Grace Franklin's American Idol audition stunned judges but will Aretha Franklin's granddaughter go the distance?

Fifteen-year-old Grace Franklin sang Lauryn Hill's Killing Me Softly and grandmother Aretha Franklin's Ain't No Way during her American Idol audition

Grace Franklin
(Image credit: ABC)

This past weekend, American Idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan were treated to an extra special audition by 15-year-old Grace Franklin, granddaughter of the late and great Aretha Franklin.

The aspiring artist kicked off her audition by singing Lauryn Hill's version of the famous Roberta Flack song Killing Me Softly. Although the judges were pleasantly surprised by her singing chops, they found her performance to be a bit "subdued" and therefore asked her to try singing a different song—at which point Grace belted out Ain't No Way by Aretha Franklin, the first female musician to, posthumously, be given the Pulitzer Prize. The judges seemed to be bigger fans of Grace’s second performance.

Spoiler alert: although clear fans of Grace's voice, when it was time to vote, Luke said no. Katy voted yes, turning Lionel's vote into the deciding one.

"Grace Franklin, I love you and I think the best thing for you in life is to take a shot at going backwards," Lionel said, indicating his leaning towards a no. "Go back and get a running start and come at this again."

Following Lionel's comments, Katy stared at her co-judge. "Listen, she's got stardust, give her a shot, give her a chance," said Katy. "I'm sure Aretha wasn't Aretha when she walked into the room but somebody said, 'Yes, I want to work with you, I want to develop you, you've got something.' She's got stardust on her." 

But Lionel could not be swayed, at which point Katy actually started walking off the stage while saying, "something wrong with your ears. Y'all are insane!" 


After Lionel officially voted no, effectively putting an end to her American Idol journey, he hugged Grace and advised her to "put in the work."

As sad as we are for Grace, we’re sure that—if genetics have anything to do with it, especially—she’ll be back at it on the American Idol stage very soon.

During her audition, the teenager also opened up about her relationship with her iconic grandmother, telling the judges all about how close they were before Aretha passed at the age of 76 in 2018.

"I got to see her all the time. I used to travel with her a lot," said Grace. "I don't think I could fully grasp the fact that she was known worldwide because, to me, she was always just grandma." 

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.