Season 20 of American Idol started off with some serious star power that has nothing to do with the three superstar musicians serving as judges.
Listen to music from American Idol alumni and other standout reality TV contestants on Audacy’s TV’s Top Talent
One of the surprise auditions in the Season 20 premiere came from 15-year-old Detroit native Grace Franklin, who happens to be the daughter of the late Aretha Franklin. “Stop right there!” Lionel Richie said as he threw his hands up in shock.
“I was really close to my grandma,” Franklin told the Idol judges. “I got to see her all the time. I used to travel with her a lot. I don’t think I could fully grasp the fact that she was known worldwide, because to me, she was always just grandma.”
Grace first sang the Lauryn Hill song “Killing Me Softly” in front of the judges as her performance piqued their interest enough to ask for an encore. Katy Perry asked her if she had anything else she wanted to sing as Grace took a page from her grandmother’s catalog and sang “Ain’t No Way.” Her performance received a mixed reaction amongst the judges as Perry said she “loved your rendition of your grandma’s songs.”
“Your runs are really, really great. They’re very controlled.” Luke Bryan said. “I think if you add command to your moment, it gives you a better chance to make it through some rounds of this competition.”
“You’re 15. You’ve got the family lineage. What we need to put [in] now is time and some work in to get it up to par,” Richie added.
When it came time to vote on whether or not Grace would advance to the Hollywood round, it got a bit heated. Bryan cast a no vote while Perry voted yes. “I love you and I think the best thing for you in life is to take a shot at going backwards. Go back and get a running start and come at this again,” Richie told Franklin.
Perry jumped in saying that Grace has “got stardust” and told Richie to give her a chance. “I’m sure Aretha wasn’t Aretha when she walked into the room, but somebody said yes, I want to work with you. I want to develop you. You’ve got something. She’s got stardust on her,” she said.
Richie held firm that while Franklin clearly has the talent, she needs to put in some work on her stage presence and urged her to come back at a later time for an audition. Perry emphatically disagreed with Richie and got up out of her chair to walk off set. “She might be a little shy,” Perry said. “I will lay down on the ground. I quit this show. I’m going to the bar. There’s something wrong with your ears… You’re insane!”
Ultimately, Richie voted no and thus ended Franklin’s brief run on American Idol.