Love was in the air Sunday on American Idol, when Katy Perry returned to the building where Orlando Bloom proposed to her on Valentine’s Day last year. "He asked me to marry him on a helicopter, and we landed the helicopter actually on this rooftop," she told her fellow judges, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. “I just am feeling all the feelings. … My whole family and friends, he had surprised me. Everyone was wearing matching sweaters. It was really sweet. It was so beautiful — all in this room. I’m happy to celebrate it again.”
The celebration continued, because apparently that Downtown Los Angeles skyscraper, the USC Tower, is a lucky location. When 26-year-old contestant Jordan Jones auditioned with a soulful version of the Cure’s “Lovesong” (which, incidentally, Cure frontman Robert Smith wrote as a wedding present for his wife, Mary), he not only scored a golden ticket but put a silver ring on the left hand of his girlfriend Leaira, “probably the greatest person that’s ever been made.” Katy, who was understandably in a lovey-dovey mood all day, exclaimed, “This room is blessed, this room is union, this room is love!” as she and Jordan’s brand-new fiancée compared giant engagement rocks.
But the cutest couple of the episode had to be Lionel and a 78-years-young foxy lady and old-school Commodores superfan named Sylvia (the great-grandmother of auditioner DeWayne Crocker Jr.), who showed up looking like she was ready for date night with an on-trend leopard-print sheath dress and six-inch high heels. “She’s so lit!” bragged DeWayne. “Do you think Lionel will like your heels?” a producer asked Sylvia. “I’m hoping that Lionel Richie will like me, period!” she quipped back.
After DeWayne received a golden ticket for his risky but unique rendition of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” in strutted the sexy senior, who revealed that she and her husband met while “Lady” was playing and later walked down the aisle to that Commodores ballad on their wedding day. Lionel then serenaded Sylvia with the song as they adorably slow-danced, with Luke on piano, and he told her, “You are a treasure.” Lionel spoke the truth; all of America must have endless for this dynamite woman. Seriously, can’t Sylvia get three yeses too? She’s clearly Hollywood material.
Let’s see which other contestants got some love this Sunday:
Kimmy Gabriela, 17: “Let’s Hurt Tonight”
This radiant and proud Latina, the daughter of a successful musician, stunned the judges with her beautiful and poised performance. “From your first note, I was like, ‘Yep,’” said Luke. Katy and Lionel both called Kimmy “top 10 material.” This season’s top 10 is already getting pretty crowded! The judges are going to have to do some fancy math to ensure all their favorites get through to the live shows.
Amelia, 23: “Yesterday”
I was getting Maddie Poppe vibes from this sophisticated singer-songwriter’s supercool performance. Her entire audition wasn’t shown, unfortunately, but there seems to be oodles of potential here. “You are a dream,” Katy told her.
Erin Kirby, 16: “Who You Are”
The pink-haired acoustic alt-rocker showcase a huge voice and heart on this Jessie J power ballad. “I don’t like it… I love it!” Katy shouted. Erin was also a montaged contestant, so I hope we see more of her in Hollywood.
Lauren Mascitti, 27: “If I Can Lose You”
Another cute couple alert! Lauren showed up with her own fiancé, veteran Nashville session musician and songwriter Shawn Camp… and to be honest, she seemed to be selling him more than selling her own talents. I think she sold herself short, because I really loved her supple, Patsy Cline-ish, vintage-country voice. Luckily, the judges didn’t let Sean upstage Lauren. “That was very moving. I love the feeling and emotion in your voice,” said Katy. “I am a sucker for a good storyteller,” said Lionel. And Luke, a friend of Shawn’s, even compared Lauren to one of last season’s top 10 standouts, Laci Kaye Booth.
Courtney Timmons, 22:”Rise Up”
Courtney almost didn’t make it into the audition room. She showed up late, but host Ryan Seacrest spotted her sitting on the sidewalk and — being a good guy, or knowing this would make for good TV, or maybe a bit of both — he took pity on her and escorted her inside. Of course, Courtney was fantastic. Katy, remembering that she’d actually passed the dejected Courtney on the way onto the set that morning, teared up; she also declared Courtney one of the best singers of the day and called this a “magical moment.” Even Ryan got choked up, saying he felt like a proud “parent” as he witnessed Courtney getting her big chance. “You are what American Idol is,” said Katy. “You’re the new definition.”
Lauren Spencer-Smith, 16: “What About Us”
“You may be 16, but that voice is 1,000 years old,” Katy said, comparing this classy and mature singer to diva Leona Lewis. Luke called Lauren’s voice “super-interesting.” Lionel praised her control and said, “You are wise and gifted well beyond your age.” Could Lauren be top 10 material too?
Dillon James, 26: “To Make You Feel My Love”
The androgynously handsome, tatted-up Bakersfield country-rocker, who looked like the lost fourth member of Midland and sounded like the lost son of either Kris Kristofferson or Chris Isaak, was one of my favorites of the night. He didn’t belt the Dylan song, but his raw, gritty, but tender vocals and compelling presence drew me – and the judges – right in. “It was really just done with feeling and honesty… I’m in all the way,” raved Luke. “You are mysterious. I’m intrigued,” mused Katy, who called him a “country Post Malone.” Katy did worry that Dillon, a recovering addict who’s only been sober two years, might succumb to temptation in the “City of Lost Angels,” but he assured that he’d remain grounded in Hollywood thanks to his supportive family and regular mediation practice. “I love a spiritual cowboy,” Katy grinned. I think America will too.
Geena Fontanella, 27: “Don’t Want You Back”
I thought this Katy Perry fangirl in oversized Billie Eilish streetwear would be a joke contestant, but her original song was seriously strong, as was her voice. The fact that all three judges immediately participated during the tune’s call-and-response section was a very good sign. “I love the character; you walk out onstage and we want to know you,” said Lionel.
Shannon Gibbons, 20: “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Shannon has struggled with depression her whole life, though she’s gotten better thanks to professional help and now seems in a good place — “I’ve been through 20 years of craziness, and now I feel I’ve found my way,” she said with a confident smile. She poured her past pain into this Etta James weeper. “I want the judges to see my soul,” she vowed. I think they did. “This is why I keep coming back to this show,” Katy raved. “I won’t let anyone go through [from now on] unless they’re as good as Shannon.”
Genavieve Linkowski, 20: “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”
Genavieve made it to Hollywood two seasons ago, the same season that reigning champ Laine Hardy initially tried out. Laine stalled in Hollywood Week that year, but he returned and ended up winning in Season 17. Could such history repeat in Season 18? Quite possibly. Tragically, during those two years, Genavieve’s biggest fan, her older sister Corinn, died in a car accident, but I think Genavieve did Corinn proud with this tear-jerking, Carole Kingly piano performance. “Tragedy can either destroy you or make you stronger” said Lionel, who said Genavieve gave the best audition of the day. “I felt that song through and through; you were singing that song from your pain… This one’s for Corinn,” said Katy.
Vote for your favorite American Idol hopeful of the week in the poll below, and come back next week as the auditions continue.
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