It's safe to say American Idol judges have cooled on 23-year-old Nick Merico. The singer and actor made it to Hollywood before quitting the show in 2019. Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie all thought he thought he was too good for them.

Merico's ego was played up during an opening sequence that brought fans up to speed on Sunday night's (Feb. 16) season debut of American Idol. Long story short: They all fell for the "hunkasaurus" with the great eyebrows. He explains that "personal things" forced him to quit the show last year, but now he's back and was hoping to get another golden ticket.

"How bad do I want the golden ticket?" he asks the camera before walking forward for a very close up. "How bad do you want to breathe?"

The sequence adds air to balloon that's about to pop. If you don't recognize Merico from last season's American Idol, maybe you caught him on Nickelodeon's Every Which Way or a few other bit acting roles (per IMDB).

After performing "You Say" by Lauren Daigle on piano, the judges had a chance to critique him. While Perry and Bryan both focused on his ego, Richie was the harshest.

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"Nick, we have a problem," Richie says. "Because I don't like you. I gotta be honest with you, I don't like you and for some weird reason it's not sitting well with me. I don't like your attitude and I don't really think you're gonna make it in Hollywood."

Was he being serious?

After all, this current panel of judges is known for being endlessly positive. Long gone are the days of fake bad auditions and Simon Cowell's attacks. This trio builds people up! He might be serious, but the episode did take a positive spin. Richie said these things to hurt him in an effort to break Merico down and then build him back up. It all ends with hugs and handshakes and yes, a golden ticket.

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