American Idol recap: We head to Hawaii to fill out the Top 20
Don't forget that 'Aloha' can mean hello or good-bye, folks.
We're going from Hollywood to Hawaii on American Idol this week, as our Top 40 are given one last chance to prove to the judges that they deserve a spot in the Top 20. Half of these contestants will be sent packing. That's a huge cut!
Before the contestants walk down the path to their "Final Judgment" in front of Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, they'll get to perform on stage in a Top 40 Showcase on the beach. Please note, the two Hawaii Showcase episodes were pre-taped and will be airing this Sunday and next Sunday, followed by two weeks of pre-taped specials as Idol decides how they'll handle their upcoming live rounds (more on that here) with regards to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
For now, though, let's see what the Top 40 has to offer and who will be given a coveted spot in the Top 20.
Nick Merico, 18, Woodland Hills, Calif.
“When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars
Nick’s had a bumpy road to the Top 40, huh? He returned after backing out of Hollywood Week in season 17, only to have Mr. Lionel Richie, he of copious hugs and unpreventable tears, dress him down. Yes, our Lionel! He didn’t like Nick’s ego. Nick took that feedback to heart and arrived at Hollywood Week a new man — and even had one of the best duets of the week. His Bruno Mars cover in front of the live audience in Hawaii is fine, but not the most exciting. He certainly fills that heartthrob pop star box well, which is why he earns a spot in the Top 20. Nick and Lionel share a big hug — they’ve come so far!
Makayla Brownlee, 17, Wellington, Kan.
“More Hearts Than Mine” by Ingrid Andress
The most dramatic part of Hollywood Week was certainly Makayla having to run off stage during her Solo Round performance because she was having a seizure. She returned and offered up a stellar, moving performance of Kacey Musgraves’s “Rainbow.” We’re all rooting for her! Unfortunately, her rendition of Ingrid Andress’s country hit is a mess. She’s completely changed the arrangement so that this tender, lovely song is faster — why not just choose a fast song?? — and Luke Bryan looks very confused when he sees what’s been done. She has a lot of pitch issues and lacks the confidence she’s known for. It’s far from her best and the judges have to cut half of the artists performing, so Makayla does not earn a spot in the Top 20.
Dewayne Crocker, Jr., 23, Pensacola, Fla.
“Old Town Road (Remix)” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
Dewayne Crocker, Jr., like Makayla Brownlee, wants to show the judges a different side of himself — he wants to show them he can entertain. Dewayne is much more successful than his predecessor in this effort. He takes a big risk with this song, but the judges are blown away by his confidence and ability to both sing well and put on a great show. Sure, Katy laments that showing up to sing that song with a cowboy hat on is a little bit of a gimmick, but as Lionel points out, “sometimes a gimmick will work.” It sure works here: Dewayne Crocker, Jr. is in the Top 20. He celebrates by dancing it out with Lionel Richie’s biggest fan, his great-grandma.
Camryn Leigh Smith, 16, Acworth, Ga.
“Break Every Chain” by Tasha Cobbs Leonard
During Hollywood Week, Camryn, a teen worship leader, was really pushed out of her comfort zone by having to sing all secular songs. She says she came out of it with much more confidence and courage. She also says that for this Hawaii Showcase, she wanted to remain true to herself, so she picked a worship song. It is certainly filled with passion, and Katy still loves Camryn’s voice, but Lionel doesn’t think Camryn connected to the audience enough. In her Final Judgment, Katy tells Camryn that they are looking for people to take risks in this round, but Camryn went back to where she felt safest. Her journey on American Idol is over.
We get a very sad montage of a few people getting cut, maybe to soften the blow? Geena not making the Top 20 feels right — she tries to amp up the crowd with a version of Bruno Mars’s “Finesse” but it seems like all the “performing” gets in the way of her vocals. Jordan Jones and Devon Alexander getting cut, however, remains a mystery. Jordan sings Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and really owns the sultriness of it, and Devon has never sounded more connected with the audience than he does on Demi Lovato’s “Tell Me You Love Me.” We only get to see snippets of people’s performances, so we don’t know for sure what the judges are hearing, but cutting these two over some other contestants is questionable.
Louis Knight, 19, Philadelphia, Penn.
“Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran
Speaking of, Louis Knight wowed the judges with his heartfelt audition but struggled a lot in Hollywood Week. The judges saw potential in Louie but wanted him to push himself more. He runs into the same problem in Hawaii. There are moments in his performance that are great, but it’s hit or miss. The judges flat out tell him this wasn’t his best performance and that he’s too in his head. Still, they just can’t quit him. He’s moving on to the Top 20. It’ll be interesting to see how he does once the audience vote starts.
Francisco Martin, 19, San Francisco, Calif.
“Falling” by Harry Styles
Francisco and Louis have been constantly compared to one another throughout this thing, mainly because they’re the same age and tick a lot of the same cute singer-songwriter vibe boxes. Tonight, however, Francisco proves that Luke Bryan was right to bet on him. The kid who looked like he might barf with nerves at any moment is gone. He is confident up on stage. He is emotionally connected both with the audience and the song. His vocals have never sounded better. If anyone was worried a live crowd might eat this kid alive (admittedly, me), they have been proven wrong. The judges see great things for Francisco and give him a spot in the Top 20.
Jovin Webb, 29, Gonzales, La.
“You Are the Best Thing” by Ray Lamontagne
No surprise here, Jovin Webb will also be moving forward into the Top 20. His “You Are the Best Thing” isn’t his best vocal performance, but he really puts on a show. I mean, hello, that spin move? That should be a prerequisite for making the Top 20 from now on. The judges love Jovin’s artistry and that he already knows his identity as a performer. He’s completely himself every time he performs. Luke notes that he doesn’t have a huge range, but because he knows how to work what he does have, he’ll be successful.
Faith Becnel, 20, Destrehan, La.
“Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan
Jovin’s duet buddy Faith is next. She’s another performer who doesn’t have the best night vocally but really owns the stage. First of all, this song choice lifts my soul. It is the truest of jams. Faith has been fronting a band for years, so she really feels comfortable and tells the judges at Final Judgment that she was in her element. They don’t deny it. They do warn her that she’ll have some work to do, but they can’t let go of someone with her potential just yet. She’s in the Top 20.
Amber Fiedler, 23, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
“Good Kisser” by Lake Street Dive
Oh, Amber. She’s certainly had a journey here on Idol. She came in and really stunned with her effortless, soulful vocals, but here in Hawaii she completely loses the “effortless” part. She’s trying way too hard to sell it to the crowd. Luke Bryan tells her that her performance was “a little too unbridled.” It was great to see so much energy up on stage, but it cost her in her vocal performance. Unfortunately, Amber will not be moving forward.
Just Sam, 21, Harlem, N.Y.
“Como La Flor” by Selena
Well, look at this! Just Sam offers up the first real surprise of the Hawaii Showcase when she walks out on stage in a BOLD RED LIP, a flower in her hair, and sings us all some Selena. The judges are shocked. “That’s what we call a metamorphosis,” Katy remarks after Just Sam truly works that crowd. She’s honestly growing right before our very eyes. What a thing to see! I mean, we already knew that Just Sam would definitely be making the Top 20 regardless of what she did, but this was so fun to watch. Also, Just Sam calls Luke Bryan “Uncle Luke” and I am very much here for that kind of content.
Jonny West, 23, Murrieta, Calif.
“You Found Me” by The Fray
This is the absolute perfect time for a contestant to give their best performance and Jonny West does just that, sealing the deal on his Top 20 status. It’s great to see him finally get an intro package that’s about him as an individual and not completely tied to Margie Mays. He’s coming into his own, and his emotional, vocally great performance of “You Found Me” is proof of that. “I get it, Margie. I get why you’re obsessed with him now,” Katy says after Jonny leaves the stage. He’s never been better.
Dillon James, 26, Bakersfield, Calif.
“The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan
Speaking of, let’s give it up for our emo cowboy, Dillon James. This Bob Dylan classic is a great song choice for him, and although Katy remarks that she wants Dillon to “lean into the emotional part of his voice a little bit more,” there’s no denying that he has a star moment up there on the stage in Hawaii. Now, American Idol is trying to be a little tricky by saving the outcome of his Final Judgment until next week, but let’s be real, the judges would be crazy to let Dillon go. We’ll find out for sure next Sunday.