American Idol is back! Last night’s first episode felt like a triumphant return hosted by Ryan Seacrest with judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. It aired with its usual dose of crazy contestants, disappointed hopefuls and rising stars. There was even a first kiss. However, we were excited to see two contestants in particular, Ron Bultongez and Harper Grace, both from Collin County. With 13 contestants from DFW alone, Texas is certainly packing some starpower this year.

Ron and Harper both had their time in the spotlight last night, appearing second and third respectively; they quickly became two of the most interesting contestants to watch, among Dennis Lorenzo, Noah Davis and Alyssa Raghu.

We’re very familiar with Ron, a singer/songwriter and a refugee from the Congo. He showed up with his guitar, his young son and his inspiring story–get the full story in our December 2018 issue–and auditioned with James Bay’s “Let it Go.” Anyone who’s heard Ron play ever has probably heard him do this song; it’s his go-to cover, well inside his comfort zone, so it’s unsurprising that he whipped it out for American Idol. But, considering how many other contestants performed original songs, it’s surprising that Ron didn’t show off one of his own, like “Juliet,” which was written about chasing elusive dreams and gives his voice nice depth.

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Their fair, but heartbreaking critique was a somber note to cut to a commercial on.

… But this is American Idol, so it didn’t end there.

The judges almost immediately changed their minds, brought Ron back and gave him his golden ticket, his well-deserved moment of triumph and a straight shot to the top.

After the drama of Ron’s rejection and then acceptance, it was up to 16-year-old McKinney girl Harper Grace to liven things up. Harper isn’t new to the spotlight; in 2012, when she was  11, her rendition of the National Anethem at an FC Dallas soccer game made the news as the worst anthem ever. But last night, Harper was all smiles.

“But you know what, at least my name’s out there,” she jokes with Ryan Seacrest before going before the judges.

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Stay tuned next week for the debut of another McKinney resident, Kristyn Harris. Kristyn is definitely going to be a contestant to watch. At 23 years old, she’s a country powerhouse with a huge local following, an old school style. Also she yodels. But we’ve only seen hints of her so far; we’ll hear her audition tonight, hopefully as well as ten more local contestants including Caroline Kraddick, the daughter of DJ and philanthropist Kidd Kraddick; Brittany Holmes of Aubrey; Griffin Tucker of Carrollton; Tippy Balady, Chameka Devrajai Scott and Skylar Dayne Capriles of Dallas; Samuel James and Drake Milligan of Fort Worth; Kassy Levels of Richardson; and Juliana Madrid of Southlake.

It’s going to be a crazy year. Stay tuned!