American Idol recap: The Top 20 fight to wow the judges
If you’re only now recovering from the Top 40 three-hour extravaganza in Hawaii, you better buckle up, kid. We’re back in Los Angeles with the newly crowned Top 20 and over the course of two hours, we’ll hear each and every one of them make their case as to why they should make it to Idol’s Top 14, vocally-speaking. Ryan Seacrest calls it a “Music Marathon” and he’s not wrong. There’s surprisingly no filler, just performance after performance. And no, it’s not an April Fool’s Joke. This is for real! This is American Idol!
Madison VanDenburg // “Domino” by Jessie J
Madison isn’t the most interesting contestant on the docket, but this girl has pipes. The judges are still comparing her to Queen Kelly which is probably a blessing and a curse. Lionel also points out that she should push herself in the stage presence area, something I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot of tonight. The judges want the whole package!
Shawn Robinson // “Jealous” by Nick Jonas
Shawn hits a note so high, the judges leap to their feet. They love that he’s still surprising them with his vocal ability and Lionel advises him to continue pushing himself. Every party has a pooper, and this Holy Hell That High Note Party’s pooper is Katy Perry. She misses his rich, low register. That’s great too, but let’s not knock the high notes, ya know?
Laine Hardy // “Bring It On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
More wearing suits while playing guitar! Laine knows exactly what he’s doing — and he’s playing to win this thing. Lionel tells us all we’re in trouble now that Laine’s discovered some Elvis hip moves. As fun as his stage persona is becoming, I also just love that rasp in his voice. That rasp will win me over every time. But yes, keep up the suits.
Uché // “Figures” by Jessie Reyez
Uché is such a great contestant for this kind of show because you never know which Uché you’re going to get. It keeps things exciting and fresh, which once we get a few more rounds into this competition, we might need. Tonight, Uché slows things down and focuses on vocals. He passionately throws the mic stand. Katy faints. It’s a great performance.
Eddie Island // “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers
Eddie’s job at this point in the competition was to show the judges and the audience that he’s more than his wacky personality, that he’s taking this seriously—and he accomplishes that with this performance. You can really see where he’d fit as an artist. The judges are very excited to see this transformation.
Evelyn Cormier // “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver
Evelyn’s voice makes me very sad, but, like, in a good way. Katy continues to call her “one of the most unique voices she’s ever heard,” and even skeptic Luke Bryan is a fan now. She definitely offers something different to the competition, although I wonder how the voting audience will feel about her vibe if she makes it to that point. They’re not always kind to the people trying to do something different on this show. Sorry, not sorry.
Alyssa Raghu // “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore
I’m with Luke on this one: This was not a great song to show off Alyssa’s chops. The performance is full of energy and she is all over that stage, but the vocals never wow. I’m ready for a Raghu ballad. Although Katy loves that Alyssa is owning her pop princess dreams, she wants Alyssa to show them everything she can do. I do, however, hope she never leaves the show simply so I can hear Luke Bryan yell “Raghu!” every week. WE ALL HAVE OUR DREAMS.
Ryan Hammond // “You Say” by Lauren Daigle
Hey, have you guys heard that Ryan lost a ton of weight? JUST MAKING SURE. Can we focus on his insane voice, show? Because he is continually making me cry with every performance and that’s like one of the top things I look for in my American Idol. The judges actually want to feel more from Ryan, but honestly, if he starts giving us more feeling I’m afraid for all of us. Would the tears ever stop?
Raquel Trinidad // “Lovefool” by the Cardigans
We’ve barely seen any performances from Raquel up to this point and that’s a shame. I fear her “Lovefool” is not the best representative of what she does, but it’s all we have! She has a cool vibe and you can tell she’s already figured out her lane, but this song is a bit of a snooze. The judges agree that this isn’t the best song choice for Raquel, but they enjoy her authenticity. Is that enough to get her through to Top 14? We’ll have to see.
Logan Johnson // “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” by City and Colour
Any clunker of a song choice. Every Top 20 artist should have “song choice” tattooed on their body at this point. It is everything! Luke likes that Logan is up there with his guitar this round, but no one is riveted here. Remember when he did “Sorry” in Spanish? This is not that.
Dimitrius Graham // “Hello” by Adele
If Dimitrius doesn’t make it into the next round I will flip a table. He starts this off with some opera. You guys! Who is this person? He’s not flashy, but holy hell, he can put on a show with just his vocals. The judges seem wary that he might not be able to reel in his theatrics when he needs to, but I say bring them on. Opera!
Riley Thompson // “Jolene” by Dolly Parton
I AM HERE FOR THIS SONG CHOICE. Riley should be singing Dolly all day every day. The problem comes with her performance. She smiles throughout most of this song. It is…definitely not a smiley song. She needs to feel the pain! Obviously, she doesn’t have the life experience needed to deliver a song like this just yet, but she at least needs to study the lyrics and find a way to connect. Katy suggests rolling around in some dirt. I mean, whatever works, I guess?
Walker Burroughs // “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees
Ah, yes. Another excellent song. After his showcase performance in Hawaii, the judges were a little worried that Walker might not be able to command a stage. He allays those fears tonight. Katy tells him his song choice shows “intelligence” and Luke calls him a “seasoned pro” up on that stage. So, yeah, they aren’t worried anymore.
Bumbly // “Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
A bold choice to take on Mariah. Especially classic Mariah. We don’t have a lot to compare this performance to since we haven’t seen much footage of Bumbly up to this point, but she does seem nervous and the song feels rushed. Lionel could see her thinking about her notes, and Katy misses her personality. I guess we can assume this isn’t Bumbly at her best.
Ashley Hess // “Dreaming With A Broken Heart” by John Mayer
Katy’s right: It feels like we’re watching Ashley at one of her own shows. She makes it look effortless. After her showcase round, the judges told her they missed her being behind the piano, her obvious sweet spot, and now that she’s back at the piano, Katy tells her that she doesn’t connect with the audience when she’s sitting there. The girl can’t win! Anyway, Lionel calls her “solid” which isn’t a great pull quote or anything, but a decent review for the Top 20.
Alejandro Aranda // “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone
It’s hard to write about Alejandro because he is consistently great. Maybe I’m not as emotionally moved as I was with his cover of “Yellow” but still, he’s like a professional up there. Luke’s only “critique” is that he’s “not worthy to critique” Alejandro. That says it all, right? Please be good to him, America!
Kate Barnette // “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5
In the showcase round, they put Kate here in a package with Evelyn Cormier, claiming these two were both “coffee house” singers. Evelyn definitely has the unique factor down, but Kate feels more commercial. I like her vibe! The judges seem impressed with how much she’s grown since they first saw her, and this is definitely a good time to be improving.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon // “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan
Come for the heartbreaking vocals, stay for the turtleneck! Seriously guys, he wears a WHITE turtleneck and somehow it just feels so very Jeremiah. He’s becoming an artist before our very eyes! Lionel gives Jeremiah the highest of compliments, especially on this show, when big searing vocal moments are typically rewarded: He tells Jeremiah how special it is to simply tell a story with your voice, to draw people in without shouting. Papa Lionel loves Jeremiah so much!
Laci Kaye Booth // “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick
When Luke saw Laci’s song choice, he feared a “cheesy” slowed down version of the song, but there is nothing cheesy with Laci’s performance. She crushes hearts with this song. More than just delivering another heartfelt performance, Katy loves that she’s showing us a more confident Laci Kaye Booth. She’s consistently good, but the judges appreciate still being able to see her push herself, to grow as an artist.
Wade Cota // “All I Want” by Kodaline
Well, after the Top 40 Showcase Round and this performance it’s clear that Wade’s back. Lionel can’t even sit down during his critique—he thinks “the music business needs to be inspired” and that Wade is the guy to do it. I mean, we still have a ways to go on this show, but still, that is the kind of compliment you want to walk into live shows with. People believe in Wade!
How refreshing to have two hours of Idol all dedicated to singing! Next up, the Top 20 will be sharing the stage with some professionals before the judges cut six more contestants. I feel like there are a handful of people clearly safe, but those final few spots will cause some true angst. There’s a good crop of performers this season!