She’s the granddaughter of one of the greatest singers in music history. Grace Franklin auditioned on the season 20 premiere of “American Idol” airing on Sunday, February 27, 2020 and her audition caused a heated argument between two of the judges.
15-year old Grace is the daughter of Kecalf Cunningham, Aretha Franklin’s youngest of four sons. She is also a member of the Detroit Youth Choir. You’ll recall, they finished second on season 14 of “America’s Got Talent” in 2019. In a recent Detroit Free Press interview, the choir’s director, Anthony White, called Grace “one of Detroit Youth Choir’s rising stars, a great singer and great kid who loves the stage.”
“I was really close to my grandma,” Grace said on the show before her performance in front of the judges. “I got to see her all the time. I used to travel with her a lot. I don’t think I could fully grasp the fact that she was known worldwide, because to me, she was always just grandma.”
She performed “Killing Me Softly” in front of the judges, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan, but afterwards, Perry wanted her to sing something else. So, she went to her grandmother’s songbook and performed the “Queen of Soul’s” “Ain’t No Way.”
“I loved your rendition of your grandma’s song,” said Perry. “You’re runs are really, really great. They’re very controlled.” added Bryan. “I think if you add command to your moment, it gives you a better chance to make it through some rounds of this competition.”
“You’re 15. You’ve got the family lineage. What we need to put now is time and some work in to get it up to par,” said Richie. “The age and the voice has to all come together on the same path.”
Bryan voted no with Perry saying yes. It was now up to Richie on whether to send her through to the Hollywood round or not. He and Perry got into an argument over her as Richie was about to vote no.
“I love you and I think the best thing for you in life is to take a shot at going backwards. Go back and get a running start and come at this again,” said Richie.
“Listen, she’s got stardust. Give her a shot. Give her a chance,” Perry passionately interrupted Richie. “I’m sure Aretha wasn’t Aretha when she walked into the room, but somebody said yes, I want to work with you. I want to develop you. You’ve got something. She’s got stardust on her.”
“Trust me,” Richie added. “If you go and come back and put the shyness behind you and the voice in front of you, you’re going to be something amazing and I don’t want to be the one to make you tip over and fall at this stage.”
“She’s not. She might be a little shy. I will lay down on the ground. I quit this show. I’m going to the bar. There’s something wrong with your ears,” Perry yelled as she walked off the set.
In the end, Richie voted no and encouraged her to grow and come back and audition on a future season.
“Grace, you know how I feel about your family and you, but I don’t want this to be a crash and burn. It’s going to be a no from me this time, but an optimistic come back and see us.”
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism