“American Idol” returned Sunday night, with Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie behind the judges table once again.
Season 19 kicked off with Bryan growing emotional over a performance by contestant Grace Kinstler, who performed Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” and Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman.”
Kinstler explained that while she always wanted to be on “Idol,” she was missing her father, who died “very unexpected[ly]” while the 20-year-old Chicago, Ill., native had been away at school. She is currently attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.
“Growing up, my dad was definitely my main cheerleader. He loved his family,” Kinstler said in a pre-taped segment, adding, “I keep thinking about how much he believed in me and try to believe that much in myself.”
She said the memory of her father was the motivation she was using to move forward, and wore a charm that used to belong to him during her audition.
Bryan teared up while Kinstler sang, while Perry and Richie looked emotional.
“Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Woo, man,” Bryan said of her performance. “This is the first time in four years that just someone singing made me cry. Just understand that your dad is very, very proud of you right now.”
Claudia Conway, the 16-year-old daughter of Kellyanne Conway, is also a contestant on the show this season. After an attempt at Rihanna’s 2016 hit, “Love on the Brain,” Perry told her try her second song, Adele’s “When We Were Young.”
“Think about when you were young,” Perry said, “It’s like you lost your youth because you weren’t able to experience it on your own without all this noise.”
Richie and Perry voted for Conway to advance to Hollywood.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, “American Idol” narrowed their list of audition locations to cities in California.
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