‘American Idol’ Auditions: Katy Perry Dubs Cecil Ray Baker ‘Country Justin Bieber’ [Watch]
American Idol judge Katy Perry dubbed Cecil Ray Baker a "country Justin Bieber" during his audition for the TV singing competition, which aired on Sunday night (Feb. 28). The 20-year-old from Cameron, Texas, certainly has the pop star's shaggy hairstyle and hair flip down pat, but otherwise, he's pretty dang country.
Baker turned Morgan Wallen's "Talkin' Tennessee" into a soulful, acoustic guitar-driven audition piece. (Of note: American Idol's Season 19 auditions took place in late 2020, well before Wallen was "indefinitely suspended" from his recording contract and taken off radio station and streaming platform playlists due to his use of a racist slur.) However, at first, he brought a bit too much energy to his audition.
"Put your hands in your pockets -- front pockets -- close your eyes, [and] sing that chorus again," judge Luke Bryan instructed Baker, adding directives to keep his feet planted in place, then to pull one hand out of his pocket and snap to the beat. Baker's onstage energy slipped from over the top to cool, calm and collected.
"I think you are absolute perfection ... You are what we are about here at American Idol," Bryan told Baker, explaining that he was trying to get the Hollywood hopeful to settle his nerves a bit. "If you can start chillin' out, because your voice is really distinctive and interesting, and really good enough to potentially do really well in this competition."
Perry, too, called Baker a "fireball," and asked him to go forward starting each day with something to center himself. "Find how to control that energy," she offered.
"You have no idea in your rawness what it is that you have," judge Lionel Riche added before all three voted to send Baker on to Idol's Hollywood Week.
Baker is the father to a young daughter. He himself grew up in government housing and, at age 11, lost a friend to suicide; over the next two years, his brother and uncle also died by suicide.
"Music's always been a light. There were times when I just felt like giving up, but the only light in the dark was music," Baker shares, adding, "My goal in life is to give my daughter the best life that I never had."
American Idol, now in its 19th season, airs on Sunday nights at 8PM ET on ABC. Sunday night's episode showed this season's third set of auditions.
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