"American Idol" auditions conclude with a former contestant’s eye-opening return
Ada Vox; ABC/Eddy Chen(LOS ANGELES) — The American Idol auditions concluded Sunday, with judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan searching for talent in Nashville, Los Angeles, New York and Savannah, Georgia, including the shocking return of a season-12 contestant. More on that later.
Here’s some of Sunday’s highlights:
Pittsburgh native Gabby Barrett, 17, made the mistake of trying to sound like Carrie Underwood during her rendition of Carrie’s “Good Girl,” but redeemed herself when she switched to a gospel tune. Katy, noting the teen had “stage presence,” gave her a “yes,” as did the other judges. Gabby is off to Hollywood.
Caitlin Lucia is a waitress from Orange County, California, and a big Katy Perry fan. Her unique spin on Katy’s ”I Kissed a Girl” was a gutsy move that paid off with Perry admitting Caitlin did a better job on it than she did. Katy also believed Lucia had “a bigger motor” than Caitlin was showing them, and she and the other judges wanted a chance to see it in Hollywood. Lucia got three “yeses” from the judges and a golden ticket.
Lee Vasi, a 20-year-old from Fayetteville, North Carolina, made the common mistake of trying a little too hard to win the judges’ approval, getting a little carried away with her version of Toni Braxton’s “Love Should Have Brought You Home.” The judges chalked up the mistake as a case of nerves, though, and gave her a pass. She earned a golden ticket and a chance to sing her favorite Commodores song, “Zoom,” with Lionel himself.
The panel also fell in love with Carly Moffa, whose quirky personality impressed them as much as her voice. Moffa performed an original tune, “I’d Let the Lion Out,” dedicated to her mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Lionel declared Carly gave them “the whole package,” praising her vocal style and personality. Luke said the singer had a “quirky, crazy, awesome personality.” Perry thought Carly had a “big, beautiful, folky-type” voice, reminiscent of Florence + the Machine’s Florence Welch. Moffa earned a unanimous “yes” from the judges, and a ticket to Hollywood.
Brielle Rathbun, an 18-year-old choreographer from New Jersey, has no trouble finding an audience for her music — she’s one of five biological kids and four adopted children, all raised by their divorced father. After giving Luke a lesson on hip-thrusting, at Katy’s request, Brielle broke into “Gravity” by Sarah Bareilles, a performance that had Richie marveling at the teen’s control. Bryan agreed, adding Brielle was just singing and feeling the music. “When it looks natural,” he said, “that’s good stuff for us.” Added Perry, “You have this smoky, raspy voice that still has power.” Rathbun emerged from the audition with a golden ticket, and a trip to Hollywood.
Samuel Swanson grew up milking cows on a farm in Alabama, but took his last $60 and moved New York City. After his smooth take on Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Luke described Samuel’s voice as “velvet, velvet, and then layered with silky velvet.” Lionel, noting Swanson had “an effortless quality,” went on to pay Swanson the ultimate compliment, comparing him to Luther Vandross. On the count of three Perry, Richie and Bryan held up a golden ticket and announced Samuel was going to Hollywood.
Jurnee – who swears that’s her real name – is an 18-year-old from Denver who realized in high school that she was gay, joking I’s been “rainbows — pun intended — ever since.” She’s now married to a soldier in the United States Army. Her version of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” had Katy declaring she sounded like “a little bird” who sings “so effortlessly.” Lionel also praised her vocal command. “Jurnee has arrived,” said Lionel as he announced she was going to Hollywood.
Ada Vox — formerly known as Adam, a “chubby little Latino boy” who auditioned in season 12 at the age of 19 and made it to top 50 before he was eliminated — had a rocky road in between his last audition and this one, hearing from Idol viewers who attacked his weight and sexuality. Now, a waiter by day and “professional part-time woman” at night, Ada, in full drag, belted out the classic “House of the Rising Sun.” Afterwards, Lionel exclaimed that she offered “a clear understanding of who you are” and “an amazing amount of talent.”
American Idol‘s Hollywood week begins Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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