The premiere episode opened with Doug Kiker, a garbage man from Mobile, Alabama. However, before he performed, the judges sent him to returning host Ryan Seacrest so that he could help him perform in front of a crowd. While waiting, 16-year-old Camryn Leigh Smith who sang "Big White Room" by Jessie J.
Luke said that she reminded him of a young Katy. Katy, meanwhile, Camryn gave her hope about the level of talent of this this season. Camryn got three yes.
Doug then came back, singing "God Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts. Katy then wanted to see his range and Luke helped with the piano. "There's so much in there," Luke said while Katy started to tear up and said, "You just stay who you are and you're going to go so far." Unsurprisingly, they sent Doug to Hollywood.
The next contestant was Francisco Martin who performed a gorgeous and soulful rendition of "Alaska" by Maggie Rogers. Katy raved, "You've got an incredible voice." Meanwhile, Luke believed that Francisco would be among the Top 5. He headed to Hollywood.
Nick Merico, who auditioned last season, returned though he backed out before going to Hollywood because of "personal things." He managed to convince Katy and Luke that he still wanted to pursue his dream as a singer with a touching performance of "You Say" by Lauren Daigle. However, Lionel told Nick, "I don't like you," adding that he wanted him to know "what it feels like when people don't adore you." Still, the judges gave another Golden Ticket.
Arthur Gunn later stunned everyone with his rendition of "Girl From the North Country" by Bob Dylan. Katy asked him to sing another song and he opted for "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. "Arthur, you're a rock star," gushed Katy. Lionel echoed the sentiment, telling him, "You are the story we need to tell."
Next up was Alisa Ermolaev. She, however, couldn't impress the judges and even said that Katy was "f***ing salty." Louis Knight followed it up with a performance of "Change", which is an original song about a friend who committed suicide. "You might be the biggest start we've ever had on 'American Idol'," Luke said. Lionel also praised Louis' songwriting skills.
Saveria got mixed responses from the judges. Luke and Lionel were not impressed, but Katy felt that she had "so much potential." Katy said yes but the other judges said no, much to the former's frustration. Meghan Fitton, meanwhile, hoped to get a ticket with a performance of "Love Where You're At" by Alan Stone. The judges said yes and gave "The Bachelor" superfan the Golden Ticket.
Concluding the night was Samantha Diaz a.k.a. Just Sam, who sang "You Say" by Lauren Daigle. She was overwhelmed that she had to stop singing because she cried. However, she recovered as she continued showing off her skills by belting out "Rise Up" by Andra Day. Sam headed to Hollywood.