The show dedicated to finding the next singing superstar returned Sunday night on ABC with judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie,along with host Ryan Seacrest.
This isn’t just your average season of American Idol though: it’s the 20th season, and, as part of the milestone year, they’ve introduced the coveted Platinum ticket.
“We all know the Golden Ticket gets you to Hollywood Week but this year, this is historic, for the first time, we have the Platinum Ticket,” Seacrest revealed. “There are only three of these for the entire season, and if the judges vote unanimously for you to get this as a contestant, then you bypass the first round of Hollywood Week. I mean, it is, it’s a game-changer.”
With a ticket to Hollywood on the line, there was some serious talent to judge. Here are some of the night’s highlights.
Thanks to his friend, who signed him up for the show, 19-year-old Noah Thompson from Kentuckywas able to show off his skills and earn a ticket to Hollywood after singing Kameron Marlowe‘s “Giving You Up.”
Tyler Allen, 24, from Alabama, brought Katy to tears after sharing the tragedy he and his family experienced when his sister and barely one-year-old nephew were killed after being struck by an 18 wheeler. He sang Whitney Houston‘s “I Believe in You and Me,” the song he used to sing to his nephew, and made his way through to the next round.
Normandy, 29, from Maryland, took the judges by surprise when her cartoonishly high-pitched talking voice turned into a deep singing voice. After having a go at Tina Turner‘s “Proud Mary” and Adele‘s “Rolling in the Deep” she earned herself a ticket to Hollywood.
Unfortunately, not everyone shown on Sunday night’s episode scored a trip to Hollywood. Grace, a 15-year-old from Michigan who’s also the granddaughter of the late, great Aretha Franklin, didn’t make it to the next round of competition, but Lionel urged her to “put in the work” and come back.
Last up was 23-year-old Huntergirl, real name Hunter Wolkonowski, from Tennessee, who earned a standing ovation from the judges and even had Luke ranking her in the top 10 and calling her the “new-age” Miranda Lambert. Later in the episode, after performing at Luke’s Nashville bar, the judges presented her with the first Platinum ticket of the season.
Who else will score a Platinum ticket? Find out when the American Idol auditions continue Sunday, March 6 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.