The final round of auditions shines light on more raw talent, including a young singer's heartbreaking performance for the father who abandoned her family just a few years ago for a woman he met on her fan page.
The final official round of auditions on "American Idol" featured a mind-blowing Platinum Ticket performance that we're still not sure is real.
This season is a lot about finding singers with raw, unsculpted talent in need of serious coaching and a lot of work to find their inner artistry. Hollywood Week is going to be more brutal and harder than perhaps it's ever been -- and it's just around the corner.
Daddy Yankee Officially Announces His Retirement from MusicView Story
For these last auditions, we got to hold our breath as a couple auditioned together (but there isn't always room for both), Luke Bryan's biggest fan screamed herself hoarse before her big audition, and another contestant sang a heartbreaking song for the father who abandoned her just a few years ago.
And then it all wrapped up with a professional ballet dancer who took a chance on himself as a singer, and inspired all the singers on the judging panel to take a chance on themselves as dancers. What followed was absolute chaos, and this before they'd even given him the verdict. It was madcap nonsense, a ton of laughs, and a great way to end an eclectic and interesting season of auditions.
If the producers did their job right, we've already seen this season's winner -- was it tonight's Platinum winner, or one of those diamonds in the rough? Hollywood starts next week, so it's time to start finding out.
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.
Matthew Lawrence Responds to Cheryl Burke Divorce Filing, Asks Judge to Terminate Spousal SupportView Story
("My Church," Maren Morris - 27, Nashville, TN) We weren't even sure if Schyler's audition was real, because it was immediately interrupted by a very aggressive member of the crew, munching on chips and disrupting everything. Katy ran and snatched the bag of chips, as the panel seemed genuinely unsure who it was. Turns out it was a rock solid prank by Luke's wife, Carolin, with Katy in on it from the jump. We loved when Carolyn stormed the dais and snatched her bag of chips back from Katy like she owned the whole place, and Katy did a great job of feigning ignorance as everyone was asking, "Who is that?" It turns out, Schyler wasn't real, either, making the whole thing just a beautifully orchestrated and executed prank. Well done!
Results: "You just got punked!"
("How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes/Trisha Yearwood - 25, Cleveland, OH) From the moment she began singing, we wondered just how much Kimmie had ravaged her voice by screaming for "Lukie-Pookie" to "Strip It Down." She got a huge edit with her touching story of wanting to inspire her daughter, but the voice wasn't quite strong enough, taking on one of the biggest love ballads of all time. She even missed her big note, which broke her own heart. She's an absolutely sweetheart, but this wasn't the best audition. There's a quality to her voice that was pleasant, but it didn't really have anything to latch onto in this performance. Maybe had she not blown it out and come with a full voice, the story could have been different. As it stands, that didn't show enough.
Results: N, N, N
Maksim Chmerkovskiy Returns to Poland After Fleeing Europe Amid Ukraine CrisisView Story
("Dive," Ed Sheeran - 28, Chicago, IL) Blayke fought so hard for his dream in Atlanta, he was homeless and living on the streets for a time while working as close to the industry as he could get. He's since transplanted to LA here he's doing better, working as a songwriter. What he's ready for now, though, is his big break.
He had a lot of great elements in his voice, but not all of it came together as tightly or coherently as we would have liked in this performance. The falsetto was a throwaway moment that felt disconnected, but the growl worked. It was a bit calculated, though, where we'd have liked something that felt more interpretive or intuitive. He's got a very pleasant voice, but it didn't have that magic spark for us that leaves us on the edge of our seats.
We're glad Katy pushed him to sing an original, because suddenly everything felt a lot more intentional and natural, though we still don't feel his falsetto is strong enough. When you have a songwriter, they're always going to feel more connected on their own songs, even though this was not as emotionally connected as it should have been. He's going to have to work hard to rise to the level of this competition.
Results: Y, Y, N
Kaylin Roberson & Matt Gorman
("Fast Forever," Kaylin Roberson & Matt Gorman - 23, Ryleigh, NC & 23, Philadelphia, PA) It's always tough when couples audition. Half the time, producers force them to audition together and then you're left to hope they either both get through, or that if one gets through, the other will be gracious and supportive of their journey. Kaylin and Matt are a duo when they perform and as songwriters, but this was definitely Kaylin's dream more than his. "I do not want to go to Hollywood by myself," Kaylin said, indicating she wasn't even considering the reverse. Traditionally, an edit like that prepares us for Matt being the stronger singer.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened for us. They sounded good on harmonies, but even there, the character and grit in Matt's voice held the song together and really conveyed the message. His solo verses were so confident and understated. Meanwhile, Kaylin has a big ol' aspiring country music voice, but it sounded amateurish at points, as if she's still straining to find herself. She also sounded like she was trying too hard to impress, while Matt was just chilling. Maybe that he was there more for her helped him to sound more relaxed and confident.
But while we were digging what Matt was doing, his mellow vibe didn't impress the judges, while they loved the power Kaylin had. We agree she's got a ton of potential to find herself as a country artist, but we also feel that Matt has already found his. He was stepping back to let her shine here, so maybe they needed to see that frontman's confidence, but we could see what he had. At least, Kaylin and Matt got what they wanted if only one was going to go through.
Results [Kaylin]: Y, Y, Y
Results [Matt]: Y, N, N
Simon Rex on The Fate of His Red Rocket Prosthetic PenisView Story
("The Joke," Brandi Carlile - 16, Cleveland, OH) A little shrill at times and overcompensating where she doesn't have to, Emyrson nevertheless has a genuinely gifted voice. She's got a lot of range, a nice cry around the edges that makes you believe her on a track like this, and a natural power that she doesn't have to strain to access. There's a lot of great raw material. She may have bitten off more than she can chew with the song choice, trying to impress, but it did enough to tell us she's got a lot of raw talent in there at a young age. We appreciated the interpretive choices she made, and that she showcased differing sides of her voice to really give a sense of how she could grow into her own artist. We'd take a chance on her.
Results: Y, Y, Y
("All I Want," Kodaline - 18, Newalla, OK) Saylor went viral at ten years old when her dad filmed her and put her online singing Ariana Grande. She and her dad were very close, but then he left the family to move in with the woman he'd been cheating on her mom with, which was devastating for a teenager to deal with. To make it worse for Saylor, her dad found the woman on Saylor's fan page, making her feel some guilt for how things played out.
We usually try to separate story from performance, but it was clear that reliving the pain of this -- she hasn't seen him in a year -- impacted her voice to an extreme degree. It cracked, broke and fell apart the first two times she reached for a high note. The judges pushed her through and she did find her way, delivering a solid and heartfelt performance. It was a little overwhelmed by Saylor's emotions, but she has a sweetness in her tone that's pleasant to hear. It was a palpable performance, and if she can continue to inject raw emotion into future songs and be authentic through her artistry, she could be someone people root for.
Results: Y, Y, Y
("Your Song," Elton John - 23, Simi Valley, CA) A little theatrical, Carly was a bit on the nose with her interpretation of just about every single word of this classic. Sometimes it's okay to just let a word pass as part of the overall narrative, but she emphasized each one like it was a precious morsel all by itself. Other than that, we enjoyed her voice and we would have enjoyed her selectively singling out moments in the lyrics. This type of interpretation is more for a broad stage performance than the po charts or a show like this. The bottom line is she was trying way, way too hard and she just didn't need to. She's got a lovely tone and great control of her instrument. She just needs to make subtler choices along the way.
Results: Y, Y, Y
American Idol Hopefuls Who Had Famous Family Before the ShowView Story
("Rock, Salt and Nails," Waylon Jennings - 18, Kamloops, British Columbia) Cameron talks like he has Canadian bacon in his mouth, but he's got a natural gift when he starts to sing. The accent vanishes, he swallows the bacon and he's got a beautiful raspy delivery that feels one hundred percent real. What's amazing is how unassuming his body language is while he performs, betraying that this is not a talent he's honed through hundreds of performances. It's a gift he was born with, and may not even realize how special it is. If he can learn how to come out of his shell a bit as a performer without losing that authenticity, he could grow into something really special.
Results: N, Y, Y
("Knocks Me Off My Feet," Stevie Wonder - 26, Como, NC) Coming from a town of 89 people, this teacher is definitely taking a huge leap outside of what's familiar to take a chance on himself. We loved that the show surprised him with his students via video before his audition, as it was clear how much they meant to him, and vice-versa. He was all nervous energy when he got into the room, which carried a bit into his performance.
Boy, Tobias came out here to put on a whole damned show, and did he deliver. He tickled the ivories like a master, and tickled the fancy of the judges with a command vocal performance. He has a very rich baritone that projects nicely when he's singing in the heart of it, but it's what he does around it that shines brightest. Tobias handled Stevie's intricate lyrical delivery with a style all his own, and while it was a bit much at times for us (those nerves pushing him too hard), he's got an incredible gift and knows how to use it.
Results: Y, Y, Y
Drake Bell Opens Up About Josh Peck Rift and What 'Bugged' Him About Costar's Recent InterviewView Story
("For All We Know," Donny Hathaway - 25, Lancaster, PA) A successful ballet dancer in Germany, Skyler was inspired to give "Idol" a shot after "the" Brandon Boyd from Incubus reached out to him. Skyler had posted some of his singing on Instagram and gotten sume buzz online. He's got vibrato for days and knows how to hold a note as long as breathlessly possible. There's a tenderness in his voice that kept us enraptured through such a slow vocal delivery, with enough moments of power and range to show us what kind of talent is hiding inside there. We couldn't say from this how well he'd adapt to other styles, and it's definitely unpolished in several places, but the depth of talent is undeniable. The tools are there, and we know he's got discipline if he's performing at that level in ballet, so we believe if he shifts focus even temporarily to music he can find himself pretty quickly.
We also love that he inspired dance insanity from the judges. Skyler was the last audition of the season, and it was clear they were slap happy and giddy to be done. We could not have loved the ridiculous attempt at the "Dirty Dancing" lift between Luke and Katy, while Skyler was a little impressed with Katy's flexibility and natural ability to move. He was a fun way to end this portion of the season -- just thank goodness he had some real talent under there, too, so they could end on a high note.
Results: Y, Y, Y
("Can't Be Loved," Elle King - 17, Fombell, PA) Easily one of the most interesting voices we've heard this season, Morgan still needs to learn to fully control it and hit all of her notes perfectly. The inspiration from Elle on her cover was evident, so it's hard to say how much of those unique flavors we were enjoying will always be there -- we hope all of them -- but this is definitely someone who has the potential to really stand out in a sea of good singers for how she interprets a song, and how she delivers the emotion. We also enjoyed watching her go into her own world while she performs, which can be the sign of true artistry at work, lost from this world and transported into the music.
Results: Y, Y, Y
("Signed, Sealed, Delivered," Stevie Wonder - 23, Salisbury, MD) Out of nowhere, Jay spoke with a fellow contestant about the Platinum Ticket before entering the room for his audition. I wonder how this is going to go? Subtlety, thy name is not "American Idol." Usually, a contestant is advised to just stay the hell away from Stevie Wonder. Those that take him on are judged by how much they pale in comparison, because it's just inevitable. But Jay took to this song like it had been written for him. His power, his runs, his wail, even his physicality as he performed. This is a born singer and performer. We could see him easily standing out as the most compelling artist in any of his college music classes because he just draws the eyes right to him, and then his voice wraps you up in a warm hug. It's effortless for him, or at least he makes it look that way, and it is magical in a way that is incredibly rare. Maybe they spoiled the results of this audition because it was so obvious from the first note how incredible he was.
Results: Platinum Ticket
"American Idol" airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET, with a special auditions episode after this Sunday's Oscars telecast on ABC followed by the kickoff to Hollywood Week next Monday.