Season 17 American Idol contestant Madison VanDenburg is being called “The Next Kelly Clarkson,” and the just turned 17-year-old singer is now one of the last three females still standing in the competition. To understand the high praise, just watch her audition video, where she sings Dan + Shay‘s “Speechless” while playing piano — it already has over 2 million views.
From Cohoes, New York, Madison is currently in her junior year at Shaker High School and has loved music her entire life. After being cast in the lead role of Shaker’s high school musical version of Annie, and receiving a standing ovation, she knew performing would be her forever career. In addition to competing on Idol, she’s been working on songs to put out on her first EP, and recently debuted the single, “Need a Little Heartbreak.”
Alongside Alejandro Aranda, Laci Kaye Booth, Walker Burroughs, Wade Cota, Laine Hardy, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, and Alyssa Raghu, the teen who’s close friends and shares the same vocal coach as former The Voice and Idol contestant Moriah Formica, is narrowing in on her goal of winning. Madison is thriving with the loving support of single father Skip, older sister Taylor, and even though she’s absent from the live shows, her mother. “She has a serious traumatic fear of flying and couldn’t take an entire month off to drive to L.A. from [New York],” Madison explained. “But she has been by my side whether it’s thru FaceTime or phone calls or text messages every step of the way.”
Here’s what you need to know about Madison VanDenBurg:
1. Before Becoming a Singer, Madison Was a Soap Box Derby Winner
When Madison was just 8-years-old, she won the Capital District Soap Box Derby in Albany, New York, which earned her a spot to compete at the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships in Akron, Ohio. During this race in 2010, Madison also beat her older sister Taylor, who was 10.
During an interview before the championship race started Taylor said, “I feel proud I get to race against you.” And while Madison admitted she had pre-race nerves, of competing against her brother she said, “We like to do it for fun. At least I get the chance to participate. Many of the kids in the world don’t get a chance.”
2. She Wore Her Boyfriend’s Jacket to the ‘Idol’ Audition
When Madison first auditioned for Idol in Buffalo, it was freezing and she wore a big green jacket that she later told viewers was her boyfriend’s, Steven Mallory. While neither Madison or Steven excessively post about one another, the young couple appear to have been together for over two years, and are still very much in love.
Steven is also in high school, and while he’s not a performance artist like his girlfriend, he’s into motor cross sports. Steven’s skilled at restoring dirt bikes and a big fan of off-roading.
3. Judge Katy Perry First Dubbed Her ‘The Next Kelly Clarkson’
While all three judges sang Madison’s praises after Madison performed former Idol winner Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” but it was Katy Perry, who first called her “The Next Kelly” after her initial audition. As the competition proceeded, Perry has only fallen more in love with Madison’s raw talent. “You just carved out your own niche,” Perry said, after Madison performed “Fallin” by Alicia Keys. “You are your own person. That was Madison through and through. That soul in your voice was unstoppable.”
Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie are also big fans of watching Madison’s star rise. “You truly must wrap your head around how wonderful your voice is,” Bryan said during the April 1 episode. And last week Richie said, “When you get to the point where the crowd goes crazy, that’s testament [to your ability]. You killed it.”
4. Madison and ‘The Voice’ Star Moriah Formica are Close Friends
Madison is close family friends with Moriah Formica, the two even share the same vocal coach, Lesley O’Donnell. If Moriah’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she was a Top 20 contestant on The Voice in 2017 and then on American Idol in 2018. And while Moriah’s Season 17 audition didn’t make it past the Top 40 and her audition never made it to air, which she spoke about on her Facebook page, she is helping cheer on Madison, her fellow Shaker High schoolmate.
“We all have our own thoughts as to why Idol didn’t air my audition or performances and why they didn’t put me through,” Moriah wrote. “Right now, none of that really matters. For whatever reason I wasn’t a good fit for the show.”
5. Madison Can Play Three Different Instruments
While many people can play guitar or piano, as seen on Idol, Madison can perform both while she’s belting out songs. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, she can also play the flute. Madison honed these skills in music class in school and performing with the school’s chorus and band.
“Music has always been there for me when I needed it,” Madison said on the show. “I just want to get to a place where I can share that with other people in the world and make it a better place.”
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