American Idol 5th Judge: Katy Perry Dead Wrong After Great Original Song by Unique Artist

Another contestant, who walked away from the competition last season for school, returns with one of the best, and the very last of the auditions with her own powerful original.

Oscar fans who stayed up very late were treated to a special edition of “American Idol” that offered a slew of new auditions, as well as a deeper look at one of the Platinum Ticket winners.

We also got a sneak peek at the upcoming Hollywood Week and all of the “Idol” legends that are set to make their return. We knew familiar faces were going to crop up for this 20th anniversary, but there are a lot of them — and we suspect they haven’t yet shown them all.

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Already, a few alums have surprised contestants on the video wall, but it looks like there will be in-person visits from the likes of Ruben Studdard, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Lauren Alaina, Haley Rinehart, Chayce Beckham and Lee DeWyze will be there, too.

So now the contestants will have to deal with the added pressure of facing icons of this show, while also benefiting from the fact that all of them survived and thrived through this week.

As for the last batch of auditions, we got hit with a surprising amount of original songs, and there were some really good ones. One came from a contestant who got a Golden TIcket last season, but never showed up in Hollywood.

Another was one of the most interesting artists of the season with a very cool energy, look, style and delivery on a very modern original track. And we’re ready to argue with Katy all day long that she absolutely deserved to go on!

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.

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Israel McFarland

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(“The Cost,” Israel McFarland – 21, Nashville, TN) We could get what he was going for vocally, with a sound that was reaching for Chris Martin or Ed Sheeran. Unfortunately, it strayed a little closer to Kermit the Frog for us, which isn’t a knock. Jim Henson had a lovely singing voice, but he was swallowing part of it to perform as Kermit, and that’s what it sounds like Israel is doing. He’s performing a voice rather than just delivering himself. The song was actually pretty solid, but the voice was a bit amateurish and definitely more stage theater than “American Idol” or pop radio.

Results: Y, N, N

Danielle Clavell

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(“Warrior,” Demi Lovato – 21, Queens, NY) Danielle put a lot of growl into her voice, but she was doing it for emphasis intentionally. In fact, too much intention in all of her decisions was exactly the problem. It was all just too dramatic, or expressive, as Lionel put it. Her salsa dancing is fire, though. Katy coached her through the opening lines of her next song, “Train Wreck,” and as she took every note about acting less and just singing more it got better and better. But boy, she probably has a ton of bad habits that would have to be undone. If she takes coaching as well as she did right here, she might just be alright.

Results: Y, Y, Y

Brooks Kidd

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(“Mad World,” Tears for Fears [as performed by Gary Jules]  – 19, London, KY) Brooks did that thing where modern young singers bend a vowel unnecessarily, rendering a word almost unrecognizable. For him, that word was “mad,” which wasn’t great. But his piano playing and the full heart that he put in this performance was great. He’s not quite as strong in his upper register, which could be helped by a lot of practice and strengthening his chest wall. He sounds like the young singer he is in those moments. But there’s no denying a magnetism he carries with him. Brooks opened up about struggle with weight which got worse actually when he lost 60 pounds in 2 months, leading to suicidal thoughts and a deeper depression. He said music became his outlet, and you can hear how meaningful this connection is to him in the performance.

Results: Y, Y, Y

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Ava Maybee

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(“Lately,” Stevie Wonder – 20, Los Angeles, CA) Ava’s audition came up during a segment on all the singers who aren’t yet ready for this journey, and we could see that rawness in her performance. She’s raw both in her voice and her stage presence. There’s definitely an ability to sing inside of her, and a lot of confidence to even take on Stevie Wonder. She hit her notes, had some vibrato in there, but she didn’t nail all of the more challenging jumps. With a lower alto register, Ava maybe (see what we did there?) should have found a song that wasn’t pushing her range quite a smooch to nail a more solid audition. She was the kind of raw the judges wanted to explore more with. We’d love to see her more in her wheelhouse and range.

Results: Y, Y, Y

Sage McNeely

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(“(Unknown),” (Unknown) – 20, Burbank CA) Sage has an undeniable indie vibe about her, with a very cool coffeehouse/singer-songwriter/jazzy/bluesy throwback sound that is very compelling and interesting. We only got a few lines from her, but she definitely knows who she is and she delivers in that style with confidence and panache.

Results: Y, Y, Y

Katyrah Love

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(“River,” Bishop Briggs – 23, Baltimore, MD) Katyrah brought along her own instrument, which was certainly unorthodox for this show. It’s a cajón, and she sat on it to play this box-shaped Peruvian percussion instrument. She has a nice enough voice, and was able to accompany herself well on it, but it can’t be a crutch to her performance, as that wouldn’t work for a whole season. She cracked a few times and missed her note, but got stronger as the audition progressed. There’s a nice range there, and she has a mostly solid control of what she’s doing. There’s also an inherent cool factor that she just oozes as she performs, perfected in that tease of an ending. She knows who she is as a performer.

Results: Y, Y, Y

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Kenedi Anderson

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(“(Unknown),” Kenedi Anderson – 17, Crozet, VA) Already a Platinum Ticket winner, tonight’s episode offered us the bonus footage of her second song, which was an original piece. We only got a snippet of it, but it had that same crazy range and control. It was a bit warbly for us on the big wail, but there’s no denying she’s impressive. Still, they made the right choice to share her Lady Gaga “Applause” the first time around.

Results: Platinum Ticket

Yoli Mayor

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(“Beautiful Broken Things,” Yoli Mayor – 26, Miami, FL) Miami proud, Cuban proud, family proud, the first thing Yoli said was that she’d spent enough time blending into the background. Thus, she came out with purple hair and a million-watt smile. But she didn’t need any of that to stand out because she brought along killer pipes and a very cool original song. The cadence of the song switched things up several times as she offered a very modern type of melody, with an almost rap breakdown in the middle she handled masterfully. Her phrasing was interesting, that grit that creeps in at certain moments felt authentically placed rather than calculated, which is everything. She is the real deal and we’re already excited about what she could do. Katey wanted a vocal ride, with her showing more of a softer side, but we don’t think that’s what this song was.

Results: Y, N, Y

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Maurice

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(“Whiskey Glasses,” Morgan Wallen – 22, Lexington, SC) Maurice spent his entire life bouncing from one home to the other in the foster care system, telling the judges he suspected he moved around ten times. It was his last foster home that fostered his love of music. A band director, he taught Maurice multiple instruments and helped him hone his talent. Maurice works as a street performer, and you could hear him projecting a little more than necessary. But he had a very confident and cool delivery on the song, and you could feel the frustration and anger of the lyrics in his delivery, without losing its heart. More importantly, he took a well-known song and filtered it through his style making it fully his own. He just needs to rein it all in a bit and it could be magic.

Results: Y, Y, Y

Scarlet

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(“Bleeding,” Scarlet – 18, Lancaster, PA) Scarlet actually scored a Golden Ticket last season, but opted out of Hollywood Week due to school stress. She stayed home and graduated and then came back and blew us away with a great original song, a masterful delivery and so many layers to her talent that she kept dropping something new on us when we thought it was all over. We love that she knows who she is as an artist and is a solid songwriter on top of it. She’s the kind of diamond you don’t do too much with; just polish it and let it shine a little brighter.

Results: Y, Y, Y

“American Idol” airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.


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