“American Idol” hopefuls Bre Podgorski, left, and Olivia Soli, right covered two of Lionel Richie’s signature songs during auditions for the 2023 season of the ABC reality series. Richie, center, was impressed by both singers, and voted to send them to Hollywood.It takes talent and courage to cover a song made famous by one of the “American Idol” judges, but two hopefuls on the ABC reality series were up to the task this season. Olivia Soli, 21, from Los Angeles, performed a torch-song version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” on the March 5 episode, entrancing the Alabama-born star and his fellow judges, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Soli’s rendition inspired Richie to leap from his seat with enthusiasm, even before she finished the tune, singing and playing the piano. Richie, 73, offered high praise, saying that Soli took his 1984 hit and transformed it into something new and distinctive. (Watch her performance in the video below.)
“I want to be the first in your long career to rush the artist,” Richie said. “I was praying. When people say I’m going to sing your song — a Katy song, a Luke song — please don’t sing it like us. Own it. Take it and turn it into your song. You did it to perfection. I know now who you are as an artist. And yes, it’s my song. Yes, I wrote it. Yes, I sang it. But it’s your song. Best so far in this audition. Congratulations.” Bryan and Perry gave major kudos to Soli, as well. “I thought it was tremendous,” Bryan said. “It was a really strong audition, once of the best I’ve seen. Awesome.” “You put Lionel Richie out of a job, girl,” Perry said. “You came for his coin. You really reinterpreted it. You put your own spin on it. You have a tremendous voice, so many incredible runs, so much soul. You seem like you’re ready, you’re worth a shot, you can take some notes. We’re probably going to push you harder than others because we know that there’s a diamond in there. Actually, I’m sorry — we know that there’s a ruby in there.” (Perry, smiling, was making a reference to Soli’s red hair.)
After that, all three judges sealed the deal, confirming that Soli was going to Hollywood for the next round of the competition. But she wasn’t the only singer to cover one of Richie’s signature songs on the episode, and earn a coveted golden ticket. Bre Podgorski, 27, also from Los Angeles, performed a duet with Richie on his 1983 hit, “All Night Long (All Night).” Podgorski works as a “dueling piano player,” so she appeared quite comfortable in this format. Podgorski (known simply as “Bre” on the show) also made it to Hollywood, but her actual audition wasn’t shown on Sunday’s program. Instead, “Idol” showcased her duet with Richie, as the the two played keyboard and piano in tandem. The other two judges appeared to have great fun during the segment, chiming in with lyrics and humor. Bryan sang a few bars of “All Night Long,” and Perry bustled over with a wine glass that served as a tip cup, evoking a time-honored tradition at piano bars.