‘American Idol’s Third Night Of Auditions Has A Few Surprises Up Its Sleeve

Jill O'Rourke
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American Idol Laine HardyABC

Season 17 of American Idol had its third night of auditions on Sunday night. In addition to some amazing performances and moving stories, the episode also had a few surprises in store for fans.


There was some breakdancing and a duet with one of the judges. But in particular, we’re talking about the unexpected return of a past contestant.

Ashton Gill & Laine Hardy

Much of 20-year-old Ashton’s audition was overshadowed by the presence of past contestant Laine Hardy. The two have known each other since they were young, and 18-year-old Laine accompanied Ashton on guitar. The judges were overjoyed to see him again. When Ashton finally got to sing, they mentioned her pitchiness and nerves, but gave her a golden ticket to Hollywood with the hope that she’ll pick the right songs. That’s when they asked Laine to sing, and offered him a golden ticket as well! Although he had said he wasn’t going to audition, he accepted it.

Austin Michael Robinson

This 15-year-old from a ranch in Texas traveled 30 hours to get to his audition. His look and guitar-accompanied audition led Katy Perry to call him a “country Justin Bieber.” He sang Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” Katy thought he needed more time to mature, while Lionel Richie wanted him to open his mouth more when he sang. Lionel and Luke Bryan said yes, and Austin “lassoed” himself a golden ticket.


Jake Puliti

This 20-year-old from Pennsylvania says people don’t expect him to be a singer, instead thinking he should be playing sports. He went with an unexpected song choice for his acoustic audition — “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan. It was enough to get Katy out of her chair and doing the worm on the floor in front of him. The other judges enjoyed it as well, choosing to send Jake to Hollywood.

Shawn Robinson

This 21-year-old from Atlanta says working in a hardware store isn’t his “dream job.” Instead, he wants to sing — and that’s what he did. His great voice impressed all three judges. Lionel said his voice is “like butter,” while Luke called him a “precious person.” Katy encouraged him to “dig in” even more in his future performances. Shawn walked away with a golden ticket to Hollywood.

Nate Walker

This 18-year-old from Pittsburgh was the second hopeful of the night to have grown up with a past contestant. His grandfather taught both him and last season’s Gabby Barrett to sing. (In this case, however, Gabby didn’t show up to his audition.) Nate performed “Say Something” by A Great Big World on the piano. Luke said his use of runs worked for his style. As Katy said, “There’s something in the water in Pittsburgh.” All three judges voted to send Nate to Hollywood.


Wade Cota

This 27-year-old from Phoenix shared his family’s troubled past. His father beat him, his siblings, and his mother when he was growing up. They eventually got away from him, and Wade says he wants to win American Idol so he can take care of his mom. He sang “Blame It on Me” by George Ezra, and his gravelly voice earned comparisons to Johnny Cash. The judges enthusiastically sent him to Hollywood.

Riley Thompson

This Texan is only 16 years old, but Lionel said she has a voice “way beyond your years.” She sang an original song called “Oh Daddy,” leading Katy to compare her to a “country Lana Del Rey.” We didn’t get to learn much about her in this episode, but hopefully we will in the future, since she’s going to Hollywood!

Peter Lemongello Jr.

This 19-year-old’s father sold his albums on television in the 1970s. Young Peter loves music from the 1950s, and says he’s even friends with musicians like the Four Tops and the Temptations. He chose to sing “I Can’t Help Myself” in his audition. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t think he was quite ready for American Idol. Only Katy voted yes, meaning Peter won’t go to Hollywood.

Clay Page

This 24-year-old from Georgia credits his late Uncle Norman for getting him interested in music. He chose to sing “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett for his audition. Lionel praised his ability to tell a story with his talent, while Katy praised him for being “real country.” Luke called his style “gentle.” Clay walked away with a golden ticket to Hollywood.

Drake McCain

This 17-year-old from Tennessee works at the local Piggly Wiggly to help his single mom take care of his 10 younger siblings. He says he hopes to be a role model for them. For his audition, he sang the hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” and former Christian singer Katy Perry joined him. Lionel praised his ability to harmonize. As pun-lover Katy told him, he “bagged” a ticket to Hollywood.

Madison VanDenburg

The judges couldn’t believe this New York singer is only 16. Her piano performance of “Speechless” by Dan + Shay wowed the judges. Katy Perry had goosebumps, and said she might be the “next Kelly Clarkson.” Madison isn’t the only singer to earn that comparison this season, so she’ll have some tough competition when she gets to Hollywood.

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

This 25-year-old church janitor bonded with Katy over being a “PK” (pastor’s kid). He shared that he came out to his family as gay three years ago, and they weren’t accepting of it. Jeremiah performed an original song called “Almost Heaven” on the piano, and the judges couldn’t have been more praising. Katy called him a “serious musician,” and Lionel said he surpassed even Billy Joel. Jeremiah called it a “validating experience.” Obviously, he’s going to Hollywood.

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