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American Idol Red Wine Recap: Dreams, tears, comebacks, and Chris Harrison?

American Idol judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan on the premiere
American Idol judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan critique auditions on premiere night. Pic credit: ABC

Hello my lovely little Idol addicts. The mighty Idol is upon us once again for Season 18 (!) (criminy, am I THAT old!), or is it Season 3 now that we’re on ABC?

Oh, never the mind. I, your resident Idol recapper, am here to deliver your Idol’s premiere goods, and I’m feeling it — in the tune of superlative style — with these early audition phases. So bust out the cheap wine, or Lipton tea, and let’s dive right in!

First things first, it appears we have managed to sustain the same judging panel for more than three seasons in a row, and back again are Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan (four years, strong!). While I still miss Simon, I’m at least grateful we aren’t back in the days of Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. I still twitch in my sleep when I think about that unnecessary drama.

And while I have often thought Idol had a missed opportunity in solidifying Shania Twain as a permanent judge ever since her amazing guest spot appearance back in Season 9, I’ll take what I can get. On to some of the standouts and those we’d just as soon forget.

Creepiest Look-A-Like of the Night: Hunter Gibson ‘The Comeback’

American Idol contestant Hunter Gibson "The Comeback" auditions.
Hunter Gibson — aka “The Comeback”, aka Evan Bass in disguise — auditions. Pic credit: ABC

It doesn’t matter what this guy’s name is because I’m convinced he is Evan Bass from The Bachelor, just 20 years ago and sporting a bad wig.

He busted out with some Swing Swing by All American Rejects and Katy was digging it so much that she began singing with him. But he overstayed his welcome and ultimately became his own American Reject.

He apparently was too far ahead of the curve, which would mean he’s advanced, but his name is The Comeback, and he looks like Evan 20 years ago, and now I, Lizzy, feel dizzy, so on to the next!

Evan Bass on Bachelor in Paradise
Pic credit: Giphy

Best Voice: Arthur Gunn, Dibesh, The Light

Arthur Gunn auditions on American Idol premiere.
You are the light, Arthur Gunn. Pic credit: ABC

With just a guitar and a dream, Arthur Gunn, or Dibesh, a kid from Nepal, took his guitar on a bus in Kansas, and now has found himself before the world.  Channeling his inner Bob Dylan, he sang Girl from the North Country. He is our new Alejandro, and I think it’s safe to say that I love him.

He has grit in his voice and a sound that I could listen to over and over again.  In a word (or four), he’s simply the besch! And just when I thought I heard enough, or not enough at all, he unexpectedly transitioned into Have you Ever Seen the Rain, and I’m convinced he’s too good for the show and won’t ever fit in with the Laine Hardy molds of yore or even the Nick Merico ones of today.

Nevertheless, welcome to the world, Arthur Gunn. You will definitely go to America’s vote. And you are what I love about this damn show.

Most Inspired: Louis Knight

Giving us Ed Sheeran vibes, Louis played his original song Change, which he penned after his friend’s suicide. Lionel champions his songwriting while Luke goes as far as to say he’s the biggest star they’ve seen in these three seasons.

I cringe at this completely premature statement, but I don’t disagree with the unanimous yes for this forgotten member of One Direction. That’ll do, Louis. That’ll do.

The Real Comeback/Worst Judge’s Psyche Out of the Night/Obviously Best Looking: Nick Merico

Nick Merico auditions a second time on American Idol
Are you going to stick with us this time, Nick? Pic credit: ABC

The Hunkasauras is back! Remember him? Katy shamelessly flirted with him last year. He got through. But he didn’t go to Hollywood. His choice. He still doesn’t give us a clear reason for this and tells the judges “personal things” came up. Nick previously explained he was signed to a label while vaguely citing family issues.

All of this uncertainty leaves the judges leery. Though Nick’s still just as talented and dreamy as ever, the judges aren’t caving to his pulsating blue eyes so quickly.  Katy is like a girl still on the mend from a bad breakup. In fact, she is still carrying some spite and tells him she thinks he thinks he’s too good for them. Ego.

Our sweet Lionel, who must have really felt burned, takes it a step further and flat out tells Nick that he doesn’t like him. Doesn’t like his voice. His attitude. Or the white horse he rode in on. Day-um, Lionel! Them’s are fightin’ words.

Oh, but after commercial break, we see that Lionel was just being cheeky and was just testing the ol’ hunkasauras. He wanted Nick to feel what it’s like to be rejected. But I’m willing to bet that Nick has never felt rejection in his life, and I am pretty sure Nick saw right through Lionel’s little test. But he gave it the ol’ college effort. Sorry, judges. I’m afraid the only ones feeling rejected here are you.

Worst “No” of the Night:  Saveria

Contestant Saveria is told no on American Idol premiere night.
We are in disbelief too, Saveria. Pic credit: ABC

Ultra laid back and original, Saveria shows she has cred and some Joss Stone-like-soul. But, still, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with her, as Luke notes, she is also not making me levitate out of my chair. Finally! Some sound words from Luke, tonight. (Previously, he told a contestant NOT to play an original. For shame. He also told someone to drop out of college. Okay, maybe. And he also was a little too loosey goosey with his “You get a top 5 spot!”  tonight.)

Oprah gives cars away to her audience.
Pic credit: Giphy

Luke. There’s only so much room. And we’re only on night one. Though Luke was right with his luke-warm feelings toward Saveria, not putting this girl through, boys? A curse on both your houses!

Mr. and Mrs. Idol: Doug the Garbage Man and Just Sam

American Idol contestant Just Sam auditions.
Just Sam sings Rise Up and, just like that, my hopes are high. Pic credit: ABC

And these guys, my friends, are the stuff that Idol dreams are made of. What MY Idol dreams are made of. Why I have watched this show for 18 dang seasons. Why I defend this show. Okay, Just Sam. Okay. You got me. Well done.

Plucked from complete obscurity, we meet Doug, a garbage man, and Sam. Just Sam. But Just Sam is who I want to focus on for now.

Raised by her grandma, Elizabeth, Sam is told, “Believe in yourself and believe in God.” And just like that, she’s off from living in the projects and on her way to audition for Hollywood.

Just get through it Just Sam!  We are ALL rooting for you. “It feels like a dream,” she says. Because it is. And now it’s your time to live your dream! To overcome her nerves, she does “the train thing,” which highlights more personality than we have seen from any of the ladies in all season of The Bachelor. And then she opens up with Andre Day’s Rise Up, and I officially have my first chill bumps of the night.

Lionel asks her if she ever has felt safe, to which she responds, “when my grandma hugs me.” And Lionel takes it (possibly a step too far), calling himself Uncle and referring to Katy as “Auntie Katy.” And don’t forget about Uncle Luke over there too. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

Nevermind, though. I am sucked right back in when Sam asks these Hollywood Elites/now family, “Can I pray with you guys, is that okay?” Aaaaaand, I now have a lonely crocodile tear dripping into my pinot grigio and am asking my TV screen if I can be a part of the family too. Just Liz, Uncle Richie? Room for me too?

And with that, I can say I’m happy to be watching this dang show again. And will tune back in next week.

In the meantime, I ask:

Who was your favorite contestant of the night? Did Saveria get too severe a deal? Did we hear Laine Hardy’s name once? They sure were pumping up Alejandro, weren’t they?  But perhaps not as much as ABC shows themselves. (Seriously. A call from Chris Harrison?!)

What is your conspiracy theory on why Nick left the first time?  Did Camryn Leigh Smith (think denim jumper) remind you of Kelly Clarkson a bit? Luke once again went off his rocker, saying she reminded him of Katy, but all I was seeing was our beloved Kelly. More importantly, will you watch Hustlers just to try and find our Russian New Yorker, Alisa? I’m contemplating it. Til’ next week my Idol addicts!  

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