‘American Idol’: Is Elijah McCormick the New Willie Spence? (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
ABC/Eric McCandless

[Warning: The below contains spoilers for American Idol.]

American Idol auditions roared on as Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan continued the business of finding the next singing superstar. But not before they were gifted a parade on Bourbon Street. Along with New Orleans, more hopefuls took their shots at realizing their dreams in Nashville and Las Vegas.

Taking center stage for week 3 were diamonds (and rubies) in the rough, unique personalities and a set of proud momma’s boys. Who received the coveted golden tickets this time around? Read on to find out.

Sara Beth

This colorful 25-year-old mother of three gave off a bit of Leah Marlene-like charm. Kicking off the auditions, she sang “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse. Katy wanted to hear a bit more, and Sara brought it with “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John. Luke thought she was a great singer and loved her energy. He voted yes. Lionel wanted the artist to shine through more than the gimmick and was a no. Katy was a, “Yeah, I guess. Why not?”

Tanner Charles

The valet parking attendant not only brought girlfriend Delaney for support but performed an original song “Golden Eyes” he wrote for her as a birthday present for his audition. Talk about getting some serious boyfriend points. The judges loved the 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Katy called him exceptional. Lionel said he had the sausage, which led to some giggles from the rest of the panel. Luke said he was the best he had seen at telling a story and soaring melodically. Looks like Tanner won’t be parking other people’s fancy cars much longer.

Mikey Burson

Mieky Burson

ABC/Eric McCandless

Mikey would certainly give Hair Idol a run for its money if that were a thing. The 22-year-old from Nashville performed “Cold As Ice” from Foreigner with his mom (who also had great hair!) at the piano. The two actually take gigs together as Mo & His Mom. Luke felt it was loungey. Katy wasn’t quite sure who he was as an artist. Lionel was the sole yes. On to the next gig for the mother-son duo.

Aiden Boyer

The Lake Forest, Illinois, music teacher was diagnosed with autism at age two. He hoped to inspire others with his story of overcoming sensory issues, as well as bring awareness to neurodiversity. At one point the 22-year-old wanted to be a concert pianist. Those skills certainly shone through on his rendition of “Predicament” by Aiden Boyer. Katy said she would roll the dice on him. Luke started with a no and became a yes. Lionel was blown away and gave him a yes. Mom celebrated with her son securing the golden ticket.

Wé Ani

The 23-year-old ‘s cartoon-like speaking voice was a stark contrast to her diva-esque singing voice. She surprised the judges on “Anyone” by Demi Lovato. The judges gave the Harlem, NYC, performer a standing ovation. Lionel called it ridiculous (in a good way). Katy added, “Way to throw a curve ball.” Luke likened her talking voice to Frenchy from Grease but appreciated the performance. Instead of Rydell High, she goes to Hollywood.

Marybeth Byrd

The Armorel, Arkansas (population 300) contestant has been working as a radio host. The singer-songwriter beamed with personality on “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by The SteelDrivers.” This 21-year-old was a standout in the judges’ eyes. Lionel was truly impressed. Luke said from the first note, she had it and a bright future ahead. Katy was an OMG yes! One to watch. Maybe Ryan Seacrest can fill in for Marybeth’s radio gig at Mix 106.3


It’s not every day a hopeful gets to jam out alongside the great Lionel Richie on “All Night Long” for your audition, but this 27-year-old dueling pianist did just that. Lionel said he learned more about her voice through the duet and thought she handled it very well. “I just played with Lionel Richie.” Yes, you did Bre! And it may only just be the beginning.

Olivia Soli

Not to be outdone the 20-year-old from Los Angeles sang “Hello” by Lionel Richie. The legend thought she did it to perfection. Luke found it the best he had seen. Katy loved the spin she put on the song. The judges want to flesh out the diamond, or in the red-haired singer’s case, ruby in the rough. Her risky song choice paid off.

Preston Duffee

The Hartsville, South Carolinian spoke about the difficulties moving forward after his mom committed suicide by apparant gunshot. His mom struggled with bipolar depression. He chose to perform “Something to Write About,” an original he wrote after her passing. Lionel appreciated the songwriting. Katy likened him to a young Luke Bryan. Luke himself found he has a great future as a songwriter with his voice growing along the way. His journey continues into Hollywood.

Emma Busse

The 20-year-old recently graduated from performing arts school, which normally can create some red flags more times than not for the judges. She started relatively subdued with a strong finish on “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John. Luke said the slow bravado has to go. Katy thought she was on the cusp of crossing over from Broadway teachings but has to unlearn some stuff. To celebrate getting the golden ticket, the judges joined Emma for a rousing rendition of Happy 21st Birthday to American Idol. 


The 24-year-old from New York by way of Ireland talked about liking to speak things into existence including a golden ticket. She sang an original “Don’t Call Me” for people like her who got ghosted in a relationship. The bartender definitely demonstrated showmanship and got the judges moving. I could hear a hit in the making. Lionel loved the catchiness of the song and called her memorable. Katy said the ball of energy reminded her of Meghan Trainor with a song that showed promise. Luke wasn’t that on board and was a no. Katy and Lionel wanted to see more. Sorry, Keelin can’t come to the phone right now because she is headed to the bright lights of Hollywood.

Elijah McCormick

The 21-year-old from Raeford, North Carolina recounted a harrowing story of surviving a near-fatal car accident hours after his high school graduation in 2019. Elijah flatlined en route to the hospital and then on the operating table. During his 79 days in the hospital, he endured numerous surgeries, having to learn to walk and talk again. His mom said the first words out of his mouth to her again was asking, “Can I still sing?” It was clear from his take on “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts that her answer was a resounding yes. Luke said the last person he saw approach singing the way he did was Willie Spence. Lionel agreed, saying his audition was one of the moments in his life he’ll never forget. Elijah revealed his mom actually signed him up to audition for American Idol before the accident. The judges see Top 10 in Elijah. Katy concluded, “The golden child deserves the golden ticket.”

Programming note: American Idol will air a special episode on March 12 after the Oscars conclude (tentatively scheduled for 11:35/10:35c) on ABC.