Aretha Franklin's 15-Year-Old Granddaughter Auditions for 'American Idol'

But did her famous lineage result in a golden ticket to Hollywood?

Grace Franklin
Photo: ABC/Eric McCandless

American Idol's 20th season kicked off Sunday night bringing back our beloved judging panel of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie and introducing America to the next batch of undiscovered stars.

The premiere episode included an extra special surprise when 15-year-old Grace Franklin of Detroit, Michigan, walked into the auditions. While you may not be familiar with Grace yet, chances are you've got a lot of "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" for her famous grandmother, the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.

During her audition segment, the younger Franklin reflected on her relationship with her grandmother who died in 2018 at the age of 76.

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

When it was time for Grace to show off her singing skills, she opted to perform the Lauryn Hill version of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," rather than one of her grandmother's many hits, saying "I feel like people expect me to sing exactly like her, but I'm my own artist and I have my own voice."

After she sang, the judges weren't fully convinced. Luke commented that the performance was "a little sleepy and subdued," and Katy agreed that it was "soft". They gave Grace another chance to prove her pipes, and this time, she selected something a little closer to home. She paid homage to her musical family by singing "Ain't No Way," Aretha's 1968 hit that was written by her younger sister Carolyn.

But was her second song enough to push her through to the Hollywood round? Katy was certainly impressed, saying she loved Grace's rendition of the song, and Luke complimented the young singer's vocal runs. When it was time to vote, Katy was a "yes," saying, "I think you have sparkle and stardust all over you. If you'll trust us, if you'll listen to us, and you'll put in the work, I think we can find that next level with you."

Despite his praise, Luke thought Grace could use more time to refine her talent, so it was all down to Lionel, who shared a close relationship with the singer's late grandmother.

"I'm going to talk to you now as Uncle Richie, and your grandmother talking to me," he said. "Her line was, 'If you're not ready for me baby, don't come near me.' Now, you're 15, you've got the family lineage. What we need now is to put some time and some work in to get it up to par."

Lionel begrudgingly gave the hopeful teen a "no," but encouraged her to return in the future.

"Go back and get a running start and come at this again," he said.

WATCH: Aretha Franklin: A Soulful Career by the Numbers

Katy made one final appeal to give Grace a chance arguing, "Listen, she's got stardust, give her a shot, give her a chance. 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."

However, Lionel couldn't be swayed, and Grace was sent home without a golden ticket to Hollywood.

She may be young, but we think she's certainly got talent! What did you think of the judges' decision?

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