Although she was only in the spotlight for a few seconds, Maddie Todd ‘17 can say something very few can: she made it to Hollywood on American Idol.
“My time on Idol was a paradox—it’s something that I’d never do again, but I simultaneously don’t regret it,” Todd said.
In August, Todd took a chance and went to Fargo, N.D. to audition for the reincarnated American Idol. With guitar in hand, she auditioned with Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.” Todd was chosen to fly out to Los Angeles in September and audition again, but this time for a producer audition. Receiving a ‘yes’ from the judges, she made her way to the live auditions.
With the option of going to Nashville or New Orleans for the live audition, she opted to travel to the bayou to perform in October. Although she was third in line when auditions started at 7 a.m., Todd didn’t perform for the judges until 4 p.m.
“I think what many people don’t realize is how long it takes to simply audition in front of the judges,” Todd said. “Things aren’t necessarily as they seem. It’s ten percent talent, ten percent filming, and 80 percent waiting around to either film, sing or do both.”
In a warehouse space that was less than accommodating for singing, Todd walked in front of the judges without a care in the world.
“I wasn’t afraid of them, but I did fear the possibility of missing a chance to show them what I could do with my voice.”
With Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, and her idol, Katy Perry, 15 feet away from her, and a coveted golden ticket waiting to send her to Hollywood, Maddie Todd left it all on the table. She decided to sing a mashup of Katy Perry’s “Ur So Gay” and “I Kissed A Girl” for the judges. It was a big risk mashing two songs that one of the judges sings, but it held a lot of meaning to Todd.
Luke Bryan gave a big “yes” and felt that Todd should have a rock band behind her. Katy Perry was more apprehensive and let Richie speak while she thought it over. He said that she could use some polishing, to which Todd replied, “I’m willing to learn! That’s why I came here.” After saying that, he gave her a “yes” that shocked Katy Perry.
Perry asked Todd to sing something acapella, so she sang her original song, “Honey Bunches.” Perry had the harshest criticism for Todd and said, “I think there are some things you’re doing that you think are artistic but aren’t. You need some polishing, but I think I’m in.”
Maddie got all three judges to say “yes” and was off to Hollywood, but her stay was short-lived.
“One thing I don’t think people understand about the show is that when you go to Hollywood, you don’t know when you’re coming home,” said Todd. “It could be a few days or it could be two months. American Idol was full of amazing opportunities but leaving my beautiful partner, my dog and my work for an unforeseeable amount of time was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
In the first round at Hollywood, she sang “Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke acapella. Todd thought long and hard before her performance and even considered messing up on purpose so she could go home.
“I’d achieved all of my goals, received all the affirmation I could have dreamed of, so why should I try to stay on?”
Maddie knew that she couldn’t do that, though. She knew she would have been selling herself short of a possible learning opportunity. Plus, she made a promise to herself that she would stay true to herself.
She went up in front of the judges and sang her piece. “I nailed it,” Todd said. “one hundred percent. I don’t think I could have done any better.”
Unfortunately, Todd did not make it past the first round of Hollywood. She is back at Augustana working and can often be seen with her ador
able dog, walking elegantly beside her. American Idol gave her a memorable experience unlike any other.
“Being surrounded by insanely talented (and ridiculously good-looking) people was something that I’ll never forget,” said Todd. “I made a lot of friends and connections while being on the show—that’s something I’ll never take for granted.”
Her favorite part of the whole American Idol process?
“Getting kicked off,” Todd said. “All the weight of the stress I’d felt for the past five months was finally lifted off my shoulders.”
Regardless, Maddie Todd represented Augustana University and the community of Sioux Falls like a true rockstar throughout her time on American Idol.
If you want to listen to Maddie Todd, you may be able to find her performing at open mic events in the area such as those hosted at PAve and Fernson Brewery.
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