'American Idol': Alyssa Raghu Returns Much to Judges' Surprise

Alyssa Raghu returned to American Idol Sunday night to surprise judge Katy Perry after falling short last season.

The 17-year-old fan-favorite was featured in this weekend's auditions episode, with judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan trying to keep Raghu's identity a secret from Perry. The two challenged Perry to guess who it was before Raghu began singing VV Brown's "Shark in the Water."

"My sauce?" a stunned Perry asked, referring to the nickname she gave Raghu last year. After opening her eyes, Perry yelled, "I got my sauce!"

The other judges laughed at Perry as Raghu started singing.

Last year, Perry told Raghu she had a great voice, but called her stage presence "forgettable." She said she used Perry's critique as the drive to get better before trying out again on the show.

"I was disappointed when I got eliminated, but it really pushed me to work harder," Raghu said in Sunday's episode. "Since getting eliminated last season, I took everything the judges said to heart because I knew it was important. I've taken dance classes every single weekend and done pretty much over 200 shows and every single time, I try to make each performance better and better."

Raghu told the judges she took their criticisms to heart and introduced herself as a "pop star" before she picked up her guitar. As she performed, the judges looked clearly impressed.

"I miss your voice," Perry told Raghu.

"You're really shining," Richie told her.

Perry told Raghu that her guitar playing was still not up to the quality of her voice and suggested she get accompaniment. Despite that, all three judges voted to send Raghu back to the Hollywood round.

Last year, Raghu earned the nickname "sauce" from Perry because she told the judges her last name was pronounced like the RAGU pasta sauce. Perry even tweeted "she's got the sauce," along with a GIF of pasta sauce.

RAGU even got in on it, sending Raghu merchandise.

"THANK YOU [RAGU Sauce] for your support throughout my [American Idol] journey! It means the world to know you think I've got the 'sauce' to win this competition," Raghu tweeted in March 2018.

"Whatever happens, all I want to do is have fun," Raghu recently told the Orlando Sentinel. "So I've been having the time of my life."

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New episodes of American Idol air Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Monday episodes start on March 18.

Photo credit: ABC