'American Idol' Season 16 Premiere Recap: The Iconic Franchise Returns with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie
'American Idol' Season 16 Premiere Recap: The Iconic Franchise Returns with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie
Bill King
Bill King
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
In America, first you get the money. Then you get the Seacrest. Then you get the Idol.

Yes, folks, American Idol is back! The juggernaut that launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and more than a dozen other (sort of) mainstream artists couldn't quit us for more than two years before an inevitable reboot. And this time, it's ABC that is resurrecting the iconic franchise.

I re-read my recap of the then-series finale to get myself hyped, and the fact that I was super excited for an epic showdown between Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae is a pretty solid representation of why it got canceled in the first place.

Even though it's been the most successful talent show at producing actual radio artists, it's not like we were churning out superstars anymore. In fact, since Phillip Phillips won back in season 11, the only Idols who have even released albums are Kree Harrison, Nick Fradiani, Caleb Johnson and Candice Glover. And, yeah, three of them actually won. 

So while the hopes are high to reclaim the throne of reality TV supremacy (because The Voice is still exclusive and invitation only), it remains to be seen if Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie can recapture the magic.

Either way, one thing is for sure: Kieran is ready to dim the lights. Has he just, I dunno, not worked? Is it weird that I've been concerned for his well-being?

The Good

The first round of auditions takes place in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, and kicking off the nonsense is Catie Turner from Langhorne, PA (the same hometown as my college roommate). She is as excited as she is energetic, and her original song, "21st Century Machine," captures her bitterness at being indoctrinated by the media. She looks like a hippie fembot from Austin Powers and sounds like the awesome deaf chick from America's Got Talent (Mandy Harvey finished fourth). 

It's worth noting that the so-called "golden ticket" is now actually a solid ticket, instead of a piece of paper. It's an upgrade, and Willy Wonka approves.

The cold audition is the hallmark of American Idol, and the judges waste no time settling into their roles. Maddie Poppe makes Luke Bryan smile like a goofy Wil Wheaton with her guitar rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow. " 

Sixteen-year-old Harper Grace butchered the national anthem at an MLS game when she was 11, and she claims that a Google search puts her on par with Christina Aguilera and Roseanne Barr. (Fergie be like, "Hold my beer") But now winning American Idol is on her vision board.

She has pitch issues and awkward knee bends (like homeless heroin addicts who slouch but never fall over), but the judges admire her songwriting and ask for a follow-up to her original. It's fine, and even though I'm not excited, Katy believes that the potential is there. And Luke maybe just looks like Wil Wheaton when he's happy.

Layla Spring brings her little sister along for the ride because 7-year-old Dyxie simply wants to sing like her 16-year-old idol. I only mention her because it's way too many Ys in names, and everyone loves Dyxie because no one can hate on a kid not actually trying out.

She's not up to snuff. Layla, however, is way over the top on Jackson 5's "Who's Loving You," but apparently cramming every note you can hit into one song is the way to go. I want them to stop her and say no, to pull it in, but we can't be overly negative in the premiere. 

Katy says she needs experience, and while everyone literally informs her that there will be better singers, I guess they're hopeful for storytelling? 

Noah Davis is 18 and red-faced with anxiety, but he and Katy are on the same page with his "wig" references that I'm not cool enough to understand. At least Lionel and Luke aren't either because they keep asking. 

He'll buy an alpaca if he wins, which I'm on board with since my wife and I recently spent a long weekend at an alpaca farm in Connecticut. Luke apparently once got chased by an alpaca, but that's not what they do, so I'm suspect even though I may love him. I'm not a country music fan, but he looks like he could've once been a character on Boy Meets World.

Anyway, Noah sings Rihanna's "Stay," which is lofty. It's great, but I don't know if he's a star. He could be the one to prove me wrong, though. Please do.

For those who couldn't drive or fly to an Idol city, there was a bus that traversed the nation to find talent, and one of the beneficiaries was 15-year-old Alyssa Raghu. Disney is her life, and her dad is a huge fan. Props to pops for raising her when her mom left (or "moved away," as she phrases it to the judges), and her rendition of "Almost is Never Enough" is almost never enough for me to think she's a threat. It's good, but I'm not blown away. Still, her dad's reaction is 100 times better than her terrible shoes. 

In West Philadelphia, born and raised, Dennis Lorenzo's grandparents bought him a guitar after his dad was murdered. He got out of the ghetto and moved to LA, living in a tent until he worked his way up to being a better dad with an adorable baby daughter. His rendition of Alex Stone's "Unaware" is the first contender-worthy performance of the night.

The Yes That Should Be No

Zack D'Onofiro sports Harry Potter glasses, got made fun of for his high voice and collects socks. He has 365 pairs, one for every day of the year, but he does not address leap years. 

He's brought a pair of socks for each judge, but his terrible voice on "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra can't save his kind gesture. Katy dances with him, and I had to copy and paste this from the "rejected" section because of what happens next. These are my real-time musings:

"It's more about the judges than the talent. I want to be bad at singing just so I can dance and maybe kiss Katy Perry. Like a firework. So awful ... he's actually not terrible. But he's bad. Oh jeez. I hope I don't have to write about them moving him on. Not to the good place. Please. I'll make a whole new category. Send him home. Please. Dammit. America is going to freak out when he opens his mouth. Is he the next Daniel Seavey?"

The Sorta No Cigar

Ron Bultongez comes from Congo, having escaped when he was 10. He had issues with his abusive father, whose actions were apparently only mainstream in Africa, and it shaped how he will raise his own adorable son. His rendition of James Bay's "Let It Go" is fine, and Luke Bryan is apparently "so excited" and says "doggone." 

Katy doesn't know who he is yet and gives him a no, and I appreciate her for being real this early. I thought he was going to be in the "good" section until Lionel Richie shut it down, telling him to hone his craft and come back later. Harsh. Luke wishes that he had fought for Ron.

After a commercial break, Mr. "Hello" brings Ron back to change his vote and offer him a trip to Hollywood. I don't know if I like this or not. He's not going to win. First impressions matter. Stick with your initial thoughts.

The Rejected

A lady who feels she has "made it" enough to refer to herself only as "Koby" claims to be the best musical theatre actress in the state of Colorado, which I hope isn't true. She has amazing chops, but what the hell is she doing? The judges aren't fans, but I'm actually disappointed in their reactions. 

Even the pianist is like, "Whaaaat?" and Lionel is about to shatter a bust of himself, but Koby has talent. Her being a bitch and refusing to accept defeat certainly doesn't help, but they could've shaped her. 

Intsead, Katy tells her that she's not a pop star and should instead focus on Broadway. They inexplicably compare her to Kristin Chenoweth, which is insulting to Wicked. And Pushing Dasies. And Four Christmases. And anyone with ears or eyes.

Poor Benjamin Glaze is a cashier at an electronics store who writes songs about girls he's crushing on, even if he's too Christian to smooch them outside a relationship. And even if he sucks at singing, he will survive in life based on the fact that Katy Perry is his first kiss.  

He gets cocky asking her, "How was it?" But then he needs water to return to fighting shape. He screams a bit, and the judges tells him to practice more and hone his singing skills as he gets sent home.

Nico Bones is a hungover rock and roller who is more focused on free drinks than fame, and he's probably still wasted. He's not a terrible guitar player, and Katy thinks he's dope as a person, but the musical aspect is lacking. 

Somehow, he prompts Luke to admit that he's sorted through his poop for worms. Lionel is happy that Nico stopped when he did, and Luke is a fan of the person but not for Idol.

Then there's 26-year-old Sardor Milano, who somehow won The X Factor in Russia. Maybe it's a language barrier, but the man in solid navy blue shoes who towers above Ryan Seacrest screams a whole bunch and gets sent home in shame.

This can't be real. It scares my dog. And me. It has to be an anti-Russia political thing, right?

The judges hedge, then say no. They encourage him to go to Broadway, which is so disrespectful. The Great White Way is not a fallback, especially for these hard nos.

Welcome Home

And that's it for the premiere. Two hours, and we got seven and a half noteworthy singers. I didn't personally feel star power from anyone, but Dennis Lorenzo has the most potential. I'm hoping they made this more about the judges for a reason.

Who were your favorites and do you see any contenders emerging from this group? What did you think of the judges and what did you think of their evaluations of the talent? Finally, do you think this reboot is worth the effort or are we destined for another American Idol that we'll never hear from again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

American Idol season 16 airs Sundays and Mondays at 8/7c on ABC. Want more news? Like our American Idol Facebook page.

(Image and videos courtesy of ABC)