�American Idol� Premieres

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American Idol is back. Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, as well host Ryan Seacrest returned for Season 18 last night. It was the show’s third season to air on ABC. Bobby Bones will return to his role as in-house mentor.

The two-hour episode offered some impressive auditions, the usual sob stories, and a few wacky auditions. The eight singers sent through to Hollywood from the Season 18 premiere:

Doug Kiker, 27 (Mobile, Alabama): A garbage man who has never performed in front of anyone, except the back of the garbage truck, Kiker said he was there to audition for his 2-year-old daughter and show her that he can be someone. Kiker was so nervous the judges got Seacrest to take him for a warm-up. After performing Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road” Perry asked him to show “his range” but he wasn’t sure what that was. Byran sat down at the piano where he guided Kiker. In the end, all three judges agreed that Kiker deserved a ticket to Hollywood.

Camryn Leigh Smith, 16 (Acworth, Georgia): Camryn, a church worship leader really shocked with her vocals and guitar playing while performing Jessie J’s “Big White Room.” Luke Bryan compared her to Katy Perry, and she got an easy pass to Hollywood.

Francisco Martin, 18 (San Francisco): A pre-law student with self-confidence issues, Martin was a bundle of nerves when he entered the audition room. Lionel and Luke did their best to calm the kid down, with the former giving him a hug and the latter jokingly checking his pulse. As soon Martin gave the judges a smooth rendition of Maggie Rogers’ “Alaska,” they were sold. He even treated them to an original song about an Australian “friend” who visited him over the summer. The judges think Martin could be Top 10, or even Top 5, material.

Nick Merico, 23 (Los Angeles) Former Nickelodeon star Nick Merico returned for another shot at the big time. The Every Witch Way actor appeared on the show last season, impressing the judges with his talents and earning plenty of praise from Katy Perry for his good looks. He left the show early though, which the judges still hold against him. Before he sang, the judges asked him why he left the show early. “Some personal things went down,” he said. “I had to figure out a lot of things and really take the last year as a boot camp.” Nick performed “You Say” by Lauren Daigle in his audition this time. After performing, Richie had some choice words. “We have a big problem, because, honestly, I don’t like you,” Richie said. “For some weird reason, you’re not sitting well with me. I don’t like your voice.” “I’m being honest. I’m being very honest,” Richie said. “I don’t like your attitude and I don’t really think you’re going to make it in Hollywood.” Richie then asked Merico how he felt. “I feel hurt,” Merico replied. “Good, that’s exactly what I want you to feel like,” Richie said. “Because I want you to understand what it feels like when people don’t adore you.” Perry agreed, suggesting that Merico could earn more support if he came off as a little more humble.

Arthur Gunn (real name Dibesh Pokharel) Gunn moved from Nepal to the United States after high school and is currently living in Kansas, where he developed a taste for bluegrass. Gunn delivered a Bob Dylan cover, “Girl from the North Country.” which had all three judges silently nodding and looking reflective. “Just give me another song, just to get a little more of an idea of what you do,” urged Richie. Gunn launched into a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Richie and Bryan high-fived each other and Bryan said: “You want to open for me in Detroit, Michigan, in two weeks?” “You are the story that we need to tell,” marveled Richie. “I don’t think we even need a vote. You are going to Hollywood!”

Louis Knight, 19: This singer-songwriter from London, now working as a part-time pizza delivery boy in the United States, charmed the judges with an emotional original song about a friend’s suicide. They collectively suggested that he might be the biggest star that Idol has ever seen in three seasons on ABC.

Meghan Fitton, 24 (Foxborough, Massachusetts): Meghan Fitton auditioned along with her friend Bryan who accompanied her on guitar. Fitton teaches spin and barre classes while auditioning for musical theater shows and cruise line performance jobs. This self-proclaimed Bachelor super fan performed Alan Stone’s “Love Where You’re At.”

Just Sam, 20 (Harlem) Just Sam, a subway performer, got off to a rocky start, breaking down midway through a performance of Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.” She made a quick recovery though, turning out a beautiful rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up.”