Four weeks of horrible choices and painful critiques is three too many, yet here we are. Another audition episode is, unfortunately, upon us. Will this batch of hopefuls be adequately separated based on their talent? Of course not, this isn’t American Idol Season 4! Let us bow our heads and pray to St. Clarkson that this episode doesn’t lead us to insanity.
Laila Mach liked Gabby Barrett. Gabby Barrett liked Carrie Underwood. Idol likes to connect everyone to Carrie Underwood, as she is the textbook example of who you can become thanks to Idol. A little presumptuous, but we’ll go with it. She sings an original that includes the line “I hope you drive off a bridge,” which is dark and I’m into it. Her voice has a pureness and an untainted quality that is quite gorgeous, especially from someone so young. Am I…hopeful? What is this feeling? Laila, what have you done to me?!
Re’h comes in here as the lead singer of an Army band, which is incredible. However, she quickly flips immediate judgments by pulling out the most gimmicky quick change I’ve ever seen, and that’s hard to do when standing in front of Katy Perry. She sang…fine? Her voice was a little messy amidst the gimmicks, but I like the idea of bringing a disco sound to the competition. Off to the vocal boot camp that is Hollywood week.
Michael Gerow is thrown into judge shenanigans that I truly despise, but that’s what these auditions have become. Michael sings an original at the piano and his voice is reminiscent of Shawn Mendes, minus the gross Camilla Cabello of it all. The actual song is rather forgettable, but the voice is wonderful and, as Lionel says, he has a nice vulnerability in his tone. Katy warns that his swagger could over power him down the road, but as of now, I think he could do quite well with the teen girl vote if he makes it to the live rounds.
Cameron McGhar is, once again, in the middle of Luke Bryan’s insufferable football obsession and I truly don’t care! Just let the poor girl sing! She begins to sing “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town slower than the plot of Nomadland. The judges question her emotion and ability, especially when a second song still isn’t great. She needs training and a clear understanding of how to use her voice, as her current technique is “sing loud”. Lionel says no (GOOD), Katy says yes (BAD), and Luke tips her over the edge to send her through. She’s going to be ripped to shreds during Hollywood Week!
Beane sees his “Neen” on the big screen and I want to jump into a ravine. His outfit is hella hip, his choice of name is rad, but when he starts to sing, I fall in love. With a swagger that is infectious, a control that’s the best we’ve seen this season and a tone that gave me chills, I’m all in on Beane. The male judges are concerned he isn’t right for American Idol, but luckily, Katy is on his side and sees stardust in his eyes. He gets two yes votes and is off to Hollywood. Don’t mind me, just making “Beanehead” shirts.
Anthony Key is all in on boy bands and painfully alone. He wants to be a pop star, but like, probably one in 1998. He sings BTS right through his nose whilst performing intricate choreography and the cringe factor is at an all-time high. Instead of giving any critiques, they take a quick dance class. Luckily, he gets the boo. Lionel went ahead and said “Just dance, sis.” and I am gagged and laughing.
Ash Ruder is a social media manager with a very-Taylor-Swift song. It’s a heavy-handed, lyrical tune, which is not necessarily bad. This is the umpteenth original on this show, so I’m a bit drained, but it’s still very sweet. Ash’s voice is quite nice, but the song has four notes, so it’s hard to judge her vocally. She sang four notes, y’all. I needed more. I really loved what I heard, there’s a sweet lilt in her tone…but it was only four notes. She makes it to Hollywood and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can do! I get slight Maddie Poppe vibes, so I’m quite hopeful.
Jimmy Choo comes into the audition room and kills it. Oh, I’m sorry. That’s just the dog. Cheryl K actually begins to sing a duet (!) with Lionel Richie, while Jimmy Choo is lulled to sleep with its beauty. Her tone and higher register is gorgeous and…she doesn’t make it through. Did we watch a different performance? I am so confused. I am so confused. Cameron made it?! I’m livid again.
Heather Russell sings “Harleys in Hawaii”, one of Katy Perry’s most underrated tracks. She went ahead and added three million riffs and belted on a non-belted song. Did we lose track of the melody? Absolutely. It was too many runs! (“Too Many Runs” is the name of my new podcast.) This is the type of contestant where Hollywood can actually help them. She has a strong foundation, she just needs to cool it down a tad and she’ll be actually perfect. Off to Hollywood for Heather and hopefully, some great on-the-job training.
Caleb Kennedy says his hobby is “making people feel something” and I want to vomit. I hate the constant forced sincerity this season. Just let me hear a dang audition! When he began to play the guitar for his song, it sounded like The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and I audibly screamed. However, the song was very much not that and instead we received a gravely country voice that is in ample supply on country radio right now. It’s good, but not for me. He acts as if he is a 65 year old Opry veteran, which is good and bad. He makes it to Hollywood and I can see production trying to force him down our throats this season. Fun!
Abby LeBaron reminds me of Sara Bareilles. She sings beautifully at the piano. It was a bit boring. She makes it through.
Murphy’s voice is made for movie trailers. It’s ominous and comforting, all at once. Once he begins to sing, the coziness in his voice begins to shine through. Katy mentions that he has a storyteller voice, but requests for more dynamic choices when singing. Lionel requests a second choice and he goes for an original. It’s infinitely better. The storytelling is there, along with emotion, energy, and the confidence in his artistry. Murphy did a complete 180 and it’s fabulous. Katy says it’s too much of a novelty for her, however, the other two give him the go ahead for Hollywood.
Alyssa Wray is our final audition of the night and decides to tackle Jennifer Hudson. Her voice is gorgeous. The tone, the power, the clearness in her riffs. Lionel is having to pace and I’m throwing my shoes at the screen. Honestly surprised she didn’t burst into flames after that performance. Of course, she makes it through, and I’m ready for her to steamroll Hollywood and all who get in her way.
It’s a miracle we’ve made it through four weeks of auditions and I’m looking forward to getting to know these voices a little bit more in *HOLLYWOOD!*. However, we have another gosh darn audition episode ahead that feels like a personal attack against me. BRB, jumping in a river.
Marshal Knight is a writer based in Orlando, FL. He is the co-owner of the pop culture blog UMSURE.com and the full owner of a Rosie O’Donnell Barbie. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.