With the 15th and final season of Fox's American Idol underway, the nation is wondering who will be able to end the series with the same "bang!" with which Kelly Clarkson began it. Many predictions are already pointing toward a female bookend to the Clarkson Season 1 victory, placing viewers' eyes on a returning contestant who just barely missed the top 24 last year.
Recently turned 17-year-old South Floridian, Emily Brooke, blew the judges and viewing public away during Season 14 with her rendition of Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away". However, at the end of Hollywood week, Brooke's Idol journey ended. She left the show with encouragement from the judges that with some growth, she could be a strong future contender.
Brooke began working toward a career in music at the age of nine when she briefly took vocal lessons. It wasn't long before Brooke realized she had a knack for the guitar, as well. By the time she was 10, the talented, predominantly self-taught singer and guitarist performed for the first time at a local coffee shop, soon realizing the stage was a place she wanted to call "home".
After spending many years performing in her hometown of Wellington, Fla. (also home to Republic Nashville artist Cassadee Pope and Red Bow Records artist Brooke Eden), Brooke began to outgrow the smaller venues and set her sights on super stardom. Last year, at the age of 15, Brooke started to write the first chapter of her American Idol journey, auditioning for the show and eliciting positive feedback from judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. every step of the way.
When Brooke was eliminated after "the Green Mile", she took the judges' final critiques to heart and immediately jumped right back into gigging in her hometown. With a full band of experienced musicians behind her and the tenacity to grow, Brooke set herself up to mature enough as an artist that an Idol return would yield better results.
Brooke's Season 15 Atlanta audition aired on Jan. 20, and the girl with only one more year under her belt instantly emitted the presence of somebody much more seasoned. With grace, poise, and an obvious newfound confidence, Brooke performed RaeLynn's "Careless", reminding the judges why they loved her so much the previous year. With Urban introducing the audition, explaining that hard work was especially evident in one returning contestant, Brooke proved his statement to be correct with what Connick deemed "unquestionably the best audition of the day".
As the contestants gear up for Hollywood week, what is next on everybody's minds is whether Emily Brooke will make it one step closer to Idol worship in the show's final season. If you couple the judges' favorable comments with the early Internet spoilers, all signs point to "yes".
Based on the growth already demonstrated by Brooke since last year, if she continues to take the judges' advice, it is possible we may end up witnessing a beautiful success story right before our eyes.