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The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Auditions: "Ranking the Golden Tickets"


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Another season! 

 

Last season was... odd. Pandemic Idol is definitely going to feel like an asterisk season to me, so it has been really nice to see the show get back to a semblance of normality. The ABC gloss is back, the judges chemistry is still very strong, and the talent seems rather sharp.

 

So, what do I think my initial impression is after watching all of these Audition episodes?

 

1. Girls seem stronger so far. By, like, a lot.

2. There are a couple of country male contenders that could easily win the whole thing if the audience connects with them.

3. If Willie Spence continues to catch fire... watch out, this thing could be over fast.

 

Now, typically I do a write-up for each audition episode, but I thought I'd try something new this year. 

 

Up until the performance shows, I will just be offering rankings with commentary rather than a full recap. 

 

Enjoy and prepared to get really angry at my opinions when they don't match yours!

 

 

52. Yurisbel - “Fireball”

  • 25 years old
  • PR
  • This was a lot of fun. The guy's a living Muppet character. Saying that... there was no reason he should have been given a golden ticket. He's a novelty act. 

 

NA

 

51.Christian McGuckian - “Girl Crush”

  • 21 years old
  • SC
  • This just felt cruel. Yes, Christian has SOME sort of voice in there. There's a raw talent, but it is incredibly underdeveloped and the judges did her no favors by holding her hand through her audition and moving her on to the next round. She has intonation issues and can't seem to stay in tempo with the song. This feels like a Hollywood disaster waiting to happen.

 

5.5/10

 

50. Erika Perry - “ET”

  • 26 years old
  • CA
  • I could understand maybe 10% of what she was singing and her eyes inform me that she is full on bonkers.

 

6.5/10

 

49. Claudia Conway - “Love On The Brain”/“When You Were Young”

  • 16 years old
  • NJ
  • There's been a lot of hoopla over this audition due to her parents. Honestly, I think Claudia Conway is a victim here and needs all of the hugs, but I don't begrudge her wanting to follow her dream amongst all of the drama in her life. Unfortunately, her voice is just not strong enough to compete at this level.

 

6.5/10

 

48. R’eh - “Bad Girls”

  • 27 years old
  • TX
  • This was performative and a bit too cabaret for my tastes. The theatricality is fine if you have the goods to back it up, and I just don't see that represented in this audition.

 

6.5/10

 

47. Calvin Upshaw - “Falling Out Of Love”

  • 26 years old
  • MS
  • There's a lot of passion here, but this is another contestant struggling with intonation and timing issues.

 

7/10

 

46. Timmy Skelly - “My Funny Valentine”

  • 23 years old
  • IL
  • I heard a few seconds of this and it seemed pleasant enough. Not terribly exciting, but fine.

 

7/10

 

45. Ammon Olayan - “Listen To My Heart”

  • 17 years old
  • HI
  • Obviously, Ammon is not as talented as his sister, and that's fine. He's got a decent tone to his voice and can sing on pitch, but I don't envision him being able to compete for much longer.

 

7/10

 

44. Cameron McGhar - “Girl Crush”/ “You Ain’t Woman Enough”

  • 16 years old
  • AL
  • What is with these contestants picking "Girl Crush?" It's a terrible song to audition with! It's a dirge! Cameron is lucky that she got passed through, because I thought it was a bit forgettable and she needs to marinate another year.

 

7/10

 

43. Tryzdin Grubbs - “Before You Go”/ “Nobody”

  • 15 years old
  • OH
  • I was happy to see Tryzdin step it up during his second number. He definitely has something, but I worry he is too green this year.

 

7.5/10

 

42. Anthony Guzman - “Cry Me A River”

  • 27 years old
  • CA
  • This was an odd surprise. We all thought the man dressed like a viking and holding Thor's hammer was going to be a novelty act... but apparently he's a Buble-inspired crooner? Odd. He can sing, though.

 

7.5/10

 

41. Vahhley - “One Moment In Time”

  • 23 years old
  • NY
  • Sweet backstory, reminiscent of Just Sam's from last year, but while Vahhley can connect to material, she doesn't have a terribly powerful instrument. 

 

7.5/10

 

40. Althea Grace - “Saturday Morning”

  • 21 years old
  • IL
  • I thought this was nice. It feels like there is more there, but the connection was strong and the original was decent.

 

7.5/10

 

39. Hannah Everhart - “Wayfaring Stranger”/“At Last”

  • 17 years old
  • MS
  • Hannah is green with a capital "G," but the judges and producers clearly believe there is a growth arc here and they want to nurture it. I see what they are seeing, but I'm not certain she is going to be able to catch up with other contestants. We shall see.

 

7.5/10

 

38. Cecil Ray - “Talkin’ Tennessee”

  • 20 years old
  • TX
  • Cecil is green, as well, but his voice has such a pleasant tone to it. Very radio ready and I think an audience could root for him.

 

7.5/10

 

37. Colin Jamieson - “Six Feet Under”

  • 22 years old
  • MA
  • He's very musical and definitely ready for this competition, but I need to hear a bit more. This audition was a bit too breathy and affected for my tastes.

 

7.5/10

 

36. Alex Miller - “I’m Over You”

  • 17 years old
  • KY
  • This kid is a blast. He doesn't have the best country voice of the season, but he may be one of the best all-around performers we have seen at this stage in years.

 

7.5/10

 

35. Ava August - “Neighbor Boy”

  • 15 years old
  • CA
  • Very solid tone to her voice, but I need to see more than a brief 10 second clip.

 

7.5/10

 

34. Andrea Valles - “Landslide”

  • 23 years old
  • TX
  • I don't really understand the judge's reticence with Andrea. I thought her cover of "Landslide" was very solid and did the job. 

 

7.5/10

 

33. Samantha Sharpe - “Titanium”

  • 25 years old
  • NJ
  • Big voice, but I'm not certain she knows what she wants to do with it. 

 

8/10

 

32. Zachary D’Onofrio - “Golden Slumbers”

  • 19 years old
  • FL
  • There's something very soothing about Zachary's whole schtick and the tone is old-fashioned and welcome. 

 

8/10

 

31. Brianna Collichio - “Scars”

  • 15 years old
  • NY
  • Very solid singer, technically, but I fear she will get swallowed up by a few more expressive pop singers.

 

8/10

 

30. Ronda Felton - “One Night Only”

  • 19 years old
  • WI
  • Big voice, but my worry is she isn't much of a storyteller.

 

8/10

 

29. Abby Lebaron - “All I Want”

  • 19 years old
  • UT
  • Very musical, great intonation, but perhaps a bit too "try hard."

 

8/10

 

28. DJ Johnson - “Scars”

  • 18 years old
  • TX
  • One of the more emotional auditions of the season. I wish her voice had a bit more magic in it to match the intensity of the emotional material she was presenting.

 

8/10

 

27. Graham DeFranco - “Part One”

  • 27 years old
  • TX
  • All around solid audition. Confident, assured, memorable. Not quite wowed yet, but that was all very solid.

 

8/10

 

26. Alanis Sophia - “Anyone”

  • 19 years old
  • FL
  • I think Alanis has a very sweet tone to her voice and clearly has the experience needed as a young contestant to potentially surprise us in the later rounds.

 

8/10

 

25. Murphy - “The Painted Man”

  • 27 years old
  • MD
  • I love a Dylan-esque troubadour and we don't get that many of them on this show anymore. Also, it feels like Murphy's speaking voice should be doing car commercials. It's incredibly distinct.

 

8/10

 

24. Liv Grace - “I Kissed A Girl”

  • 17 years old
  • CA
  • Liv surprised me. The rendition was smart and the vocals were on point.

 

8/10

 

23. Caleb Kennedy - “Nowhere”

  • 16 years old
  • SC
  • Caleb is potentially the country singer to watch this year. He is authentic as hell and Idol loves that. He's got a bit of a darkness to him and it comes out pretty effortlessly. 

 

8/10

 

22. Hunter Metts - “All The Pretty Girls”

  • 22 years old
  • TN
  • He's a strong pop singer, but I worry that everything he sings is going to blend together.

 

8/10

 

21. Chayce Beckham - “What Brings Life Also Kills”

  • 24 years old
  • CA
  • This is the type of contestant that, before ABC/Disney, we assumed would just win the season. He's got that Lee Dewyze/Phillip Phillips vibe of a working man WGWG. But, Idol has changed, and these contestants haven't gone the distance in a while.

 

8/10

 

20. Wyatt Pike - “Best For You”

  • 19 years old
  • UT
  • Wyatt is the more assured troubadour/busker in comparison with Murphy, while Murphy is a bit more eccentric. Wyatt's a character from a Coen Bros film and he is a very strong storyteller.

 

8.5/10

 

19. Anilee List - “Blue”

  • 20 years old
  • CA
  • Idol loves a contestant who overcomes a disability through music, and I get it, it's a powerful backstory, but Anilee can sing too! Very strong audition.

 

8.5/10

 

18. Alyssa Wray - “I Am Changing”

  • 18 years old
  • KY
  • This was a very tradition Idol audition. Big belt, big voice, not much subtlety. This was a shock and awe presentation and it worked.

 

8.5/10

 

17. Michael Gerow - “Original”

  • 16 years old
  • MO
  • We always need a balladeer on piano and I thought Michael's original was contemporary and radio ready. Strong audition.

 

8.5/10

 

16. Deshawn Goncalves - “Everything Must Change”

  • 19 years old
  • OH
  • Deshawn's audition was one of the better technical ones we saw over the past few weeks. It was an incredibly difficult piece of material that he elevated with a very strong and focused voice.

 

8.5/10

 

15. Laila Mach - “Drive Off A Bridge”

  • 15 years old
  • NY
  • Loved this original song and I'm really here for a 15 year old girl going full broke on "this is how I wish my boyfriend dies" vibe. Big swing.

 

8.5/10

 

14. Benson Boone - “Punchline”

  • 18 years old
  • WA
  • The first audition of the season and I still remember how effortless Benson's tenor felt. Girls will love him and he should have no problem staying in the front of the pack of singers similar to him. 

 

8.5/10

 

13. Mary Jo Young - “You Broke Me First”

  • 19 years old
  • OH
  • Mary Jo is very green, but... she comes off as a pro. She may be one of the most connected singers I've seen in the early stages of this competition. Every note is full of emotion.

 

8.5/10

 

12. Liahona Olayan - “Listen To My Heart”

  • 16 years old
  • HI
  • Contemporary, powerful, and a smart singer. Liahona could go very far this year.

 

8.5/10

 

11. Willie Spence - “Diamonds”

  • 21 years old
  • GA
  • One of the best vocals we heard in the audition process, Willie Spence is already being noticed, and for good reason. Powerful story, powerful musician. He's a bit like Ruben... but better?

 

8.5/10

 

10. Casey Bishop - “Live Wire”/“My Funny Valentine”

  • 15 years old
  • FL
  • I was pretty blown away by the vocals coming out of this tiny girl. She is a powerhouse singer with a unique niche. This could be a very powerful growth arc over the season.

 

9/10

 

9. Nia Renee - “Chain Of Fools”

  • 17 years old
  • AR
  • My favorite throwback singer of the season. This song felt like the recording come to life. But, is it too copy cat?

 

9/10

 

8. Madison Watkins - “Your Little Girl”

  • 25 years old
  • AR
  • I mean... she's ready. She's past ready. Great vocals, strong songwriter, contemporary. I'd be shocked if we don't see Madison soar through Hollywood.

 

9/10

 

7. Beane Hepler - “Wait For The Moment”

  • 23 years old
  • MA
  • I have no idea why the judges were lukewarm with Beane. I think it's because we are so used to seeing singers NOT connect with the source material that we've forgotten what it looks like? Yes, Beane is expressive... but we used to want expressive singers! Beane delivered a very difficult audition with incredible ease. Easily one of my favorites.

 

9/10

 

6. Ash Ruder - “Bryan’s Song”

  • 22 years old
  • CA
  • Yeah, I cried, so what? Out of all of the emotionally manipulative moments of the auditions, this was the one that hit me like a truck. The crying father watching his daughter sing a song of forgiveness for his misdeeds? Incredible television moment. Not sure it can be replicated in future rounds, but Ash stayed with me.

 

9/10

 

5. Jason Warrior - “What’s Going On”

  • 25 years old
  • IL
  • I don't really know much about Jason's issues with other singing shows, and I don't particularly care - he's one of the best male vocalists on the show this season. 

 

9/10

 

4. Amanda Mena - “Golden Slumbers”

  • 18 years old
  • MA
  • Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful tone. This performance made the hair on my arms stand on end.

 

9.5/10

 

3. Heather Russell - “Harleys”

  • 20 years old
  • Canada
  • While I think the runs could have been toned down, the range and power in this small girl was extraordinary. I think she was my favorite pop singer we have seen so far.

 

9.5/10

 

2. Grace Kinstler - “Midnight Train To Georgia”/“Natural Woman”

  • 20 years old
  • IL
  • Grace's audition was one of the first to go viral this season, and for good reason! She definitely has a Kelly Clarkson vibe about her. The voice is crystal clear and she has a range for days. If she can just conquer her confidence issues, she is almost a guaranteed finalist.

 

9.5/10

 

1. Cassandra Coleman - “The Way It Was”/“Apologize”

  • 24 years old
  • TN
  • Hi, where the hell am I? I have literally been transported to another plane of existence. When Cassandra sings, that vibrato wobble parts time and space and I am sucked in. What a beautiful voice.

 

9.5/10

 

See you next time!

 

NGH

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