Australian Idol Week 1 Recap: Triumphs, Tears & Tantrums

4 February 2023 | 1:41 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Australia Idol 2023’s promo material proudly proclaims: “The only show that makes real stars is back.”

(Source: Supplied)

Australian Idol is back, baby! Did you miss all the action? Don't worry; we’ve got you! Check out all the memorable moments below – both brilliant and hilariously bad – as we recap the first three eps, during which 24 Golden Tickets were handed out. As the enormous Australian Idol-branded truck traversed this Great Southern Land in search of the nation’s next superstar, we also lapped up some free laughter therapy thanks to a coupla memorable trainwreck auditions. 

Following a 14-year hiatus, Channel 7’s reboot of this star-making TV series returned to our screens last week with some Australian Idol alumni returning to the fold for continuity. Radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands – who replaced Ian ‘Dicko’ Dickinson on the Australian Idol judging panel in 2005 before being sacked in 2009 – returns this season, as does beloved OG Australian Idol judge Marcia Hines, whose nurturing judging style graced all seven seasons of the show’s initial run. Although she hasn’t yet made an appearance on the show, three episodes in, Hines was reportedly announced as a ‘special guest’ judge following diversity concerns (which were voiced after 2023’s judging panel was revealed). Also, Ricki-Lee Coulter, who was discovered on Australian Idol in 2004, is on board to co-host Season 8 alongside Scott Tweedie (formerly of The Loop). 

Judging The Judges 

Harry Connick Jr: He’s previously been a mentor on American Idol, and this Grammy and Emmy-winning crooner’s charm is indisputable. 

Kyle Sandilands: As expected, he’s rude AF. And not talented enough himself for his opinion to even matter anyway. Vile Kyle is there for hate-watching, but no further syllables will be wasted on him here. 

Amy Shark: It’s fun to watch her half-up/half-down hairstyle variations, particularly the one that resembles a poop emoji atop her noggin. We really rated her breakout hit single, 2016’s 6x Platinum Adore, BTW.

Meghan Trainor: We enjoyed watching Meghan on the Clash Of The Cover Bands judging panel. She screams/squeals with excitement a lot, which calls to mind legendary So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy

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Top 10 Memorable Moments: From Star Turns To Trainwrecks  

R-Rated Untouched

Sporting a canary-yellow frock, Ali Morris gifted each judge a signed copy of a book she wrote called Outside prior to auditioning. Harry asked if he could read the back-cover blurb in his “movie announcer voice” and what followed was legit the best thing we’ve ever seen! “There is only one law: Don’t. Go. Outside” – he sounded completely unrecognisable, pausing for (extra-menacing) effect. We’ve gotta confess we just kept rewatching this stroke of genius on loop and can confirm it never gets old! 

Anyhoo, sadly for Ali, we could've used a bucket to catch our tears of laughter during her bafflingly sexual rendition of Untouched by The Veronicas! “We’ll have to put that at a later time slot, I feel,” Kyle suggested following her audition and we’ll never unhear her vocal ‘climaxes’. Seriously, just watch it. 

Side note: Geez, we loved Meghan’s unfiltered reaction shots during Ali’s performance!

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

Australian-born and raised Lebanese female Muslim, Noora H – a 27-year-old travel agent from Sydney – wears a hijab and is a much-needed presence on our screens. 

After sharing her initial despondency that a music career would be out of reach for someone who looked like her – “You don’t see a lot of hijabi singers, and you see what others look like – that sing and perform – and you know you don’t look like that” – Noora revealed that through posting content to social media, and receiving some beautiful feedback from her followers, her confidence has skyrocketed. “It made me realise that people don’t care what you look like,” she admitted, before continuing, “I also wanna inspire other people that are like me that struggle to come out and do what they wanna do.” She’s thankfully now reassessed these long-held, limiting beliefs. 

Noora is accompanied on piano for her patchy performance of Shakira’s beloved She Wolf, which oscillated from the sublime to almost fingernails-down-a-blackboard territory at times. ‘Twas a no from Harry, which Noora humbly accepted. But she scored three yeses overall and that’s enough to send her through to the Top 50!

Singing, personality, presence, heroism & intelligence

A video package revealed that 26-year-old Perth contestant Sara Houston’s stepmum waited at Perth airport’s arrivals yesterday, hoping to run into Ricki-Lee and pass on “what an impact she’d had on Sara”. The story goes that stepmum’s stalker mission was successful and therefore Sara was invited to audition at the 11th hour. 

Check out Sara’s extraordinary full-circle moment/backstory: Sara was diagnosed with “aggressive” bone cancer when she was just eight years old. Around this time, Ricki-Lee was an Australian Idol contestant and paid a visit to Ronald McDonald House in 2005 where Sara was receiving treatment. During tonight’s ep, Sara actually produced a photo of their first meeting to jog Ricki-Lee’s memory and our eyes began to leak. 

Then Sara entered the audition space in a wheelchair, explaining she had her 32nd surgery yesterday and only found out she was auditioning via a “very manic” phone call from her stepmum the night prior. When Sara mentioned she was hoping for some accompaniment, Harry immediately volunteered and headed over to take a seat at the piano. Sara rose to her feet to perform John Mayer’s Waiting On The World To Change from the platform provided, occasionally glancing over her shoulder at Harry. Astonishingly poised and at ease, Sara is a true contender and immediate fave.

Harry, post-performance: “This is what Australian Idol is. We were talking about this earlier: Is it singing? Is it personality? Is it presence? Is it heroism? Is it intelligence? And when I looked at you I started thinking about all the strong, incredible women in my life, I’m like, ‘This is what this show is about.’ And you had all of those qualities and I had a frickin’ blast playin’ wit [sic] you. And I wanna thank you for that honour.” 

Four yeses from the judges. 

Fun fact: This inspiring Top 50 contestant also reps Australia in wheelchair basketball.

“The First Thing That Kinda Irritates Me About You Is…”

Oh, Charlie Chech! We still really feel for you several days after watching the ep in which you feature! And we’re tipping your audition – but mostly (what was meant as constructive) feedback from your idol, Harry – was the most intense experience of your young life to date. The poor lil lad was so incredibly nervous it was almost as if he developed a vocal tic and couldn’t shut up, even when repeatedly instructed to do so by one of his biggest musical heroes! Performing, bow-tied, in front of Harry, must’ve been especially anxiety-inducing for Charlie and his audition (Come Fly With Me) definitely step-ball-changed into cabaret territory, but this Sinatra-worshipping youngster’s appeal was undeniable.  

Here’s how it went down:

Harry, post-performance: “You need to learn about the composers... You’re imitating the wrong thing...” 

Charlie: “Yep, yep, I know, yep...”

Harry: “So, Charlie, the first thing that kinda irritates me about you is you don’t have a lot of humility.”

Charlie: “I think it’s nerves...” – noooooooooo, Charlie, zip it! Our hearts immediately went out to him as his verbal diarrhoea took hold. 

Kyle (thinking he was being helpful, but just being his usual rude AF self): “Shut the FUUUUUUCK UUUUUUUUP!” 

The judges’ verdict: no from Amy, yeses from both Meghan and Kyle. So it was down to Harry. Tears welled up in Charlie’s eyes as he anticipated being rejected by his musical hero. Harry: “Over the next few weeks and months, you will have a chance to go and work on that stuff. Because YOU ARE IN THE 50!” – talk about an emotional roller coaster for the starstruck teen! 

Amy and Meghan rushed forward to offer hugs. Harry walked over to hug and console Charlie (“don’t cry”) before continuing to dish out the free advice: “Go home and practise and put on some clothes that suit you, baby. You’re 18, be 18!” Then Kyle escorted Charlie to the door, cluelessly contradicting his fellow judge: “I love what you’re wearing… Maybe keep that sharp look going.” We eagerly await Charlie’s transformation.  

Big Sister Goals

Amelie Matthews is 15 but looks 30 (geez, we’d hate to be a nightclub bouncer these days!) and auditions with her take on Billie Eilish’s idontwannabeyouanymore. Following Amelie’s captivating, emotive performance, Amy voiced her concerns about the young singer’s age (contestants must be aged between 15 and 28 so that shouldn’t really be an issue, right?). Kyle: “It’s Captain Amy dumping on the music industry again!”

After Amelie’s whole family is herded into the room, her baby sister Mia is invited to sing. Mia chooses to sing Good Morning Baltimore (from Hairspray) and Amelie’s sincere words of encouragement for her lil sis – “I’ll let you take the spotlight. You got it. Take your time” – made us adore her even more! Amelie made it through to the Top 50 before Mia was presented with a pre-signed Golden Ticket for Australian Idol 2030 (LOL). 

“Maybe That Could Be Me”

Meghan travelled to Alice Springs solo to surprise a local hopeful – 22-year-old student and jeweller designer Naomi Gipey, who was inspired by Jessica Mauboy’s Australian Idol journey in 2006 – in her hometown. Naomi explained, “Jess Mauboy is my biggest inspiration. Seeing her start on a similar journey and, like, the thought that [choked back tears] maybe that could be me…” She auditioned at one of her favourite places, the staggeringly beautiful Simpsons Gap, and Naomi demonstrated outstanding vocal control and maturity while singing Mercy by Duffy a cappella in the great outdoors. 

Side note: We totally loved that the driver of Meghan’s airport shuttle from Alice Springs was called Bluey! 

Delusions Of Grandeur 

Ooft! Why is it so fun watching the trainwrecks!? After butchering Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down and receiving a unanimous no vote from the judges, Imogen Ledell – a 19-year-old law student from Sydney – memorably exited, somewhat disgracefully. While singing a French-language song, she sashayed past the judges in slow-mo, eyeballing them all the while as if to say, ‘Your loss’. Cringe.    

“You’re Supposed To Do This.” 

This 15-year-old Year 9 student from WA made us cry a river with her rendition of Message To My Girl by Split Enz, during which she accompanied herself on piano. Unable to conceal her love of performing, Angelina charmed the pants off Amy with a winning smile, mid-song – her eye contact was next-level! Harry: “You’re fif-fricken-teen years old! You’re supposed to do this.” 

“Don’t Beg. Be Proud. Accept Things Gracefully”

Elaina O’Connor from WA is definitely One To Watch (although it wasn't her year). She (shakily) auditioned with All By Myself by Celine Dion while still somehow managing to aptly demonstrate her impressive, powerful upper register. A yes from Meghan and Kyle. No from Harry. Then Amy had the deciding vote. Drum roll. No from Amy. “Can I sing for you a different song, please?” Elaina pleaded, with palms locked in prayer position beneath her chin. 

“Don’t beg. Be proud. Accept things gracefully,” Harry interjected (with love). Amy continued: “We have such a responsibility at this desk to make sure people are SO ready, ‘cause I’m telling you now: it’s gnarly out there… I didn’t make it when I was young and I’m so glad I didn’t.” Once Elaina has left the room, Harry concluded, “We just did her the biggest favour of her life. She needs to go to the practice room and she needs to practise.” Agreed. We hope Elaina works extremely hard and continues to follow her dream, ‘cause she definitely has a gift.

Even Losers Can Be Winners

At the tail end of 26-year-old Adelaide school teacher Jono Webb’s unsuccessful audition, his cheer squad/a cappella group were invited in. And experiencing a ten-strong a cappella group performing Meghan’s chart-topping debut single, All About That Bass (2014), is something we didn't realise we needed in our lives until that precise moment. 

The Best Of The Rest

Whole Lotta Love For Ben Sheehy 

Cop a look at Ben Sheehy, a pharmacy worker and self-taught singer from Brisbane (who’s 24, but looks 40) knocking Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love outta the park!? 

Harry’s response perfectly summed up Ben’s audition: “You’re a complete enigma to me because, Ben – let’s be honest, man – seriously, you look like you couldn’t care less about being here. Then you started singing… I dig this dude.” That’ll be four yeses, legend! And we can't wait to watch this ultimate chiller’s ‘journey’ with extreme interest and a smile on our dial. 

Better Together

These cutie-patootie brothers – 21-year-old Angus and 17-year-old Bobby Holmes – grew up in Japan but now call the GC home. Both their parents are musicians and they obviously have rad taste in music (Angus auditioned with Dragon’s April Sun In Cuba while Bobby presented Love Really Hurts Without You by Billy Ocean). They’re both called into the room to audition back to back before performing Journey’s Any Way You Want It together, upon the judges’ request. They seemed more at ease performing as “the bros” (which Meghan christened them) – showing off those magical DNA-enhanced sibling harmonies – and when they unexpectedly launched into some guitarography, guitar necks swaying side to side in unison, it was *chef’s kiss* – HALP! We’re completely besotted! The Holmes boys already look showroom ready and will go a long way with those showbiz names! 

“Slay, Slay, Slay, Slay, Slay!”

Just like one of ep 1’s Golden Ticket recipients Naomi Gipey, who auditioned for Meghan at Simpsons Gap, Royston – a young Thanakwithi and Badu Island man – cites Australian Idol alumni Jessica Mauboy as his biggest inspiration. He took on Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One and absolutely crushed it, emotionally investing in his performance – you can’t teach that level of interpretative nous. Following his outstanding audition, Meghan couldn’t stop saying “slay” and then escorted him out of the room to help deliver the good news to his fam, ‘cause, as she said, he was her Fave Of The Day. 

“Real Talent”

When Harry ‘surprised’ Piper in Newcastle, she was restoring vintage cars, together with her mum and dad, in a giant shed and that setting was telegenic beyond belief! Her choice of audition song? Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. The look on Harry’s face during the entirety of her performance kinda ruined the suspense of it all, ‘cause of course she’s getting a Golden Ticket! As Harry excitedly recognised she has “real talent”, Piper cried authentic tears of joy. Some final words of advice from Harry: “Remember all of the things that make you you, because that’s what’s gonna make you go far.”

Side note: We especially loved the footage of Harry making a phone call to one of his fellow judges from the back seat of his ride following Piper’s audition: “Amy! So I just heard this young woman in coveralls – you’re gonna love her!”

“Star Quality”

At 28 years old, this yoga teacher and DJ is bang-on Australian Idol’s age cut-off. When one of the judges asked her, “Why Australian Idol?” Maya replied with absolute conviction: “This is it; I don’t wanna do anything else with my life.” She looked like the real deal; I mean, girlfriend effortlessly pulled off green eyeshadow that matched one of her layered tops, baggy cargo pants and white kitten heels, ferchrissakes! While performing Little Mix’s Wings, Maya proved she “was made to fly” (see what we did there?) from her very first note – what a luminous presence! She needs to work on her breathing, sure (yoga’s gonna help with that!), but, as Amy pointed out, she has “star quality” to spare.

Who Else Scored A Golden Ticket? 

Amali Dimond – now that’s what we call a future-superstar name! And this 16-year-old’s take on Adele’s cover of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love wasn't too shabby, either. 

Sharin Attamimi – This 24-year-old Perth-based café worker auditioned with a jazzy interpretation of Leave The Door Open by Silk Sonic and has obvious potential.

Joshua Hannan – A uni student from Mount Evelyn who grew up on a rose farm, this 20-year-old nailed his take on Brother. Pretty handsome, as well. Could he be the next Matt Corby? Meghan was enamoured: “I’m your number one fan. We should do a song some day.”

Connor Bulger – This Akubra-wearing lamb marker with an impressive mullet got lucky, we reckon. He performed the Slim Dusty classic, A Pub With No Beer, and could barely hold a tune, but the judges seemed to rate his so-Aussie, salt-of-the-earth persona. 

Kaitlyn Thomas – Yeehar! We were totes down for Kaitlyn’s vintage-find denim jacket bedazzled with rhinestone fringing down both sleeves and across the back. Her take on Gretchen Wilson’s Redneck Woman, which concluded with a super-impressive sustained note, scored unanimous yeses from the judges. Remember her name (it’s also emblazoned across her custom guitar just in case you forget)! 

Taigh Wade – This ex-rugby player accompanied himself on piano to perform Dancing On My Own, which he introduced as a Callum Scott song (ahem! Robyn wrote this song though, bro!), and bungled it up pretty badly. He’s a good looking rooster, sure, but was lucky to scrape through based on what we saw. 

Sasha Seabourne – A surfer from Margaret River, Sasha accompanied himself on guitar while presenting his stripped-back reimagining of Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and did what needed to be done in order to snatch a Golden Ticket. His performance gave Amy goosebumps and she went so far as to say he “could win this thing”, also complimenting his overall babin’ look and “good hair”.

Mikaela George – As soon as this 26-year-old-mum from Bundaberg is shown FaceTiming her daughter, who holds up a homemade sign that reads “My Mummy’s A Rockstar”, we absolutely loved her guts. And what an accomplished performer Mikaela is! Throughout her nuanced portrayal of Demi Lovato’s Sorry Not Sorry, Mikaela’s personality shone through. Post-performance, she admitted, “I love it and I want it,” and we don’t doubt that for a second! “I feel it!” Harry acknowledged. This competition definitely needs someone like Mikaela, as Harry said. 

Noah Cookson – This 19-year-old teachers’ aide from Mackay is a former rugby league player who gave up his sporting aspirations in favour of pursuing a career in music. Amy visited him in his home and Noah auditioned with a fairly faithful cover of Coldplay’s Yellow. A stoked yes from Amy followed: “Not only am I giving you this [Golden Ticket], but I think you could win this thing!” Settle down, Amy, there can only be one winner, ya know. 

Jasey Fox – Jasey Fox admitted he was feeling nervous pre-audition and then announced he’d be singing Bohemian Rhapsody – NOOOOOOOoooooooo! We felt so nervous for this handsome dance teacher sporting a body-conscious white singlet! The poor bloke’s nerves got the better of him and he bombed, but was put through anyway – WTF!? 

Isabella Vicente – We were actually so thrown by Kyle using Isabella’s homeless backstory as an opportunity to chime in with his own homelessness story – time and place, Kyle; way to make a contestant’s career-defining audition moment all about you! – that we can’t remember much about her reimagining of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. What was Kyle thinking!? Working on his public likability during some poor girl’s audition!? She got through, which was a relief. We promise to fully concentrate during Isabella’s next performance on this show.

Jess Crossman – After admitting she used to do it herself, Amy expressed concern that Jess – a 25-year-old paramedic from Kiama – tried too hard to sound like the original artist while performing Florence + The Machine’s You’ve Got The Love. Meghan agreed and said no to Jess. But Jess was presented with a Golden Ticket anyway after Amy caved! Here’s hoping she’ll find her own unique voice throughout this process!

Australian Idol continues this Sunday at 7 pm on Channel 7. Catch-up via 7Plus.