American Idol Recap: Past Contestants Return to Support Loved Ones — Can Lighting Strike Twice?

American Idol Recap: Past Contestants Return to Support Loved Ones — Can Lighting Strike Twice?

03/15/2021

Last season’s finalist Francisco Martin returns in support of his brother Kiko, while fan-favorite Catie Turner shows up with her new boyfriend, another returning contestant from her season — and they’re a surprising and adorably quirky couple!

It was the last stop before Hollywood Week on “American Idol,” and the contestants brought along a few familiar faces.

Francisco Martin wowed judges last season on his way to a Top 5 finish, so he came along as a good luck charm for his brother, Kiko. But he wasn’t the only good luck charm, nor was he the only former contestant to duet.

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Fan-favorite Catie Turner’s quirky style and adorable personality won her legions of fans back in Season 16 when “Idol” first made the move to ABC, and she won the heart of someone else, too.

Zach D’Onofrio auditioned as well that season, making it all the way to Hollywood Week. There, apparently, they struck up a love connection — with a two-year delay. Now, though, they’re as adorable together as she was alone. And Zach is back to take another shot.

His biggest issue — because quirkiness can work just fine — is a lack of confidence in who he is as a person and a singer. That seemed to be a theme throughout the night, with some truly gifted singers having no idea how good they could be with a little belief.

From living with autism to cystic fibrosis to homelessness and single motherhood, these contestants have experienced real challenges and risen up as inspirations to those around them. Each of them brought something remarkably unique to their auditions.

And one person brought a sock puppet.

Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.

Just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are.

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Jake Clark

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(“Sexy and I Know It,” LMFAO – 20, Thousand Oaks, CA) We didn’t get a lot of this audition, but what we got was underwhelming. More importantly, it was unconvincing. And if you’re going to sing a song like this, you have to have so much confidence in what you’re singing. Jake sounded a little hesitant, like he was afraid to really belt it out there, and it left us feeling just meh.

Result: Going Home

Luana

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(“[something operatic]” – 28, Saarburg, Germany) She stayed in that soaring operatic style throughout, but not in a way that felt particularly exciting or moving. We didn’t get much, but what we got didn’t do much for us, anyway, so we’re okay with it.

Result: Going Home

Danny Falco

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(“You Found Me,” The Fray – 28, Taunton, MA) Danny definitely has an interesting rasp to his voice, but the whole look and vocal performance felt too much just like that, a performance. He has a really interesting quality to his voice, but the whole schtick just feels too much like a show and not like he’s being his true authentic self. If he is, then he needs to really lean into it and live it and be it in his performances so that we believe this song speaks to him, so that we can feel it, too.

Result: Going Home

Steven Paul

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(“Play Something Country,” Brooks & Dunn – 28, Los Angeles, CA) Steven’s audition turned into a rockabilly duet with Luke, but Steven never managed to stand out on his own. It was just an okay cover of the track without any heart or believability. We do applaud the bold choice to wear a sheer shirt in country music. The genre could us a little shaking up at times!

Result: Going Home

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Alana

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(“Break My Heart,” Dua Lipa – 22, Lakewood Ranch, FL) Alana capably made her way through Dua Lipa’s rapid-fire delivery, but she did so with no real heart or gusto. It was more like a competent karaoke performance than a confident artistic interpretation. She has a solid enough voice, but it was missing all those things that would make her memorable, or make you stop what you’re doing to listen.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Kiko Martin

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(“Japanese Denim,” Daniel Caesar & “10 years,” Scarypoolparty – 25, Las Vegas, NV) Kiko had a real tenderness to his voice, a sweetness that wasn’t particularly exciting but still managed to be engaging. He also came with a famous connection, his brother Francisco, who did very well on this show last season. They then performed a duet of Alejandro Aranda’s “10 Years,” which showcased their harmonies well, but also showed that Francisco remains the stronger singer. Kiko has a nice quality to his voice, but lacks the push in it he needs to sell these songs. But he was definitely strong with his brother, so the tools are there.

Result: Going Home

Helen Blondel & Sock

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(“I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Whitney Houston – 28, Kissimmee, FL) This isn’t really a show about ventriloquism, but Helen actually showed some solid chops when actually singing. But it seems she was overshadowed by Sock’s underwhelming performances, as the judges did not allow her to carry on in the competition.

Result: Going Home

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Andrea Valles

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(“Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac & “Dance Monkey,” Tones & I – 23, Houston, TX) There was a real intimacy to Andrea’s performance, vulnerable and with an ache that was palpable. She has this ability to draw you in to what she’s doing. We didn’t think the falsetto moment was altogether necessary for the particular mood she was creating, but it wasn’t too distracting and we suspect it was about trying to show off that ability for the judges. With a little more consistency in her artistic approach to a song, she really can make them her own and express her artistry beautifully.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Ava August

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(“[Untitled],” Ava August – 15, Laguna Niguel, CA) Ava appears to have delivered an original song about young love, and she did so with a real vocal confidence. It was a little haunted, which matched the forlorn nature of the song and its message perfectly. There was something very classical and approachable in her delivery.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Zach D’Onofrio

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(“Golden Slumbers,” The Beatles & “Falling,” Harry Styles – 19, Wesley Chapel, FL) We adore how unassuming he is, coming in like Clark Kent in his “best sweater,” glasses and humility. He had so much more power in his singing voice than even he did in his speaking voice. He auditioned with an old standard in 2018, which was pleasant but not current enough to feel relevant. The Beatles is still pretty old music, but Zach still managed to have a sound that we could hear in current music. He then brought out girlfriend Catie Turner, after having met on the floor. It’s adorable! And then they were great together on “Falling,” so we know he can step up and outside his comfort.

Result: Going to Hollywood

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Wyatt Pike

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(“Best for You,” Wyatt Pike – 19, Park City, UT) Wyatt certainly gave an earnest delivery on a song he wrote for his sister about a mental health crisis she suffered, but we weren’t nearly as enamored with the song itself as we were with the quality of his voice. He has a very nice tone with a hint of singer-songwriter to it, a bit of rasp and a lot of heart. He definitely has a vibe that’s believable with an energy all his own. He has a strong artistic core to build from.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Althea Grace

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(“Saturday Morning,” Althea Grace – 21, Chicago, IL) Althea nearly lost her daughter at 11 months old before a liver transplant was arranged, and that harrowing experience informed her original song and the overall emotions of her audition. It was a heartfelt and genuine performance, though not the strongest vocals we’ve seen on the night. Still, she does have a quality about her that brings you in the way a good singer-songwriter can. If she stays in that lane, she could have a respectable run … or maybe surprise us all.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Colin Jamieson

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(“six feet under,” Billie Eilish – 22, Boxford, MA) Colin was actually in a boy band (Kik-It) with Danny Falco, but they couldn’t have approached everything from their style to their artistry more differently. Where Danny was all show, Colin felt authentic from the moment he sat down at the piano. His voice soared through the ups and downs of this track, pushing when it needed to and even finding a breathiness that was compelling (the judges found it a bit much). He’s got a great foundation to build from here.

Result: Going to Hollywood

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Brianna Collichio

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(“Scars to Your Beautiful,” Alessia Cara – 15, Spencerport, NY) Brianna had a great story about telling her sister that if a video of her singing went viral, she’d audition. Brianna lives with cystic fibrosis, and yet is able to sing fully without a raspy voice. She had to have surgery the eve of her audition, but it was rescheduled. And so, she brought her “scars” to the room, and though you could hear that perhaps her lungs don’t have quite the strength to deliver as she might, there is still so much passion and love for music behind what she can deliver. She has a very smooth tone, and a lot of authenticity in her delivery. Her softer, tender voice is absolutely engaging.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Madison Watkins

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(“Your Little Girl,” Madison Watkins – 25, Fayetteville, AR) An original song, this was a very sweet tribute to what must be a tremendous father. It’s less common to hear a song about a wonderful dad who did all the right things, but no less impactful. She sang it beautifully, showing off some real nuance in her voice, as well as heart. She has a genuine connection to this song that we can feel, so if she can continue that with songs she didn’t write, she can definitely connect with the audience.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Cameron Allen

[[see Alana’s audition for video]]

(“Seen It All Before,” Amos Lee – 20, Moore, OK) We just got a couple of lines from Cameron, but boy did he deliver in those two lines. There were confident runs, a gentle grit and rasp in his voice and a very cool vibe that felt like a soul singer. Don’t get mad at us, but he reminded us a bit of Taylor Hicks (in the best possible way) during some of his strongest “Idol” performances vocally.

Result: Going to Hollywood

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Vahhley

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(“One Moment in Time,” Whitney Houston – 23, Brooklyn, NY) Vahhley has been living as a single mother in a homeless shelter for eight months, and that pain was so raw she could barely talk about it without breaking down. Look, Vahhley doesn’t have Whitney’s range, but she had every bit of her heart. We felt her struggle from the very first note, and we stayed with her through a few warbles, overwhelmed emotions and missed opportunities. She’s rough in places, but you believe in her when she sings, and that’s a rare gift. If she didn’t have the weight of the world on her shoulders, she might be able to soar even higher.

Result: Going to Hollywood

Jackson Snelling

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(“Please Listen,” Jackson Snelling – 18, Austin, IN) On the behavioral autistic spectrum, with epilepsy as a child and waking up to his father having passed away when he was seven, Wyatt has been through so much already in his life. Music and songwriting helped him navigate those rough waters, and based on the one song we heard here, he really has a talent for it. This was beautifully heartbreaking and so true to his unique story and situation. On top of that, he delivered it with a powerfully smooth and gorgeous tone to his voice, like he’s been doing this for years.

Result: Going Home

Tryzdin Grubbs

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(“Before You Go,” Lewis Capaldi & “Nobody,” James Arthur – 15, Columbus, OH) Tryzdin had a very rough time with bullying after he came out as a singer in a sports community, which rocked his confidence to the core. Luke gave him a second chance after he underperformed Lewis Capaldi and he found his way to soaring on James Arthur. It was such a genuine and earnest performance, but with a beautifully vulnerable gravel in there. It’s a gritty cry that’s so current with vocalists like Lewis and James right now, and Tryzdin is right in that lane, but with a bullet! He really could grow into something remarkable with a boost in confidence.

Result: Going to Hollywood

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Liv Grace

[[see Ava August audition for video]]

(“I Kissed a Girl,” Katy Perry – 17, Studio City, CA) A KatyCat of the first order, we were really worried this would just be fangirl squeamish, but Liv really put her own stamp and a singer-songwriter vibe on Katy’s classic pop song. Slowing it down, she really caressed the lyrics and found even more emotion in the story that the way the single was originally presented. Plus, she has a really cool vocal style, with a rich timbre in her voice suggesting even more power than we saw. Even better, we love that her mom came in dancing and screaming, mortifying the teen in such a typical way. We are here for it!

Result: Going to Hollywood

DeShawn Goncalves

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(“Everything Must Change,” Nina Simone – 19, Cleveland, OH) With hints of folk, soul and jazz in his vocals, DeShawn is a real musical threat already at such a tender age. He plays tuba in his college marching band and tickled the ivories like a pro for his audition. Even better, though, was the smoothness of his delivery, his overall prowess as a vocalist and his control throughout his range, including in falsetto. Graduating top of class, picking up scholarships and doing it after being raised by incredibly young parents and making poor decisions early on, DeShawn is a testament to himself, his family and the ability inside all of us to change our lives for the better. He really is an inspirational (and perhaps aspirational) figure.

Result: Going to Hollywood

”American Idol” heads into Hollywood Week next Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.


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