“American Idol” continues on March 28 for its fifth season on ABC and 20th overall. As always, Ryan Seacrest hosts the reality TV competition series while country superstar Luke Bryan, pop princess Katy Perry and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie make up the judging panel. This episode kicks off Hollywood Week with over 100 artists singing in the Genre Challenge. If they survive this round they will make it to Round 2: The Duets.
This season the judges embark on yet another nationwide search for America’s next singing sensation. Auditions were held in Nashville, Tennessee, Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California. If given a golden ticket, hopeful idols will advance to the Hollywood round. In a new twist this season, three contestants were given a Platinum Ticket, which allows them to skip the first phase of Hollywood week. Huntergirl, Kenedi Anderson and Jay Copeland.
Below, follow along with all the action on Night 7 of Season 20 of “American Idol.”
8:00 p.m. — Over a hundred people from all walks of life will take part in Hollywood Week. Some of these contestants have never been on a plane before or have one stop light in their entire town. What happens when they’re exposed to the glitz and the glamour of showbiz? We’re about to find out.
8:04 p.m. — There are two rounds in Hollywood Week — the genre challenge and the duets. Tonight is the genre challenge. Each contestant has identified the genre that best represents them as an artist: Indie-Folk, Pop, Rock, R&B, Soul or Country. The singers choose their own genre and song before singing head-to-head against singers in the same genre. This helps the judges make comparisons and cuts.
8:10 p.m. — Kicking off Hollywood Week is the Country genre. They will be mentored by 2011 runner-up Lauren Alaina, who has become a multi-platinum singer and songwriter since appearing on “Idol.” Mike Parker is the first to perform and he dedicates this performance to his mother. I remember Mike’s audition and since then they have discovered his mom has leukemia. Tonight Mike is singing “Burning House” by Cam. I don’t know where this singer was during his initial audition, but Mike is killing it! Halfway through Luke is on his feet and Katy’s jaw hasn’t closed. Others in this first line of contestants are Kaylin Roberson, Olivia Faye, and Sarahbeth Taite. They all seem like seasoned veterans on stage, which is intimidating to Kelsie Dolin, who has never sung for an audience. Lauren is moved to tears when she sees Kelsie’s audition and tells her, “Just do what you did there. You sang!” But when Kelsie takes the stage to sing for the judges, she freezes.
8:20 p.m. — Kelsie is still on stage, hands shaking in terror. We’re watching in suspense like, please sing! Don’t blow this opportunity! She’s so heartwarming. Finally the music starts and Kelsie sings “Things a Man Oughta Know” by Lainey Wilson. It wasn’t as good as her first audition, but she’s never even held a mic before! The judges see the potential. From the first country line, featured singers Mike, Kaylin, Olivia, Sarahbeth and Kelsie all advance to the Duets round.
8:30 p.m. — The next group featured is the R&B genre. The mentor for R&B singers is none other than 2003 champion Ruben Studdard. The first contestant to get Ruben’s voice is 21-year old Za, who has “American Idol” legacy of her own. You may remember her mother is Season 8 contestant Nadia Turner. Unfortunately, Za’s performance of “One and Only” by Adele is a total misfire. She couldn’t follow the piano and her timing was all off. Katy says she could roll the dice on her again, but will she? Next, Ruben tells Tobias to simmer down on the runs and focus on the quality of his voice, which the 26-year old fails to do for his performance of “Back at One” by Brian McKnight. Lionel says he would take half of them out and Luke says, “I would take three quarters of them out.” The next contestant is Katyrah Love and she keeps things simple with Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You.” Forget all the crazy runs, Katyrah shows restraint and inserts beautiful high notes in just the right places to impress the judges. The judges deliberate and decide Katyrah and Tobias will advance to the next round, but Za is going home.
8:40 p.m. — The Indie-Folk group is next and they’ll be mentored by 2010 winner Lee DeWyze. The first contestant featured is Leah Marlene, the little weirdo from Normal, Illinois singing “Skater Boy” by Avril Lavigne. The judges and her fellow contestants all appear to be loving it. Following Leah, various unnamed artists are shown who probably won’t make the cut. Next is Fritz Hager, who memorably got a “No” from Luke in his initial audition. Tonight he’s more impressive with “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors. Katy calls it a big surprise and both Leah and Fritz get the green light to the Duets round.
8:50 p.m. — The Soul genre is next with 2011 finalist Haley Reinhart as their mentor. The first featured contestant is Danielle Finn, who is just 17 years old and singing “Easy on Me” by Adele. Katy seems to really love the tone of Danielle’s voice and mentions she hit some “crazy notes.” Next is Christian Guardino singing “My Future” by Billie Eilish. I liked Christian’s audition, but this is so much better! Lionel is loving it and the whole audience of his peers are clapping along. This is definitely one of the standouts of the night. Danielle and Christian are both selected to move on. The other people in this line of soul singers have just been completely ignored!
9:00 p.m. — It’s time to rock out! The mentor for this next segment is 2008 champ David Cook. The first contestant is Cole Hallman, who had one of the more memorable auditions. He isn’t totally confident in his musicality, but with “Vienna” by Billy Joel, Cole does enough to advance to the Duets round. Luke doesn’t look overly happy about it, telling the 22-year old he can’t keep making it through on dice rolls, but they’re rolling them on Cole one more time.
9:10 p.m. — Next up is a line of Pop singers all under the age of 18. Morgan Gruber seems to be sailing through with a shortened clip of her performance, but the featured contestant is Emyrson Flora, a 16-year old who barely made it to Hollywood after her average audition. She’s determined to prove herself and it looks like she’s doing just that! The judges decide to keep Morgan, Emyrson and an entire line of other youngsters in this competition.
9:20 p.m. — More country artists will be hitting the stage next, but not before they get some advice from the reigning champ himself, Chayce Beckham. But Ryleigh Madison starts crying as soon as one of her idols, Lauren Alaina, sits down in front of her to chat about this next performance. Lauren gets emotional as well and says it reminds her of when she got to meet Carrie Underwood for the first time. Ryleigh is keeping it old school by singing “Crazy” by Patsy Cline for her genre challenge. Next is Noah Thompson, who feels like a fish out of water in Hollywood. He’s singing “Burning House” by Cam, which is the same song Mike Parker sang earlier in the episode. I have to say I preferred Mike’s version, but I also don’t think this is the right song choice for Noah. Despite a potential misstep from Noah, judges see the potential and he as well as Ryleigh will advance to the next round. In fact, they’re joined by a whole line of country singers we didn’t get to see performances from.
9:30 p.m. — It’s time for singers from the Pop genre to take the stage and they’ll be mentored by 2007 winner Jordin Sparks. The first contestant to meet with her is Sir Blake, who admits his first audition was shaky. Tonight he’s singing “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper and it’s a huge improvement. Next is Ava Maybee, who’s father is Chad Smith, the drummer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s important for her to make it on her own without the help of her father. The 20-year old sings “Roxanne” by The Police and she might be overdoing it just a bit. Katy says Ava is pushing herself, which she appreciates. I found that vocal performance sort of grating. Last to perform in the pop line is Sam Finelli. He’s certainly one of the most memorable auditions, but will his hot streak continue? Following his performance of “Say Something,” he bursts into tears from gratitude. Unfortunately, the judges cut him from the competition shortly after that, but decide to keep Sir Blake and Ava Maybee.
9:35 p.m. — Let’s just catch up on some memorable auditions that got cut today: Singing babysitter Delaney Renee, Mark Osborne, bass-voiced country crooner Luke Taylor and Thomas Moran. At least they took a shot at their dreams!
9:45 p.m. — It’s time for more soul singers and Kevin Gullage hits the piano, instantly waking up the room with “Tired of Being Alone” by Al Green. I’ve been waiting for this! He’s such a unique, yet old-school entertainer. He’s one of my absolute favorites. Other soul singers taking their shot in this line include Cadence Baker, who initially auditioned with her father backing her up on guitar. She’s a little intimidated being in Hollywood by herself. Her performance tonight is mediocre, but the judges think she’s done enough to warrant another shot. Obviously Kevin is moving on as well. Another memorable audition belonged to Tristen Gressett, who was told to calm down all his antics. The 17-year old appears to have taken the notes seriously, putting the music first on this performance. He will advance to the next round as well!
9:50 p.m. — We get a brief clip of some singers who had memorable auditions that will be advancing to the Duets Round. They include Betty Maxwell (the former Miss USA), Elli Rowe, Sam Moss, Haley Slaton, Allegra Miles and Dakota Hayden. Congrats to each of them!
9:59 p.m. — The last group of the night will be from the Pop genre. Jacob Moran is 28-years old and this is his second time in Hollywood Week. He knows this is his last shot so he puts everything into this performance. Katy comments that Jacob could do so much better and Luke definitely isn’t crazy about him. Danielle Clavell seemed to pushing a little too hard as well, failing to impress the judges as much as she did with her initial audition. Douglas Mills Jr. aced his audition with “Strange Fruit,” but tonight he failed to have anyone in the palm of his hand like before. The judges all seem underwhelmed until 18-year old Nicolina takes the stage and sings “everything i wanted” by Billie Eilish. It’s the most emotional performance of the night and has the crowd on their feet, but what do the judges think about these four performers? Well, they like them all enough to send them to the next round! And that’s a wrap for this night of genre challenges. Hopefully things get even more exciting in the duets round next week. But before that, the Platinum Ticket holders step out and perform as a trio, singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. They sound good and this has been fun, but I’m ready for them to have to get their hands dirty. That concludes this round!
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