‘American Idol’: Katy Perry storms off during Aretha Franklin's granddaughter's audition
"American Idol" is back – and Season 20 is already bringing plenty of inspiring stories and tear-jerking moments.
Just ask judge Katy Perry, who was reduced to a puddle of tears in Sunday's season premiere by Tyler Allen's heart-wrenching audition. The 24-year-old delivery driver, from Mobile, Alabama, dedicated his performance to his 1-year-old nephew Noah, who was killed in a car accident last April.
Allen told the judges that the infant and his mother were hit by an 18-wheeler and "died instantaneously."
"Putting him to rest was the hardest thing," he said. "Though he's not here, I do believe he's in a far better place."
Allen sang Whitney Houston's "I Believe in You and Me," which he had sung to Noah as he rocked the infant to sleep.
The moving song – and Allen's soft, intimate vocals – had a clear effect on all three judges, especially Perry, who sobbed into tissues throughout the audition.
"It's just God-given," Perry said afterward. "It's beautiful"
Fellow judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan agreed.
"You are a star," said Richie. "You're the top of my food chain right now."
Allen earned three yes votes, sending him through to the Hollywood Week round.
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Grace Franklin's audition divides judges
Allen's audition wasn't the only emotional moment for Perry, who was moved by the potential she saw in 15-year-old Grace Franklin – the granddaughter of the late soul legend Aretha Franklin. While Bryan said Grace's rendition of Lauryn Hill's "Killing Me Softly" felt "sleepy and subdued," and Richie said he could tell she was "a nervous wreck," Perry disagreed.
"I think you have stardust and sparkle all over you," Perry told Franklin. "You are beautiful, and if you'll trust us, if you'll listen to us and you'll put in the work, I think we can find that next level with you."
However, Richie and Bryan were not on the same page. "I think the best thing for you in life is to take a shot at going backwards," Richie said to Franklin. "Go back and get a running start and come at this again."
"Give her a shot; give her a chance," Perry pleaded with Richie. "I'm sure Aretha wasn't Aretha when she walked into the room, but somebody said, 'Yes, I wanna work with you. I wanna develop you.' "
But Richie and Bryan ultimately voted no, leading Perry to storm off the show's set. "I will lay down on the ground. I quit this show. I'm going to the bar," she said as she walked away.
Other "Idol" hopefuls who scored golden tickets include soulful singer Cole Hallman, who was accompanied by his adorable younger sister; Nicolina, who belted out a chilling rendition of Sara Bareilles' "She Used to Be Mine"; and Taylor Jalen Fagins, who shared a moving original song inspired by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
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And Huntergirl, a 23-year-old music therapist from Winchester, Tennessee, earned the show's first platinum ticket – a new twist this season that will send three lucky singers through to the second round of Hollywood Week.
The judges revealed the news to a stunned Huntergirl after Bryan invited her to perform at his bar, Luke Bryan's 32 Bridge in Nashville, Tennessee. Her heartfelt rendition of Rascal Flatts' "Riot" led Bryan to compare her to Miranda Lambert and predict she'll make this year's Top 10.
"American Idol" continues next Sunday at 8 EST/PST.
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