A refugee from Congo was the shining star of Sunday’s episode of American Idol and booked his place into the next round of the ABC singing competition show.
Ron Bultongez, 21, who now lives in Plano, Texas, told the cameras it was amazing how far he had come in his journey.
‘To be here on American Idol right now on the third day of Hollywood Week, a little kid from the Congo, it doesn’t sound real,’ he said.
Pleasant surprise: Katy Perry was shocked when Congo refugee Ron Bultongez performed his solo routine for Hollywood Week on Sunday’s episode of American Idol
Ron only got through to Hollywood Week after judge Lionel Richie called him back at the New York audition to change his vote and send him through.
Ron also told the cameras that not only was he a father to his own son, but had also become the legal guardian of his two younger brothers.
‘They were in a pretty bad situation so I decided to step up and be the man and brother they needed in their life. Probably one of the biggest responsibilities I have ever taken on, so that has given me more fire to come and perform my best here.
‘This is for my family, for my son, for my brothers, for me to be able to provide them with the life they deserve.’
More responsibility: The 21-year-old singer recently became the guardians of his brothers
Bad situation: Ron decided to look after his two younger brothers who were in a bad spot
Ron took to the stage in a big jacket that he said was inspired by Kanye West.
‘Ron, I love you so much,’ Katy told him before he performed Home by Philip Phillis.
‘I did not have a home for a long time and so what I have learned is that the thing about home is that it’s created by the people you surround yourself with so I think this song is pretty dope,’ he said.
His performance did not let them down.
Nailed it: The singer took to the stage in a jacket inspired by Kanye West
Luke Bryan interjected during his performance that he was doing a ‘good job’.
Ron grew emotional as he left the stage and told the cameras it had meant so much to him.
‘When I walked off stage I started getting teary eyed, when I told them why I chose the song and got to thinking about my past and there a lot of things that I have not fully worked through yet.
Getting emotional: Ron got emotional thinking about home and family
‘Even if you don’t have a typical mom and dad and siblings in the place you live, home is created by the people,’ he said.
‘He beats out a few of them already,’ Katy Perry told her fellow judges Lionel and Luke Bryan.
The show kicked off with The Bachelor host Chris Harrison playing an April Fools joke on the audience by standing in for Ryan Seacrest.
Tears flowing: The singer wiped away tears while talking about his upbringing
Moving up: Lionel Richie, Katy and Luke agreed that Ron was ahead of some
Ryan interrupted Harrison and told him exactly how to say his famous ‘This is American Idol’ catchphrase.
‘I got this, I got this. This is April Fools,’ laughed Harrison as Katy waved a red rose towards him.
‘Here is my final rose, goodbye,’ Ryan told him.
Just kidding: The show opened with The Bachelor host Chris Harrison
Good one: Ryan Seacrest showed up to take over the hosting duties
Final rose: Katy held up a rose toward the hosts
High school student Gabby Barrett, 17, from Pittsburgh, told the cameras that she wanted to get through for her maintenance worker father, Blase.
‘There were times we could not afford to pay bills in the house but he would still find the time to drive me to my gigs,’ she said wiping away tears.
‘Wooooo,’ said Katy as Gabby gave a soulful performance as the judges fist pounded each other for her performance of Ain’t No Way.
Strong bond: Gabby Barrett was singing for her father
‘Good job, great,’ said Lionel to the others.
Katy warned them that Gabby had ‘a tone’ on her voice which if overused ‘was not great’ but that she was impressed.
Marcio Donaldson, 28, from Compton, California, performed in front of his son, Rashad.
New father: Marcio Donaldson was inspired to perform in front of his son
‘I want this badder than you could ever imagine, but I did not understand it until I met that boy,’ he said.
‘This is our ticket, that boy does not have a voice but I have one and I am going to use it. I do not have another shot, I am 28, it is do or die,’ Marcio said.
‘They better sing like it is the last time they are singing,’ Katy told the cameras.
Good times: Lionel, Katy and Luke were having fun with the solo singers
‘Yeah, it is time to go, it’s time now, you know?’ agreed Lionel as he and Katy shook hands on it.
Effie Passero, 26, an assistant property manager from Modesto, California, then wowed the judges with her performance of the Heart song Alone.
Lionel threw back his head and slouched in his seat as he soaked in the powerhouse singer and Katy stared at the camera and threw her hands in the air.
Heart song: Effie Passero belted out Alone by Heart
‘Effie, Effie, Effie,’ said Lionel as she left the stage.
‘Holy crap we’ve just started,’ laughed Katy.
Amelia Hammer Harris, 26, from Lexington, Kentucky, told the cameras she was following in her performer father’s footsteps.
Singing father: Amelia Hammer Harris wore a top that her singer father donned during performances
Amelia, the daughter of 1960s singer Jack Hammer who co-wrote Great Balls Of Fire even wore a top her father wore during his own performances.
‘I feel him with me and I feel his support wrapped around me,’ she said.
‘This jacket is oozing history and finesse and he would be really proud.’
Sixties singer: Jack Hammer co-wrote Great Balls Of Fire
The judges loved her performance with Katy and Luke fist bumping during it.
‘I have been listening to music for a very long time and if you can get the hairs to stand up on my arms okay,’ said Lionel.
Texas student and rocker Cade Foehner, 21, took to the stage with a feather decorated guitar and performed a version of ‘Feel It Still’ by Portugal. The Man.
Rocking out: Cade Foehner hit the stage with his guitar
The performance earned the former farmhand a standing ovation from all the judges.
‘Great job dude,’ said Luke as Lionel shouted ‘Take me back to ’68.’
Luke told Katy he was not sure about the feather as she compared the country star to a playful kitten.
Next up was Harper Grace, 16, from McKinney, Texas, who performed an original song called RIP about an ex-boyfriend.
Piano player: Harper Grace performed an original song
Katy instantly remembered the youngster from her Nashville auction where she performed another original called Yard Sale.
‘Wow, oh wow. Loved that,’ said Lionel as she sang.
‘She just shined, she did an original that did not harm her,’ said Luke.
Nursing student Noah Davis, 18, from Royal, Arkansas, performed Kelly Clarkson’s Piece By Piece.
Nursing student: Noah Davis performed Piece By Piece
‘You know what’s interesting? I think that day in the auditions he brought so much confidence,’ said Luke who was not sure.
Katy told them she still liked the youngster as he admitted making some mistakes in his performance.
Catie Turner, 17, from Langhorne, Pennsylvania, then took to the stage and told the judges she would perform a song called Pity, about a man who told her to get back in the kitchen and make him a sandwich.
Quirky singer: Catie Turner performed an original song called Pity
This fired Katy up and she threw her show notes onto the floor.
‘Don’t forget though we do love men of quality who believe in equality and they do exist, a lot of them are in this group,’ said Katy emphatically.
‘I will make a sandwich for the man I love and I make great sandwiches,’ she added.
Sandwich maker: Katy said she makes great sandwiches
Dennis Lorenzo, 26, of Philadelphia, and Brandon Elder, 23, from Arab, Alabama, then gave their renditions of Home by Chris Daughtry.
Maddie Poppe, 20, from Clarksville, Iowa, then performed an original song called Don’t Ever Let Your Children Grow Up after her father advised her to be herself and to stand out.
Katy needed Luke to hand her a tissue after the song as she was so emotional about the performance.
Original tune: Maddie Poppe performed her own song after advice from her father
‘She reminds me of myself, we write a bit in the same style,’ said Katy.
‘I hope I did enough to get through to the next round, I mean they were looking at me the whole time and they seemed into it, so I hope so,’ said Maddie.
The stress of the week caused Michelle Sussett, a 22-year-old waitress from Miami to lose her voice and struggle in rehearsals to do Coming Out by Diana Ross.
Voice issues: Michelle Sussett lost her voice but overcame it for her Diana Ross song
‘Even though I can barely speak right now I’m going to push through,’ she told the cameras.
Her upbeat performance had Katy dancing in her seat and got her a standing ovation.
‘Love it,’ cheered Lionel.
Feeling it: The judges were up and dancing during her performance
‘That is Gloria Estefan right there,’ agreed Luke.
‘I mean she is a star if she makes it or not,’ added Katy.
College student Jonny Brenns, 18, from St Augustine, Florida,told the cameras that he and his father had always been close but that they disagreed about his musical journey.
College student: Jonny Brenns struggled with his falsetto during his time
‘This my chance to prove that this is something real, something I am gifted with and it doesn’t have to be business it can be music for me,’ he said.
Jonny made a string of mistakes and even apologized as he struggled with his falsetto and he told the cameras that he was ‘maybe not ready yet.’
Crystal Alicea, 20, from Winter Haven, Florida, admitted she was nervous up on stage with a band and she struggled to remember the lyrics.
Not yet: Crystal Alicea admitted to struggling with nerves
‘Let me tell you something, she don’t got the confidence,’ Katy told the other judges.
‘It is the real world out there you better have the confidence. Learn the lyrics girl.’
Deonte Baker, a 26-year-old vocal coach from Chicago, told the cameras his aim was to make the other judges forget about everyone else in the competition.
Vocal coach: Deonte Baker wanted to make the judges forget everyone else
Baker’s voice was so powerful that Katy had to spin in her chair and tell the producers to turn down the monitors.
Katy’s favorite Trevor Holmes was also back and Luke asked if she was going to be making eyes at him again.
‘No, I’m over it,’ she joked as she pretended to look at her phone.
Love interest: Katy’s favorite Trevor Holmes impressed yet again
But as he took to the stage she shouted up ‘Love you babe’ in encouragement.
And with his girlfriend, Sierra, watching on the California construction worker delivered a positive performance.
And as Trevor went over to kiss his girlfriend, Katy stood up and forlornly reach out toward him before she got a sympathy hug from Luke and Lionel.
The girlfirend: Sierra supported her boyfriend Trevor and kept an eye on Katy
‘Children work with me,’ joked Lionel as Katy fake wailed and blew her nose.
‘I want to go home I didn’t sign up for this,’ Lionel quipped.
Maddie Zahm, a 19-year-old special education teacher from Boise, Idaho, had Katy asking the cameras why she was holding back and asking her for more during the performance.
Strong performance: Maddie Zahm held back a little but still impressed
Shannon O’Hara, 17, a nanny from Mooresville, North Carolina, struggled with the microphone at her piano when she took the stage but was happy with her effort.
Genevieve Linkowski, 19, a home school teacher from Goodrich, Michigan, brought a huge entourage of family with her and was thrilled with her performance.
Louisiana high school football player Garrett Jacobs, 18, told the cameras how sports and music had always been his passion but that Hollywood Week had taken its toll on his voice.
Wait for it: Shannon O’Hara struggled with her microphone but was pleased with her performance
‘That voice is gone,’ said Katy Perry as Garrett took on Wicked Game by Chris Isaak.
But it did not stop her swaying as Lionel agreed that the hopeful’s ‘voice is shot.’
Britney Holmes, 28, a vocal coach from Frisco, Texas, got a second chance through a public vote and was feeling the pressure to repay the support shown to her.
And she got whoops of support from Lionel as he slapped the desk.
Fist bumps: The judges fist bumped when they liked a singer
‘Sang it, sang it, brought it today,’ he said as she walked off.
Luke then tried to claim credit for her as Katy asked them to play the tape of him giving her a no.
Gabbii Jones, 20, from St. Louis, told the cameras she needed to do well to convince her dad to let her stay in Hollywood and that he was ready to go home.
Pub server Thaddeus Johnson, 25, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, decided to sing Katy’s Rise and admitted he knew the risk he was taking.
Her song: Thaddeus Johnson took on Katy’s song Rise
But he told Katy that the song was a reflection of his own life and he wanted to share it with her.
And it worked as she sang along with him and stood up and cheered him on.
‘Children that’s how you do my song, you did my song better than I do my song. That was amazing,’ said Katy.
High praise: Katy told the singer that he sang it better than her
Kay Kay, 18, from Nashua, New Hampshire, brought a 90s fashion feel to her performance and was rewarded with a ‘come on’ from Luke.
Laine Harvey, 17, from Livingston, Louisiana, struggled in the group sessions and said it was because he was a shy guy.
Katy told the judges that he needed ‘to loosen up.’
Loosen up: Laine Harvey struggled with loosening up
Country singer Caleb Lee Hutchinson , 18, from Georgia, said that he had struggled with being away from his family for such a long period but that he would be ‘devastated’ to get sent home.
‘It feels real,’ Luke told the other judges as Katy ordered him to get a cowboy hat.
Bowling alley worker Michael J Woodard, 20, from Philadelphia performed Maybe This Time from Cabaret that got a huge reaction from the judges.
Feels real: Caleb Lee Hutchinson impressed country star Luke with his authenticity
Katy even threw off her jacket and tossed her chair in mock anger at the range the youngster showed.
‘Where the hell did he come from? Remember when. Where the heck did he come from? I will cry,’ laughed Katy.
‘Are you kidding me, I am so happy for him,’ said a stunned Lionel.
NIce range: Michael J. Woodard impressed the judges with his range
At the end of the round all 77 performers were placed in three rooms where they learned their fate from the judges.
Katy, Lionel and Luke delivered good news to those in two of the rooms who were through to the live audience showcase and had to console those who didn’t make it.
The remaining contestants will fight it out on Monday for places in the show’s top 24.
Room assignment: The singers in Room 1 awaited their fate and learned they were advancing