Katy Perry, with her impeccable comic timing and seemingly genuine affection for the contestants, is doing an excellent job as a new American Idol judge, as evidenced by Sunday’s expectations-surpassing reboot premiere. But she probably won’t be invited to be a World of Dance or So You Think You Can Dance judge any time soon. Monday, when she attempted to bust some sexy salsa moves during one audition, she landed flat on her backside — and flashed that backside, along with her frontside, to everyone on the set. (It’s a good thing she didn’t suffer such a wardrobe malfunction at her Super Bowl performance a couple years back!)
Katy laughed off the wacky incident, as did her fellow judges, Luke Bryan (who quipped, “There are some things a man can’t unsee!”) and Lionel Richie (who awkwardly straddled Katy as he helped her get up, joking, “There are some things you have to do for the business!”). TV hilarity ensued — and the way Luke and Lionel leapt to Katy’s aid demonstrated that these three already share fantastic onscreen chemistry. Kudos also to the producers for creatively employing the oval Idol logo as a well-placed censor bar and keeping this show family-friendly.
As for the contestant at the center of this ruckus, Venezuelan dancing queen and self-described “show-woman” Michelle Sussett, she was entertaining as well, and Katy admired her “chutzpah” and “fearlessness” — though I think Luke was exaggerating when he dubbed her “the next damn Jennifer Lopez.” There were many other contestants who figuratively knocked me off my feet (and one that even got weirdly close to Katy’s feet). Below are my favorite auditions from Monday.
Mara Justine, 15: “Love on the Brain”
This spitfire and Idol superfan took Rihanna’s song to church and back with a growling, vampy performance. Such sass, such spunk, such soul! She had enough confidence to make Michelle Sussett seem shy, and she earned a standing ovation and instant golden ticket. “This is a top 10 … That’s worth doing American Idol,” gushed Katy.
Griffin Tucker, 15: “Lady Madonna”
A Kurt Cobain lookalike playing a groovy piano Beatles tune, with a voice deeper than Scotty “Baby Lock Them Doors” McCreery? What’s not to love? “You’re 15, but you’re like 7,000 years old,” said Katy. “Your level of talent is staggering,” raved Lionel.
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William Casanova, 26: “A Song for You”
This flirty, overconfident women’s shoe salesman seemed like a novelty contestant, but then he showcased a smoky crooner voice (Lionel called it “smooooove”) that lived up to his cheesy, self-appointed surname. His foot fetish (he was way too excited about Katy’s well-manicured toes when she handed him his golden ticket) was a little odd, though.
Brandon Diaz, 21: “Unaware”
Meet the the Constantine Maroulis (or maybe Michael Johns) of 2018. With his pinup-worthy curls and bedroom eyes, Brandon is major heartthrob material. But he’s also the “best male singer we’ve seen so far,” according to Katy. His falsetto on the Allen Stone staple was “very clean” (said Lionel) and “badass” (said Luke), and that’ll be his real secret weapon on the show.
Trevor Holmes, 27: “In Case You Didn’t Know”
Here comes another heartthrob! Trevor (who’s crushed on Katy for years) and Katy had a moment as he serenaded her, altering Brett Young’s lyrics to “Katy, I’m crazy about you!” I feared producers were about to have another Paula Abdul/Corey Clark scandal on their hands … until Trevor’s girlfriend rushed in, just as Katy was flirtatiously handing him his golden ticket. Alas, Trevor and Katy’s romance was not meant to be. But with his lovely, intimate singing style, Trevor could still go far.
Laine Hardy, 17: “Hurricane”
Meet the Phillip Phillips of 2018. This shy Louisiana bayou kid had such a swampy voice (no pun intended) on the Band of Heathens song, with gravel, grizzle, and grit that was practically Tom Waits-level. I did not expect a voice like this! Laine is my favorite male singer so far. “If you ain’t careful, you might win,” proclaimed Luke.
Gabbii Jones, 20: “Dangerous Woman”
A “full package and then some,” this delightful, vivacious soul/pop dynamo could be dangerous competition. There was some Beyoncé-level slayage going on here. Lionel was so impressed, he got up from the table and hugged her. “There are things we can tone down,” he said of her over-the-top personality, “but the basic core of you is exciting.”
Thaddeus Johnson, 25: “Don’t You Worry Child”
Thaddeus tried out before — eight years and 162 pounds ago — and after becoming nearly suicidal following his Hollywood Week elimination, he dropped his excess weight (see before/after photos below) to improve his vocal stamina. And that he did! I loved his silky R&B rendition of Swedish House Mafia’s EDM smash. Another congratulatory hug from Papa Lionel ensued as Lionel told him, “You’re here for a reason.”
Rissa Watson, 17: “When We Were Young”
This small-town guitar girl needs to work on her playing, but she gave me Crystal Bowersox vibes with her sparkling country vibrato (“the voice of an angel,” said Luke) and effortless delivery. “I got full body chills,” said Katy.
David Francisco, 25: “Isn’t She Lovely”
After being paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident just three weeks after moving to Nashville, this Casey James look-alike made a miraculous recovery and is back to pursuing his dream. His coffeehouse cover of the Stevie Wonder classic was pretty and pleasant, but what made his audition truly stand out was how he serenaded his supportive fiancée. Their pure love was so evident that an emotional Katy sobbed. (Maybe she was imagining Trevor Holmes singing to her that way?) Another Lionel hug followed, as he told David, “You’re an inspiration to us all.”
And so, an inspiring first week of auditions comes to a close. I dare say, the talent this season totally eclipses that of The Voice this year. Can Idol make a real TV comeback? Watch this space.
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