American Idol 2016 Final Season Premiere – Live Blog and Recap – Auditions No. 1
Welcome to the live blog and recap for American Idol 2016! It’s the premiere of the farewell season as host Ryan Seacrest and judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. begin the search for the final American Idol!
Tonight, the auditions begin in Denver and Atlanta, with some new vocalists and memorable faces returning for another shot at the American Idol crown!
But who will go all the way? Is the winner among tonight’s singers? The season premiere of American Idol 2016 is here!
Keep it locked right here, as I’ll be updating with commentary and videos as soon as they become available!
Let’s get this show on the road!
8:00 PM: We open on the emotional retrospective video that depicts countless people across the country watching historic moments from the season. It even includes one contestant from this season (I recognize him from audition commercials) telling his younger sibling that he hopes he wins too, in a weird moment that seems to give him a leg up if he makes it to the voting rounds. Just seemed strange to include him as an actor in this thing. Then again, benefiting from this depends on people remembering he was even in this once voting rounds start. And hey, he needs to get there first.
8:05 PM: We’re in Atlanta for the first of the auditions! Our first contestant of the night is a superfan who can name every Idol winner ever, although she botches the winner of Season 7.
MICHELLE MARIE, 19, opens the show!
-We get an intro video in which Michelle talks about wanting this since she was four-years-old, adding it’s what she’s based her life off of. We even see a clip of her tearful reaction when Scott McIntyre was eliminated from the show. She’s 19-years-old, but hardly looks a day over 15. She’s got a lovely personality though. I hope she can sing.
-Michelle sings “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes, and while it’s actually a really pretty vocal. I like this quite a bit. And her family watching just outside the door is adorable. (“A-door-able”?)
-Harry thinks America would have really liked that, while J-Lo thought the performance was very pretty. Keith Urban agrees, and with a yes from each judge, that means…
MICHELLE MARIE is going to Hollywood!
-Michelle flips out and hugs the judges. Then virtually everyone Michelle knows comes flooding into the room. The judges tell Michelle they expect big things out of her. Michelle has never been past the East Coast, so she’s pretty jazzed about achieving her dream.
-As we head to break, Ryan teases that we’ll never guess which massive star auditions for the judges tonight, as if the entire internet doesn’t already know it’s Kanye West.
8:14 PM: Back from break with past Idol alums fulfilling the producers pre-screening role, checking out new singers. That includes Clay Aiken, Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen. Only Kris looks the way he did on the show, although for Ruben, I mean that in a good way. Dude looks super fit.
JOSIAH SISKA, 18, is up next!
-Josiah sings “Ghost Riders In the Sky” by Johnny Cash, and this is probably the deepest baritone of any contestant we’ve seen in a long time. This was awesome! He plays with his guitar, and Harry decides to back him up by slapping his thighs. This is a solid performance.
-Harry is impressed by the depth of his voice, and wants Josiah to sing the lowest note he knows. He not only does so, he does it in scales! It’s badass, and quickly impresses Harry, who realizes Josiah knows a little something about music. The judges are all gaga over him, and quickly give him a golden ticket. Outside, his mother lets him know how proud she is, and then asks him to sing “the Beauty and the Beast song” on the way home. Cute. Wonder what song she meant though.
LINDITA is up next!
-Lindita (who is in her 20s — sorry, I missed her specific age) emigrated to America from Kosovo, and became a personal trainer after losing tons of weight. She loves being a part of other people’s transformations. I like her already.
-Lindita sings “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” by James Brown, and I was really impressed by this. She does a lot of runs, but she has great control over them. She also sticks well to the melody, which can’t always be said about singers who use excessive vocal gymnastics like that. Her end run was amazing, and the sort of thing that would have gotten her a standing ovation on The X Factor.
-Harry loved it, and thinks people would have gone crazy for her after that performance. The other judges loved it too, although Keith and J-Lo felt she would have been better served holding back a bit on the runs, since it means more when you don’t overdo them. And I agree. I also agree with J-Lo, who notes how surprised she was, since Lindita sang like a big girl. She’s got a huge voice in a very small package. But I guess she sings like a big girl because…well, she was one, once. Good on her for losing all that weight though.
8:27 PM: Back from break with a guy who’s had the hots for J-Lo for as long as he can remember…
BILLY BOB EVETT, 29, is up next!
-Billy Bob has had the hots for J-Lo since the Fly Girl days, and that charms Jennifer considerable, since that was her “chunky days”. Jennifer says he has a special place in her heart, as does anyone who says they’ve loved her in her Fly Girl days. Billy Bob is a real charmer, and he looks like he could be a real threat in this competition. He gets the piano player to help him make sure his guitar is in tune, and then he launches right into it.
-Billy Bob sings a Waylon Jennings tune that has Keith Urban singing along, but his voice isn’t great, unfortunately. And the judges don’t think so either. Keith loves his musicianship but feels the voice just isn’t there, and J-Lo agrees. Harry says this is the closest he’s come to saying yes to someone with that many pitch issues, since there’s so much to like about Billy Bob but he just can’t say yes to him. Billy Bob walking away with his head down is the saddest thing in the world. I just wanna hug the guy. And I’m sure a lot of America does too.
LEE JEAN, 16, is up next!
-Lee talks about the hardships his family has faced since the tragic death of his brother, and it’s clear right from the start that this kid is a real musician, as we see him playing a variety of instruments in his house. Family means the world to Lee, and they’re here to support him. Strangely, for a 16-year-old, he doesn’t seem that nervous. He seems like an old pro already.
-Lee sings “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran, and it’s…okay. I mean, the vocal isn’t bad, but it’s not out of this world either. That said, his musicianship is on point. Dude just makes that guitar sing! And he’s definitely got room to grow, in my opinion. The judges seem to agree, although Harry is leery about his difficulty at staying in tune, while Keith and J-Lo both have their qualms about the voice. Again, he’s not a bad singer at all, but I think the judges were all looking for something stronger. But Lee is immensely likable, and like I said, he’s got tons of potential. So I’m glad the judges put him through.
LEE JEAN is going to Hollywood!
-Lee embraces his ecstatic family, and notes how much this golden ticket means to him and his family.
8:41 PM: Our next contestant has a cello with her, and Taylor Hicks suggests that she should use a harmonica if that cello ever gets too cumbersome to haul around.
JENEVE ROSE MITCHELL, 19, is up next!
-Jeneve lives in the Elk Wilderness, where the nearest town is six miles away, and they have no electricity. They use a power generator twice a week to watch American Idol, but that’s about it. That said, she prefers it this way, since she’d rather be out training horses than watching TV or playing video games. Jeneve seems cool, but I’m distracted by how much cooler this bluegrass version of “Royals” playing over the video package is.
-Jeneve sings “Chainsaw” by The Band Perry using a cello, and this is kind of awesome! Seriously, this is like country funk, in a way. The judges are all impressed, although Harry felt the vocals could have been stronger. But when hasn’t Harry felt the vocals could be stronger? Jeneve’s family comes in to celebrate, and Harry notes how her father’s handshake made him feel like a 4-year-old girl.
SONIKA VAID, 20, is up next!
-In her intro package, Sonika talks about how her family emigrated from India in order to have a better life, as her parents have always had the American dream in their hearts. Sonika is absolutely GORGEOUS, so I’m really hoping she can sing. Because I’m already rooting for her: likable, looks a star, and seems fairly humble too.
-Sonika sings “When I Say I Do” by Matthew West, and while it’s a lovely vocal. She connects with the emotion of the song very well, almost as if telling a story. And she doesn’t over-embellish with any crazy runs. It’s just a sweet, pure vocal, which is really refreshing in a competition like this. That said, I thought some of the praise was excessive, such as Harry saying she’s the first person he’s seen whom he thinks can win. But he’s not far off about how beautiful the vocal was. Keith is similarly enthusiastic about the purity of her voice, and J-Lo is quick to add how “pretty” her voice is. They all agree that she has a great way of emoting, and I agree.
SONIKA VAID is going to Hollywood!
-Sonika fights back tears as she accepts her golden ticket. Sonika and Ryan Seacrest then FaceTime with her father, in a silly little moment. I’m rooting for her.
JOSEPH KOHLRUSS is up next!
-Joseph is a classically trained singer who has a lot of confidence in himself, saying he fully expects three yeses…hell, even four yeses. When a producer tries to correct him, he says he simply meant it as a “giving 110%” thing. He’s got an insane amount of people here to cheer for him, serving as a full rooting section, complete with signs and a hype man. It’s strange.
-Joseph sings “Hello” by Lionel Richie, and while it’s apparent that he does have a voice (at times he kind of sounds like Josh Groban), it feels like he has no idea how to use it. Honestly, if this weren’t the final season of Idol, I’d tell him to work on his craft and come back again in a few years. But for the final season? This just wasn’t good enough, in my opinion. The judges don’t seem to think so either, as J-Lo says she can’t put him through for the final season. Keith thinks Joseph has a voice, but feels it’s just really inconsistent in what Joseph does with it. Harry asks Joseph to sing the lowest note he knows, and it comes out pretty poorly. I don’t know what the point was in having him do that, especially since it seemed evident that the judges had already made up their minds. But Idol judges work in mysterious ways, I guess.
REANNA MOLINARO, 24, is up next!
-Reanna is a police officer in local Hobbs County, and she notes that she loves her job, although people don’t respect female police officers like they should, since most expect police officers to be masculine. As she enters the audition room, Harry gets ecstatic to learn she’s a cop, and even asks her to handcuff him. It’s a cute moment, if nothing else, as Harry tries to play the piano with his hands behind his back. He loves being cuffed so much that he tells her to leave him cuffed until after she auditions. I feel like this tells us a lot about Harry.
-Reanna sings “If You’ve Got Leavin’ On Your Mind” by Patsy Cline, and it’s a nice, if unspectacular, vocal. She’s clearly got a voice, but she doesn’t come across like much of a performer. But much like Lee Jean, I think she’s got tons of room to grow. Will she win? Probably not, but I think she has potential. Harry notes how hard it is to critique someone when he can’t feel his hands or shoulders, but he liked Reanna’s voice. J-Lo and Keith agree, although they felt she could have emoted more, since they weren’t really feeling her from a performance standpoint. Harry asks for his fellow judges to please hurry so Reanna can uncuff him, but Keith teases by asking Reanna to sing another song. And you know what? I would have liked to hear another song, just to see what else Reanna could do. But Keith quickly waves it off as a joke, and gives her a yes. J-Lo and Harry agree, and Reanna uncuffs him.
REANNA MOLINARO is going to Hollywood!
9:07 PM: Back from break with this 16-year-old girl named Sylvia Lee Walker who just WON’T. BE. QUIET. Seriously, she just talks and talks and talks, about winning every talent show for yodeling, owning her own show goat, etc. etc. etc. She’s a charmer, but I can’t handle the talking. She’s a good yodeler, but her pitch isn’t there. Keith notes this, saying it was all over the place. Although he and J-Lo both feel she’s extremely entertaining. Maybe she should be a comedian!
9:10 PM: We then get a montage of people who’ve auditioned before, but got rejected. SHEVONNE PHILIDOR (“Latch”) is back, and she recalls Randy Jackson telling her she wasn’t ready. And now she sees that rejection was good for her, because now she IS ready. And I agree, because this was great. KORY WHEELER (“Benny and the Jets”) is back, and he’s even better than last year. In fact, I’m still kind of shocked he didn’t make it to live shows last year. LAUREL WRIGHT (“Follow Your Arrow”) sounds delightful here, although I’m not certain I’m going to remember it. But hey, this season needs country singers, I guess. And she’s certainly a good one. The judges then sing the theme song to Laverne & Shirley, because why the hell not?
9:18 PM: Back from break with Scott Borchetta and Nick Fradiani, discussing how progress is coming along on Nick’s debut album. From what I could gather, very slowly.
JOSHUA WICKER, 25, is up next!
-Joshua’s wife is here with him, and she’s super duper pregnant. In an adorable moment, she notes that she just might go into labor if she gets to meet Harry. They’re such a cute couple that I can’t help but root for Joshua right off the bat.
-Joshua is my favorite audition of the night so far, singing an acoustic rendition of “Stay” by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko. He’s got a very soulful voice that has a lot of pain and aching sweetness in it. I couldn’t agree more than when Keith says Joshua sang the song like he wrote it himself. Harry jokes that it was so good that it’s going to be all the more disappointing when they all say no. Of course, he’s kidding, but they still rope Joshua into their scheme to trick his wife into thinking he didn’t get through. It’s a funny moment, although Joshua’s wife doesn’t go into labor. At least not right away. That’s three weeks later, as we get to meet Branch Eisley Wicker. So adorable!
JOSHUA WICKER is going to Hollywood!
9:24 PM: We see some other contestants who’ve brought their babies, including Kris Allen, who’s presented in the holding room as though he’s just another contestant. Hilarious.
JORDAN SASSER and ALEX SASSER are up next!
-Jordan’s wife is auditioning with him, since they’ve had a bit of a feud over who’s the better singer. They’re looking for this to really settle the score between them. Jordan jokes with her by saying their baby girl just whispered in his ear that “Daddy is going to win!” In the audition room, they get the baby to laugh a lot. SO ADORABLE.
-Alex sings “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars on her ukulele, and I actually think it’s really sweet! But apparently, the judges didn’t like it, saying it lacked passion. Dude, not everything has to be an emotional firestorm. I was actually really disappointed to see her fail to make it through. But she seems to take it in stride. Jordan is up next, however, and he blows the judges away with his rendition of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion (he notes that he’s the biggest Celine Dion fan in the world). J-Lo says she got teary-eyed watching Alex watch Jordan during that song. Harry like what Jordan did with the song, with J-Lo agreeing that he’s got this big, great voice. Keith loves how full of life Jordan is, praising his vocal. It really was great, as he had some big runs, but mostly held back when he needed to.
JORDAN SASSER is going to Hollywood!
-Their waiting family members celebrate when they see the golden ticket, until they realize that the golden ticket is only for one of them. In the confessional room, Alex breaks down. She says she doesn’t know why the judges couldn’t just focus on her singing, and she even considers giving up music altogether. My heart breaks for her, honestly, because I really didn’t see anything wrong with what she did. Jordan encourages her not to give up, saying he’s proud of her.
9:36 PM: Back from break as our next contestant jams out in the holding room with Taylor Hicks, who plays the hell out of his harmonica!
KERRY COURTNEY, 24, is up next!
-Kerry talks about his mother’s cancer, and losing her at a very young age. He says it was the hardest and darkest thing he’d ever experienced. In perhaps the most poignant line I’ve ever heard on this show, Kerry says he “felt emotions no one told me about.” He plays in his mother’s memory, and feels she’d be proud to see him right now. I’m already getting a little misty.
-Kerry sings “Black Sun” by Death Cab for Cutie, and this surpasses Joshua Wicker as my favorite audition of the night. This is just haunting and full of anguish. It’s soulful in the deepest, most powerful sense of the word. He can barely even keep his hands on his guitar from how he’s acting out the emotion of the song through his body. I absolutely loved this. Harry loved it, saying it was quirky and different. He thought it was an interesting piece of art. J-Lo agrees, adding that there’s a darkness to him when he performs. She doesn’t know how America will respond to it, since it gets a little dark and scary some times, but she loves the tone of his voice. Keith thought his voice was so unusual, and the usage of it was so unique. Harry asks Kerry how he thinks the judges would vote, and Kerry says he’ll be optimistic and say Harry will vote yes, J-Lo would maybe say yes, and Keith would say yes. And he’s spot on! Charmingly, he tells the judges what an honor this all is, seeming bowled over with humility.
KERRY COURTNEY is going to Hollywood!
9:46 PM: Back from break with a montage of female contestants who all have some sort of connection with Keith, either as a fan or from having met him before. This was…awkward.
SHELBIE Z. is up next!
-I remember Shelbie! Not from Idol, of course, as she was a finalist on The Voice in 2013 as a member of Team Blake. She’s a hairdresser and a down-home country girl. And yes, she’s still a charmer. Granted, I imagine this type of bubbly personality will grate on some people, but this was right up my alley.
-Shelbie sings “Last Name” by Carrie Underwood, and it’s one of the best country vocals of the night. J-Lo and Keith really enjoyed this, while Harry pretends he hated it, before revealing that he actually loves Shelbie. This entire segment felt really short. I guess we gotta make room for Kanye.
KANYE WEST closes the show!
-When Kanye walks in, I’m immediately won over by J-Lo’s matter-of-fact declaration, “Is that Kanye West? What are you doing here?” Kim Kardashian tells Ryan she’s here because she really believes in her husband, and hopes the judges do too. This comedy bit is probably the most I’ve liked a Kardashian. Kanye says he’s wanted to be a rapper all his life, but no one believed in him. So he’ll be performing one of his raps, because it has one of the judges’ name in it.
-Kanye sings “Gold Digger”, and doesn’t censor himself at all (not that I really thought he would). J-Lo sings along virtually the whole time. This is total gimmickry, as they never even try to provide a reason for why Kanye is here (such as him being a fan who always wanted to audition, or him just happening to be in the area), but I thought this was still a lot of fun. Kanye seems so genuinely thrilled to receive his golden ticket.
KANYE WEST is going to Hollywood!
-A great audition, but I don’t know if he can win the thing. And I dunno…can he really sell records? I guess we’ll see.
-Aaaaaand that’s a wrap on tonight’s show! What were your favorite auditions? Who should have got through but didn’t? Sound off in the comments!
And join us tomorrow for night two of the American Idol 2016 season premiere! Until next time, thank you for reading and hanging out!