The second night of Top 24 performances on Season 19 of ABC’s American Idol confirmed America has a tough choice to make, dwindling a groundbreaking talent pool down to only 16. California-native Ava August proved both wisdom and talent beyond her just 15 years. She opened her showcase with a newfangled soulful performance of Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License.” The song is a global smash hit and an age-appropriate selection for the emerging artist who will get her driver’s license later this year.
After covering the contemporary. August teamed up with Josh Groban for a theatrical performance of Joni Mitchell’s typically unadorned “Both Sides Now.” Breathing new life into Mitchell’s enduring hit from 1966, August and Groban’s brazen vocals coalesce for a Disney-esque stage takeover.
Judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie—visibly stunned by the young artist’s performance—confirmed that August, the youngest contestant in the running, deserves to compete.
“Do you realize you are singing far beyond your age?” Richie asks Ava. “If this is you at 15, then you with your driver’s license, you’re going to be terrifying,” he laughs.
Perry, who seemed particularly entranced by the duet, tells August she is an “old soul.” “I think your soul is saying I’m coming back this time. I’m going to do it right, 100 percent, ace this test of life and become that queen.” She adds, “You better buckle up honey, all those licenses are coming.”
Luke Bryan compared the young artist’s graceful vocal delivery in the duet to Judy Garland. “Your delivery keeps us right there in your hands, and that’s stuff a 15-year-old should not be doing.”
But August was in good company for the second half of 24 performances on Monday. Fellow singer-songwriter Madison Watkins nailed Justin Bieber and Chance the Rapper’s hit song, “Holy,” before teaming up with Idol alum Tori Kelly to give Stevie Wonder a run for his money, duetting “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” In response, Bryan describes her as a “natural entertainer.” Groban stepped back up to carry Beane, whose actual name is Brennan Hepler, through Robbie Williams’ “Angels.” Perry gushes over his “artistic vision” for rearranging a pulsing pop tune, “Don’t Start Now,” from Dua Lipa’s Grammy-winning album into a slowed-down ballad.
Other all-star duet partners from the evening include Jewel, Jason Aldean, PF Morton, and Brandon Boyd. Jason Warrior sang an R&B-drenched version of the BeeGees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” with Morton—keyboardist for Maroon 5. The combined solo and pair-up were the best Perry had seen all night, but she urged Warrior to take some risks for more “artist moments.” Richie seconds Perry’s motion, saying, “it doesn’t get better than that.”
Voting is now closed for American Idol‘s Top 24. Tune in next Sunday, April 11 and Monday, April 12 at 8 p.m. ET to watch the Top 16 continue to fight for the crown on ABC.