Tonight's Idol Duets gave some finalists the much needed opportunity to prove themselves before the last judges' vote

By Justin Kirkland
February 19, 2016 at 04:08 AM EST
Ray Mickshaw/Fox
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The judges said that this new and collaborative round of American Idol would have little impact on which seven finalists will move forward, but if your name is Jenn Blosil, you just can’t afford to think like that.

Let’s just be honest about last night: It wasn’t Idol‘s strongest showing, but I’m an optimist. I believe in the power of this one-time American juggernaut, and I’m not ready to accept that the only formidable contenders from last night were a guy who wears jeans that I can only get one leg into and a girl who has the last name “Rox.” That’s not to say that I don’t love Dalton and Olivia, but I’m back tonight because I want vindication. I want to see these guys RISE UP. I also want to see Kellie Pickler because how much do you love her accent? Last week, duets weren’t as strong as the solo performances, but this week, I feel like it might flip on us.

Amelia Eisenhauer, “Suds in the Bucket”

Partner: Kellie Pickler

Rank: Tenth

So once upon an audition, I said that Amelia should win this season. But as soon as “Suds in the Bucket” kicked off, it became clear that these duets weren’t meant to showcase this season’s idols. It’s meant to re-live the heyday of the Idol greats. I love Kellie Pickler (especially since her inspired contemporary routine on Dancing With the Stars), but Amelia was nothing but a solid fiddle backup for her. To be clear, Amelia deserved a better song than “Wake Me Up,” and she deserved more exposure than she got tonight because Amelia has so much more talent than we were allowed to see. This was a lot closer to what Amelia should have been singing last night, but with no actual highlight for her, Amelia didn’t benefit too much.

Kory Wheeler, “Benny and the Jets”

Partner: Haley Reinhart

Rank: Fifth

Lord, Haley Reinhart is an American Idol treasure. And “Benny and the Jets” is practically Reinhart canon, so it’s a tall order for precious little Kory. But in a crazy, crazy turn of events, he came to life and held his own against Haley like a pro. Kory needed a big moment to keep him in the race, and this was it. If the Tennessee spirits and the magic in Kory’s blue eyes had anything to do with it, this performance should’ve been enough to keep him around.

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Lee Jean, “Home”

Partner: Chris Daughtry

Rank: Sixth

My favorite Chris Daughtry quote is now officially, “Sometimes the mic needs a hug.” The best part of that quote is that Chris Daughtry is the master of the microphone hug — both tender and aggressive in the way you imagine a perfect boyfriend would be. But then there’s Lee Jean. Little, tiny, talented Lee Jean, who is only comfortable singing Ed Sheeran. That became painfully evident when he took on Daughtry’s “Home” because for the first two-thirds of the song, he sounded absolutely terrified. Granted, he’s very talented and has a wonderful tone to his voice, but it was clear that Lee was out of his comfort zone. The judges gave him praise for the performance, which made sense because, even at his worse, Lee Jean still is a season stand out.

NEXT: Are you rushing or are you dragging?

CJ Johnson, “The World I Know”

Partner: David Cook

Rank: Twelfth

Look at these rock bros. Just hanging out, playing guitars and stuff. How innovative would it be if the final winner of American Idol was a white guy who can play guitar? Revolutionary! They tackled the last song David played on his season because of course they did. Next to David, CJ had some trouble standing out. It also didn’t help that some of the notes are completely outside of CJ’s register. CJ vaguely hit the falsetto at the end, but in comparison to last night’s performance of “I’ll Be,” it doesn’t hold water. The judges noted that in comparison to the first performances, it kind of dragged along. Poor CJ.

Manny Torres, “No Air”

Partner: Jordin Sparks

Rank: Seventh

Jordin Sparks is my favorite mentor because she showed up in her fashion-forward blazer, looked at Manny, and essentially said, “I don’t care if you’re sexy. Tell me how you feel.” If this had been a Pokémon battle, the screen would have read: Manny used charm. It was very ineffective. But Jordin had a point because once on the stage, her passion pulled out the best in Manny. Without that passion, Manny would have been swallowed alive by Jordin’s sheer range. I don’t know if it’s the strongest duet, but it was one of Manny’s best nights.

Jenn Blosil, “My Funny Valentine”

Partner: Constantine Maroulis

Rank: Second

True confession: I didn’t like Constantine’s version of “My Funny Valentine.” But I do think that Jenn’s voice could lend itself to a haunting version of this standard. To be frank, Jenn could have skipped the duet portion this week and performed this on her own, and I would have been completely okay with it. To be even more frank, the worst parts of the performance were when they sang together because it was like eating hot sauce and ice cream. I love hot sauce, and I love ice cream, but together they’re pretty gross. Of all the duets to date, this is the first time that the mentee did better than the mentor, and if Jenn sticks with songs like this, she could ride them to the end.

Tristan McIntosh, “Best Days of Your Life”

Partner: Kellie Pickler

Rank: Eighth

I guess I haven’t been paying attention, but apparently Tristan is a country singer. I don’t remember that happening, but that seems to be the story. “Best Days of Your Life” is one of Kellie’s most vocally demanding songs. I’m not sure if Tristan and Kellie got started on the wrong timing, but the performance seemed to be both rushing and dragging. Fortunately, J.K. Simmons isn’t guest judging. It also didn’t help that Tristan was tasked with the lower part of the song’s harmony. Throughout the performance, Tristan did her best to make up for those tricky opening notes, but it never quite got to the point that it felt like she mastered the song. Keith even questioned if she knew the song before the performance. Yikes.

NEXT: What to do when your brain throws up

Scott Borchetta comes back this week to throw some sideways shade at the contestants’ performances from last night before pivoting to the camera and flashing that snarky smile of his. Oh, Scott. You are too much.

Olivia Rox, “Light On”

Partner: David Cook

Rank: Third

Slate was cleared. I was here for Olivia Rox tonight, judgment free. I’m still going to make the argument that Olivia Rox sounded nothing like she did last night. But I’m also going to make the argument that she wasn’t trying to be David Cook tonight, meaning that we have to assume that whatever voice we heard coming from Olivia Rox tonight was actually her authentic voice. Tonight, that voice was pretty incredible. David noted that if she sings in her pocket (BUT HONESTLY, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS POCKET THEY KEEP REFERENCING TONIGHT?), she can go a long way in the competition. Once someone explains to me what a pocket is, I will probably agree.

Adam Lasher, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

Partner: Haley Reinhart

Rank: Ninth

I loved Adam Lasher last night, but as soon as I found out he and Haley were taking on “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” I lost hope. I don’t know if you guys have seen this commercial that completely redefined every expectation I have about dating and marriage, but it uses Haley’s version of the song. In a word, it’s perfect. The pairing of Adam and Haley, though? It felt pretty similar to a middle school slow dance. The most unfortunate part was that Haley gives Adam a chance to shine, like a true musician, and he didn’t do much with it. He looked incredibly uncomfortable the entire time. Adam is a good singer, but that performance wasn’t what it needed to be.

Dalton Rapattoni, “Higher Ground”

Partner: Chris Daughtry

Rank: Fourth

Apparently, when Dalton found out he was performing with Chris, he “threw up in his brain, in a good way.” Imagine doing that for a moment. Okay, let’s move forward. “Higher Ground” was a Chris Daughtry Idol classicso it’s wonderful hearing him take it on again. What’s really fun about this performance is that Dalton and Chris are two very different types of rockers who work really, really well together.

But as great as the performance was, we need to rank the best parts of the Dalton performance/judging, because there were a lot:

3) Dalton and Chris Daughtry’s harmony

2) Lee Jean wheeling out Chris’ record plaque, reaching for a high-five and getting denied

1) Ryan Seacrest singing “Ignition (Remix)” and dancing around the stage

NEXT: Sometimes I wish I’d never been paired up at all

Trent Harmon, “To Love Somebody”

Partner: Jordin Sparks

Rank: First

I repeat: Jordin Sparks has handily given the best advice of any mentor tonight, and with this song and Jordin’s help, Trent had no reason but to soar. She told him to calm down on the vibrato, and guess what? He listened, and the performance was upsettingly wonderful. Without doubt, Trent and Jordin gave the best performance of the night, but even more important than that, Trent showed that he was able to improve. And when you’re already a strong contender, that can only bode well for your future.

Shelbie Z., “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Partner: Constantine Maroulis

Rank: Eleventh

I did it for Olivia Rox, so I’m doing it for Shelbie Z. Clean slate. I prayed about it, and I’ve left my Shelbie Z. assumptions behind, even if someone thought it was a good idea for Shelbie Z. to take on Queen. The judges questioned why she would be doing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” let alone doing it as a duet, but I’m going to throw out a controversial opinion: It wasn’t Shelbie Z.’s fault. Constantine was yelling and hollering, and Shelbie Z. was just being dragged along behind him, as if she were one of those strange tapestries that producers seem to attach to the back of all of her outfits. Tough break for Shelbie Z.

RESULTS

The judges announced their vote for who should move forward:

Lee Jean

Olivia Rox

Jenn Blosil

Dalton Rapattoni

Manny Torres

Tristan McIntosh

Trent Harmon

LORD. I was legitimately worried for a minute that somehow, in this crazy world, Trent wasn’t going to make it through. But that also means that Amelia, CJ, Adam, Kory, Kory’s blue eyes, Shelbie Z., and all that drapery tied to all of Shelbie Z.’s blouses must go. Are you particularly enraged to see anyone cut this week? I know, for one, I’m going to miss Amelia and those fiddle skills. Hit the comments with your rage thoughts, or let me know on Twitter @justinkirkland4. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week when we finally take back control from these crazy judges.

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.
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