When it comes to talented singers, there seems to be an infinite supply. At least that’s what we gather after watching the second night of auditions for American Idol. With judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie at the table and host Ryan Seacrest meeting and greeting in the lobby, it’s looking like season 17 is destined to be the best one yet.
Night two started in Idaho with a repeat contender, 25-year-old Courtney Penry of Houston, Texas. Overflowing with energy, she delivered a dynamic rendition of Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” that had a little something extra with gestures and spins. It was, perhaps, a little too “extra” for Luke, but after Katy asked her to tone it down a bit and she sang Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” the judges got a better listen to her vocals. Admitting that when she auditioned before she wasn’t ready “vocally, emotionally, or mentally,” Luke, Katy, and Lionel declared her ready now and gave her a golden ticket to Hollywood.
Before Logan Johnson sang, viewers learned that the Boise, Idaho native was reaching for a new high. Following in his older brother’s footsteps of drug abuse, the 20-year-old found salvation in music. Telling the judges he is now eight months sober, he appropriately picked Demi Lovato’s “Sober” for his audition piece. Luke was immediately mesmerized by Logan’s tender tenor and compared him to Justin Timberlake. “When you can change the mood of a room by the first four notes, you’re in,” Lionel told him and then went on to say, “You now have three more people on your support team because we’re there for you.” And he was off to Hollywood.
The judges then moved on to L.A. where they met Eddie Island, whose actual last name is Liggett, from Nashville. Calling himself “crazy but wholesome,” the 25-year-old performed an original number called “Stay OK.” With a lilt in his melodies and a texture in his voice, he enchanted the judges. “I think you have to be in our life,” Luke said. Lionel added, “What you’ve got here is your package. It’s definitely contagious. I want to keep you around for a while.” And Katy, who simply wrote “star” on his paperwork, told him, “It has been a pleasure to be in your presence.” Hollywood, here he comes!
You might think that Kason Lester was trying to bribe the judges when he brought them homegrown gifts, but the strawberry farmer from Lebanon, Tennessee was merely sharing the wealth of his harvest. Singing “Holding Her” by Chris Janson, the 28-year-old seemed a bit nervous and it was detected by both Katy and Luke. “I think he’s Top 10,” Katy said, “But I think you’re really nervous. I think you’ve got a thing, I think you’ve got a great sound,” Luke agreed and told Kason, “I don’t think you deliver the guitar convincingly, but the delivery with your voice is where you shine.” He added, “You have to hone in on your signature sound.” He can work on that in Hollywood.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to see all of the talented rising stars’ performances, but 21-year-old Betsy Jo from Miami impressed Katy enough that the superstar venmo’d her $20 on the spot.
Things didn’t work out as well for young Karli Ryan whose mother had auditioned for the show 15 years earlier. Singing an original song called “Give Me Back My Heart,” Karli’s voice was gentle and sweet, and Luke was all in. “I really love your voice,” he said. “It’s so perfectly understated and it fits you.” And although Katy compared her to Kacey Musgraves, she also said that what differentiated Kacey from Karli was that Kacey’s voice had more “gears,” more dimension. The young singer didn’t make it through, but she was encouraged by all of the judges to continue her journey and return.
Kason Lester may have brought the strawberries, but 26-year-old Juan Pablo brought the spice. Originally from Mexico, but now living in North Hollywood, the handsome young singer presented a version of the classic “Bésame Mucho,” so convincing and wrought with angst that Katy could barely contain herself. Even Lionel felt it and told him, “If you can stand still and bring everybody to you, that’s power.“ And although Luke admitted that he wasn’t feeling it, Juan Pablo even won over the country boy by explaining how his sound could work in Nashville. And with that, he was Hollywood obligado.
If you tuned in to last night’s episode of American Idol, then you may have reached for a tissue during Shayla Wayne’s introduction and performance. Going by “Shayy,” the 17-year-old explained that she had lost her vision a year earlier when she was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. Entering the sound stage with some assistance, she shared her story with the judges before singing Andra Day’s “Rise Up.” With tears streaming down his face, Lionel told her, “You have wrecked me.” Luke then added, “Shayy, you have what we cannot teach. We cannot teach letting the music flow straight from the soul and that’s what you did. You’re a lesson to us all because it’s the power of the spirit and you’re a reminder of how blessed we are.” When Katy told her, “You’re so inspiring. Your strength is so inspiring, plus you sing like an angel. So, for me, you’re not a question mark,” there was no question that she was bound for Hollywood.
You may not think an Army sergeant capable could be nervous, but Tupelo, Mississippi’s Landon Knowlton was a little anxious about the task ahead of him when he hit the Idol audition room. However, Katy asked him to put them through some of the rigors of basic training and after commanding the judges to drop and give him 20, the nerves had decreased a bit. Singing a vibrant rendition of Needtobreathe’s “Washed By the Water,” Lionel told him, “I think by giving you the opportunity to scare us, it loosened you up.” And while Luke said his voice wasn’t perfect, he also said it was real. And it’s another soldier to Hollywood.
Longtime Luke Bryan fans may have recognized 15-year-old Ethan Payne. The youngster, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis was granted a meet-and-greet with the country star as part of Make-A-Wish’s program for children with critical illnesses. Of course, that wasn’t enough for Luke, who brought him on stage that night and had him perform in front of the crowd. Video of the meeting and performance went viral and Ethan had his first taste of what stardom was like.
He got his second taste during his audition. Singing Luke’s dreamy ballad, “Do I,” the country star joined the young man for a duet. And whether that’s what sealed the deal or the fact that Ethan has grown into quite a competent vocalist, he’s now heading to Hollywood.
From Florida’s Disneyworld, newlyweds Kimberly and Bernie from Ft. Lauderdale, who also happened to tie the knot at Disneyworld, appropriately performed “So This Is Love” from Cinderella. And as precious as it was, it wasn’t quite enough to push them through to the next round.
When 24-year-old Alejandro Aranda took the stage, a little bashful and a lot humble, the judges couldn’t have been prepared for what they were about to hear. Barely making eye contact and shuffling his feet, the California native announced he would be singing an original composition called “Out Loud.” Sounding a bit like John Mayer with massive guitar skills, following his performance, Lionel leaped to his feet, running to the young singer to embrace him. “That was the greatest,” he yelled. “You, my friend, are so talented. I am so inspired. I want to hear a piano song just to hear him play the piano.” He obliged, with some reservation, and when he finished, Luke told him, “I just feel like I’m in the presence of greatness. I’ve never seen anyone do what you just did with the guitar. I am so glad you are here. I’ve never seen anything like this. You have totally rocked my world.” And as bold as those judges’ statements were, Katy topped them all when she declared Alejandro the season’s winner.
Whew, what a night! Fans of American Idol, can take a television break for a few days. The show returns on March 10 with night three of auditions from Idaho, Kentucky, New York, and California.