You know that sweet spot during a vacation when you finally let go and forget what day it is? That’s pretty much where we are with American Idol right now, as we enter the seventh hour of Season 20 auditions.
And since we’ve already lost all concept of time, let’s begin this week’s recap with 21-year-old Zaréh, a fashion stylist whose mother happens to be Nadia Turner, one of the Top 8 finalists from Idol‘s fourth season. More than 15 years after her mother’s Idol journey, Zaréh surprised Turner by bringing her to the audition in a blindfold. She eventually adjusted, but Turner seemed legitimately surprised (and not necessarily thrilled) to find herself back on Idol after all this time. When you consider how much she probably endured during her time on the show, ambushing her like this was a risky little game.
But Turner couldn’t keep from smiling when she heard her daughter sing. Rocking the same top her mom wore for her own audition, Zaréh won over the judges with a smooth performance of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust the Windows,” especially excelling in her lower register. After suggesting she “put some stank on it” next time, the judges sent her through to Hollywood.
Read on for a breakdown of this week’s other successful auditions:
THOMAS PATRICK MORAN, 24 | Ugh, this guy. A marketing coordinator from Denver, Moran was off the wall from the jump. And not in a good way. Following a painfully awkward performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” Moran dropped his act and delivered a considerably more impressive rendition of Leon Bridges’ “River.” But was it impressive enough to make up for how corny and gimmicky he was at the start? I didn’t think so, and neither did Luke Bryan, but with two yeses from the other judges, Moran (somehow) made it through. Click here to watch.
SAM MOSS, 25 | The second time proved to be the charm for this returning contestant, who sat at the piano for a beautiful original ballad about the uncertainties of life and love. It’s the kind of song Adele might release, with impressive lyrics like “goodbye is not good by me.” Moss admitted that she previously tried to be what she thought the judges wanted her to be, but she’s taking a new approach this time — and it appears to be working. Watch:
FRITZ HAGER, 21 | This plaid-clad guitar player idolizes Phillip Phillips, and it absolutely showed in his performance of Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go,” which was somehow both very good and very boring. He’s got the talent, but he’ll need to develop a stronger identity if he wants to stand out from the pack later on. Click here to watch.
KEVIN GULLAGE, 23 | When Gullage explained that he was inspired by the legendary William Hung, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from his audition. I definitely wasn’t anticipating him to blow me away with a pure, natural performance of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Just so good and so effortless. He even had time to squeeze in some “Louisiana fun” with the judges, giving them percussion instruments to accompany his follow-up performance of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya.” Click here to watch.
JACOB MORAN, 27 | Another familiar face, this nurse returned for a second audition after making it to Hollywood with Ariana Grande’s “Into You.” Three years later and more than 60 pounds lighter, Moran returned with newfound confidence, which showed in his killer rendition of Katy Perry’s “Rise.” The whole thing was loaded with passion, which Moran wisely rationed throughout, making those high notes towards the end even more impressive. “Welcome back,” indeed. Click here to watch.
HALEY SLATON, 23 | This mom-to-be, who started out singing in church when she was just three years old, got off to a rocky start with Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.” But after a pep talk from Perry, she rebounded with Adele’s “One and Only,” which turned out to be a much better showcase for her voice. Click here to watch.
ELLI ROWE, 19 | The kind of sweet soul you can’t help but root for, this teen songstress gave us Olivia Rodrigo meets Norah Jones in her performance of Alan Stone’s “Give You Blue,” and it was just phenomenal. Click here to watch.
DAN MARSHALL GRIFFITH, 24 | This former college football linebacker impressed the judges, both with his jawline and with his take on Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.” And if this whole music thing doesn’t work out, he can always follow Perry’s advice and get into the Marvel movie business. Click here to watch.
DOUGLAS MILLS JR., 18 | Idol went out with a bang this week, introducing the winner of a local ABC affiliate’s “silver ticket” contest. Mills’ performance of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” which he dedicated to the Black community for all the pain it has endured over the centuries, wasn’t just one of the most powerful auditions of the season — it was one of the most affecting musical moments the show has given us in recent memory. A sobbing group hug was the only way this could have ended. Watch:
Which of this week’s auditions were your favorites? Vote below, then drop a comment with your full review.