June 11, 2002, is a momentous date in American Idol history. That was the day the series’ first season premiered, ultimately introducing Kelly Clarkson to the world. A star was born.
Also on that day, Victoria McQueen was born. And Victoria may very well be the next Kelly Clarkson.
Yes, Victoria has literally been waiting since birth for “a moment like this” — a chance to audition for Idol — but when Fox aired its so-called Farewell Season in 2016, she wasn’t old enough. Now she’s just within the window of eligibility (June 11, 2002, is the show’s cutoff date) as the youngest hopeful on ABC’s Idol reboot. “I’ve watched this on TV my whole life, and I can’t believe I’m here,” she told judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan on Monday.
Once Victoria started singing Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry About a Thing,” it was obvious she was born to do this. Although she was young and green, there was an effortlessness and grace to her performance, with a lovely, sweet tone and some creative runs. I lost track of how many times the judges used the adjective “perfect” to describe her, and they all seemed to think Idol was Victoria’s destiny. “There’s something written in the stars for you,” Katy told her.
Victoria wasn’t the only one celebrating — the auditions took place over Katy’s actual birthday! One contestant, 26-year-old Cody Martin, made it through to Hollywood by serenading Katy with “Happy Birthday,” after which she reveled at a puppy party. (Good news: All of the party’s rescue dogs — or, as Randy Jackson would say, dawgs — have since been adopted. Side note: That Geico commercial with Randy judging a dog competition totally needs to be a real reality show.)
There was more cause for celebration Monday, with many other (older) worthy contestants receiving golden tickets. Let’s take a look.
Trevor McBane, 22: “Colder Weather”
This man-in-black farmer, who actually owns a cow named “Simon Cow,” had a pleasingly gravelly/gospel tone on the Zac Brown Band song. “You’re not perfect in your delivery of that stuff, but I’m believin’ ya,” Luke said.
Genavieve Linkowski, 18: “I Won’t Give Up”
This poised piano girl gave me serious Sara Bareilles vibes with her clear, clean vocals. Lionel even compared her upper register to Celine Dion’s. “You just had magic in your voice,” Luke gushed.
Kenedee Rittenhouse, 19: “I Told You So”
This girl from Checotah, Okla. — Carrie Underwood’s hometown — once dueted with Carrie in fifth grade, but she hasn’t graduated to Carrie’s level yet. Her voice was sharp, shouty, and shrill. The judges seemed to put her through based on personality alone, or because of her cute floral dress, which Katy admired. (Fun fact: The Idol staff bought Katy that dress for her birthday.)
Brandon Elder, 22: “Gone”
This raspy folky performed an original dedicated to his adoptive mother, who died of cancer in 2016. He was very Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver, with a touch of Phillip Phillips, and his song was genuinely touching and well written. (I’m loving all the opportunities the contestants are getting this season to perform their own material.) Lionel, who penned “Three Times a Lady” about his own mom, told Brandon, “Songwriting is in your wheelhouse forever.”
Brittany Holmes, 28: “I Have Nothing”
Brittany has something after all. The professional vocal coach received a shocking rejection despite easily handling that monster of a Whitney power ballad, but it turned out that was all a setup for a comeback stunt that aired during last November’s American Music Awards. Watch Brittany’s redemption here.
Dominique Holmes, 26: “A Song for You”
This man possessed a classic soul voice — smooth and silky, with a flawless falsetto. “Donny Hathaway is no one to play with, but you handled it with care and ease,” Lionel marveled.
Amalia Watty, 28: “Make You Feel My Love”
This Caribbean queen showcased a truly distinctive voice: sparkling, chirpy, and quirky, but also strong. Everything about Amalia stood out from the pack, making her one of my new favorites. “Your range, your sound, your uniqueness are all the things, we’re looking for. … There could be a fabulous career here,” Lionel said.
Daniel Ethridge, 22: “Fire Away”/Untitled original song
This Americana singer’s Chris Stapleton cover was decent, but the real magic happened when he more tenderly performed his own song, dedicated to his bullied little sister. “It’s not about big, booming voices. It’s about storytelling in your case,” Lionel said. I certainly want to hear more of Daniel’s story.
Taryn Coccia, 17, and Payton Taylor, 20: “Masterpiece” and “Angel From Montgomery”
Supposedly, country singer Payton was there only to accompany her pop/R&B-singing little sister on guitar. But when the judges insisted that Payton try out as well, it was obvious who has the talent in the Coccia-Taylor family. Taryn was competent but corny; Payton was special. Both girls received golden tickets, but I expect there will be some sibling rivalry in Hollywood.
Samothias, 20: “Tennessee Whiskey”
With his Sanjaya-worthy hair (and his obsession with said hair), Sam seemed like a joke contestant. But his soulful piano performance was the real deal. He didn’t have the strongest voice — Katy wanted him to stretch himself more — but he was interesting and had tons of potential. And hey, if Idol doesn’t work out, maybe he can go on Hair Battle Spectacular.
Marcio Donaldson, 28: “Jealous”
Marcio, who spent his childhood in foster care, took in his abandoned infant nephew, Rashad, so that he wouldn’t suffer the same fate. In the audition room, he chillbump-inducingly sang the Labrinth weeper to Rashad, another sort of Idol baby. It was such a vulnerable moment, Marcio cried at the end. “Your voice is a real voice. Is it technically perfect? No, man, but it’s real,” said Luke.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
- Why the time might be right for the return of ‘American Idol’
- The 40 best ‘American Idol’ performances of all time
- Phillip Phillips on his lawsuit, recording hiatus: ‘I was in a weird place’