'Australian Idol' Season 9 Episode 1 Recap: World-First Format Change, The Queen Returns & LOL-Worthy Improvisational Mime

30 January 2024 | 9:24 am | Bryget Chrisfield

'I'm Too Sexy', 'The Only Arena' and 'Something In The Orange': here are the most memorable moments from season 9 episode one of 'Australian Idol'.

Kyle Sandilands, Marcia Hines & Amy Shark on 'Australian Idol'

Kyle Sandilands, Marcia Hines & Amy Shark on 'Australian Idol' (Credit: Seven Network)

Australian Idol Season 9’s ads promise, “There are singers… then there are Idols…”

Channel 7’s Australian Idol reboot premiered in 2023, following a 14-year hiatus, and returned to our screens last night. We cringed, LOL-ed and eye-rolled our way through ep 1 of this star-making reality TV series, curating some standout moments, ICYMI. 

2024 judging panel: Marcia Hines, Kyle Sandilands and Amy Shark, whose inaugural stint as an Australian Idol judge last year earned her a Logie (the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Popular New Talent).

Too Sexy or nah?

Directly following a voiceover explaining that Australian Idol’s judges “want someone unique”, we meet lanky auditionee Luis Angelo, whose rendition of Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy which features in some Season 9 promos – is the uncontested absolute best moment of this entire ep.

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Luis takes the stage with purpose, revealing that today marks his 24th birthday before expressing his love for Celine Dion (even though his makeup suggests he’s a Gary Numan fan). Resplendent with improvised creative movement and rhythmic mime gestures, Luis’ take on I’m Too Sexy is a gift for us all. But, sadly, he received a unanimous no vote from the judges, so our laughter therapy is limited to this one-off performance.  

Confession: At the time of writing, and thanks to advanced streaming access, I’ve already rewatched Luis’ audition at least ten times. “I’m/ Too sexy for this song…” – STAHP! Why are accidentally hilare trainwrecks so bloody compelling?   

Straight to the Green Room!

A 14-strong cheer squad – including her grandparents, parents and four brothers/bodyguards – accompanies 20-year-old Ivana Ilic from Mill Park to her audition. She’s certainly a natural in front of the camera – very telegenic but unselfconscious – and pours her heart and soul into If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys during her initial audition. An unexpected grittiness occasionally intersects her rich, velvety vocal textures. Marcia: “You need to find stillness.” Ivana nods, clearly taking critique like a champ, and should benefit greatly from the guidance and exposure a spot on this show will bring. Three yeses, and it’s off to the Green Room. 

World-first format change 

So, only 30 Golden Tickets are up for grabs this season, down from 50 last year. Also, Australian Idol 2024 is premiering a new, world-first format change whereby successful auditionees immediately enter a Green Room of sorts rather than advancing directly to the performance stage. To secure a Golden Ticket, these long-listed singers must face the judging panel a second time at the end of their respective audition day. Some contenders will be asked to sing for their supper once more during these battle rounds of sorts. 

Footage of the chosen ones bonding/reacting while watching their competition auditioning ‘in real time’ on a screen also gives viewers valuable insight into their personalities and increases our investment in proceedings as we quickly choose faves (Ivana wins ep 1’s Green Room award for Most Engaging Persona).

The Queen returneth

After keeping Meghan Trainor’s seat warm on Australian Idol for three eps last year (when the All About That Bass singer returned to the States), beloved OG judge Marcia Hines makes her welcome, sincere return as a permanent fixture on 2024’s judging panel. With pastel-pink feather pen in hand, Marcia brings her signature nurturing spirit, offering constant, heartfelt encouragement while regularly reminding contestants to take their time and “breathe”; she recognises these wannabes have big feelings and genuinely hopes each auditionee puts their best foot forward.

Our compassionate Queen also gives great reaction shots and is an expert when it comes to speaking volumes without uttering a single word. Her reaction to the contestant – who Kyle reckons had “the popstar look” – requesting a do-over? Priceless. Marcia’s also not afraid to question credentialless Kyle. For instance, following ep-highlight Luis’s aforementioned audition, Kyle asked whether he choreographed his own moves. Marcia (after Luis confirmed he’d improvised): “You couldn’t tell?” 

Thanks to this episode’s Ballarat road trip to fossick for gold rush boomtown talent, we will forever hold the image of Marcia wandering up a dirt track, past a water tank on a farm. While sporting a silver leather jacket and with Wednesday Addams braids spilling from beneath a wide-brimmed cream felt hat, mind you. 

“I feel like Charlie from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”

His video package reveals that 20-year-old Billy Menhennet from Smythes Creek has rocked a mullet since he was just a toddler. These days, Billy says, he sings on the tractor, in the shower or in the shed (when his boss isn’t around). Marcia treks out to Billy’s shed to personally invite him to his hometown audition. She eventually digs what he does and invites this salt-of-the-earth hopeful, whom Amy described as “an Australian outback dude”, back to Sydney alongside another local talent, Will, for a crack at a Golden Ticket. Billy gets to “feel like Charlie from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory”. “Will from the bush” doesn’t. That’s a hell of a way for Will to come, only to be told he wouldn’t advance any further in the comp without getting a chance to sing for the other two judges!

Not a dry eye in the (Crowded) House


“Mum and I actually saw Crowded House a few years before she passed and I guess one day I’ll be coming back home to her” – 30-year-old Dylan Wright from the Northern Beaches had us even before launching into Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House during ep 1’s opening audition.

Dylan’s mum lived with Multiple Sclerosis and passed away almost ten years ago. We also learn via his video package that Mrs Wright was an amateur opera singer who took her son to singing lessons. Also, this young dad of two met his wife on their first day of high school. All together now: ‘Awww.’ 

Following Dylan’s stirring audition, Kyle acknowledges he’s been transformed “from the arsehole to the guy who bursts into tears”, adding (eye-roll), “I don’t usually cry in the presence of other men” – he does love constantly inserting himself within the auditionees’ feedback, hey?    

Amy on Dylan: “You're a superstar. I’m excited!” Marcia: “You’re one of the very best.” 

Believe it or not, Ripley’s through

While introducing himself, 19-year-old Brissie boy Ripley Alexander points out, “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. But, you know, that’s how life is sometimes.”

ABBA’s Mamma Mia is a delightfully unexpected song choice, during which Ripley demonstrates extraordinary vocal control. Marcia is also impressed by his “matinee idol looks”. He’s straight outta Ferndale, and Ripley’s outfit is a wee bit RSL – naff black slacks, polished black formal shoes and a white shirt covered in multicoloured floral embroidery – but we dig his subtle, baby pink mani. 

It’s unanimous. We’ll be seeing more of Ripley.

The Only Arena

This formidable young lady prefers “The Only Arena” but will also answer to Arena and is later hilariously referred to as “the super-confident Arena” as well. After stating her passions are “music and finance”, Arena explains, somewhat matter-of-factly: “Idol’s that next boundary which I’m pushing beyond.”

Arena sits at the piano, tinkles away for a tic and then addresses the sound tech: “Can I just have keys up a bit more in folds, please?” Accompanying herself on piano, she tackles Holding Out For A Hero, concluding her accomplished performance with what should’ve been a goosebump-inducing sustained note. But we’re left feeling a bit meh.  

Mystified, Amy considers Arena is “sorta overqualified” before deeming her overall performance “sterile”. Marcia suggests she should return next year, which prompts Arena to suggest alternative courses of action while constantly interrupting The Queen Herself. Marcia: “Relax, girlfriend.” Arena: “Can I sing another song?” Marcia: “Caaaaalm down, girlfriend. Caaaaaaalm down.” 

Credential-less Kyle is a fan, urging his fellow judges to give Arena another shot. Marcia to Arena: “Loosen. Up.” Arena then promises she can address the judges’ critiques within an hour. Marcia: “Now, whether you’ve got the gift of the gab, I don’t know. And let’s see if you’ve got the gift of the sing.” (Not wishing to give rival TV s The Voice a free plug, ey?) 

Graciousness prevails

Ep 1 concludes with what Kyle labels “our big voice girls” (eye-roll) – Arena and Ivana – battling it out in a sing-off.

After interrupting the judges’ comments yet again in order to sing her own praises (and minimise Ivana’s versatility), Arena proves she’s neither respectful nor worthy of continuing through the competition. It was always gonna be “family girl” Ivana. But she seems genuinely surprised to be put through (“Thank you guys so much for taking a chance on me!”), which further endears her to us.   

Attention Australian Idol’s production team: Can someone please give Kyle a gong? “EEEEEEEEHHHHHH!” – his wrong-answer buzzer sound effects, which callously interrupt what he views as audition fails, are even more excruciating than his expressionless, waste-of-screen time reaction shots. 

Tune into ep 2 tonight on Channel 7 at 7.30 pm or catch-up via 7Plus.