The ever-popular reality television program, American Idol, is currently in its 19th season. This season includes several contestants who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly referred to as the “Mormon” church).
The eight Latter-day Saint contestants who made it to Hollywood Week are Liahona and Ammon Olayan (brother and sister), Abby LeBaron, Benson Boone, Sade Frame, Grayson and Lizzy O’Very (husband and wife), and Cross Mathis. In this article we will only focus on the American Idol journey of Liahona and Ammon Olayan.
Liahona and Ammon Olayan are two siblings who are just a year apart in age. Ammon is 17 and Liahona is 16. They are the oldest of eight siblings. Latter-day Saint viewers may also recognize that the names “Liahona” and “Ammon” are found in the Book of Mormon.
Their audition for American Idol aired on 21 February 2021. They performed an original song called “Listen to My Heart.” Liahona explained that they wrote the song “because we tend to get in fights a lot, especially with a lot of siblings. Sometimes you say things that you don’t mean.”
All three judges praised their performance. Luke Bryan said, “Liahona, you have a voice like we could write a song, record it, and it’s ready for the radio.” Katy Perry added, “You guys are on the right path. You are talented beyond belief, incredible songwriters, like should be signed right now, that’s going to be your future really, really, really, really soon.” The judges then told them that they were headed to Hollywood.
Liahona commented that the best part of the audition was being able to perform with her brother. She told Deseret News, “He was my inspiration and has always been. Being on ‘American Idol,’ it’s still crazy to process, but you know after everything that we’ve been through, it’s just like a dream come true.” Their audition video now has over 1.4 million views.
With a quick Google search, some viewers may have discovered that Liahona and Ammon have performed music for the Church’s youth albums. Liahona performed “Good Day,” on the 2020 Youth Album, and Ammon is featured on the 2021 Youth Album in the song “I Am a Son of God.” The siblings also performed together at the 2020 Youth Music Festival where they performed “What Does He Think.”
You can read more about Liahona and Ammon at Deseret News and Mid-Week Kauai. The brother and sister duo are enjoying huge success and working on an album after their original song “Boom” debuted on American Idol and went viral.
The Journey Continues During Hollywood Week
The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol have aired on ABC. In the Sunday night, 21 March 2021, episode, the contestants competed in a genre challenge, performing a song of their choice from one of six genres: indie-folk, pop, rock, R&B, soul, and country. In the Monday night, 22 March 2021, episode, the judges paired contestants together to perform a duet.
Hollywood Week presented a new challenge for the brother and sister duo, Liahona and Ammon Olayan as they performed separately. In the first episode, Liahona performed “No Excuses” by Megan Trainor, and Ammon performed “Lost in Japan.” By Shawn Mendes. Liahona was selected to advance, but for Ammon’s American Idol journey came to an end. In tears, Liahona said, “He’s [Ammon] just helped me a lot so it’s going be hard to go on without him.”
In the duet episode, it was obvious that Liahona was missing performing with her brother. She also commented that it was the longest she had been away from her family. Prior to her performance, judge Katy Perry admonished her that what she was about to do on stage meant more than just putting a proverbial check mark in the box. Perry told her, “This is your dreams. This is it. . .. You have got the ball. It is in your court. So, do it for your brother.”
In her first performance, Liahona performed a duet of “Stay” by Rihanna with Fellow contestant Laila Mach.
Following the performance, Perry gave Liahona some tough feedback. She told Liahona, “There’s other people behind me that want it more and are going to fight tooth and nail to get it and you’re wasting everybody’s time. We said to you early on in this competition that you could be top-10 and you know who is sabotaging it? You.” Perry then strongly advised Liahona to never do that again and then told her that she was advanced to the next round of the competition.
Later, Liahona wrote in an Instagram post, “I’ve learned a great many things during this performance. Katy Perry’s words really helped me to get out of my head. They gave me a second chance and for that, I am so grateful. So thankful for such a great partner too! Laila did so amazing! Thanks for all your belief in me everyone and I’m going to keep pushing forward.”
During the Showstoppers Round, Liahona sang “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor. Backed by a full band, and with the grit and determination that if she if she were going to go out, she was going out with a bang, Liahona brought an energetic performance to the American Idol stage. She danced across the stage with a smile on her face, and made the split-second decision to bring the song to a dynamic end by doing a split.
At the Final Judgment, the judges told her she did enough to make the Top 24. In the Top 24, she got to perform with Grammy Award-winning R&B singer PJ Morton. She admits that working with Morton was one of her favorite moments on “Idol,” and singing with him taught her more about being vulnerable and connecting with an audience.
That would be Liahona’s final performance on American Idol. On 11 April 2021, the show revealed that the singer did not secure enough viewer votes to advance to the top 16. Although she was initially disappointed, she said that she was proud of the progress that she made. She also said, “I realized I wasn’t there to really win, I was there to learn.”
What is Next for Ammon and Liahona Olayan?
The brother-sister duo both have solo projects in the works and a joint album they plan on releasing soon.
Liahona believes that music better reflects her as a person and an artist and it also dives more into her faith, which is something she wishes she could’ve shared more of during her time on “Idol.” She commented, “These are the songs that actually get to define who I am. I hope people get to see the actual me and will want to know more.