Opening with a dramatic montage about music’s impact narrated by Carrie Underwood, American Idol returned for its new life on ABC. Idol ended its 15-season tenure on Fox in 2016. For the ABC revival, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan were tapped as judges. With Ryan Seacrest back as host, the new American Idol looked a lot like the old. Seacrest recently faced sexual harassment allegations, and the Idol producers have stood behind him.
Just like in the past, the season started with the auditions. Artists gave short performances in front of the three judges, and if two of the three voted in their favor, they got a golden ticket to the show’s Hollywood Week, where the competition really heats up. The showrunner for this season previously stated that the show would not intentionally show bad auditions this year.
The first artist who auditioned for season 16 was 17-year-old Catie Turner. “I’m not popular,” she said heading into her audition. After Perry asked her if she writes her own songs, Turner opted to sing an original called “21st Century Machine.” She played guitar and had an indie singer-songwriter vibe. Perry thought it was a very well written song. “I love the sound of your voice,” Richie said, comparing Turner to a martian. Turner got the first golden ticket of the season.
Ron Bultongez auditioned next. He shared his story of immigrating to the U.S. from the Congo when he was 10-years-old. He sang “Let It Go” by James Bay, accompanying himself on the guitar. He had a really delicate voice and already exhibited strong storytelling instincts. Bryan was excited about him, but Perry thought the cover was too much of an imitation. Richie didn’t think it was the right time, and Bultongez did not get a golden ticket.
In a bizarre move, Richie decided to bring Bultongez back. “I couldn’t get you off my mind,” Richie said, telling Bultongez that he was changing his vote. He’s going to Hollywood after all.
Next up was Maddie Poppe, singing “The Rainbow Connection” by the Carpenters. She had a throwback sound with a bit of a modern…