'American Idol' Hollywood Week: New Genre Challenge introduced, 167 contestants sing for their lives
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/17/2020
American Idol introduced a brand new round in Hollywood Week, the Genre Challenge, which featured judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie listening to 167 contestants sing songs from their chosen genres during Monday night's Season 18 broadcast on ABC.
The broadcast began with a look at the 167 contestants by the end of Day 1 at 9PM of Hollywood Week. An entire room of hopefuls had already sung for their lives in the new Genre Challenge.
As Katy, Luke and Lionel were shown making major cuts and advancing talented vocalists to the next round, footage flashed back to some of the most memorable performances.
In the new Genre Challenge, the 167 hopefuls were separated and required to identify a genre to show who they are as singers, artists and musicians -- but they could pick any song to perform from their genre.
The judges were therefore asked to watch every contestant perform one at a time so they could hear and compare every single voice and talent.
"These artists could one day be competing in the same charts," Katy explained in a voiceover.
"If we put you next to your competition, can you stand out?" Luke questioned.
The contestants could sing in either the pop, rock, R&B, soul, country, or singer/songwriter category.
The singer/songwriter genre was first to hear their good or bad news from the judges.
The following hopefuls were shown advancing from this group: Julia Gargano, a 21-year-old college student from Staten Island, NY, who stunned with "The Joke" by Brandi Carlile, and Arthur Gunn, a 22-year-old musician from Wichita, KS, who performed "Hard To Handle."
The following hopefuls were also shown surviving the Genre Challenge: Sofia Schuster, a 15-year-old high school student from Santa Barbara, CA; Adam Curry, a 25-year-old musician from Chicago, IL; and Francisco Martin, a 18-year-old college student from San Francisco, CA, who sang "Hold Back the River."
Jonny West, a 23-year-old piano teacher from Murietta, CA, who sang "Someone You Love," also survived the cut, along with Dillon James, a 26-year-old construction worker from Bakersfield, CA.
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"I think there are some stars here, buddy," Lionel pointed out.
Unfortunately, auditions-standout Marna Michele, a 27-year-old secretary from Costa Mesa, CA, will not become a star on American Idol and was cut from the competition.
The largest pool of contestants, by far, was the pop group, so friendly rivalries developed and friends were made.
The featured singers who advanced were Louis Knight, a 19-year-old pizza delivery guy from Philadelphia, PA, who impressed with an original version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough;" returning contestant Genavieve Linkowski, a 21-year-old social media influencer from Goodrich, MI; and former The Voice contestant Robert Taylor, a 27-year-old door-to-door salesman from Donaldsonville, LA, who sang "Natural Woman."
"He should've put a little more fire on that one," Katy said of Louis, although he survived the round.
Demi Rae Moreno and Geena Fontanella also advanced in the pop genre.
In addition, Bilaal Avaz, a 19-year-old college student from North Haven, CT, who sang "Stone Cold" by Demi Lovato, made it through to the next round along with Lauren Spencer Smith, a 16-year-old high school student from Vancouver Island, Canada, and Shannon Gibbons, a 20-year-old college student from Bellport, NY.
"So fabulous when they get it right," Lionel said of Lauren after she sang.
However, Kay Genyse, a 20-year-old deli slicer from High Point, NC, was eliminated from the pop genre.
"I'm brokenhearted but I'm still a star and I performed my butt off! I have personality. I have that star quality, and if this was 'Performance Idol,' I would've been No. 1," Kay told the cameras.
It was good news in the pop genre for returning contestants Margie Mays, a 26-year-old music teacher from Wilmington, DE, and Nick Merico, a 23-year-old server from Woodland Hills, CA, who had both previously auditioned for American Idol.
Kimmy Gabriela, a 17-year-old high school student from Lakeland, FL, who reinvented "Say Something" by Christina Aguilera and Great Big World, also sang her way into the next round.
"The show is over," Katy noted after Gabriela took the stage. "She's a pro -- and she's 17. I think she must be lying about her age."
In the R&B genre, Just Sam, a 21-year-old subway singer from Harlem, NY; Cyniah Elise, a 17-year-old high school student from Atlanta, GA, who belted out "All I Ask" by Adele; and Makayla Phillips, a 17-year-old high school student from Temecula, CA, who wowed with "And I am Telling You I'm Not Going" by Jennifer Hudson, were given the greenlight.
"She is the next Ariana Grande," Luke told his fellow judges of Makayla.
The country genre was up next and viewers caught a glimpse of Lauren Mascitti, a 27-year-old RN from Nashville, TN; Hannah Prestridge, a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Rockdale, TX; and Grace Leer, a 27-year-old in technology sales from Nashville, TN, who were all sent through to the next round.
On behalf of the soul genre, Amber Fiedler, a 23-year-old server from Coeur D'Alene, ID; Sophia Wackerman, a 20-year-old college student from Long Beach, CA; Jovin Webb, a 28-year-old musician from Gonzales, LA, all made it through.
"Sophia wacked it out of the park!" Katy shouted.
One memorable audition, Doug Kiker, a 27-year-old garbage man from Mobile, AL, however, was ousted from the competition.
American Idol will continue next Sunday and Monday night with more of Hollywood Week on ABC.