The sixteenth season of American Idol kicked off with the three judges critiquing aspiring singers in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles, and Orlando.
Nine hopefuls received golden tickets and made it through to the next round, with several of them blowing the panel away -- Catie Turner, Alyssa Raghu, Zachary D'Onofrio, and Dennis Lorenzo.
Catie, a 17-year-old high school student from Langhorne, PA, sang an original song on her guitar called "21st Century Machine."
Katy called her "a spectacular songwriter," Luke noted she seems "brilliant beyond her years," and Lionel complimented her by saying it was as if a Martian had landed on earth. Lionel was "fascinated" by her brain. All three judges agreed to send her to Hollywood.
Alyssa, a 15-year-old high school student Orlando, FL, sang "Almost Is Never Enough" by Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes.
Alyssa made all of the hairs on Katy's body stand up, making the pop icon "a believer." Luke admitted her voice was "easy on the ears," and then Katy boldly added, "You're Top 10." Lionel was excited to watch Alyssa's journey on the show, and she got three enthusiastic yeses.
Zachary, a 16-year-old high school student from Wesley Chapel, FL, walked into the audition with a high speaking voice.
But when he belted out "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra, the judges were amazed by the depth of his sound and the richness in his voice. Katy danced with the talented crooner as he sang, and Lionel admitted he was "unique" and "killed it." Luke then pointed out that "America is going to freak" over him.
Dennis, a 26-year-old singer from Philadelphia, PA, performed "Unaware" by Allen Stone.
"Your deal is why I signed up for this, this feeling. Your journey is what this shows about -- American dreams," Luke told the contestant before he learned he'd be going to Hollywood. And it was a "heck yes" from Katy!
Five more artists advanced with impressive auditions: Harper Grace, Ron Bultongez, Maddie Poppe, Layla Spring, and Noah Davis.
Harper, a 16-year-old high school student from McKinney, TX, sang an original song, and the judges agreed her lyrics were "fabulous."
But her second song was the selling point. She performed "Young, Dumb and Broke" by Khalid, and Lionel loved the quality of her voice. Katy said Harper's voice hasn't reached its "ultimate potential" yet but she'd be a dream for Hollywood to carve out. With that being said, Harper received three yeses from the judges.
Ron, a 21-year-old entrepreneur originally from Congo who currently resides in Plano, TX, sang "Let It Go" by James Bay.
Luke found the singer "inspiring" and also admired the hopeful's "honesty," so he said "yes." But while Katy respected his story, she couldn't get a grasp on who he is as an artist. Instead, she thought his audition was an imitation, so Katy said he needs more time to develop and it's a "no" from her.
Lionel agreed with Katy that the music industry is "an identity business," so he said "no" as well. However, Lionel apparently couldn't get Ron out of his head following the audition, so the panel called Ron back into the room about an hour later and revealed he'd by flying to Hollywood for a second chance.
Maddie, a 19-year-old college student from Clarksville, IA, sang "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie, and Lionel insisted they need her on the show. Katy also called her "dope."
Layla, a 16-year-old high school student from Marion County, KY, performed "Who's Lovin' You" by the Jackson Five. The judges were afraid the music industry would eat sweet Layla alive and that she'd be "going into the fire," but they all said "yes" after realizing Layla was strong mentally and had confidence in herself.
And Noah, an 18-year-old nursing student from Royal, AR, sang "Stay" by Rihanna. Noah blushed throughout his performance and told the judges he loved alpacas, so they just hugged him and thought he was the cutest. Katy, Luke and Lionel also agreed to send him to Hollywood.
In addition to American Idol showing a montage of hopefuls getting cut, five contestants were each shown giving a full audition and then being rejected by the panel, who attempted to be candid but also respectful in the way they handled the bad news.
Grace Walker, a 15-year-old hostess from San Juan Capistrano, CA; Sardor Milano, a 26-year-old supermarket employee from Orlando, FL; and Nico Bones, a 22-year-old skate-shop employee from Long Beach, CA, did not receive golden tickets to Hollywood.
Koby, a 26-year-old musical theater actress from Denver, CO, was also sent packing after her performance of "Never Stops" by Deerhunter.
"You're not a pop star," Katy confessed, before Lionel noted Koby's voice simply won't work for records. And Luke added that she'd be doing herself a disservice by doing singing as her career.
Benjamin Glaze, a 19-year-old cashier from Enid, OK, was also denied a golden ticket; however, he got his first kiss ever -- on the lips -- from Katy, so he was thrilled. The judges suggested he should work on his craft and come back in a couple years to try out again.