For the first time, “American Idol” fans have voted to advance a contestant before the next season has even begun airing. Though season 21 doesn’t premiere on ABC until February 19, 2023, the show kicked off an early 24-hour voting event during the American Music Awards in November, allowing fans to choose the winner of a coveted Platinum Ticket. On December 5, 2022, the show announced R&B singer Elijah McCormick of Southern Pines, North Carolina, received the most votes, granting him immunity during the first round of Hollywood Week. Here’s what you need to know…
Meet Platinum Ticket Winner Elijah McCormick
McCormick beat out two other contestants that celebrity judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, and Katy Perry nominated for the honor of receiving a Platinum Ticket and getting to bypass the competition during the first round of Hollywood Week.
On December 5, he announced his big win by posting on social media, sharing a photo of him holding his Platinum Ticket and a video thanking fans for voting for him to receive what show producers are calling “America’s Platinum Ticket.” In addition, “Idol” posted the news to its social media accounts.
Sharing his voice on a national stage has been a longtime dream for McCormick, who was part of his high school’s choir ensemble, but he almost didn’t survive to achieve this dream. After graduating from high school in 2019, the 18-year-old planned to secretly audition for a national singing competition, according to his local newspaper, The Pilot.
But on June 8, 2019, McCormick was in a head-on vehicle collision less than a mile from his home. Witnesses pulled him from his wrecked car, according to The Pilot, and he was flown by helicopter to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. With his driver’s license destroyed when his car caught on fire, rescuers didn’t know his identity, so the medical team nicknamed him “Golden Child” because the tips of his hair were dyed golden blonde.
“The first two weeks, I had dreams but I don’t remember anything,” McCormick told the paper of his time in a coma. The singer was also placed on dialysis, had a feeding tube, endured 10 surgeries, and “coded” multiple times over the 79 days he was in the hospital.
When he eventually woke up, his first instinct was to sing. Even with a trach tube in place, McCormick began singing the song “Gratefully Broken” by Tasha Cobbs Leonard.
“It’s a song about God breaking you down to position you better,” he told the paper. “I guess that is what is happening now for me. I hate that the accident happened, but I’m not going to hate why it happened. God is good.”
Finally feeling strong enough to audition for “American Idol,” McCormick didn’t imagine his journey would be so special from the get-go. When he’s not singing, he works as a technician for an ophthalmologist and attends classes at Sandhills Community College.
Hollywood Week Kicks Off Taping Season 21
“Idol” contestants have always competed during auditions for a ticket to Hollywood. But during season 20, the show introduced Platinum Tickets. In each audition city, the celebrity judging panel of Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie chose one favorite contestant to receive a Platinum Ticket, allowing them to skip and simply watch the first round of Hollywood Week.
The winning contestants were HunterGirl, who went on to place second on the show behind Noah Thompson; Top 7 contestant Jay Copeland; and Kenedi Anderson, who left the show early, citing personal reasons.
In a new twist during the fall 2022 auditions in Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Nashville, the judges chose three nominees for what the show is calling “America’s Platinum Ticket.” In November, audition videos for each of the three contestants — McCormick, independent artist Matt Wilson of Buffalo, New York, and high school student Haven Madison of Clarksville, Tennessee.
though they didn’t win the national vote, Wilson and Madison can still compete among the approximately 64 other contestants during Hollywood Week, which is now underway. Madison posted social media photos of herself on December 2, including walking into what looks to be the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, where Hollywood Week typically takes place. She simply wrote, “On my way.”
Those who make it through Hollywood Week will perform for a live audience at the Los Angeles Theater on the afternoon of December 11. Tickets are currently available to attend the taping, which will air on ABC next spring.