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'American Idol' platinum ticket contestant Kenedi Anderson mysteriously drops out 'for personal reasons'

·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·12 min read
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For this landmark 20th season of American Idol, the show introduced a new twist, the platinum ticket — a “special upgrade” that fast-tracked three “best of the best” contestants past the first round of Hollywood Week. Among those three lucky recipients was 18-year-old songbird Kenedi Anderson, whose stunning piano-cabaret rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Applause” had Lionel Richie declaring her “the next big thing in the music business.” Katy Perry actually said she felt “threatened” by this rare talent, and Luke Bryan told Kenedi, “You might be the biggest star we’ve ever seen. … I truly believe your musical journey for the rest of your life just started right here.”

But it seems Kenedi’s musical journey will not continue on American Idol.

Kenedi Anderson was one of three platinum ticket recipients on Season 20 of 'American Idol.' (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)
Kenedi Anderson was one of three platinum ticket recipients on Season 20 of 'American Idol.' (Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images)

On Monday’s part two top 24 show, which took place at Disney’s Aulani Resort, Kenedi’s (excellent) performance of Christina Perri’s “Human” aired in full, along with her mentoring session with guest Bebe Rexha and even her encouraging surprise FaceTime conversation with Christina Perri herself. But after Kenedi was finished singing, none of the judges’ (presumably fawning) commentary was shown. Instead, the screen cut abruptly from sunny Hawaii to an indoor soundstage, breaking-news report-bulletin-style, and host Ryan Seacrest announced: “You might have noticed that there was no voting information during Kenedi’s performance just now. Since we taped these shows in Hawaii earlier, Kenedi has decided to withdraw from our show for personal reasons.”

Before going back to ABC’s regularly scheduled programming, Ryan added, “We send her our well-wishes, and needless to say, we have incredible talent on this historic season, with more iconic Idol performance coming up for you right now.”

Kenedi didn't specify her reason for quitting when she took to Instagram midway through the episode's East Coast broadcast, but revealed that while it was "one of the hardest decisions" of her life, it was a "necessary" one. An Idol representative was equally vague, merely telling Yahoo Entertainment: “We are disappointed to see Kenedi leave, but we are excited to watch this celebratory 20th season unfold with the incredible talent vying to be the next American Idol.”

However, Yahoo's Idol source did confirm that only one contestant will be eliminated from Monday’s episode (along with the planned two from Sunday’s episode) to create the top 20 — thus making Kenedi one of the top 24’s eliminees by default.

Rumors of Kenedi’s resignation began circulating last week, when fans noticed that her performances had not been uploaded to Idol’s YouTube channel and that the show had posted congratulatory Instagram Stories messages to all of this season’s top 24 semifinalists except Kenedi. Assuming the gossip was true, those eagle-eyed fans wondered if Kenedi’s Hawaii performance would even be shown this week at all. But, as a much-hyped platinum ticket recipient who’d made it all the way to Hawaii, Kenedi was apparently too essential a part of Season 20’s narrative to edit her out entirely.

It’s too bad that such a talented performer chose to mysteriously exit, and it’s too bad that her platinum ticket (or her plane ticket to Hawaii, for that matter) couldn’t have gone to someone else — like maybe fan favorite Kelsie Dolin. But Kenedi isn’t the first Idol contestant to suddenly drop out recently. Last year, frontrunner Benson Boone withdrew from the top 24 after his aggressively hyped audition, although he quit before Season 19’s top 24 round was taped. Benson has since signed to Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds’s Warner Bros. label imprint, and according to Idol Spoilers, Kenedi was “in contact with Benson Boone” and “it is believed that he encouraged her to do as he did, just over a year ago.” Also last season, another frontrunner, Wyatt Pike — who made it all the way to the top 12 — mysteriously exited, though he later revealed this was for mental health reasons, not because he got a better offer. Hopefully Kenedi is OK, but regardless of her real reason for quitting, she now holds the dubious distinction of being the first female contestant in Idol history to drop out of the competition.

Well, Kenedi would have been tough to beat, so she definitely made it easier for Monday’s remaining 11 hopefuls by taking herself out of the running. Let’s assess those 11 performances now:

Cadence Baker, “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”

Cadence got off to a strong start this season but floundered during Hollywood Week, with the judges noticing that the self-described “over-thinker” often looked terrified onstage. This week she regained her confidence for the Vegas-style opener of this Etta James classic (Lionel even gasped, “Wow, wow, wow”); however, I saw a bit of that deer-in-headlights doubt creep back onto her face once the band fully kicked in and she started to work the stage. Still, her voice sounded fantastic (Katy praised her “incredible range”), and Luke said this was Cadence’s best moment since her audition. Lionel additionally congratulated Cadence for finding “that extra burst of confidence.” It seems this girl is back on track... but is it too late?

Sir Blayke, “Breakeven”

When Bebe asked Blayke if this heartbreak song was dedicated to anyone in particular, he turned right to the camera and intoned, “You know who you are.” This was a performance that he later said brought him closure (“That song was me saying my final goodbye”), and I could feel his sincerity. It really made all the difference. “That was totally different vibe than I’m used to. You gave us vocals that we didn’t know you had,” marveled Katy. Luke, who freely admitted that the panel had been on the fence about Blayke during the Final Judgment, said Blayke “upped his game.” Lionel advised Blayke to “bring that emotion the stage” every time. So, if Blayke advances, he better rip open that emotional wound and sing another breakup ballad.

Allegra Miles, “Adore You”

Allegra bragged that this was her own arrangement of the Harry Styles hit, but I really didn’t care for her jazzy, soft-rock stylings, which just didn’t work with the song. That being said, aside from a few minor enunciation issues, her voice was beyond reproach (Luke said it was “really, really perfect” and “sounded like it had a filter on it”). Also, by “freeing” herself and performing for the first time this season without an instrument, she exuded a certain vivaciousness I’d never seen from her before. Katy compared Allegra to the almighty Bonnie Raitt, and Lionel said, “There are singers, and then there are stylists. … From the first note, I knew immediately when you opened your mouth exactly who you were.” If Allegra comes up with better song arrangements, she’ll be on a roll.

Lady K, “Before He Cheats”

Lady agonized between two Idol winners’ songs, “Collard Greens and Cornbread” by Fantasia or “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood… then went against Bebe’s advice and chose the Carrie song, which she thought would be more of an interesting challenge. I think she should have listened to Bebe. Lady K usually oozes so much personality, but surprisingly, I don’t think she brought enough fire to this tentative performance. Luke like the song choice, but told her, “I want to hear even more of that angst out of you. We just wanted it to get even dirtier!” Katy agreed, saying, “We know you can get a little more nasty, because we heard it toward the end.” Hopefully Lady will get another chance to bring the grit.

Ava Maybee, “Tell Me Something Good”

Ava took a big chance doing this big Chaka Khan classic, and she admitted it was “definitely out of my comfort zone.” But since the song came to her in a dream, she decided to follow her instincts. And judging from this stankfaced tour de force, she should always trust her gut. She absolutely electrified the stage. Katy looked riveted, Lionel was movin’ and groovin’, and Luke looked like he’d just woken up. “Welcome to the stage! Chaka Khan is not exactly the kind of person you wanna wrestle with, but you had the guts to do it. … That was really risky, but you took care of business,” raved Lionel. “There are songs that are a little dangerous to perform on American Idol, and historically this is one that gives people a problem. … But you really showed a different side. Good for you!” said Luke. This was a star-making moment, from a real original and a total natural.

Noah Thompson, “Blue Side of the Mountain”

Noah had a major breakthrough last week with a classic song-flipping Idol moment, brilliantly covering Rihanna’s “Stay.” This week he went back to country, with a Steeldrivers song, and it was a tad dull. I wish he’d taken another chance, like Ava did. A seemingly slightly underwhelmed Katy said she missed his originality, but called this a “solid country effort.” Meanwhile, Luke seemed to be grading the inexperienced Noah on a curve, merely saying, “This stuff’s all new to you!” and encouraging him to just do better next time. Oh, and I sure there will be a next time. Viewers will love this humble country guy with his everyman backstory, and Luke still seemed convinced that Noah could even win this whole season. But I do hope we get some more creative covers from him in the future. I know he has that sort of artistry in him.

Leah Marlene, “Call Me”

OK, this is a contestant who always surprises and takes risks! I adored her daringly swampy, bluesy acoustic cover of Blondie and Giorgio Moroder’s disco/new wave smash. Her voice sounded crisp and clear, and she completely owned the stage. After she received a standing ovation, Lionel even exclaimed, “I can’t sit down!” and he remained on his feet as he excitedly told her, “You’re in a lane all by yourself…. It’s endless where you can go.” Katy called Leah “one of a kind” and “a bunch of fun,” and while Luke complained that the song took too long to get going (I disagreed with that critique, as did Katy), he eventually admitted to Leah, “You totally won me over, yet again.” I think Leah won over America with this standout number, which along with Ava’s was my favorite of the night.

Cameron Whitcomb, “Bad Moon Rising”

Bebe advised this spaz to use a mic stand to keep all his nervous energy in check, but of course he gleefully ignored her and ended up hopping all over the place as if the stage floor was covered in hot coals. (“I’m mad at you!” Bebe later told Cameron — and she didn’t really seem to be joking.) None of this should have worked, and according to Bebe all of it should have been annoying… but somehow, it did work for me. Cameron had a certain dorky, unhinged Violent Femmes energy that had me grinning throughout. “At first it was like, ‘Oh no, he’s going into all these bad habits we told him not to do,’” Katy said, half-joking that Cameron “should bathe in lavender oil,” while Ryan suggested Cameron wind down at the Aulani Resort spa. But ultimately the judges were all fascinated. “You’ve got something,” mused Lionel. “We can sit here and tell you a million times not to move around onstage, and it would be a waste of breath. So, you just keep doing what you do. Keep smiling,” said Luke. It will be interesting to see what America thinks of this kid. He definitely stands out.

Christian Guardino, “Leave the Door Open”

This was a seemingly perfect modern-yet-throwback song choice for the smooth soul dude, so much so that Lionel joked, “Can we get a root check on that brother right there? Because you see him, and you hear him, and it’s two different people!” Katy added, “It’s like Clark Kent turns into Superman!” That being said, I agreed with Katy when she said Christian needs to work on his “pop punch” timing on newer songs like this Silk Sonic Grammy-winner. If he can do that, then Luke’s prophecy — “People are going fall in love with you” — will likely come true.

Katyrah Love, “Blame it on the Boogie”

Katyrah was serving ‘80s Whitney realness with this sassy, classy performance, the effort of a true diva. She was glowing, positively radiant, and she sounded fantastic once she heeded Bebe’s advice to lower the key. “You just put on a show. … Everything felt natural,” gushed Luke. “You were performing,” agreed Lionel. “You were using the energy; you were bottling it up and then singing with it,” said Katy. Katyrah’s good energy is exactly the mojo that Season 20 needs.

Fritz Hager, “Waves”

In the coveted pimp spot, this quirky singer-songwriter calmed everything down with this hushed, lovely Dean Lewis song, a haunting and on-brand moment that Bebe called “stunning” and Katy called “spectacular.” This quiet kid is really coming into his own, and I think that’s why producers slotted him last. “You gave us different depths of who you are as an artist,” said Luke. “You came out like a bulldog and gave us attitude on top of attitude,” said Lionel. Katy compared Fritz to Kings of Leon and Mumford & Sons, while “Home” by Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips almost subliminally played in the background. Yep, Fritz very well could be this season’s P-Squared.

So now, it is prediction time. As I stated above, only one of these singers will be eliminated, which boosts everyone’s chances, but I think Cadence, Blayke, Lady K, and Cameron should be the most worried. We’ll find out their fates, and the fates of all of this season’s remaining 23 singers, on a special three-hour episode next Sunday.

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