mom should be very proud. Click here to watch.
LADY K, 25 | As always, one of the most powerful auditions was held until the end of the evening. Fueled by the desire to give her family something to get excited about after her brother’s tragic suicide, Lady K’s performance of Perry’s “Wide Awake” was so good, the songstress herself began the critiques with a simple “How dare you?” Lady K was clearly living those lyrics, and the emotions rang through loud and clear. You can’t help but root for her. Watch:
Who was your favorite singer from Week 2? Vote below, then drop a comment with more of your thoughts.