The iconic Australian series hit our screens once again tonight!
More than a decade since Stan Walker was crowned the final Australian Idol, the iconic star-maker series is back! Channel 7’s revamped Australian Idol hit our screens tonight, jam-packed with Aussie talent that will leave you eager for more!
As we’re reminded of the success of earlier seasons of Idol, which produced homegrown stars such as Guy Sebastian and Jessica Mauboy, we meet the judges: American Idol judge, musician, singer, composer and multiple Grammy® award-winning artist Harry Connick Jr.; Grammy® award-winning singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor; beloved eight-time ARIA Award-winning singer-songwriter Amy Shark and top-rating broadcaster Kyle Sandilands. Trainor is looking for someone who has “it”, whilst Shark is hoping someone will “blow her mind”.
We begin our journey for the next Australian Idol in Sydney. Crowds have flocked to Aware Super Theatre to catch a glimpse of the production and potentially the nations next Australian Idol. There’s a sense of nostalgia in the air as crowds cheer and chant holding up signs, Sandilands shouting “calm down, calm down”, whilst a familiar voice emerges to state “A new era of Australian Idol begins now.” That voice is none other than season two contestant, Ricki-Lee Coulter. Tapped to host the new series alongside Scott Tweedie, Coulter was tipped to go all the way during her series when a shock elimination cut her idol dreams short. But with an ARIA platinum album, three ARIA Platinum singles and two ARIA Gold singles to her name, Coulter has remained a defining force of what it means to be an Australian Idol.
As the judges settle into their roles, 16-year old Amali Dimond is prepping to be the first to audition for the defining returning season of Australian Idol. The teen from Shellharbour is hopeful for a golden ticket, bringing a positive attitude to the judging room as she takes on Adele’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love. And just like that… Australian Idol is back. Dimond’s deep and soulful tones captivate the judges, filling the room as she showcases the peaks and valleys of her voice. “I’m so glad that you were good, you’re so good” Trainor cries as the audition comes to an end. Connick Jr. predicts she’ll make it to the top five. Dimond receives praise from all four judges, nabbing a yes from them all, but also personifies the formula of an Australian Idol. That being, that there’s no real formula. Unlike its singing competition counterparts, Idol isn’t built on a search for a ready made singing superstar. It’s a search for something special, a particular quality that is the cornerstone of longevity. Dimond’s audition wasn’t perfect, but there was a glimmer of more to be discovered.
Sharin Attamimi. Image: Supplied.
We then travel to Perth to meet Sharin Attamimi, a 24-year old cafe worker whose father almost steals the show. Influenced by the soul and jazz music her father would play during her youth, Attamimi experienced some pacing issues during her rendition of Silk Sonic’s Leave The Door Open which could’ve gone haywire but Attamimi handled it like a pro and scored a yes from all four judges. She also leaned towards an American accent, which prompted a critique from Connick Jr.. Sandilands had invited Attamimi’s parents into the room to hear the final verdict, creating a heartwarming moment and we’ve only watched 18 minutes. In Melbourne, Joshua Hannan brings some of that Idol magic. With guitar in hand, the 20 year old from Victoria takes on former Idol contestant Matt Corby’s biggest hit, Brother. “Let him play that chord” says Shark, and off we go into one of the episodes most captivating auditions. Hannan has impressive control, darting between his chest and head voice to showcase the varying textural tones within his vocal range. “You are a star” Trainor remarks, later suggesting they should collaborate on a song together in the future. It’s safe to say, Hannan has wowed the judges and earns his golden ticket to the top fifty. “It’s nice to see somebody who is very confident in their own vision” says Connick Jr..
Joshua Hannan. Image: Supplied.
A quick detour to Coulter’s hometown of the Gold Coast gives audiences an opportunity to meet the hosts. Brisbane’s Nicholas Joy strides in with confidence to give an energised performance of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Unfortunately, Sandilands does stop him. Joy’s performance wasn’t necessarily bad, it leaned towards musical theatre which could be a more suited route for the budding singer. It wouldn’t be Idol without some questionable auditions though. One aspiring vocalist receives a “boo” from Sandilands following an off-key audition, another teaches the judge some dance moves. We’re even treated to some traditional Celtic dancing. It’s not that all these auditions were necessarily bad, perhaps nerves got in the way or maybe some more vocal training could prove fruitful.
Back in Sydney, one contestant pleads for a second chance upon all four judges voting no. Whilst they shut-down any thought of a second performance (rightly so, there’s people waiting outside for their shot), she starts singing in French as she exits the room. Let’s be honest, its an audience favourite trope - not taking no for an answer so just singing anyway. To be fair, the second song was much better. Even Shark commented, “that was better, you should’ve auditioned with that”, backed up by Sandilands stating “I like that by the way.” But it’s still not enough for Connick Jr., who switches to French dialect himself to pass judgement in another language, saying her French was also bad.
Connor Bulger. Image: Supplied.
Farmer Connor Bulger is a lamb marker from Bendigo with a luscious mullet and a dream. He takes on Slim Dusty’s Pub With No Beer and even makes a country music fan out of Sandilands. Connick Jr. and Trainor have some trouble getting around the Aussie accent, but then Connick Jr. shares something quite beautiful and profound. “It’s like going to an opera. Like they may be singing in German or Italian and I don’t understand it but I feel something.” And that is what good music does, it transcends barriers to strike a chord. Whilst Bulger wasn't the strongest vocalist of the night, there's a luring charm that was enough to get him across the line and score a golden ticket.
Jono Webb and his acapella troupe. Image: Supplied.
It’s Adelaide’s turn to make it shine, home of the first ever Australian Idol - Guy Sebastian. Jono Webb, or Mr. G as Sandilands dubs him, is brave. He takes on Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, a song that soars to new heights and is no easy feat to perform. I’m going to be honest, I had no hope for Webb, but then there was a twinkling thought that he was going to, as Shark would put it, 'blow my mind'. He didn’t, but he did bring in an acapella group that performed Trainor’s breakout hit All About That Bass. Was it great? No. Was it charming? Connick Jr. thinks so, and that’s enough for me. The idol truck then rolls into Perth, where Elaina O’Connor gives a fairly good take on Celine Dion’s All By Myself, albeit a musical theatre-leaning take. Sandilands' joke “you should get a flatmate” falls flat, but we love a good dad joke. O’Connor’s higher register is outstanding, her control on those powerful notes waivers at times, but she still hits them. Her lower register needs some work, but she has the early makings of an Australian Idol. However, something just doesn’t click this time around with Shark and Connick Jr. making the wise decision of voting no. Yes, O’Connor reached those spine-tingling high notes, but a performance is more than just hitting that F5.
Elaina O’Connor. Image: Supplied.
In a fun twist, the judges get out of the audition room and hit the road solo, searching every corner of the country to find their next superstar. Trainor lands in Alice Springs, immediately taken in by its red-hued beauty, where she meets her driver Bluey and they cross town to meet Naomi Gipey. First things first, Meghan Trainor is humorously relatable. “Can I pee?” she asks after greeting the family and being welcomed into their home, and we get it, she’s just landed from a long flight, followed by a long drive and you can’t discover talent with a full bladder. And what a talent she has discovered. The pair head to Simpson’s Gap where Gipey auditions solely for Trainor and cites Jessica Mauboy as an inspiration, drawing comparisons to Mauboy’s own Idol audition. There’s no denying Gipey is an incredible vocalist, and with that she’s made the top fifty. Again, we're treated to some wholesome family support.
I’m going to put it out there, Ben Sheehy was the standout audition for the night. Sheehy waltzed in with a breezy attitude before belting out a magnetic performance of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and won not just the judges hearts, but I'm sure the whole nation. A drawing factor of the Idol franchise is the idea of turning everyday people into global superstars. Sheehy earned four yes verdicts from the judges and has scored his well-deserved place in this years top fifty.
We end the first episode back in Perth, where Sara Houston shares a heartwarming story about her step-mother meeting Ricki-Lee at the airport the night before in the hopes of scoring her daughter an Idol audition. The day before her audition, Houston Underwent her thirty-second surgery, due to complications from when she was eight-years-old and diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer. Having met Lee for the first time via Ronald McDonald House. As she prepares to sing John Mayer’s Waiting On The World To Change, she notes she would’ve loved some accompaniment to which Connick Jr. responds “I’ll play it” and takes a seat at the nearby piano. Houston doesn’t know what key she’s been rehearing the song in, but that doesn’t phase Connick Jr. as he tells her to just sing it and he’ll pick it up. What follows is an endearing moment that will go down in the Idol history books. The humble quality of Houston’s performance was the perfect way to end the returning episode of Australian Idol, and of course, it ended with a resounding yes across the judges panel.
Sara Houston. Image: Supplied.
Watch Australian Idol on Channel 7 and stream episode one on 7 Plus.