Gas station chicken wings almost ended one singer’s dream of stardom on Sunday’s episode of American Idol.
As the judges geared up to evaluate contestants’ duets on the show’s Hollywood Week, Peyton Aldridge went MIA before rehearsals with singer Madison Paige, who chose their song alone.
When Madison found him, Peyton said he’d been ‘eating chicken wings’ from a nearby gas station in his hotel room, adding, ‘I was very hungry. I’m not used to all this cauliflower.’
Chicken wings: Peyton Aldridge nearly ruined it for himself and duet partner Madison Paige on American Idol on Sunday when he went out for chicken wings instead of getting ready
After they rehearsed their cover of Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean’s Don’t You Wanna Stay, the duo did their final soundcheck with a piano, but Peyton decided he’d prefer guitar.
The pair’s back-and-forth banter as The Chicken Wings charmed the judges but their jarring vocals almost got them booted off, and Madison was devastated and near tears.
‘Listen, there are moments in life when it’s not going to work,’ offered judge Lionel Richie, 70. ‘This was not the greatest duet in life.’
‘Can I say something?’ asked an embarrassed Peyton, turning to Madison. ‘Look, I just want to apologize to you.’
Public apology: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan listened as Peyton apologized
‘You worked hard, and I’ve been rehearsing this all day and just got in the moment, and just lost control,’ he confessed. ‘But I just want to apologize to you, and I want to apologize to my family.’
Turning back to the judges, Peyton added, ‘I think y’all should give her another chance, because I just… it wasn’t right.’
‘I think that was pretty big,’ Lionel whispered to judge Katy Perry, 35, who affirmed, ‘That was huge,’ though Luke Bryan, 43, seemed to disagree with their decision.
Rough performance: The duet delivered a jarring performance that was hampered by Peyton switching at the last moment to guitar
‘Madison, your performance was not up to par,’ Lionel told the young singer. ‘But we realize what you’ve done in the past. You’re very talented.’
‘Peyton, we’re very touched by your humility, your honesty. So my fellow judges and I have decided to give you a second chance. You’re both going through.’
With his eyes red, Peyton waved the cameras away, saying, ‘It’s not only my career that was on the line, but somebody else’s that had no control over that. And I was fully responsible for it.’
The judges: Lionel, Katy and Luke evaluated the talent as Hollywood Week continued with duets
Peyton’s apology was just one of a number of emotional moments on the evening’s show, which saw contestants being judged on duets instead of the usual group performances.
Singers Louis Knight and Francisco Martin, 19, who were often compared to each other, went first as the group 3:15, which referenced the time they’d gone to bed after rehearsing.
Francisco was so nervous he couldn’t remember the lyrics to their song, The Script’s Breakeven, and Louis backed him up when he forgot the words.
Strong singers: Louis Knight and Francisco Martin blended their strong voices nicely and both moved on
Francisco shook as he said he had trouble believing in himself, but both men were sent through, with Luke offering, ‘You need to trust us that you are this good, because you are.’
Isa Pena, 17, and Olivia Ximines, 16, who billed themselves as the Pop Rocks, sang Pink’s Try so movingly it gave Luke ‘chills,’ and all of the judges looked at each other in astonishment.
They earned a standing ovation from the room, and both of them were sent through, with Lionel saying, ‘I love the way you turned to each other… you played off of each other.’
Dynamic duo: Isa Pena, 17, and Olivia Ximines, 16, who billed themselves as the Pop Rocks, sang Pink’s Try so movingly it gave Luke ‘chills,’ and all of the judges looked at each other in astonishment
Aliana Jester, 18, and YZThasinger flirted backstage before they went on, and their vocal coach asked if they were a couple as Aliana joked that she would get in trouble with her boyfriend.
YZthasinger said he would pursue Aliana if she was single, and their voices melded beautifully as the group Match, singing Meghan Trainor’s Like I’m Gonna Lose You, featuring John Legend.
‘You can’t tell me something wasn’t up,’ Lionel said before they went through.
Match group: Aliana Jester, 18, and YZThasinger flirted backstage before they went on
Real-life couple Jonny West, 23, and Margie Mays, 26, who sang as Marjonny Mays, said that performing with each other was ‘harder than performing with a stranger’ as they reprised the Trainor song.
‘I’ve had a couple of unsuccessful relationships in my life,’ Katy cracked after watching them. ‘But one thing that’s going very well in my current relationship—yes I did secure the ring—one thing I have noticed that is really helpful is giving each other a little space.’
‘We know you both are better than what you gave,’ she noted, saying they were ‘barely passing on to the next round.’
Sage advice: Katy Perry advised the real-life couple to give each other some space
Barely passed: Real-life couple Jonny West, 23, and Margie Mays, 26, who sang as Marjonny Mays barely passed to the next round
Real-life couple Kat Luna, 19, and Alex Garrido, 26, who combined their voices as Kat and Alex, called it their ‘life dream come true’ to end Hollywood Week together, but only Kat was sent through after performing Lauren Daigle’s You Say.
Cyniah Elise, 17, and Makayla Phillips, 17, who sang as Diva Show, had trouble in rehearsals harmonizing on Céline Dion and Josh Groban’s The Prayer, with Cyniah’s mother offering her own guidance to Makayla.
‘We’re both vocal powerhouses,’ Makayla worried. ‘We could either clash, or just kill it together.’
Killed it: Cyniah Elise, 17, and Makayla Phillips, 17, who sang as Diva Show, had trouble in rehearsals harmonizing on Céline Dion and Josh Groban’s The Prayer, but later killed it
After their delicate performance, Katy told them they’d done well, and urged them not to turn too soon for their victory walk before admitting with a smile that they were both going through.
Roommates Tito Rey and Robert Taylor, both 27, instantly decided to duet together as they’d quickly grown close, sharing the same musical references and compatible astrological signs.
They were the only group to sing Say So, by PJ Morton and JoJo, which Tito called ‘a gay love song’ before Robert corrected him, saying ‘It’s not technically a gay love song… but you’ve never seen two men, you know, sing a love song,’ as Tito finished, ‘to each other.’
Love song: Roommates Robert Taylor and Tito Rey, both 27, instantly decided to duet together as they’d quickly grown close
They rehearsed in the men’s restroom, high-fiving each other and saying, ‘Yes b****!’ when they hit a good note.
They stayed up all night practicing elaborate vocal runs, with Tito exclaiming, ‘We have no time for sleeping! Our dreams are on the line!’
But as Soul Libre, their runs were not as ‘meaningful’ as their vocal coach had hoped and it just sounded like a mess, especially as they approached the judges, twirled and bowed.
Only one: Lionel said they performed ‘vocal gymnastics’ and only Robert was sent through
‘What we just witnessed was vocal gymnastics,’ Lionel complained. ‘I don’t know how to judge it because it was too acrobatic.’
Forced to evaluate them based on their past performances, the judges only sent Robert through, and Lionel said, ‘Breaks my heart, ’cause we were really pulling for you guys.’
‘It’s not often you meet someone who understands you like that,’ Robert said, crying.
Hard decisions: The judges had to make some hard choices with a wide range of duets
As the show ended, a performer named Just Sam, 20, who spent her days busking in the New York City subways, fell apart from the stress, getting a headache and crying, as she observed, ‘This audition, it would change my family’s life… I have to do it, I have to make it.’
As Short Fuze, she and Sheniel Maisonet, 27, crooned Shawn Mendes’ Mercy, and Luke told Sam he couldn’t take his eyes off watching her perform, which made her beam with pride.
‘To sing the song is one thing,’ Lionel noted, as the judges sent both women through. ‘To act the song and give us what you’re actually feeling is everything.’
American Idol will return Monday on ABC.
Last up: Just Sam, 20, and Sheniel Maisonet, 27, crooned Shawn Mendes’ Mercy, and Luke told Sam he couldn’t take his eyes off watching her perform, which made her beam with pride