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Since debuting 16 years ago on Fox, American Idol has featured a handful of LGBTQ contestants who waited until after their Idol journeys ended to publicly disclose their sexual orientations and identities, whether by personal choice or by producers’ choice. Now in its 16th season as a reboot on ABC, the Idol franchise is experiencing its most LGBTQ-friendly season ever by letting the diverse singers proudly live out loud on television. https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/pride/8279431/american-idol-lgbtq
Music is a world within itself, within a language we all understand. - Stevie Wonder. From your first lullaby to dancing with your first love, music finds a way to seep into your soul and move you like nothing else can. It excites, brings tears to your eyes, marks some of your biggest moments, gives you hope and makes you proud. Music moves you. And so the adventure begins. To uncover the finest talent this nation has to offer. The journey will take us to every corner of this country with no voice left unheard, from the dreamers to the lullaby singers, they are the fabric of America. And they could be the stars in the making. I should know. Because it happened to me. - Carrie Underwood. Welcome to the kinder, gentler, ABC version of American Idol! Welcome back home to the place where superstars are board, this time with an all new powerhouse panel leading the charge: Lionel Ritchie! Katy Perry! And Luke Bryan! And returning as your host, Ryan Seacrest! This is American Idol! New York's Madison Square Garden. The first to audition is 17yr old Catie Turner from Langhorne, PA, who makes people tense just to be in her presence. Idol obsessed forever, she sings an original song about her disillusionment with the media. Katie calls her a spectacular songwriter. Luke says she's interesting and brilliant beyond her years. Lionel compares her to the wonderment of seeing a Martian land. Luke says yes. Lionel says Yes for his first time out. Katie calls her fresh and necessary. Yes, she's going to Hollywood! Ron Bultongez escaped from the Congo when he was 10 years old and was last in NYC when he emigrated. Growing up with an abusive father, he was thrown out of his own home as a teenager. Now living in Plano, TX and a father himself, he's here for his new son and the live he wants to build for his family. He sings Let It Go by James Bay. Playing the guitar, his vocal is deeply soulful and dripping with the emotion of a lifetime of experience in just 21 yrs of living. Luke says there's something inspiring about you, your demeanor and honesty is exciting. Katy says she doesn't know he is yet. Lionel wonders if it's too soon. Luke says he's unpolished but Yes. Katy says no. Lionel says come back with your identify. An hour later, Lionel is having regrets and asks production to bring Ron back. He announces he's changing his vote to a Yes and welcomes him to Hollywood, handing him a golden ticket! Ron holds back the tears in disbelief. Ron from the Congo, Luke jokes, you con't go wrong. 19 year old Maddie Poppe from Clarksville, IA sings Rainbow Connection by Kermit The Frog and the judges are enthralled. You have a storyteller voice, Lionel says. Katy says you have your own dope distinctive quality to your voice. Luke says I'm just saying yes. You got my vote, says Lionel. You're going to Hollywood! Kobee is a 26yr old musical theater actress from Denver, CO where she appeared in The Producers. Prepared as she'll ever be, she sings an original song with a powerhouse vocal that could be heard in New Jersey. Katy says this is not how we listen to music. Don't judge me, Kobee says. You're not a pop star, Katy says. Lionel says this is the music business, that voice is not going to work on records. Luke says you are doing a disservice going down this route. It's three no's. In Broadway, she could be a success, Luke says. Nashville, TN. When age 11, the next singer rendered possibly the worst version of the National Anthem. Now 16 years old, Harper Grace from McKinney, TX created a Dream Board which included trying out for AI (and maybe winning). Singing an original, if this clip goes viral, it'll be for a complete different reason. Katy says that's a well written song. The other judges like the details too. Luke asks for another song and she sings Young, Dumb and Broke by Khalid. You have a great voice, Luke says. I love the quality in your voice, Lionel says. Katy says your voice hasn't seen it's ultimate potential. She takes Harper's Dream Board and crosses out "tryout for AI" and adds "Going To Hollywood!" The next contestant drove in from Marion, KY to Nashville. Layla Spring, age 16, is shadowed by her 7yr old adoring sister all the way into the audition room. The two sisters first sing together, mostly Dyxie (too young to enter, though she gets 3 Yes's). Valid 2026, Katy writes on her Golden Ticket as her eyes are wide open with excitement. Now it is Layla's turn, calling Lionel so wise. She sings Who's Loving You by The Jackson Five. She has a good voice, Luke says. Katy says you have something and could use all the experience going to Hollywood would bring. Lionel says this is not a business about cute; I don't want to destroy you with this opportunity. You're going into the fire. Lionel: Yes. Katy: Yes. Luke: You're Going To Hollywood! 19yr old Benjamin Ingles from Enid, OK thought being a cashier would be a great opportunity to pick up girls and has written songs about girls he had crushes on but never sang them. Socially awkward, he's never kissed a girl because he's never been in a relationship. Katy decides to change that. With Luke taking the selfie, he gives her a peck on the cheek. Katy complains he didn't even make a smootch sound. When Benjamin comes in for a second time, she turns at the last second and plants one on his lips. He falls to the ground in surprise. As Lionel and Luke yuk it up, Benjamin says that's a first. Ever the gentleman, he asks her, how was it? Benjamin asks for some water, his mouth gone dry as Lionel says that's a big deal, your first kiss was Katy Perry. That's going up on the fridge, Benjamin says. After performing, Luke says he needs to hone his craft more. Katy says she enjoyed him today but there are others out-singing him right now. Lionel said he already won everything today but just needs to practice and come back in 2 years and kiss a couple more girls. Los Angeles where Lionel can find his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. So can Ryan Seacrest. But not Katy or Luke. They create a group chat called The Judgementals. Niko Bones is hungover as if he just came from his previous night's gig. Playing in a rock'n'roll band, he carries his own amp into the audition and sings the nursery rhyme Worms rock-style, complete with burps & reverb. I think you're dope, Katy says. Lionel says I'm glad you stopped that song when you did. Luke says want to hang out, chug some beer and make some bad decisions, I'm a yes. But for American Idol, it's a no. Keep Rock'n'Roll alive, Niko says in parting. In total contrast, 18yr old Nursing freshman Noah Davis from Royal, AK establishes a one word connection with Katy. His American Dream is owning an Alpaca. Or two. Singing Stay by Ariana and playing the piano, his voice is buttery and he has the rapt attention of all three judges, going as far as dropping Katy's jaw. All three judges get up to hug Noah. Wig, Katy whispers, snatched. Flow. Out the door. I don't know what that means, Luke says, but you're going to Hollywood! If you want an Alpaca, Lionel says, you can have an Alpaca. The AI Bus heads to Disney Springs at Walt Disney World with Jordin Sparks, Rubben Studdard and Chris Allen join Mickey and Minnie Mouse to help with the search for then next American Idol. Alyssa Raghu, 15 and from Orlando, is a huge Disney fan and her father has been behind her singing journey every step of the way. Singing Almost Is Never Enough by Ariana Grande & Nathan Sykes. She puts down her guitar and begins to sing dreamily, bringing smiles and high 5's from the judges. Sounding that good at 15, Katy says, you've voice is still going to grow. My full body felt what you were singing. I'm a believer. You're so easy on the ears, Luke says. Top 10, Katy says. This shouldn't happen at 15yrs Lionel says and I'm excited to see where you're going to go. You're going to Hollywood! 26yr old Sador Milano is well known in Moscow, where he won a singing competition in 2015, but he's in Orlando for a new style of music. He has a wide range, and can sing both male and female parts, idoling Freddie Mercury and Jackson Five. He sings Before I Ever Met You (Banks). The audition is kid of all over the place and the judges don't quite know what to make of it. Katy passes it to Luke, who tells Mr. Ritchie he's up. Silence. Umm... Sador can't can't find the door out at first. He tells his parents the judges told him now and maybe to try out for Broadway. 16yr old Zach Denofrio from Florida doesn't have much experience singing (less than a year), his voice a little high pitched, and he has socks for every day of the year, giving Ryan a pair of Red White & Blue for his own sockless feet. He gives the judges sock gifts as well. He sings The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra. His voice comes out in a deep, rich baritone, shocking the judges. Katy gets up to dance with Zach as he sings but the boy doesn't miss a beat (or a note). As mom's ear is pressed to the door, Katy has Zach dip her. Luke asks if that's really his speaking voice. Show him how to be a man, Katy teases Luke. Zach starts singing again. Luke says he has Sinatra down but Sinatra waited off the beat a little bit. You had me at kitten socks, Katy says, your speaking voice will change - something's already dropped. Did we miss something while you were dancing, asked Luke? You killed it, Lionel says, you're going to Hollywood! 15yr old Grace Walker is a from San Juan Capistrano, CA is the first in a series of No's at the end of the show. If they're not ready, Lionel says, don't let them go. Give them time to find out who they are. Failure cannot happen at 15/16/17 - you're just learning, they tell contestants. With the tears flowing, singers express hope for the future. Dennis Lorenzo started in music at 16, dealing with some rough family stuff, and music healed me. From West Philly, PA, his father was murdered when he was 5 and we was going down the wrong path in life. Then his grandparents bought him a guitar at age 16 and he's been playing and singing ever since. He bought a one-way ticket to LA and was sleeping on the streets. He got his first job, a girlfriend, a beautiful baby girl, and now he's stepping up to support his family. Singing Unaware by Allen Stone, both his guitar and vocal are soft spoken and easy listening, a dynamic range, a quiet, confident power. Lionel says I'm smiling, that was refreshing. You delivered all my check boxes. Katy says we don't have to convince ourselves that sounds good. It does. Luke asks how long he's had that guitar - it has a hole in it. You just took a guitar with a hole in it and just 3 chords and gave it all the soul it needed. It ain't the equipment, Lionel says, it's what you use it for. This feeling is what I signed up for, Luke says. American dreams. I'm a fired up yes. Heck yes, says Katy. I'm standing up screaming and hollerin', says Lionel, you're going to Hollywood! So what do you think about the return of American Idol on ABC? Is it too soon? Like the show never went off the air? Did you see your next American Idol tonight? Check out our entire American Idol forum on the Morty's TV Fan Forums at tvfanforums.net!