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  • Vasili Papathanasopoulos

AUSTRALIAN IDOL RETURNS FOR ANOTHER YEAR OF UNEARTHING AUSSIE TALENT

Read our recap of episode one below!

Judges Kyle Sandilands, Marcia Hines and Amy Shark. Image: Supplied.

And we’re back for another year! Tonight, Channel 7 debuted the latest season of the nations beloved singing competition, Australian Idol. Immediately we’re greeted with two Australian icons, the Sydney Opera House and season one winner Guy Sebastian. Is there anything better than seeing Guy return to the very spot where he was crowned the first ever Australian Idol?


Things are looking slightly different this year as the judges enter the audition room. ARIA Award winning singer-songwriter Amy Shark and top-rating broadcaster Kyle Sandilands are back, with former Idol judge and beloved singer Marcia Hines by their side. Whilst Grammy® award-winning artist Harry Connick Jr and Meghan Trainor will not be returning as judges this year, something just feels so deliciously right about this line up. “It’s good to be back” Hines states as she takes her seat.



It’s time for our first audition of the season. We meet Dylan Wright, a father and budding singer-songwriter following in the footsteps of his late opera singing mother. Dylan shares moving stories of his time spent with his mother as she battled multiple sclerosis and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. “I feel for the very first person,” Sandilands remarks and we settle in for another year of Idol goodness. Dylan is playing Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House as a tribute to his mother and it’s hard to fight back the tears. His moving performance left the judges emotional, as his heartfelt and raw and growling vocals shone throughout. Whilst the performance wasn’t polished, Dylan shows a lot of potential as a contender to be named the next Australian Idol. He even had Sandilands in tears, who would have thought it? Shark names him a superstar, so it’s no surprise Dylan receives approval from all three judges and proceeds to the next round.


Dylan Wright. Image: Supplied.


Now, traditionally the next round is bootcamp, but those cheeky producers are changing things up this year. Dylan is now sitting in what is dubbed the ‘Waiting Room’ as hosts Ricki-Lee and Scott Tweedie reveal there are only thirty golden tickets to take contestants through to bootcamp. All contestants who receive more than two ‘yeses’ from the judges will be seen by the panel at the end of each day where they’ll decide who will make it through. We’re then shown a montage of budding singers whose Idol joineries are cut short as the judges grill them on their performance skills. “Where do you sing and perform?” Hines asks Reuben, who replies “Uh well, for the most part it’s my shower. It gets a good show every now and then.” Shark responds, “any people watching?” bringing her signature Aussie humour back to the panel for another year. I am however shocked to find out Hines has never heard Hozier’s seminal classic, Take Me To Church



From Victoria, Ivana Ilic has shown up with her self-described bodyguards - her four brothers. Ivana is no stranger to singing competitions, having won the second season of UNDSCVRD Presented by Samsung last year. So from the get-go, we know she’s going to be good. She’s taking on Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You, delivering a soulful rendition that at times was a bit too forceful. Had she delivered a more relaxed presence and performance, we would’ve been able to really track the light and shade of her tone. Nevertheless, the still delivered a solid audition. But stop the press! We cut to a shot of previous contestant Dylan watching Ivana performance on a screen. Not only do the contestants have to sit there all day waiting to find out their fate, but they have to watch every single audition too. Torture. Sandilands lets us know his go-to song to show off his vocal chops is Ryan Stone’s cowboy. SURELY we can get him on stage at the first live show to prove this? He then invites her brothers in before revealing that Ivana has made it through. Her youngest brother quips “I hear her everyday after school so,” to which Sandilands responds “we might take her off your hands so you don’t have to listen to her annoying voice at home every day.” And just like that, Ivana heads to the waiting room.


Ivana Ilic. Image: Supplied.


Jamie Preston is a country music lover out to show Australia what he’s made of. He comes in with an unwavering performance, ready to perform Keith Urban’s Somebody Like You and it seems like we may have Australia’s next country star on our hands. At sixteen years old, he has a way to go but his engaging performance was very promising. Shark is nervous about his age and decides to vote no, saying he’ll thank her for it once he has more lived experiences. “What’s the saddest thing that’s ever happened to you?” Sandilands asks after Hines voted yes. Jamie replies, “my braces” and that marks the end of his Idol experience. He shakes each judges hands, which prompts Shark to remark he’s the only contestant to do so thus far. 


Jamie Preston. Image: Supplied.



Brisbane singer Ripley Alexander strolls through (it’s a long walk down the corridor to the audition room) to pick it back up with his performance of ABBA’s Mamma Mia. He startles the panel by saying “I’m a but different to everyone else, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.” and they’re not sure what to expect. There’s a Harry Styles kind of swag to him, but let’s not forget last year’s Ben Sheehy who blew us away with his unexpected rock God vocals. I wouldn’t say his vocals were totally unexpected, but Ripley delivered a stand-out audition. His control and tone remained unmatched throughout the episode, and his mesmerising presence filled the room. He ticked all of Sandilands boxes: can they sing, do they have style and do they have the star quality. “You’ve got matinee idol looks,” Hines remarks of his swagger. Obviously it’s a yes across the panel for Ripley, and he’s going to be a hard act to follow. 


Ripley Alexander. Image: Supplied.


Of course there were some less than impressive auditions, it wouldn’t be Idol without them. A few off-key performances, some words forgotten - the usual. Luis enters the competition with a Britney Spears headset microphone which we love to see. He’s inspired by Celine Dion but singing I’m Too Sexy. His commitment to his performance was commendable, even if he didn’t make it to the next round. Next up is Arena, who has her own buyers agency and built up an impressive investment portfolio. Her confidence is skyrocketing before she enters the audition room. She dubs herself “the only Arena” which prompts Sandilands to remark, “Tina Arena might have a problem with that.” She’s doing a stripped back version of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero. Arena can sing, there’s no doubt about that, but there is a disconnect and the judges seem unimpressed. Hines doesn’t think she should have accompanied herself and Shark thinks she’s overqualified. Sandilands loved it. It’s an interesting one, because it wasn’t a terrible audition - it was good. But something just didn’t click. Hines asks Arena to come back next year and is ready to give an explanation, before Arena cuts her off. “Calm down girlfriend” Hines states, multiple times as Arena heats up before asking to sing another song. She does go on to say she understands Hines’ comments and knows the less is more as the underlying nerves fade away, redeeming her argument and earning back some mutual respect. Sandilands puts forth the challenge of fixing it within an hour, and so Arena will return at the end of the day, “If music doesn’t work out just be a lawyer,” says Shark following the debate that earned Arena a spot in the waiting room.



Arena. Image: Supplied.


Next up is Luke Ligtenberg from Tuncurry. He walks in holding a guitar before its revealed a drum kit and yidaki (also known as a didgeridoo) are already set up on the audition stage. His performance of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode is truly a marvel. Beyond his skill as a vocalist, his effortless musicianship proves his star quality in the vain of Matt Corby and Paul Kelly. He's a unique artist within the competition. The judges put him through to the waiting room, and his fellow contestants are officially nervous. Whilst auditions on-site have come to an end for the day, it’s revealed that the judges have hit the road again this year to visit contestants at their home. Sandilands even dusted off the chopper. Hines travels to Ballarat to meet farmer Billy Menhennet for a surprise audition, before she invites Wil Oldaker and Jade McKenzie to host her own mini auditions. However she can’t take them all through, and it’s clear Billy is the standout. Hines reveals he and Wil is heading all the way to Sydney to join Dylan, Ivana, Ripley, Arena and Luke in the waiting room.


Luke Ligtenberg. Image: Supplied.



Out of the seven contestants waiting to find out their fate, only four will progress to bootcamp. If you ask me, Dylan, Ivana, Ripley, and Luke are my picks. But alas, it’s in the hands of Amy Shark, Marcia Hines and Kyle Sandilands. The Judes call in Ripley, Wil, Luke and Billy, further breaking them in to pairs. Between Ripley and Wil, Shark reveals it’s Ripley who snags the golden ticket and progresses to boot camp - becoming the first contestant of the season to do so. It’s a tough choice between Luke and Billy, but the judges decided to put Billy forward. I’m not sure I agree, but they questioned if they stripped Luke of his instrumentation would his vocals be enough to get him through the competition? I think so. I am excited however to see Billy grow and find his footing within the competition. Dylan is then invited into the audition room and receives a golden ticket. That’s now three artists through and only one spot remains. It’s down to Ivana and Arena and they’re going to have a sing-off. It’s an odd choice considering the male contestants didn’t need to undertake this task. Maybe it’s because Ivana and Arena have similar powerful vocals, or maybe because Hines said she wanted to hear Arena sing again. Nevertheless, here we are. Ivana volunteers to go first, singing Bruno Mars’ When I Was Your Man. I think nerves got the best of her, and the same can be said for Arena. She takes on David Guetta and Sia’s Titanium and it feels a bit undercooked. Maybe less isn’t more? Arena starts to compare hers and Ivan’s vocals, saying she’s more versatile. “You don’t know that because you just heard her sing. You don’t know what she’s capable of, she doesn’t know what you’re capable of” Hines quips back. Snaps for Marcia! The judges think it’s a no-brainer and Hines delivers the verdict. You can’t help but think she felt some pleasure putting Ivana through after a day of being challenged by Arena. 


Hosts Ricki-Lee and Scott Tweedie. Image: Supplied.



Watch Australian Idol on Channel 7 tomorrow night at 7:30pm AEDT. Stream it on 7 Plus.

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