Lionel Richie Likens ‘American Idol’ Contestant to Country Icon Dolly Parton: “Is That You, Dolly?”

With American Idol back with season 22, a new group of singers are looking to leave their mark on the show and watch their stardom grow. While many hope to become the next American Idol, there can only be one. And although the new season just started, singers like Aniston Pate are already leaving a memorable impression on judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan.

Videos by American Songwriter

Just last week, the judges watched as Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter, Emmy Russell, shocked them by performing an original song. Loving the performance, the judges once again found themselves in the company of an aspiring singer/songwriter. In a clip of the new episode, premiering on Sunday, Pate stepped in front of the judges wanting to show off more than her vocal talent. Performing an original song called “Hummingbird”, the contestant explained how she drew inspiration from her mother. She even called herself a “tractor driver here to play country music.” 

After finishing her performance, Richie praised her voice, comparing her to country music icon Dolly Parton. “About halfway through the first verse, I had to open my eyes and go, ‘Is that you, Dolly?’” While Pate has a long road ahead of her, gaining such praise from a legend like Richie proves that she is definitely a strong contender moving forward. 

[RELATED: Nya’s Breathtaking ‘American Idol’ Audition Has Lionel Richie Convinced She Can “Go All the Way”]

Luke Bryan And Katy Perry Praise Contestant Alongside Lionel Richie

Giving their take on Pate, Bryan also loved the audition, explaining, “That’s a great one, really good. I got like four things I want to tell you to do to it.” While the singer shared some advice with the contestant, Perry decided to add her voice to the conversation and perform the verse with Bryan. The pair found perfect harmony within seconds. 

Taking in the moment, Pate seemed mesmerized as she insisted, “Luke Bryan just sang a song that I wrote. Katy Perry sang a song I wrote too!” 

While fans enjoy the new season, Perry recently announced she was leaving the show. Speaking on Jimmy Kimmel Live, she said, “This fall, in September, I’m going to be doing this huge music festival in Brazil called Rock in Rio… so I think this will probably be my last season for Idol.” Perry added, “I mean, I love Idol so much. It’s connected me with the heart of America, but I need to feel that pulse of my own beat.” 

(credit ET on YouTube / ABC Stream)

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