The Top 14 take the stage, but only 10 can advance on the road to becoming the next American Idol.
The top 14 is right there on the edge, you know? And this season of American Idol is such a beast, so scooting from that top 14 to the top 10? It’s harder than ever. The night on the whole felt a little lopsided at times, but it’s hard to argue that a single contestant wasn’t giving it their all tonight: from Ada Vox’s feathers to Mara Justine’s tears, here’s a quick rundown of the top 14 performances on American Idol.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson, “Midnight Train to Memphis”
I kind of love that Caleb Lee’s sad story starts with saying that he was born over 10 pounds. Granted, he’s made quite the weight loss journey that is anything but unnoticeable. He’s looking like a little heartthrob tonight, and in terms of my comments last week of him fading into Scotty McCreery’s shadow? Well, Caleb is choosing incredible songs. “Midnight Train to Memphis” helps to switch up his journey, even though the judges aren’t feeling it. He’s serving some folksy vibes, and I think that could seriously help him.
Michelle Sussett, “Friends”
Michelle is such an interesting contestant, because her angle could be one of a thousand things. She throws out some serious Selena vibes, while also telling her own very distinct immigrant story. Her voice borders on a Miley-tone at times, and then she releases one of those high-pitched lung ripper notes. She has all the makings of a pop star, but I’m not entirely sure she’s done enough to prove that. Luke and Lionel are big fans, but Katy suggests that there’s still more to prove.
Marcio Donaldson, “It’s a Miracle”
Oh Marcio, you lovable powerhouse. Taking on Barry Manilow and making it relatable is such an Idol power move. I think that’s part of what Idol had lost in recent years: pulling from an old song book and making it revamped enough for a new audience. That’s what Marcio is doing, with an exciting performance (in some incredible floral print pants). I’m not sure anyone is meeting their full potential on night one, but Marcio should be fine. He’s got a big fan in Lionel and Katy.
Mara Justine, “This Is Me”
Mara has so many faces. That’s not an insult. It’s just true. She’s constantly startled or excited or worried. She’s given a particularly fitting Taylor Swift edit, as this year’s high school outcast, but Mara’s vocal ability is stunning. With all that being said, “This Is Me” is a bit of a monster for her to tackle. Her runs and big notes don’t land as well as she’d hope, and her crying mid-performance doesn’t do her any more favors. It’s a tricky night because if the performance is turned down like 14 notches, Mara could shine. But a performance like “This Is Me” from a Hollywood-produced musical is nearly impossible to recreate, but I’d prefer her tackle “Audition” from La La Land before she tries “This Is Me” again.
Garrett Jacobs, “Raging Fire”
Nothing like giving the cute white guy with a guitar a song to sing by, well, a cute white guy with a guitar. There’s not a ton that Garrett builds upon, and at certain parts in the middle of the song, he goes a bit flat. But here’s the thing: No one on this show, Ada Vox and judges included, has better eyebrows than Garrett. There’s not a lot that will persuade you to remember this performance after tonight, but Garrett has staying power. There may not be another performer here who looks like a pop star that people will stan.
Ada Vox, “The Show Must Go On”
I am still stunned that a drag queen is on American Idol. I’m also stunned that drag queen has had some of the biggest standout moments of the season thus far. There’s something wonderfully perfect about Ada choosing Queen for this first big performance. In feathers and rhinestones, she commands the stage with an insane determination. I still can’t help but feel that the music is too loud for the singers, but if anyone can keep up with something loud, it’s Ada Vox. If the show hadn’t truly started, Ada Vox (who Luke said “the biggest voice I’ve ever heard, is right there)” proved that the show must go on.
Catie Turner, “Take Me to Church”
Fierce dress. Milkmaid braid. Unwavering vocals. Must be Catie Turner. Her following Ada (or vice versa) seems like a total death wish, right? They’re both big performers. But after Ada’s big moment, Catie turned it all on its head. Catie took a moment and made it big without having to truly make it big. Ada is a performer. Catie is a star. There is honestly no one this season, so far, that has the ability to surpass Catie’s talent. She doesn’t miss a beat, a note, a moment to show off her talent. The judges second that notion, but when you’re that talented, all you have to do is sing. Keep it up, Catie.
Cade Foehner, “Black Magic Woman”
Cade is so far removed from this competition. Where Catie is the epitome of what American Idol is about, Cade’s aesthetic and approach is such a far cry from the Idol mold that it worries me he’ll not have the opportunity to get his due. The past three performers may very well be your Top 3 this season. Cade’s badass approach at the mic, mixed with his shy charm once the music stops, is the epitome of why America may deliver him to the finish. And then, at the end of the performance, Katy pulls out an actual piece of Cade’s hair to give to her mom. YIKES.
Dennis Lorenzo, “In My Blood”
Okay, Shawn Mendes. A surprising song choice, considering that it takes so long to get to the meat of the song. Every performance should be treated with urgency, as if you only get 20 seconds. But if you care to hang around for this performance, Dennis turns it up to an 11 midway through, and he does everything you would hope for. In a string of very big notes, Dennis holds his own, and he’s starting to really look like someone who could take the crown of American Idol.
Maddie Poppe, “Homeward Bound”
I love that Maddie Poppe is doing her own thing. She’s choosing her own course and performing the songs that make the most sense for her, and that is such a defining quality in her presence. In a pack of big performers, Maddie’s choice of “Homeward Bound” is perfection. Her thoughtful approach and control of high notes makes her such an interesting artist to watch. She gives me all kinds of Alison Krauss vibes and clearly does something for the judges, who give her a standing ovation.
Jurnee, “Bang Bang”
Well. This is something. Jurnee taking on “Bang Bang” is, for lack of a better term, a real journey. Singing the parts of three women is daunting enough. Singing Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande? Nearly impossible. When Jurnee hits the notes, it’s incredible, but when she doesn’t, I’m not entirely sure it seems like she’s doing herself too many favors. The judges give her a standing ovation, but at the end of the day, I’m not entirely sure Jurnee knows exactly what she should be doing.
Jonny Brenns, “This is Gospel”
Jonny singing Panic! At the Disco after taking a ballet class is peak American Idol, y’all. But hear me out: taking on a Brendon Urie vocal is honestly a death sentence, but the way that Jonny approached it was perfect. He wasn’t trying to be Brendon. He was going full-on Jonny, and the idea I got is that he would actually be a really good Christian rock singer? His voice is full and strong, and maybe he’s not a frontrunner yet, but he definitely could have a career.
Michael J. Woodard, “Titanium”
Admittedly, I’m such a Michael fan. Like, he’s such a quirky young prince. And tonight, he tackles Sia, which is a feat. With a unique take on the song, Michael’s performance is so stunningly good when it’s good. And cringeworthy in the moments where he seems to forget the words. Mind you, it could just be a lack of elocution, but the fact still stands: When Michael hits the notes, which is almost always, he blows the top off the place. If he doesn’t make it to the Top 10, it’s a damn shame.
Gabby Barrett, “The Climb”
Well, after tonight’s performance, take note: Dream has two syllables. Donning her best Miranda Lambert-fringed mini-dress, Gabby takes on Miley Cyrus’ hit, “The Climb.” There’s nothing wrong with the performance (other than the A/V team putting her face over a sped up loop of sunset clouds). It just feels exactly like the performance I was expecting her to give. There’s nothing that seemed to say, “She’s better than she started,” and on shows like this, you have to continue to grow. Maybe that’s my hateful hot take at the end of the night, but in a group of 9s, you have to be an 11. Gabby is a consistent 10.
So, who are you rooting for? Who’s a shoo-in for the Top 10 and who could use those bonus votes? Tomorrow, the results are announced, and we’ll finally have our live show contenders.