American Idol

Mariah Faith, PJAE sparkle on American Idol

Mariah Faith got a golden ticket and a bonus -- opening for last year's top two finishers -- during the American Idol blind auditions. (ABC Photo)

Mariah Faith got a golden ticket and a bonus — opening for last year’s top two finishers — during the American Idol blind auditions. (ABC Photo)


American Idol introduced viewers to 12 more Hollywood-bound singers Sunday night.

And they ended the latest audition show with a cliffhanger.

Fire Willmore, a 22-year-old from Oklahoma, showed up in the audition room with an adorable 4-year-old daughter, a story of a hard-luck past and a desire to find a career path other than exotic dancing.

Her audition wasn’t quite enough to convince the Idol judges to reward her with a golden ticket. But she showed enough promise that Katy promised to give her another chance to win over the judges.

I imagine we’ll see the results next week, when the Season 21 audition episodes come to a close.

Meanwhile, here are my picks for the top auditions from Sunday’s show.

As always, following the links will take you to a full profile of the singer in cases where one is available. They come complete with information about any music the artist has already released.

1. Mariah Faith, 21, Conway, S.C., “Whenever You Come Around” by Vince Gill and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt: Mariah showed off a distinctive tone and a great cry in her voice. And when Katy Perry suggested a cover of the Bonnie Raitt classic, Mariah slayed it even though it wasn’t the song she expected to audition with. Luke Bryan said he had chills throughout the performance. Katy called her a “star” and complimented her on one of the most interesting voices this season. The judges were so thrilled, they set Mariah up to open a show for last year’s top two finishers, Noah Thompson and HunterGirl. Mariah called it the best night of her life.

2. PJAE, 23, Lawton, Okla., “Mirror” by Madison Ryann Ward: His real name is Peter Gomez and he told Idol he’s struggled with self-worth for much of his life. He called music his “saving grace.” Losing 150 pounds also helped his self-confidence. He showed off a nice tone and an even better knack at building the emotion and drama of the song. And that earned him a standing ovation from the judges. Katy said PJAE’s “beautiful” vocal gave her “a wave of chills” and called him Top 24 material.

3. Warren Peay, 23, Bambury, S.C., “To the Table” by Zach Williams: He’s a worship leader at a church back home, where he’s also been part of a Christian band. His long beard and soulful country sound prompted comparisons to Chris Stapleton. Indeed, Warren showed off a big voice and a touch of soulful grit, earning a standing ovation. Luke Bryan called his audition “bad ass.” Kathy called him “authentic.” And Lionel Richie thinks he’s got Top 10 potential.

4. Kayleigh Clark, 17, Sumerall, Mississippi, “The Dance” by Garth Brooks and “I Surrender” by Hillsong Worship: I’m not sure why Idol didn’t release video of Kayleigh’s audition. But she showed off one of the best country voices we’ve heard from a female country singer, even if the judges did seem to think she needs to dig a little deeper and sing likes she’s trying to be heard over the 25,000 chickens in one of her dad’s barns back home. Katy complimented her on a really pretty voice; Luke predicted she could be Top 10 if she follows the judges’ advice. And Kayleigh followed with one of the best lines of the night: “I’m going to Hollywood,” she said with her country accent. “But I guess I’m going to sing for some chickens first.”

5. Paige Ann, 16, Idaho Falls, Idaho, “What About Us” by Pink: The teen delivered flavored ice treats for the judges, then brought the vocal fire in her audition. I thought she showed off one of the most lovely tones we’ve heard from a female singer in Season 21, and she did it with a bit of growl and plenty of vocal firepower. A David Archuleta fan, Paige Ann says she’s been watching Idol and dreaming of being on the show since she was 6 years old.

Also earning golden tickets during Sunday’s show were Tori Green, Nailyah Serenity, Ophrah Kablan, Carina DeAngelo, Johnny Knox, Kamron Lawson and Owen Eckhardt.

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