Kanye West stopped by the American Idol auditions in San Francisco back when they were being taped in October, and now the Golden Ticket-worthy performance of “Gold Digger” has been posted online, in advance of the show’s January 6 premiere.
As Rolling Stone reports, American Idol has promised some surprises for its 15th and final season, which will look back at all of the music superstars that have been discovered on the show.
Host Ryan Seacrest — the only American Idol personality who has been with the show since the first season — explains the moment when he learned that Kanye West was going to audition.
“We were in San Francisco, and [a producer] said, ‘We’ve got a contestant that’s just going to jump into the line.’ And up walked Kim and Kanye—Kim pregnant and Kanye enthusiastic and ready to go in there. He walks in there and does a lyric about J.Lo from one of his songs.”
Kanye walked into the audition and pretended to be just another contestant going through the American Idol audition process.
“My name is Kanye, I’m from the south side of Chicago. I’m originally a producer. I always wanted to rap and no one really believed in me, so I wanted to try some things out, ya know?”
Outside, a visibly pregnant Kim Kardashian (her and Kanye’s son, Saint West, would be born a couple of months later) told Seacrest that she believed in her husband.
“I’m not really nervous because I do really believe in him. I didn’t give any advice on singing, rapping. I just really believe in him.”
Kanye then launched into an a capella rendition of “Gold Digger,” telling the judges — Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick, Jr. — that he chose “Gold Digger” because J. Lo — one of the judges — is mentioned in the first verse. Lopez can be seen gleefully singing along when Kanye sings her name.
— Sun.Star Publishing (@sunstaronline) January 5, 2016
The judges then gave Kanye a coveted Golden Ticket without even deliberating.
Back in May, Fox announced, via a Rolling Stone report at the time, that American Idol would be cancelled after its 15th season. The show launched the careers of music superstars like Clay Aiken and Kelly Clarkson, as well as producing national laughingstocks like William Hung and Sanjaya Malakar. It was also a ratings juggernaut, unprecedented in the history of TV: between the 2003-2004 season and the 2010-2011 season — a period of eight consecutive years — American Idol broadcasts ranked No. 1 in television ratings.
However, after original judge Simon Cowell left in 2010, American Idol began a long and steady decline into irrelevance. An almost-continual replacement of judges in the later seasons no doubt helped speed that decline, as well as other hit-maker TV shows, such as The Voice and America’s Got Talent, began gaining in popularity.
Further, as Rolling Stone noted, Fox executives found Idol simply too big to handle: the show required three hours per night, two nights per week, dominating much of the Fox schedule and hindering the network’s ability to develop new shows. Now that Fox has found consistent ratings hits with shows such as Gotham and Empire, American Idol is no longer needed.
That doesn’t mean that American Idol is going to go quietly, however — the show has promised that Season 15 will be a “season-long celebratory event,” which will include a tribute to original judge Simon Cowell as well as a look back at Idol‘s previous seasons. Other surprises are also in store, although as of this writing, Fox is being tight-lipped about what those may be.
You can watch Kanye West’s audition on the season premiere of American Idol on January 6.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia]