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The Buzz with CCX - Season 19 Episodes 1 and 2


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We’re back for another season! Fireball is the drink of choice for night one. “Just in case you didn’t know it’s me; it’s me.” Lionel with the mask with the name of one of his best-known songs. We see a bunch of discombobulated previews, and Luke says someone is like “the Kelly Clarkson audition, the Jennifer Hudson audition.” Didn’t Kelly’s audition not even get aired? And J-Hud was unpolished enough at the beginning that she was actually a VFTW pick in the early going. Benson Boone of Monroe, WA, is our first contestant. Seacrest has a beard! COVID does strange things to people. Benson’s fairly new to singing. He’s singing “Punchline” by Aiden Martin, and he’ll be playing piano. He’s very nervous, checking the mic, checking the piano. Luke says “the best way to test the volcano is to jump in it.” Katy is every bit as mystified by this as I am. Benson is…a powerful raw talent, but emphasis on the “raw”. It’s certainly possible that he can make the turnaround quickly, but I like him much better for Season 20 than for Season 19. Katy says “They’re gonna swoon over Benson Boone.” She says she could see him winning American Idol. Again, maybe in Season 20. They show his Twitter handle on the screen so I’m assuming he makes it all the way to the Top 24…20…whatever. We see a bunch of weird people as we go to break.


17-year-old Alex Miller of Lancaster, KY is up next. “Whenever I was young, my parents divorced.” He introduces himself as being from “Garrett County”, rather than from Lancaster. He’s singing “I’m Over You”, which is a song he wrote about an ex-girlfriend. I love the song and I like him. Luke says “Thank you Jesus”. My God, this kid is so country. If you don’t like country, you won’t like him. Katy asks if Lancaster is a big city and he responds with “oh no, we have to count the cows and chickens to get a census report.” He’s witty! The grammatical mistake in the recorded piece made me underestimate him. We get the rest of the family on video call, because COVID restrictions. Maybe they’re showing all the Twitter handles? We then get a montage of people with the immersive video experience, some people getting tickets, or not. Jason Warrior of Chicago, IL, says he used to think he was “all that and a bag of chips, dip and hot sauce.” He was on The Four and reacted emotionally to getting a no. We go to break before we see his audition.


Jason’s doing Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. It’s…very safe? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but he’s not drawing me in. Even when he starts getting into it, I still feel very removed from it. The judges were all on their feet before he even finished, though, so it’s an obvious yes. We get someone who brought their own wind machine to do their rock song…this is the overtheatrical montage. And now we get Ryan Romano, age 16, from Romeo, MI. He’s wearing a sequined checkered jacket and shiny shoes. He says that people who know him know that he’s “subtle and modest, but also has that extravagant side to him.” He’s got an electronic keyboard with him, and he’s doing…”Rocket Man” by Elton John. Of course he is. He’s wearing glasses, too—he really could be a baby Elton. But he’s not talented enough. The judges agree, and Luke says “even if your voice never gets to where you want, you’ll be entertaining somewhere on the piano.” Very good advice. Katy wants to buy his coat to give to her dad. And she does! Well, he got it personally tailored anyway; he can get another. This has been an entertaining show so far, but we haven’t seen any ladies highlighted!


Ask and ye shall receive. Anilee List, 20, is from Los Angeles. She also has Tourette’s…oh, right, I forgot about James Durbin having Tourette’s! She was diagnosed right around the time he was on the show, and he was her inspiration. Loved James; good inspiration. She’s singing “Blue” by Aaron Taylor, and she brought a guitarist with her. I like her. They love her; say they have nothing to critique her on. And James is there on the video screen to congratulate her! She met him when she was younger, through the Tourette’s Foundation.

There’s a big long break, starting with a sponsored commercial that Ryan throws us into. I’m intrigued by the ad for a reality show called “Pooch Perfect”, which seems to be some dating show where people pick who they want to date by their dogs, or something? Danica Steakley is 17, from Gulfport, MS. She’s here with her dad, who is 73 and retired Navy. He’s playing the guitar for her. He seems like a stage dad, which could be problematic because she’s really good. The judges don’t look impressed, though? Ah, no, they applaud afterwards. Oh, wait, Katy starts with the “You’re 17 and you can hear it in your voice.” They think she’s too inexperienced. Lionel likes her high end, but says she’s not holding the lows. He likes her father’s enthusiasm, though, and says he’s her PR agent no matter what. Luke brings it to a conclusion. They all say she should go out, gig around a bit…Wait, Luke said no, but Katy said yes! …And Lionel agrees with Luke. He thinks she should take the time and come back here, because he wants to see her go all the way. And yeah, Lt. Dan is putting on a vintage Simon Cowell era “rejected contestant” tantrum. Danica seems embarrassed by her father’s reaction. We’ve got a worship leader’s daughter here…her mother walked out on the family, and it sounds like she was emotionally abusive. DJ Johnson from Longview, TX, age 18.  She’s singing an original song called “Scars”. She’s doing beautifully, but she gets emotional midway through. It’s too personal. We go to commercial.


She does it again and it’s beautiful. And that’s all that happens before the next commercial break. There wasn’t much to say and I was doing something else so I didn’t really “tune back in”, mentally, until it was already a commercial again. There’s another commercial, for a new show called Home Economics, that basically just shows the ABC execs trying to make it look like their other, successful shows.


Nia Renée is 17, and she’s amazing. Luke calls upon the “barbecue sauce” for the first time of the year. She’s been singing since she was 18 months. And…yeah, again I’m kind of mentally tuned out.


Montage of…Luke disagreeing with the other two. And then there’s Keith Trump from Mariposa, CA, and yes, they react to the last name. He’s a no, and now we get one of the people we’ve seen in the commercials a lot, 16-year-old Claudia Conway…oh. That Claudia Conway. Kellyanne’s daughter. Mercifully, she’s more in line with her father’s politics than her mother’s. Still…regardless of how good she is, would America be able to get past the relationship to the Trump administration. She’s singing Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain”, and yes, it’s good, but Katy thinks she kind of lost the song and asks her to do something else. She’s doing “When We Were Young” by Adele…or rather, she will be, after the break.

I’m not as impressed with this song, honestly. Lionel disagrees. Luke says she was selling emotion, but was limited by her range. Katy thinks that she needs to be better at pushing past the comments (Claudia’s already a TikTok influencer) or she’ll never get past “her dad” and “her mom”. Luke says she’s not ready yet, but the other two overrule him. Claudia’s going to Hollywood. We get a brief preview of Hollywood Week, still with Bobby Bones. Next up, we’ve got someone whose appearance is kind of…oh. This is the guy they were showing who’s singing in a speedo. He’s a model from Germany and he’s singing a song about himself and auditioning. He’s silly if nothing else. But he’s not a bad singer! Katy wants to do a walk-off with him. Okay, now I see the baby weight after she takes her jacket off. They concede that he won the walk-off. He’s not going through…oh, Luke just stop. “Plum Smuggling”, really?


Grace Kinstler, originally from Chicago but going to school in Boston, is 20. Her father passed away unexpectedly last February…I can relate; mine passed away unexpectedly in June 2019. Oh, right, we’re at the end of the episode, aren’t we? She’s singing “Midnight Train to Georgia”. She definitely deserves the pimp spot, though. Those pipes! Katy wants her to sing another song, “like the legend she wants to be”. She does “A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin and it’s even more powerful. This is singing! Katy says she thinks her milk came in. Luke’s in tears from the singing alone. Katy again says there’s not much critiquing she could do, and this is where Luke’s comparison to Kelly and J-Hud came from. Luke does an air hug, saying he needs a tape measure for six feet with her, and personally comes out to tell Grace’s family how impressed he was with her.

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Cold open on someone making it to Hollywood, and then we get two siblings, Ammon and Liahona Olayan of Waiahia, HI. They’re 17 and 16, respectively, and the two oldest of 8 siblings. They sing a song they wrote together. They’re not bad—Liahona’s definitely better, and the judges agree, though Katy says that as songwriters, they’re already worthy of being signed. Lionel says yes to both, and then so does Katy, and Luke too. The siblings’ parents come in, carrying baby number eight.


Anthony Guzman of Santa Clara, CA is a "modern-day Viking", coming into the audition in some sort of cosplay complete with Mjolnir. Katy says "Skol!" and starts a scream-off. They're curious how it translates into his music, and he's...doing Michael Bublé? Well, okay. He's amazing at it. Luke is turned off by the disconnect between the presentation and the performance, but Katy and Lionel put him through with the advice that he needs to take himself a bit more seriously and decide who he is.


I finally got away to make my drink--a vodka gimlet--and get back in time for Hannah Everhart of Canton, MS, who is about as country as they come. She's starstruck by the bright lights and celebrities. She does have the same eyes as Katy, though, which is nice. She's singing "Wayfaring Stranger", and this too is nice. They stop her at first because she's too concerned about their reaction, but they love her after the restart. She says she was thinking of auditioning with Etta James's "At Last", but decided to play it safe, and they say you shouldn't be playing American Idol safe and have her do that song too. It's also quite good, though I like her better when she stays in her country lane. Katy says she has an attitude problem, and Hannah says she thinks she's been pretty respectful. Yeah, that's the problem, right? She's too safe. They put her through.


Oh damn it, something went weird and my edit disappeared. Casey Bishop, 15, is from Ebero, FL. She says there's nothing for her in her small town and that she has no performing experience, just singing into her hairbrush. Girl, that's fine, you're 15! Though apparently she listens to her parents' music--she cites Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sublime as her favorite groups, and it disgusts me to think of those as "her parents' music", though she's also a fan of some real oldies like Ella Fitzgerald. She does a Motley Crue song, and no I'm not punctuating that properly because that's what screwed up my edit, and it's not bad, but they make her sing something else. She goes for some Sarah Vaughan--"My Funny Valentine". Oh, wow. Not quite Melinda Doolittle, but better than Amber Holcomb--the first time in pre-finals, not the vastly inferior reprise in Top 4. She goes through.


As for the one that got deleted, we come back from commercial to see him sobbing, and it looks more like a rejection cry than a "oh my god I made it" cry, but then we see the golden ticket...and the pimp piece. He, too is from Mississippi, and he's an ex-con trying to get his life back together. Unfortunately, I don't think he's very good--if we hadn't already seen the golden ticket and the pimp piece, I'd have said he's a reject. Hopefully he'll be like last year's redemption story, Dillon James, who I found utterly forgettable for the first half of finals and then he became my favorite contestant for the second half.


Yurisbel (no last name) is 25 and from Miami and he basically sounds like Pitbull, so it's not surprising that he's doing a Pitbull song. Unfortunately, he stops sounding like Pitbull when he starts singing. It's a no for me. It's a yes for Luke but a no for Katy...Lionel gives him a yes, because "the kids need to have some fun and you're the mascot for fun." Katy also points out that he sounds like Cookie Monster...oh my god how did I not notice that?! Love him as a person, but not as a singer.


Montage of Luke doing dad jokes about place names. Chayce Beckham, 24, is from Apple Valley, CA--which has no apples--and he gets a pimp piece. His mother's name is "Windie"? Okay, compared to that, the interesting spelling of his first name is nothing. He's had a rough year (haven't we all?) and moved back home. Couldn't catch the song title but the group name was too long---something about "few"? Well, whatever, he's a good singer and I've successfully passed "buzzed" and made it to downright drunk. I over-did it on the "splash" of sweetened lime juice, and with how little was in the vodka bottle, I figured "forget measuring, I'm just going to finish the bottle". Spoiler alert: there's still vodka in the bottle. Wasn't enough room in the glass to finish it. I'm horrible at judging how much is left in a container.


Montage of people doing original songs, or at least announcing that they're doing original songs that we don't get too here. Ace Stiles is 16, from Tulsa, OK, singing an original song called "Addicted", "but it's not about drugs because I'm 16 and that's illegal". Katy asks if Ace is his real name, and he says that yes, though since he's trans, he can kind of choose his own name. Yeah, I had a feeling--my mom actually initially assumed he was female, and I wasn't ready to put any pronouns in until I got a confirmation--he's androgynous and his wardrobe was kind of gender neutral (again, my mom thought it was feminine). Though I do have to concede that the pictures they showed, he looked more masculine "before" than he does at audition time. Unless that's actually from more recent than audition time--there's a little ambiguity as to whether or not this is a "proper" pimp piece, and if it is, it could be from further into his transition. We go to commercial still not knowing if he's even going through, though I suspect he is.


Luke thinks he's too introverted. Lionel has a dilemma, can't figure out if he's really commanding it. Katy thinks he's quirky, but that he has something worth investing in. Katy starts the vote and says that they want him to succeed, but it's a no for now. Luke agrees, and Lionel gives a yes to push across the message that they do believe in him, it's just not there yet. I don't think their words got through, though; he still feels that he wasn't good enough. And that starts a new montage of people who they have to tell "not yet". Cassandra Coleman, 24, is from Columbia, TN, and she normally performs on TikTok so performing live is new to her. Luke says he has a farm in Columbia. Cassie's singing "The Way it Was" by the Killers...well, that's certainly an interesting choice. The Killers are one of the best groups to come out of this century. And she's slaying it. Katy fakes her out, "I didn't like it...I LOVED it." Lionel says it was angelic. Katy asks where she normally performs, and she says she usually doesn't. Lionel says "life begins at the end of your comfort zone". He asks if she has a musician side of her and forces her to go over to the piano, where she says she isn't sure if she has anything memorized and then puts on a flawless rendition of OneRepublic's "Apologize", piano and voice alike. She gets a golden ticket, and accidentally takes a second.


Luke says that he almost lost his calluses during quarantine, he's been playing the guitar so little. Willie Spence, 21, born in West Palm Beach, FL, raised in Douglas, GA, which isn't far from where Luke grew up so he starts talking high school sports. He was 600 lbs. at his peak, down to 400...-ish, he says he lost "over 180 lbs." He's singing "Diamonds" by Rihanna, and it's not bad at all. I like it. I didn't mix my drink well enough and the last couple of sips were very tart. Lionel is enthused, saying "yes!" a couple of times and then calling for the vote. Katy says "you know you sing good", and I'm not too drunk to mentally shout "well, Katy, sing well!" They put him through, obviously.

Edited by ScarletDevilCCX
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