Um, so…that’s it for Group Rounds? We get the conclusion to the saga of Nate Walker and his hospital visit—his voice is wrecked, but he pushes through and his entire group gets sent ahead to the next round—but then that’s it! It’s a shame because Group Rounds force people to sing songs outside of their own genre, which is extremely telling. I mean, look at Logan Johnson, another member of Nate’s group. He’s up there singing “For the Longest Time” and I don’t think I’ve ever liked him more. It’s a bit of a let down that after spending so much time on auditions, we fly through the truly interesting rounds ahead of the live shows.
Regardless, we have arrived at The Solos Round. The 70 or so contestants who remain will each sing a song in front of the judges, backed by a band, but receive no feedback. After everyone has performed, they’ll be split into three rooms and two of those rooms will be full of people moving forward to the Top 40. The third room will be sent home.
As the Solos Round starts, it’s quite clear: You want to be in the same room as Walker Burroughs. He floors the judges with Elton John’s “Your Song.” Katy says what we’re all thinking: “Harry Potter can sing!” And he gets a standing ovation—always a sign you’re in the clear. So, yeah, if you see Walker in your room, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The same can be said for Ryan Hammond. Unfortunately, he’s been reduced to “the guy who lost a ton of weight,” but he completely murders Adele’s “All I Ask.” A true life accomplishment.
On the flip side, if you find yourself in one of the three rooms with Juan Pablo, you should be worried. Katy warned him of being too cheesy, but his problem in this round turns out to be his vocals. Whether he’s tired or the song (Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons”) just got away from him, who is to say, but it’s not a great audition.
The same goes for Kai the Singer. She actually sounds better than she did in her audition, but the entire time she was singing (she chooses Freya Ridings’ “Lost Without You”) I just wanted her to open up to some soaring vocals. She never gets there. The judges think nerves have gotten the best of her. I mean, yeah, it was her first time on both a plane AND AN ESCALATOR. She has a lot going on at the moment.
A big theme of the evening is song choice. Well, let’s be real, that’s the theme of this show. Song choice makes an American Idol. The judges warn the remaining contestants about this and are glad to see some of that warning stuck with people, as evidenced by future country superstar Riley Thompson selecting “Ring of Fire” for her solo, and Evelyn Cormier haunting all of our dreams with Oasis’s “Wonder Wall.” Seriously, I’m haunted.
Katy, Luke, and Lionel are disheartened, however, to learn that some of the remaining singers heard what they said and thought, “Oh, you know, I’ll just do an original song.” You guys, never do an original song in the Solos Round, okay? Early favorites like Eddie Island and Wade Cota both choose to do originals and the judges are less than impressed. At one point, Lionel’s like, “You have one shot and you do that?” It’s actually awesome. Papa Lionel will cry over almost anything, but he’ll also speak some hard truths. He’s taking care of you, that’s all!
The only person to risk it all with an original and get away with it is our little musical genius, Alejandro Aranda. He gets a standing ovation after his song “Ten Years” and honestly, I’m scared to see him being constricted to theme weeks when he inevitably makes it to the live shows. Let this baby bird fly, you know?
The other crusher of dreams during Hollywood Week is the exhaustion. Haven’t you heard? These people are tired. A potent mix of exhaustion and nerves gets to both Margie Mays and Tyler Mitchell. Margie was much better in her Line of Ten, but that doesn’t seem to bother the judges. Tyler, however, completely blanks on the lyrics to Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos,” a song he sings regularly. This breakdown is pretty tough to watch. He’s so hard on himself. It’s a real shame because right up until he forgets the lyrics, Luke Bryan is so into it. We’ll see if it’s enough to carry him through.
We’re going to just breeze through the section in which Idol reminds us that some contestants have SO MUCH RIDING ON THIS because come on Idol, the Sad Stories are for Audition Rounds! Hollywood Week is all about talent, baby.
Speaking of: Finally, we get to Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. He’s another one I’m interested to see perform within Idol’s themes each week, and he’s also someone whose album I would like to have in my hands right at this moment. He sings Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” oh, excuse me, he sangs “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” This man has yet to have a bad performance.
I wish I could say the same for two Audition standouts, Myra Tran and Shayy. Oh boy, If you’re going to sing “I Put a Spell on You,” you need to both know all of the lyrics and make me feel things. Neither of those happens when Myra takes the song on. She has a big voice, but the judges aren’t impressed with this performance. Shayy selects Carrie Underwood’s “Cry Pretty,” a song she’s never sung before. Why? Why! You can tell she doesn’t fully connect to this one. Have two of our biggest voices done themselves in? Time will tell!
Thankfully, there are several standouts who don’t disappoint, including Laci Kaye Booth, who at this point can do no wrong for me (don’t make me eat my words later, girl!) and Uché, who makes a smart decision to tone it down and show the judges he can wail sans gimmicks. Another judge’s favorite, Madison Vandenburg, did apparently pay attention to the judges’ speech about original songs. She’s about to perform one, but eventually switches to Adele’s “All I Ask.” It is a very, very good choice.
The Solo Round concludes with some smooth performances from people like Alyssa Raghu who shows off her pipes on Pink’s “What About Us” and Shawn Robinson who tackles Stevie Wonder and lives to tell the tale. There are a few rocky ones, like Austin Michael Robinson’s last-minute decision to switch songs to Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute,” which turns out to be a disaster. Oh, and there’s a proposal. Johanna Jones finishes up “Wicked Game,” which I love on her voice and then her boyfriend comes out and pops the question. Could you even hear it over Katy’s wailing?
Anyhoo, let’s get down to what we all came here for: The big cut. This year, the Top 40 will be performing in front of a live crowd in Hawaii, so hey, even more of a reason to want to survive Hollywood Week. I mean, the “living out your dreams” thing is cool, but you guys—Hawaii!
Since American Idol was pretty transparent with who the frontrunners are this season, there’s very little suspense once we learn who is in which room. I mean, I had trouble remembering performances for most of the people they name in the “no” room. The Top 40 does feel pretty stacked though, so cuts from now on will probably be divisive. Fun! For now, let’s get to the big announcements.
Room 1 contains people like Laci Kaye Booth, Uché, Alejandro Aranda, Laine Hardy, Walker Burroughs, Margie Mays, Shayy, Drake McCain, Evelyn Cormier, Ashley Hess, Kai the Singer, Madison Vandenburg, Ryan Hammond, Johanna Jones, and yes, Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. There’s no doubt they’re going through, and Katy lets them know the good news.
Room 2 gets the “no” this year. We say goodbye to contestants including Austin Michael Robinson, Juan Pablo, Gaba, Katie Belle, and Moriah Formica. Hey, at least it’s Papa Lionel who lets them down, right? Like, I know Hawaii and a shot at superstardom is a true prize, but so is Lionel Richie telling you he’s proud of you. Too soon? Okay.
That means Room 3 is headed to Hawaii as well. Wade Cota, Nate Walker, Tyler Mitchell (he was the saddest, I’m so happy about this turn of events!), Alyssa Raghu, Assata Renay, Bumbly, Dimitrius Graham, Riley Thompson, Eddie Island, Myra Tran, and Logan Johnson can all breathe easy. Luke does a cruel fake out that I do not approve of, but all is forgiven once he lets them know that their dreams are not dead after all.
On that note, let’s peel out of Hollywood and take our Top 40 to Hawaii. The previews show Katy wearing an insane headpiece and I, for one, cannot wait to see it in action. There’s so much to look forward to! Like Wade Cota, I, too, must invest in some more shorts.
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