The judges get it very, very wrong with one incredibly gifted young singer while former "Idol" contestants Gabby Barrett, Kelly Clarkson and Willie Spence inspire the next generation of hopefuls.
From a haunted studio to the best birthday present, “American Idol” continue to deliver memorable moments in its third night of auditions.
It’s always uplifting to see people take a chance on themselves, even if it sometimes takes urging from others. That was the case for one contestant who’d already given up on music, only to take this one last shot at their parents’ urging.
Another contestant, who lives with autism, found themselves about to age out of eligibility and took a chance. This is someone who’s been with “Idol” since the beginning, and had video singing Kelly Clarkson’s winning single as proof! What an exciting and terrifying moment to finally take a chance on themselves.
We had people working in the funeral business, and suddenly golden tickets were flying off the board and the lights even went off. Was the studio suddenly haunted, or were the judges getting pranked?
And then there’s the TikTok singer who’s only ever really performed in her coffee shop with a broom as a mic -- thank goodness the judges were able to find her one. But is coffee shop broom singing enough for “American Idol”?
Even though the show isn’t reveling in trainwreck auditions the way it used to in its Fox iteration, it’s not all sunshine and roses as not all contestants we’ve seen have moved on. That said, one rejected constant tonight gets a big grumpy face from us, as we were definitely not ready to say goodbye.
See if you agree with us further down below!
Fair warning, since I'm safe at home, I'm probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
And just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first in each round to see who my favorites are, and then see how they fare as the season progresses.
(“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” George Jones - 19, Hereford, TX) Well, this was just a bit of a mess right from the middle. He had a vocal range of about three notes and delivered it even more monotone. It’s hard to inject youthful energy into country classics this old as they have such a particular style and intonation, but Donovan was just sucking every bit of life the song did have right out of it, kind of like his job as an embalmer.
Results: N, N, N
[[see Donovan Diaz above for video]]
(“Good Hearted Woman,” Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings - 18, Kingfisher, OK) Emily has a great, chipper look and then she freaks the judges out with talk of helping out at her family’s funeral home. The problem, though, was that her vocals were just not consistent or strong enough in this audition to really help her stand out among some of those we’ve already seen, and the legacy of female country artists this show has found. It got better in the chorus, but we’re not convinced it’s enough to compete at this level.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“For Your Glory,” Tasha Cobbs - 26, Maxton, NC) If this makes any sense, Dontroll delivered this like he expected a full chorus behind him. It left him exposed and a bit raw at the edges in ways that would have been swallowed beautifully by a full harmonic wall of voices behind him. The talent is definitely there, and the authenticity in his performance was absolutely undeniable. His passion is not in question, but it got a little screechy at a few points. He could do to not stretch and project quite so hard, letting the listener lean into him rather than him trying to sing out to each and all of them. The judges called out his slow vibrato, which was also challenging at times. He won Luke over with “Tennessee Whiskey,” which was just beautiful. He can bring that secular sound into his gospel work and have a more authentic sound.
(“When It Rains It Pours,” Luke Combs - 17, Fordsville, KY) He was a little too into the nasally delivery early on, but that settled down pretty quickly. When he wasn’t trying to smother his vocals with guitar playing, Dakota has a nice instrument in his throat, too. It was definitely a true, downhome, authentic, almost old-school country sound. And yet, it worked on a current country song in a way that made it and him even more interesting. He’s got a lot to learn about music, life and even how to most effectively use his voice, but the raw pieces are there to really put together someone interesting in the country music sector.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“Rainbow,” Kacey Musgraves - 28, Peachtree Corners, GA) Sam came out of his shell and way out of his comfort zone to come onto this show. He has autism, though his mother describes it as “high functioning,” but he loves the show and wanted to give it a shot before he aged out. There is definitely a roughness to his voice, but also an incredible natural talent. He missed a few notes in his later falsetto, and slipped into singing through his nose at times, sounding as if he was swallowing the notes, but there’s also a lovely purity in his natural tone and ability. If he can take the coaching and handle Hollywood Week, he could be a compelling artist to watch as there is a ton of natural talent there to work with.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“The Good Ones,” Gabby Barrett - 16, Whiteville, NC) There’s a richness and depth to Ryleigh’s voice that we didn’t expect, and she didn’t even bring it right away. But once she settled into the song, she was beautifully presenting Gabby’s message of hope and optimism. It’s a beautifully sweet and sincere song, and Ryleight was right in the pocket with her delivery of it. She could tighten up her notes a bit and continue to find her own voice a bit more outside of her influences, but we wouldn’t want to risk anything that takes away that authenticity.
(“Vincent,” Don McLean - 21, Castle Rock, CO) You could definitely hear the influence of Barbra Streisand, a legend she aspires to, but there was still a lot of Abigail’s own unique sound. There’s a theatricality in her vocal style that would stand out very well on a Broadway stage or even a movie musical. It’s an unexpected sweetness and innocence with just a tinge of heartbreak. She did a great job of interpreting this song to the point we almost forgot that she was singing into a broom handle. There’s a lot of talent there, with a bit of shakiness in the voice that could have been nerves or just needs to be worked out. But she’s got the goods and is definitely memorable to hear.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“Stone,” Whiskey Myers - 26, Bedford County, VA) Mark had already given up on the music dream, though with some forlorn regrets, but his parents never gave up on him. So he agreed to audition as a birthday gift for his mother. He was so humble in his delivery, and you could see that he was in his head a lot. But what a unique and enjoyable voice to listen to, full of grit and gristle and enough gravel to pave a country road. We’d have liked to see him push his range a bit and really stretch out the notes and his vocal cords, but everything he gave still felt warm and real.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke - 17, Myrtle Beach, SC) Taniya goes someplace else when she performs and it is absolutely magical. She closes her eyes, though, betraying her nerves and fears. And yet, she is unbelievable and connected beautifully with her own stamp on a genuine classic. If she could just own her grace and talent, like her “Idol” idol Wille Spence learned last year, she could make a run right to the finale. The quality of her texture, the emotional connection in her delivery, the genuine heart in her soul -- it’s all there! She is a stunning performer who needs to grow and expand into her full potential. We’d have probably given her a chance to move on and see if she could step up.
(“Piano Man,” Billy Joel - 17, Pell City, AL) Tristen showed us so many different facets of his voice and overall talent with guitar and harmonica. He was solid on all, if overplaying a bit on guitar. He almost spoke the opening bars, but showed that he’s got some power in those pipes when he got more into the heart of the song. There’s definitely a youthfulness to his voice -- and energy level (wowzers!) -- but by the closing bars he proved he can still sell a song with a little more years on it. He’s definitely an interesting talent. If he can funnel all that energy into great performances, he’ll definitely be one (and fun) to watch.
The judges guided him to rein it all in and dial it down with a second song and it was like he was a whole different person on Black Pumas’ “Colors.” That was a real artistic performance with heart and the soul he said he wanted to put back into music. If we were excited about his potential when it was all a bit much, this performance showed so much more of what he’s capable of. This is why we love this judging panel, because they were on the money with every bit of advice they gave him. If he takes it, the sky’s the limit.
Results: Y, Y, Y
(“I’m Your Baby Tonight,” Whitney Houston - 18, Muscle Shoals, AL) The tone is wholly unique and in her softer measures she has the most precious break in her voice that needs to never be touched or altered. It gives us everything in presentation and storytelling. With a perfect audition build, she continued to give us more and more, beyond what those early bars had us thinking she even had in the tank (and we were okay with it), leaving us as breathless as she wasn’t -- because she has great breath control and intonation, too. She’s born for this. Lionel was right, too, in that Dad absolutely nailed that guitar accompaniment.
Results: Y, Y, Y
“American Idol” continues Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.