American Idol season 20 auditions are finished. Contestants who passed through the judges round are on to Hollywood. The first round ‘Genre Challenge’ features fan favorite alums returning to the show to mentor the contestants in specific genres: Ruben Studdard (S2 winner) will mentor R&B, Jordin Sparks (S6 winner) mentors Pop, David Cook (S7 winner) mentors Rock, Lee DeWyze (S9 winner) mentors Indie/Folk, Lauren Alaina (S10 runner-up) mentors country, Haley Reinhart (S10 2nd runner-up) mentors Soul, Reigning champ Chayce Beckham will also be on hand.
The singers choose their own genre and song, and will compete within their respective genres, head to head.
Hopefuls will sing in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan hoping to advance to the “Duets Challenge.” Ryan Seacrest hosts. Jay Copeland (Austin), HunterGirl (Nashville) and Kenedi Anderson (Los Angeles) won special Platinum Tickets in their respective cities which allow them to sit out this first round.
American Idol 2022: Full Season 20 Schedule
Spoilers: Top 24 Season 20 Contestant List
What Did Top 24 Sing in Hawaii? (Spoilers)
Showcase Contestant List and Song Choices (Spoilers)
Reminder: Comments on this post are a SPOILER FREE ZONE. Do not spoil outcomes. Keep spoiler discussion confined to specific spoiler posts.
“Y’all look like the country group,” says Lauren, “I’m not going to lie!”
Mike Parker – Burning House by Cam – His mom has leukemia, and is fighting the cancer. It’s a country song, but sounds R&B. He has no twang! Nevertheless, his rendition is touching and beautifully phrased. Luke is up on his feet after a particularly glorious note.
Kaylin Roberson – She sits at the piano to sing. She’s the gal whose boyfriend came to audition with her, but didn’t get a golden ticket. “She put her foot down on that one, says Lionel.
Olivia Faye – She’s somebody new. She can sang.
Sarahbeth Taite – To Love Somebody by the Bee Gees – She moved to Nashville at 17. She sings a lovely Dolly-inspired country take on the song.
Kelsie Dolin – Things a Man Oughta Know by Lainey Wilson – Lauren helps a very nervous Kelsie. She’s the singer from West Virginia who lacks self-confidence. She’s never performed in front of a big crowd before. Lauren helps her work through her nerves. When she hits the stage her hand is visibly shaking. The judges have to assure her. Once she starts singing, she calms down. The crowd cheers her on. Her voice is so quiet. She needs to project. Sing out with confidence. She isn’t quite ready for American Idol. She needs more time.
Results: Mike, Sarahbeth, Olivia, Kaylin, Kelsie are through to the next round. Hoo boy Lionel is really bad at faking out results.
Ruben Studdard in the house! “I never thought in a million years that I would be returning for the 20th season.”
Zareh – One and Only by Adele – Ruben chats with Nadia Turner’s daughter Zareh. Ruben advises her to pick a song she’s confident in. Unfortunately, the performance is a hot mess. She lost the timing and pitch.
Tobias Hill – Ruben advises him not to oversing. But he does anyway, which the judges duly note.
Katyrah Love – Saving All Me Love – By day, she serves homeless youth in Detroit. Katyrah sounds very classic this week. This is better than her audition, even if she oversings. Her upper register is insane.
Results: Katyrah, Tobias are through. Nadia’s daughter is going home after the first round. Zareh, you served your purpose. Now it’s goodbye.
It’s been 10 years since Lee DeWyze won American Idol. He shares that American Idol completely changed his life. Lee advises the group to trust themselves. Watch him perform his song “Weeds” from his album Ghost Stories.
Leah Marlene – Skater Boi by Avril Lavigne – She calls herself a “little weirdo” from Normal Illinois. She chats with Lee. He tells her not to be afraid to explore the “Skater Boi” chorus, despite it being familiar. Leah’s goal is to be memorable. Her version is strummy and pop indie rather than pop punk. She does make it her own.
Fritz Hager – Unsteady by X Ambassadors – He’s rattled that Luke gave him a no at auditions. He struggles with his confidence. His parents don’t get his musical ambitions. His audition had problems. But he’s better on the big stage. He’s very emotional, which makes up somewhat for his vocal limitations.
Results: Leah and Fritz both go through.
A decade later, Haley Reinhart is living her dreams. She shares with the group how to find their confidence.
Danielle Finn – Easy on Me by Adele – Her grandfather inspired her to audition. But he has Alzheimers and isn’t aware of what’s going on. Other than a few pitch problems, Danielle is pretty great. Her phrasing and tone are gorgeous.
Christian Guardino – My Future by Billie Eilish – He was very unconfident during his audition. But in Hollywood, he wants to bring less nerves. At 13 he had experimental gene therapy for an eye condition. And he got much of his site back. He told this story as a contestant on AGT. His performance this time is more contemporary and assued. A BIG improvement over his audition.
Results: Danielle and Christian are both through to the next round.
A contestant pipes up that he was nine years old 14 years ago when David Cook won Idol.
Cole Hallman – Vienna by Billy Joel – He makes Tik Tok video with his autistic sister and came to his audition lacking confidence. He’s alone in Hollywood without his mom and his sister. His style seems more indie than rock? But the singers could pick their own genre! In any case, this performance is an improvement over his audition. I like his tone.
Results: Cole is through to the next round.
During a “Teenage Dream” singalong, Katy splits her pants. Hm.
Emyrson Flora – She’s never performed on stage before, and is very intimidated right now. She sits at the piano and sings. She’s so lost in her performance, she has a few pitch problems. But her phrasing is unique and compelling.
Results: Emyrson is through to the next round.
Winner Chayce Beckham drops by to talk to the country singers. He advises they pay attention to what the judges say. He sings his winners single “23” for the contestants. A big round of applause follows!
Ryleigh Madison – Crazy by Patsy Cline – She starts crying when she meets Lauren, who says SHE cried when meeting season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. Full circle! “You are here because you deserve to be here…put your emotion in your performance,” Lauren tells Ryleigh. Her voice cracks at one point. But she has a handle on retro country.
Noah Thompson – Burning House by Cam – He grew up in the sticks, and would not have auditioned for Idol except for his best friend Arthur. Noah shares with Lauren that he has a little son. He’s got a new haircut! He’s less gravelly this time. I prefer his audition, which had more urgency. But I think this guy could go VERY far in the competition. There’s something about his presence. He’s a natural. Noah is not satisfied with his performance, however.
Results: Ryleigh and Noah are both through to the next round.
Jordin is here to help the Pop singers. Sir Blake sits down with her first.
Sir Blayke – True Colors by Cyndi Lauper – Jordin assures Blayke that he deserves to take up space. He’s a struggling songwriter who was homeless for awhile. His performance is very tender. He’s still nervous and hits a few wonky notes. If he can get it all together, Blayke could be very good, indeed.
Ava Maybee – Roxanne by Police – She mentions that her dad is Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chile Peppers. She’s trying to navigate her musical career on her own, however. I’m a little surprised she’s not in the rock genre. She sings like a rock singer with big growly, rangy notes.
Sam Finelli – Say Something – He became very tearful during his audition after revealing his autism. His performance is shouty, but emotional. He’s crying afterward.
Results: Jenna, Sir Blayke, Ava are on to the next round. Sam is sent home. “The time is just not now,” says Lionel. Delaney Renee, Mark Osborne, Luke Taylor, Thomas Moran, are also eliminated.
Kevin Gullage – He starts, stops, starts. He’s having a hard time. He sings “I’m so tired of being alone.” Was that off the cuff?
Cadence Baker – She comes from a small town. Hollywood is scary. She had her musician dad at her audition. Now she’s by herself and crying. But she gets it together on stage. She’s gooood. However, Katy didn’t like the song.
Tristen Gressett – He’s not rock either? Huh. At his audition, the judges told him to CALM DOWN. Haley loves his raw natural feel. She advises he “wait a minute.” And he has calmed down considerably. This is so improved over his audition. Luke is still not convinced.
Results: Kevin, Cadence and Tristen all advance to the next round. Taylor Fagins Betty Maxwell, Elli Rowe, Sam Moss, Haley Slaton, Allegra Miles and Dakota Hayden are also through to the next round. Jordin sings “One Step at a Time” for her group.
Jacob Moran – Jacob pushes the boundaries of his range. Maybe too hard.
Danielle Clavell – Danielle has the same problem. She’s flat on the high notes, although her tone is good.
Douglas Mills Jr. – His vocal isn’t perfect, but it’s full of emotion. The judges aren’t impressed, however.
Nicolina – Five years ago her parents divorced. She and her sisters moved in with their grandparents. She’s so good, the contestants are spontaneously clapping. It’s beautifully rendered and emotional vocal. She hits it on all levels.
Results: Jacob, Douglas, Danielle and Nicolina are all through. Katy pulls a fake out. She asks two singers to step forward, and declares them safe. But oh guess what. So is the back line!
The Platinum Ticket winners, HunterGirl, Kenedi Anderson and Jay Copeland take the stage to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” as a group number. The greatest perk isn’t skipping a round. It’s the freaking NON STOP PIMPAGE of these three. Overall, the Genre Challenge revealed sparks of artistry. But it all goes by so fast.
Adding in mentoring sessions with alums made the episode more chaotic than usual. I wanted MORE alums and MORE contestants. But with two dozen singers and mentoring jammed into a 2 hour show, something had to suffer. And, aside from a few bright spots, it turned out nearly everything got short shrift.
Duets are next. The judges will pair up the remaining contestants. But the Platinum Ticket winners can handpick their OWN duet partners.