The top 24 take the stage.

By Stephanie Schomer
March 19, 2015 at 05:26 PM EDT
Jeff Neira/Fox
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Tonight we take our first ever Idol road trip. (Not to be confused with that road trip the Idol bus takes.) Where are we? Detroit, of course! It’s not only a historical city, but also the home base of our favorite sponsor, Ford. Ryan is cold because, well, it’s only 1 degree outside. But he’s not wearing a scarf, so that’s on him.

But let’s forgive Ryan’s lack of outerwear and join him in the Motor City, where we’ll be for the next two weeks. (How thrilled are we to be at that point in the show when Ryan is actually present? I’ve missed him.) So this first round with the top 24 kicks off with the top 12 men. And though they just performed in front of a live audience at the House of Blues the past couple of episodes, this is different because the audience is presumably bigger and, well, now they’ve been dubbed Top 24. Or something.

First up tonight is Adam Ezegalian, who takes on Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock.” Here’s the thing about Adam: His voice is good. It really is. My friend Brad says that he prefers it to last season’s winner, Caleb. (Though I’m quick to point out that, while that may or may not be true, Brad will never buy this kind of rock album.) Here’s the other thing about Adam, with respect to this performance: It’s reads like a killer impression of Jack Black in School of Rock. I think I’ve made this comparison before and admittedly adore that movie, but it’s a little cartoonish. Vocally good, but feels outdated, I hate to say.

Next up is J.Lo’s prom date Michael Simeon, who has really won me over lately. I’m not sure why he’s singing Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” but let’s maybe just blame that on the available songbook for tonight’s show and move on. (Also maybe I love this song.) God, Michael is committed to making eye contact with the camera. He is such an every-bro. He seems nice enough, approachable enough, and loves a loosely tied tie with an untucked button-down and jeans. His vocal is fine. Not bad, but also relatively forgettable. He has a nice falsetto moment at the end, but I don’t think anyone is going to be pulling their hair out for this performance. (Except, of course, J.Lo, who loves it.)

Savion Wright’s up next, and I feel good about him. He’s got real showmanship, if you’ll allow me to go there. “Hey Soul Sister” by Train is his selection for the evening, and I’m just so confused by the songs they serve up to these kids in the early shows. Feels dated tonight, no? Song issues aside, Savion is a good entertainer, has a natural interaction with the crowd, but he’s not blowing me away with his vocal. He’s a little too excited, too loose, and he’s sacrificing his pitch for showmanship. Harry tells him that it was unfocused—but ultimately found its focus—and J.Lo reminds him that the America behind the camera is more important than the America in this Detroit theater. Wise advice, girl. Savion’s such a cutie, though. He’ll stick around, and he’ll find his groove.

My favorite former The Voice contestant Mark Andrew puts his hair in a headband and sings “The Weight” by The Band. You guys know I love Mark, right? I think he’s fantastic. He’s quiet and likable in the way that Lee DeWyze was, but he has stronger stage presence and considerable (and convincing) confidence. He’s an easy sell for me, a natural performer. Look at him! He’s lovely, he’s talented, he’s natural. It’s so easy. (J.Lo tells him he has a real chance! Excellent. She’s being incredibly sensible tonight.)

Let me take a moment here and compliment the judges. You all know that I am a fan of these three, both individually and as a panel. And I appreciated their decisions last year, but it did leave us with an understated, dare I say boring, season. And they have totally corrected their errors for season 14. This group of 24 kids is so solid. Talented, both vocally and as entertainers. I really think they’re guiding us in the right direction.

Ah, time for one of my absolute faves, Trevor Douglas. Not sure if I love him because I think he can be a star (I’m not fully convinced yet, but I’m getting there), or because I just think he’s so precious and skinny. Probably the latter. Gavin Degraw’s “Best I Ever Had” is a good choice for him, and he’s so engaging on stage. Again, the crowd’s energy and his own adrenaline trips up his vocals a touch. He’s just too excited for a song of this pace, maybe. We’re not really hearing him, which is a shame, but it’s an entertaining show nonetheless. The judges are with us—the song got away from him, vocally, but the performance was fun. He’s a cutie; I hope he’ll make it through based on his performance and charm tonight (and the fact that we know he can actually sing). Bonus points to Trevor for saying “Good luck to you, too!” to Ryan Seacrest. Kid, Ryan Seacrest already has all the luck in the world.

NEXT: Brooklyn’s Qaasim brings some serious Uptown Funk.

Clark Beckham, hottie busker. We love him, don’t we? He’s arguably one of the best performers. He’s without any instrument tonight while he serenades us with “When a Man Loves a Woman,”  and it’s nice to see him really focusing on his vocals. His performance certainly isn’t missing a piano or a guitar, and his stage presence is still palpable. Again, we’ve got another natural performer. I really think he’s one to contend with. He goes for a big key change, and dude, it pays off. Keith gives it a standing O, J.Lo’s got goosies all day, and Harry thinks he’s talented. Applause, applause, Clark.

Rayvon! Rayvon, Rayvon, Rayvon. As if I didn’t love him enough, he sings “Jealous” by Nick Jonas. Rayvon gets a little swallowed by the music and the crowd. He sounds great, and he’s doing his best, but I want more. He’s got one of the stronger vocals of the night (that falsetto at the end, you guys!), but I need him to be a bit more in it. J.Lo reminds him to remember what he’s singing about (fantastic critique), and Harry calls him elegant, which I love.

Will Daniel Seavey be the Kevin Covais of this season? I say that with love—Kevin Covais is talented, and for what it’s worth, I think Daniel is significantly more talented than Kevin is, but I’m not sure what his market is. I guess I’m having a hard time looking past his cuteness, which is unfair. But the point is, I think he’ll go far in this competition. He sings “I’m Yours” (ugh), and Keith calls the performance “fascinating,” and I’m not sure how to take that. Neither is Daniel.

Riley Bria, #1 Keith Urban fan (and lookalike) breaks his guitar out for some Eric Church “Homeboy,” and it’s, at least in the beginning, the rockiest vocal of the night for me, though he does recover. He’s doing his best Keith impression in terms of performance, though again, it falls flat. Maybe I’m being a Grinch about it, because the judges loved it. I’m just meh. He’s a cutie, but meh.

Quentin easily wins the award for best song choice (“I Put a Spell on You”) and outfit (yeti costume). You know what else he wins for me? Best damn vocal performance of the night. This was such an understated and thoughtful performance and he was NOT messing around with his vocal. That was killer. If you didn’t watch it, Youtube it right now, readers. RIGHT NOW.

Nick Fradiani (where’s your beanie?) takes on Ed Sheeran, and my friends and I get in a fight because they tell me that he’s not attractive. Clearly they’re insane. But moving on, and getting back to the point, I think this is an excellent performance. He doesn’t miss a note and he has an ease on stage. Ugh, I’ve said that about plenty of the guys tonight. These eliminations are going to be really painful from here on out.

Precious virgin Qaasim brilliantly serves up “Uptown Funk” (so maybe we can blame the lame and old song choices on the other contestants?) and it is moving at a rapid pace, but he keeps up with it while rocking a killer white suit. He is hands down the best performer. Honestly, the way he’s dancing, playing to the camera, AND interacting with the audience is kind of mind-blowing for what is at the end of the day an amateur competition. To top it off, his voice is TIGHT. Wait, you guys, Qaasim just won this episode. I rewound my DVR to watch his performance for a second time before he even finished because I just wanted more! I’m grinning like a moron, for real. Nicely done, Brooklyn. Fantastic.

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE. We lose four of these boys before next week, and that is depressing. But I’ll see you next week, I have to go because I need to watch Qaasim’s performance for a third fourth fifth time, immediately. 

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