When 20-year-old goth girl Lady Mapo — who got her stage name from her dead cat, natch — stomped into the American Idol audition room Monday rocking her clunky platform boots, head-to-toe Hot Topic couture, double lip rings, corpse-blue lipstick, and a scowl, and practically trailing clove smoke behind her, she seemed on a mission to bring Idol to the dark side. (She also kind of resembled RuPaul’s Drag Race alumnus Adore Delano, who competed on Idol Season 7 as Danny Noriega, but I digress.)
“Last year was boring — too American,” Lady Mapo drawled monotonically in her deep Daria voice. The judges looked scared. Personally, I was hoping she’d do a scary-good cover of a Siouxsie or Sisters of Mercy deep cut.
Instead, Mapo surprisingly cued up “Rainbow Connection” — the warm ‘n’ fuzzy Muppets ballad that last season’s winner, Maddie Poppe, sang at her adorable audition and reprised with the actual Kermit the Frog on the finale. I got ready for Mapo to “make the song her own” with a death-metal Cookie Monster voice. But then she dramatically ripped off her black Bettie Page wig… and lo and behold, it was the actual Maddie Poppe!
Maddie actually made a spookily convincing goth. The judges never saw it coming (I sure didn’t!), and they seemed greatly amused — and probably a bit relieved — to find out it was the Season 16 golden girl under all that sooty black eye makeup. I just wish they’d put Lady Mapo through to Hollywood. She looked like she belonged there already.
The real auditions of this new American Idol season wrapped Monday, and while none of them were as funny as the Mapo/Maddie reveal, there were a few surprises. Here’s how it went:
Jade Flores, 22: “Strawberry Wine”
Jade was realllllllly excited to be trying out for the show and meeting her idol Katy Perry, with whom she bonded over their shared experiences of rebelliously piercing their noses at age 13. (I wondered if Jade also bonded with the septum-pierced Lady Mapo in the waiting room?) I thought Jade was going to be some annoying joke contestant, but this audition was solid. And it was also enjoyable. I think I’m going to like this girl. Lionel Richie called her an “entertainer,” and Katy told her she had “the personality to back up the voice.”
Christiaan Padavan, 19: “Vienna”
Disappointingly, Christiaan sang the Billy Joel song, not the Ultravox one. His crooner voice would probably fit the New Romantic genre well! This was a sweet performance, but honestly, when he dragged his shy, reluctant girlfriend Victoria into the audition room to do the Alex & Sierra shtick on a sultry acoustic cover of Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” I thought Victoria was better than him. I also thought it was a setup. So how come only Christiaan went through to Hollywood?
Ryan Hammond, 25: “Lay Me Down”
This church-trained singer nearly died three years ago, when his gastric bypass surgery went horrifically wrong. Thankfully he survived, then thrived, and now, 170 pounds lighter and newly confident, he is Idol-ready. He was powerful and soulful on this Sam Smith cover (an interesting and timely choice, since Sam has recently opened up about his own weight struggles), but pastor’s kid Katy wanted to “take him out of the church vibe a bit.” Ryan’s song selections will be crucial going forward.
Chloe Channell, 16: “Stupid Boy”
This sweet, Danielle Bradbery-esque girl was introduced to her mentor, ‘90s country singer Billy Dean, by Lionel’s old pal Kenny Rogers. That’s some pretty serious industry networking for a teenager! Luke Bryan was of course impressed, especially because Billy Dean actually accompanied Chloe to her audition. Chloe was very young and very raw, but promising, and her deep connection to her lyrics was impressive even if her voice wavered in the beginning. “If this is 16 years old, I can’t imagine what 19 or 20 will sound like,” said Lionel. Luke told her, “Your voice was a little small at first, but then you showed us it wasn’t small.”
Emma Kleinberg, 21: “American Privilege”
This girl was giving me Elise Testone sass and Natasha Lyonne realness on this intense Allen Stone song. And her falsetto was everything! I was also moved by her sob story (she cares for her brother, who suffered brain damaged from a suicide attempt last year) and resilience and positive spirit. “You showed us everything. … You cannot showcase yourself any better, in my opinion,” Luke told her.
Zebulon Spencer, 27: “Porch Swing Angel”
Zeb is a state champion clogger, so he can always try out for So You Think You Can Dance if this show doesn’t work out. And it might not work out. Zeb had a nice voice, and a fanbase nickname already (the “Zebulars”), but there was nothing extraordinary about him. However, maybe I should defer to country expert Luke, who said Zeb was “thisclose to being absolutely incredible” and his favorite country voice of the past year.
Jorgie, 23: “Heaven”
This sensitive gay man left his conservative family in Israel at age 18 and moved to Hollywood to be his true self. “I used to feel shamed, and I questioned, ‘Why did God make me this way?’ But now if you gave me the choice of being anything else than what I am, I would say no,” he said triumphantly, while literally wearing rose-colored glasses (and a rose-colored fun-fur coat). Interestingly, Jorgie said it was Katy’s “I Kissed a Girl” — a controversial song that Katy herself has distanced herself from in recent years, due to its problematic depiction of bi-curiosity — that made him believe there could be a place for an LGBTQ singer like himself in mainstream music. I honestly thought Jorgie was going to be a novelty contestant (he’s in a band called Jorgie & The Jorgies, for instance), but his audition, of an original song dedicated to a secret same-sex crush, was genuinely great and super-serious. This audition was Jorgie’s way of coming out to his parents as well, and he said his biggest wish was to make them proud. Hopefully they were. Katy told him, “You have a real chance of being your dream.”
Nick Merico, 22: “Back to Black”
This former tween star of Nickelodeon’s Every Witch Way is all grown up now. His sultry, slow-burning piano version of the Amy Winehouse classic proved he’s no kiddie act, and even though I think he took too many liberties with the song, it was a memorable and mature audition. Luke called him a “Hunkasaurus Rex.” Katy was flirting with Nick so shamelessly that I wouldn’t be surprised if her jealous fiancé Orlando Bloom just happens to “drop by” Hollywood Week. (Nick later confessed, “I’ve had a crush on [Katy] forever” and said, “I think Katy’s kind of into me.”) Katy will have to compete with all the screaming fangirls that Lionel and Luke predicted/warned will be waiting for Nick in Hollywood.
Jackson Gillies, 19: “Make It Rain”
A sufferer of both a rare autoimmune skin condition and type 1 diabetes, Jackson has been through a lot in his young life, but he has a good attitude that will make him a favorite with viewers. He didn’t have the best voice of this highly competitive season, but his Voy Fance cover showcased bluesy grit and gravitas. Luke called him “blessed.” This is the kind of kid America will root for.
See you in Hollywood next week!
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- Why ‘Idol’ winner Maddie Poppe wishes she could get a ‘do-over’ of her duet with boyfriend Caleb Lee Hutchinson: ‘I was so awkward’
- ‘American Idol’ singer Wade Cota shares shocking tale of abuse survival: ‘My biological father was the devil’
- David Archuleta opens up about his post-‘American Idol’ PTSD
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