5 Must-Watch Performances From American Idol’s Surprisingly Strong Return
It could have been unwatchable. And maybe it still will be terrible — there’s plenty of time. But Sunday’s premiere episode of American Idol, a reboot now appearing on ABC after 15 years on FOX and a one-year hiatus, marked a surprisingly strong start for the retooled reality giant.
New judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie had a loose and useful report about them, cracking a few funny bits and doling some solid advice to Idol hopefuls in New York, Nashville, Orlando and Los Angeles. And Ryan Seacrest was far from a focal point, which was perhaps for the best considering the longtime host is currently awash in controversy surrounding allegations of sexual harassment from a former stylist.
But Idol lives and dies by its talent, and the first of back-to-back nights featured a strong crop of mostly teenage singers, a handful of whom we couldn’t wait to rewatch. So let’s talk highlights: here five must-see performance’s from Idol’s hot kickoff.
Noah is great in about 15 different ways. First, he’s the friendliest dude on earth — we first meet him in the holding room trying to befriend some hungover punk-rocker doofus. Then he’s sassy, bonding with Katy over some “snatch my wig” slang. Then the farm boy from Arkansas divulges that if he wins the whole thing, he wants to buy an alpaca — a quality animal choice, in our opinion. Finally, Noah sits down at the piano, belts a radio-ready rendition of Rihanna’s “Stay” and the judges fall in love. He’s got a huge, pop-perfect sound, leading Lionel to gush: “That’s why we’re here.”
The first auditioner of Idol 2018 is quirky Catie from Pennsylvania, who acknowledges her awkwardness in between being super-silly and, well, awkward. Maybe she’s a little much — calling the boom mic a corn cob was a little funny — but her original song, called “21st Century Machine,” written about how the media has affected her childhood, is actually pretty poignant and catchy. Lionel calls her a martian, in a nice way. Luke tells her to avoid social media going forward and just be herself. Thanks dad!
Meet Alyssa, a down-to-earth teen and daddy’s girl from Florida who sings like a freaking angel. Her style is super-rich and polished, like last season’s Top 10 finalist Sonika Vaid, only with plenty more power. Her take on Ariana Grande’s lesser-known “Almost Is Never Enough” was a perfect audition song for her tone — she’d be smart to take on some more Ariana, maybe some Selena Gomez, too. Katy called her a “Top 10” talent; hard to disagree.
Zach’s audition — his first audition ever — was easily a favorite of the night: who doesn’t love a shy, bespectacled kid who looks like Harry Potter and collects fancy socks. He even brought the judges their own pairs, a la Shark Tank — Katy’s had cats shooting lasers from their eyes. Zach knew his audience and then blew them away with a sharp cover of Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” with a deep, classically crooner style. A shocked Katy came to dance with him as he sang; Lionel and Luke waltzed with each other. Tons of fun, good for Zach. These one-trick ponies don’t always last long, but it was a killer audition nonetheless.
What would Idol be without a sob story from a formerly homeless yet devilishly talented singer? Dennis has endured his share of tragedy: father murdered on the West Philly streets, lived in a tent for a while. But now he’s looking good and sounding better with a smart take on Allen Stone’s “Unaware,” a popular audition choice — season 15 winner Trent Harmon debuted with this jam, too. Dennis is smooth and well-prepared, and the judges dug the hole in his old guitar — he’s authentic!