Sage Gives Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” a Twist on ‘American Idol’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

California native Sage McNeely took on Dolly Parton’s 1974 “Jolene” and gave it a few twists on the first night of American Idol Top 24 performances.

Showcasing 12 of the 24 on April 10 with the other half of the contestants performing on Monday, April 11, the American Idol stage was set in a new location, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii.

Prior to her performance, the 21-year-old singer and songwriter from Burbank, California, sat down with country singer and guest mentor Jimmie Allen, who told McNeely that he would be nervous singing a song like “Jolene.”

“You give me vibes that you’re the type of person who likes a good challenge,” Allen told the singer before praising McNeely on her vocals around the Parton hit. “The way [you] made this song [your] own caught me off guard in a good way. Wow, Sage, that was a great surprise, you have a special voice.”

Sage puts her own twist on “Jolene” (Photo: Kent Phillips / ABC)

McNeely switched up some notes, and added her own harmonization to “Jolene,” while keeping the integrity of the melody and lyrics intact.

“That was a very hypnotic rendition, it was very cool, showing off your individual core strengths,” said judge Katy Perry after McNeely’s performance. Perry also predicted that McNeely would reach the Top 5.

Judge Luke Bryan also complimented the singer on her “artistic talent.” 

“I think some of your note choices were really pro,” said Bryan. “You got so many flavors in your voice and that’s why Katy’s throwing out Top 5.”

Photo: Karen Neal / ABC

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