Oh, and by the way, can we discuss what was going on with Katy Perry’s dad? I’m not here to judge anyone’s parents, but bro was wearing a chain and a leather hat. A. Leather. Hat. That’s because American Idol is bizarre these days. But tonight is the Top 24, or at least the first half of them. They take the stage to give us some big solo performances, and tomorrow, they’ll give some all-star duets. And then they’ll be narrowed down to start forming the Top 14. But for now, let’s discuss these solo performances.
Dominique, “Ain’t Nobody”
Kicking off group one, Dominique’s take on the Chaka Khan is a strong opener, but sometimes I question why you would choose a song from the 1980s if you’re not willing to do much with the arrangement to make it seem modern. That’s no love lost for Chaka, because hello, but Dominique takes her song and does it well, but it’s still Chaka’s song. Katy Perry gives a strange critique, but ultimately the judges like what Dominique put out there. I hope he pushes onward.
Layla Spring, “A Broken Wing”
Layla’s already having the best week because she met Lauren Alaina via FaceTime. She takes on Martina McBride’s 1990s hit “A Broken Wing,” and almost immediately the song gets away from her. Martina’s voice is insanely full and powerful, and you don’t come at Martina notes from below. There’s also this strange thing that I get hung up on, which is the content of the song. Based on the lyrics and music video, the song is about a woman in an abusive marriage, so it’s tricky to see Layla, a 16-year-old, take that on. The judges love it, but guys.
Catie Turner, “Call Me”
Man, Idol is really selling Catie Turner’s strangeness, but at the end of the day, Catie is good. So she tackles “Call Me” after a somewhat shaky performance of “Bad Romance.” She comes on stage in this wild dress that looks like the scandalous 1800s. But then she pulls her hair down, and it’s clear that girlfriend is not done. Vocally, the song is on point, and it’s so nice to see Catie continuing to absolutely dominate. I’m not sure where Catie’s place is in this world, but wherever it is, I want to be there.
Dennis Lorenzo, “Rude”
Well, that was fine. Would I say that it’s the strongest performance of the night? No way. But it’s charming and good enough that he should be fine for a week or so. There’s not much from the performance that makes me want to rush and see if it’s available to download. Dennis still has a bit of a way to go.
Michelle Sussett, “If I Were a Boy”
America loves a dancer! But tonight, Michelle, or as my friend calls her “Baby Selena,” is going to tone it down a bit. Tackling Beyonce is bold, but the arrangement is clearly designed for a memorable performance. The stage presence is INCREDIBLE, and her bilingual take is incredible, but the vocals (at times) were a little bit shaky. And that red/black combo is incredible. I want to see Michelle thrive…time will tell if she does.
Michael J. Woodard, “Golden Slumbers”
Well, damn. Remember when Michael showed up and took everyone down a couple pegs by setting the bar so incredibly high. For the record, this song was released 50 years ago, and somehow, Michael made it a 21st century slow hit. Standing in front of the audience in a navy blue jumpsuit that’s plain as day, all he needed was to stand in front of the audience and sing, and from that, he completely demolished anyone standing in his way.
Trevor McBane, “Way Down We Go”
Leaning all the way into his wheelhouse, Trevor goes for Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go,” which is perfectly matched to his style. In a way though, it seems like the song gets away from him a little bit, as if he’s not sure what to do with the simplicity. He reminds me a bit of a Nathaniel Rateliff that is looking for the right song that allows him to break loose. I’m not sure that this song was the one for it, but Trevor has a story to tell.
Jonny Brenns, “Georgia”
Honestly, the idea of Vance Joy for Jonny didn’t make a ton of sense to me, but as soon as he started singing, it was clear that Jonny knew what he was doing. It provided a number of opportunities for his vocal gymnastics to take the lead. Mind you, they’re also pushing him to be sexy and charming, and maybe that’s not Jonny, ya know? I don’t need to see him hold a girl’s hand. I’m happy to see Jonny simply be an incredible vocalist.
Kay Kay, “Love on the Brain”
Upon further encouragement to open up more, Kay Kay is being forced to take some of that polish off and be vulnerable. I’m not sure if she accomplishes that, but I’m obsessed with the gigantic hoop earrings she’s sporting. What works so well on the original is that it’s a bit of a Motown, doo-wop performance, and Kay Kay insisted on making every note count. Does that make for a good Idol video? Sure. But it’s not sustainable on a single.
Brandon Diaz, “Hello”
Oh, here we go. Lionel’s song. Brandon’s taking on the legendary hit, and he’s going to essentially stay true to form. And you know what? It works. There’s a few kinks that could have been worked out, tonally, but there’s so many more standout moments than hiccups. And it’s worked in a way that it feels like the song could be re-released, but ultimately, with a situation like this you have to either nail it or flounder, and it seems like Brandon didn’t really do either. Anyway, it all ends with this very bizarre duet where Ryan Seacrest sings and Luke Bryan almost drops Katy Perry.
Gabby Barrett, “My Church”
That is a concert performance, y’all. She turned it up a notch, and if it were ending a concert, it would be perfect. As an Idol performance, it was a lot, but the thing is, Gabby is talented. What is a bit frustrating, though, is that Maren Morris’ breakaway hit is the best of the country-tailgate anthems, and Gabby’s performance pulled away from the sing-a-long-ability of the song. “My Church” isn’t meant to be that complicated. If you want to choose a slam dunk ballad, be obvious about it.
Cade Foehner, “All Along the Watchtower”
In a total departure from the rest of the night, Cade feels a bit like a returning artist who has hit the stage to give Idol viewers a taste of something that they might not otherwise try out. Taking on the Jimi Hendrix version, it’s a full-on rock performance, and it’s enough to make Katy Perry take her wrap off and ask Cade for more. Someone screams out, “She’s ready to roar!” and somehow this whole thing has turned into a Katy Perry wet dream. Cade is good, y’all. We just need to be fine with Katy Perry passing out during it.