On Sunday night (March 11), Luke Bryan took his seat at the American Idol judge’s table, and for two straight hours he doled out advice, praise and nine tickets to Hollywood to Idol hopefuls. Only four contestants were turned away.
With Lionel Richie and Katy Perry by his side, Bryan proved what kind of judge he was going to be right out of the gate: encouraging and enthusiastic, but also truthful and trustworthy. So when it came time to decide on a contestant, he gave his decisions everything he had.
“It’s pretty inspiring stuff knowing I’ll potentially have an opportunity to be a part of someone’s rise to stardom. It’s pretty special," Bryan said. "To see talent and see people following their dreams: it’s not about what me and Lionel and Katy are doing, it’s about watching the star be born right there in front of your eyes. I’m excited to feel the emotions that made me fall in love with music.”
The first auditions for Sunday's broadcast were held in New York City, Nashville, Los Angeles and Orlando. And here's what Bryan had to say to the ones he invited to Hollywood.
“You are interesting and brilliant beyond your years,” he said to Catie, issuing a caveat to his vote: he told her not to go on social media and read the comments about her audition. “I don’t want the outside world to mess with your beautiful brain.”
“I am so excited right now, because just something about you is pretty dadgum inspiring, buddy. Your journey, what this country’s about, your demeanor, your honesty. I’m just very excited. When you go to dig in," he told Ron, "you’ve got layers and layers to your voice. You're right there between this rawness not polished at all."
“I’m not critiquing you. I’m just saying yes," he told Maddie.
“You have a great voice," he told Harper.
“I say you're going to Hollywood," he told Layla.
"Let's go hug this gentleman. Unbelievable," he said about Noah.
"You're so easy in the ears," he told Alyssa after a standing ovation and before a group hug.
"You have Sinatra down, but remember this: Sinatra waited. You were perfectly on the beat, but Sinatra went (pause)," he told Zach. "Lay it back, and America is going to freak. This show will teach you: do not judge any human being on this planet."
"How long have you had that guitar," he asked Dennis. "We see these kids come in, and their parents have bought them the nicest guitar money can buy. You just took a guitar with a hole in it, with three chords, and you made that thing have all the soul that it needs. Your deal is why I signed up for this. I'm an excited, happy, fired-up yes."
When he did have to vote "No," Bryan explained himself to the contestants.
“I think you know you’re quirky and crazy," he told Koby. "I think if you get caught up in going down this route, you are doing yourself a disservice, so I would vote no for this,” he said. Then to the judges, Bryan added that, “She needs to move her butt to New York City -- she could be the next Kristin Chenoweth.”
"I just think you need to hone your craft a little bit more. Get a little bit better at singing," he told Benjamin.
"Nico: Want to hang out, chug a lot of beers, make some of bad decisions? I'm a yes," he said. "But for American Idol, I'm a no."
One of the last negative votes went to Sardor, who the judges agreed just wasn't a pop star.
Bryan isn’t the first country singer to sit on a reality show panel. Kelly Clarkson has just taken her coaching seat on the current season of The Voice. Blake Shelton has been doing it on The Voice since 2011, and was a judge on Nashville Star in 2007. Phil Vassar, Randy Owen and John Rich also did time as judges throughout the six seasons of Nashville Star. Keith Urban was an Idol judge for four seasons, and also did a stint on The Voice in Australia in 2011. And Brad Paisley was a part of the short-lived Rising Star, when it aired for one season in 2014.