American Idol recap: Meet your Top 11
This round of cuts really stings.
Prepare yourselves, people! American Idol goes from 20 artists to 10. Well, it’ll probably be 11 since the judges have one save to use and can only use it in this round. How awful would it be if they learned who made the Top 10 and were just like “Nah, we’re good”? Speaking of awful, do we think it’s better or worse to be cut in this remote format? On one hand, you don’t have to worry about ugly crying on live television, but on the other, you just turn off your iPhone camera and your Idol journey is over? Harsh.
In addition to the Top 10 performances (Ryan Seacrest is announcing the contestants moving on one-by-one), each of the judges had a nice virtual sit down with music industry pros to offer up some advice to the contestants (and also, mostly, to fill time). Katy Perry (who walks out as a toilet paper roll, but mercifully does not wear this outfit the entire time) talks to Charlie Puth about finding your identity as an artist, Luke Bryan talks to Darius Rucker about connecting with an audience, and Lionel Richie chats with Stevie Wonder about songwriting and committing to your craft. They’re nice interludes, but it does not distract from the fact that tonight will be a bloodbath of cuts. This one is the toughest of all. So who makes it through to the Top 10 and what do they sing for us next? Let’s take a look.
Louis Knight // “In My Place” by Coldplay
The English heartthrob nabs the first spot in the Top 10! This is not surprising whatsoever. Louis seems genuinely floored and it’s nice to see a kid know how special this moment is for him. He can’t even take the “heartthrob” status seriously, as evidenced by the handful of pushups he attempts before giving up. His place is behind a piano and he proves that once again with this song choice. I’m with Luke: It’s not the most exciting performance, but Louis knows what works for his voice and what his demo of voters want. When all three of the judges make some note about his “star quality” you know what his strength is.
Julia Gargano // “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
Every contestant should celebrate their place in the Top 10 by yelping “Holy cannoli!” It just feels good, doesn’t it? The judges are floored by Julia’s subtle yet intricate take on this Billy Joel classic, dedicated to New York City. Her control over her vocals paired with that gritty texture she has means she not only gets a standing ovation from them, but both Katy and Luke get on their knees to bow down to her — and Katy’s pregnant, so you know that’s no easy task. Luke is so excited he just lists a string of adjectives to describe the performance: “elegance and maturity and class and grace and beauty.” Both he and Katy declare it their favorite performance of the season.
Jovin Webb // “Voodoo” by Allen Stone
Jovin takes the third spot and celebrates with his son who is honestly too cute for words. The Allen Stone song he chooses here feels like a much better fit for this remote format than last week’s big Joe Cocker crowd pleaser. It’s more intimate and gives Jovin lots of space to show off the grittiness that makes his voice so memorable. Katy tells him that he made her feel like she “was at a bar in Nola having an extra dirty martini” which is a mood that I’d like to be in all the time. Luke comments on Jovin’s pitch problems earlier in the competition, but tells him that on this song he “did not hit one bad note.” He’s continually impressed with Jovin’s performance skills and how he makes anything coming out of his mouth feel so believable.
Grace Leer // “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland
After going through that bogus “America decides if you’re in the Top 20” nonsense when her talent clearly dictated a spot belonged to her, it’s nice that Grace gets an early pass into the Top 10. If last week the judges thought she was a little shaky in the first half of her performance, she blows all doubters away with some major power behind her pipes here. Her country twang and sensibility is still felt in her arrangement, but as Luke says, she’s showing off a completely different side of herself with this choice. It is “big and bold all throughout,” Katy tells her, pleasantly surprised to find a new shade to Grace’s voice.
Jonny West // “Faithfully” by Journey
Well, this is certainly an interesting song to choose to sing alone with a keyboard in your living room. Jonny West knows what he’s doing though. There aren’t really any "wow" moments, but he artfully weaves his way through his arrangement of this song. Luke notes how effortless it is and commends him for his “well-placed falsetto moments.” Katy is ready to see him at one of his shows and compares him to Alejandro. Lionel tells Jonny that he’s gone from “that shy guy to that sexy guy” and Jonny can’t stop laughing. But guys, when The Lionel Richie tells you you’re sexy, you better own that.
Sophia James // “In My Room” by The Beach Boys
Okay, I’m obsessed with Sophia calling her dad, her brother, and herself “The Wack Pack.” More video diaries from them, please! Sophia knows that she really needs to bring it in these intimate settings because unlike on a big stage with a full band and live audience, there’s nowhere to hide here. Her version of this Beach Boys song has some drama and definitely a magical quality, as Luke says. He calls her a “wonderful vocalist” and was really drawn in by her performance here. Lionel can see that she’s figured out where her “delivery sweet spot is” and he loves how she performed this song and made it her own.
Arthur Gunn // “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
There is so much joy pouring out of Arthur Gunn when he performs, it’s a thing to see. He puts a reggae spin on the John Denver classic — a song that reminds him of growing up — and it’s impossible not to smile along with him. Katy loves that he’s connecting more with the audience simply by looking into the camera with more confidence. Luke applauds Arthur for putting his own spin on the song. Arthur’s been compared to Bob Marley a lot, so this version of this song “showcased [him] in a perfect way,” according to Luke.
Just Sam // “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers
Oh, I’m just back from that good cry I had watching Just Sam find out she made the Top 10 and then calling up her grandma to tell her the good news. It's hard for Sam to be away from her and from Harlem at this time. All of that emotion informs Sam’s song choice this evening and this song does a lot more for her artistry-wise than last week. There’s no real show-stopping moment, but Lionel simply enjoys seeing how much Sam enjoys this process. Katy loves seeing how easy moving through that song was for her. Luke gives her the best compliment of all: She sounds great in all sections of her range — there’s no real weak spot.
Dillon James // “Yesterday” by the Beatles
Ugh, speaking of family moments bringing tears to my eyes, Dillon’s staying with his parents and younger siblings and his mom tears up talking about how nice it is to see how close her children have gotten throughout this. Unfortunately, Dillon’s performance isn’t quite as moving. The judges find it to be a little paint-by-numbers. Luke wanted Dillon to slow things down and make it his own and Katy adds that it needed a little bit of openness and breathiness. It’s certainly not his best performance on the show, but he has an undeniable It Factor.
Francisco Martin // “Falling Like the Stars” by James Arthur
Guys, if Francisco didn’t make the Top 10 after his “Teenage Dream” performance from last week that I still cannot stop thinking about, I was going to flip a table. So, I’m glad to see him nab the last spot. I’m also glad to see that he continually knows the perfect songs to pick for his voice. On this James Arthur track, Francisco’s voice is clear and he knows how to play the dynamics of the song. More than that, there’s so much emotion brimming with every note, I mean, Katy is bawling by the end of it. When Francisco shakes off his nerves, he can really go there.
Judge’s Save: Makayla Phillips // “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert
There was never a doubt the judges would use their save, but how to pick one from the 10 remaining contestants? I’m surprised it wasn’t Franklin Boone, although the Top 10 is already male artist heavy, so going with one of the female artists remaining makes sense. Out of all the Teen Girls left (it seems I was not the only one tired of the Teen Girl Parade), the judges pick Makayla for her technical vocal ability. It seems she really took the notes on her “Greedy” performance last week to heart and selected a song that would allow her to connect emotionally. It’s the softest performance we’ve seen from this power vocalist. The judges are happy to see she took their constructive criticism and showed growth. It’s the most mature she’s sounded.
Next week we’ll learn who has made it into the Top 7. It’s not as dramatic of a cut as this week is, but still, there’s a lot of worthy artists left in this group. Who do you think deserves a spot?