American Idol recap: Josh Groban’s All-Star Duet with Ava August leaves the judges in disbelief
Still deciding which eight contestants from last night you want to see in the Top 16? Well, get over it. Voting has closed and we have 12 more artists performing for the next eight spots in that Top 16 to watch tonight. So many options! Once again, this group of 12 will be performing both a solo and then a duet with an all-star in the hopes of winning enough votes to make it through to the next round. Who are the pros helping our Idol hopefuls this time around? The all-star lineup includes PJ Morton, Idol alum Tori Kelly, Josh Groban, Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd, Jason Aldean, and Jewel. Let's see how this group of 12 does under the pressure of the big stage and live audience.
Solo: "Call Out My Name" by the Weeknd
Duet: "How Deep Is Your Love" by The Bee Gees with PJ Morton
Jason Warrior better start conserving his tears because at the rate this man is crying, if he continues to move through the competition, I fear his eyes will be all dried up by the time we hit the Top 10. He is a very emotional being! The emotions work in his favor tonight: His solo makes me wish we'd seen more of his Hollywood Week journey because he sounds great and really knows how to work his way through the dynamics of a song with ease. For his duet with three-time Grammy winner PJ Morton, PJ wants Jason to focus on really making this song their own. They do! Jason does a whole bunch of vocal acrobatics throughout and he seems comfortable up on stage. Katy declares it "the best solo and duet performance [she's] seen so far" in the competition. Luke loves that Jason is about to "leave it out there" every time he performs, calling it "good old-fashioned, getting sweaty and dirty real entertainment." That's good, right?
Solo: "Holy" by Justin Bieber
Duet: "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder with Tori Kelly
Madison's solo is solid, but it's her duet with Tori Kelly where she really shines. Part of it is surely the massive amount of hair happening here, right? It must be. But it's also probably in part the crazy amount of talent Madison has. She has such a soulful voice and it's really on display in this Stevie Wonder song. Lionel loves that Madison didn't just sing a duet, but she really "engaged" and "reacted to" her duet partner. "You nailed it," he says. Luke thought that Madison really "showcased [her] voice at a level" that he hadn't seen before. Katy called what Madison and Tori did together some "vocal Olympics" and advises her to keep creating those big, memorable moments if she moves forward in the competition.
Solo: "Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa
Duet: "Angels" by Robbie Williams with Josh Groban
Beane always surprises, doesn't he? His slowed-down arrangement of this Dua Lipa song is smart and he cleverly builds to a big, impactful ending. On the duet side of things, being paired up with Josh Groban for this Robbie Williams song allows him to show off some real power behind his vocals. He's continuing to show us new layers of who he is as an artist each time he performs. Katy says she would sign him and that he has "incredible artistic vision." The runs at the end of his duet "were so pro," she says, impressed. Luke loves to see that Beane is "growing with every phase of the competition," and thinks he should be proud that he more than held his own on stage with someone like Josh Groban. We're off to a good start tonight, no?
Solo: "I Was Wrong" by Chris Stapleton
Duet: "She's Country" by Jason Aldean with Jason Aldean
Hannah Everhart doesn't have quite as good an evening as the three contestants who preceded her, but she does show off a new maturity with her pick of this Chris Stapleton song. There's some real confidence there, even if the vocal performance isn't her best. For her duet, she's throwing a country party with Jason Aldean (she even brings him ribs). Jason thinks Hannah has the goods, he just wants her to "loosen up" a bit as she performs. After both of Hannah's performances, Katy Perry calls out some less-than-great moments in the solo but encourages the country teen to harness the energy she had while singing with Jason Aldean because Katy thought Hannah looked like a "real country star" in the duet. Luke echoes the sentiment and tells Hannah that once her "talent catches up" with Hannah's "infectious" personality, she will be "so fun to watch."
Mary Jo Young
Solo: "Castle on the Hill" by Ed Sheeran
Duet: "Foolish Games" by Jewel with Jewel
I always forget how good Mary Jo Young's voice is until she opens up her mouth and reminds me. The girl's got some pipes. She sounds so vocally in control during her solo song; you can see her improving with each round. For her duet, Mary Jo's singing with Jewel, and Jewel seems like a great mentor, trying to figure out the best arrangement for Mary Jo. The two singers sound especially good together while singing in unison (something Jewel had to explain to Mary Jo). The judges notice that Mary Jo is really figuring out who she is as an artist, and Luke loves that for both of her songs, she performed "in her own style," and it "really worked." Katy says Mary Jo is "becoming an artist before our eyes."
Solo: "Afterglow" by Ed Sheeran
Duet: "Drive" by Incubus with Brandon Boyd
In Chayce Beckham's hands (er, voice), Ed Sheeran's acoustic pop ballad gets a little countrified. He makes up for his low energy Showstopper with this one, and his rasp sounds great on this song. With Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd, Chayce talks about pushing himself harder and opening himself up to people (including a national TV audience) and how all of that leads to growth. He demonstrates that lesson first with the Ed Sheeran song, and then, here again, veering into the rock lane. Katy tells Chayce he reminds her of Alejandro Aranda as far as "authenticity and musicianship," Luke says that his solo was "Bruce Springsteen cool" and that his duet showed off new levels to his artistry. Lionel tells Chayce he has a "magical voice" but he does offer a note of critique: Chayce needs to engage with the audience more. He has the artistry and style down, now he needs to bring a little showmanship.
Solo: "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars
Duet: "Hollow" by Tori Kelly
Last time we saw Colin he was rocking out and setting his man bun free. He continues carving out his entertainer lane with "Locked Out of Heaven." It's a fun performance and Colin knows how to work the crowd. He does a more emotional song in his duet with Tori Kelly and... I want to buy this duet? Their voices sound great together. The judges can't get over how comfortable Colin is on stage. Katy tells him he looks like he plays "300 shows a year." Luke calls him "infectious" and loves seeing him "in his moment." Lionel is especially pleased — he's the one going on and on about bringing attitude and he tells Colin that he is overflowing in it. To Lionel, it's clear Colin already knows the secret to performing: "treat the stage like your living room and we just happened to stop by." In short, Colin is a joy to watch perform.
Solo: "Just Friends" by Audrey Mika
Duet: "Say So" by PJ Morton featuring JoJo with PJ Morton
Last time we saw Liahona, she punctuated her performance with a split. This time, it's a high kick. The girl just loves jumping around, I guess? She's young and fun so it's cute, but the old lady in me fears an accident brewing. Anyway, her solo song isn't my favorite vocal performance from her; she sounds pitchy in places, but she's having fun (see: the high kick). The duet gives her a chance to show that she can do vulnerable and emotional too, which makes her uncomfortable, but she knows it's time to give the judges more. She wants to redeem herself after her Hollywood Week duet which, let's be honest, was a disaster. She's much more present and believable alongside PJ Morton. Luke calls her "radio-ready" and tells her the harmonies in her duet were incredible. Lionel points out all the growth they've already seen from Liahona so far, including her more mature note placement and phrasing, as well as looking more comfortable interacting with her duet partner and the crowd. They're proud!
Solo: "Drivers License" by Olivia Rodrigo
Duet: "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell with Josh Groban
It was only a matter of time that someone on Idol would take on Olivia Rodrigo's monster hit "Drivers License" and I'm glad it was Ava August, not only because it's age-appropriate (well, okay, Ava isn't old enough to have her license yet, but it's close) and because she's able to breathe new life into the song. It's a great solo performance. With Josh Groban, Ava is really working on opening up both emotionally and vocally. He's pushing her and it's working. Katy's face is in disbelief during the duet. She calls her an old soul and tells her "you better buckle up, honey." It means she loved it. Lionel can't believe this is the level Ava's singing at just 15, and Luke compares her to Judy Garland. He tells her that her best trick is in her delivery and the way she "keeps us right here in [her] hands."
Solo: "Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers Band
Duet: "Fly Over States" by Jason Aldean with Jason Aldean
Oof, my old lady might be showing herself again, but all I want is for Caleb to lift up his hat during his performance. Let me see his eyes and connect, you know? His solo song feels very in his wheelhouse and it's a great reminder of how good the teen's vocals can be. The duet song definitely stretches Caleb's range to its limits and without the guitar, he's worried about how uncomfortable he'll look. In the end, Luke thinks that Caleb's solo served him better than the duet, but praises him for being able to always be himself regardless of the song he's singing. Katy, too, applauds young Caleb for always being "authentically" himself.
Solo: "Chandelier" by Sia
Duet: "Who Will Save Your Soul" by Jewel with Jewel
Oooh, this solo song choice is a winner. Hunter does an acoustic, slowed-down version of Sia's song that shows off how smart of an artist he is. The chorus is chill-inducing. Good on his duet partner Jewel, who saw his previous performances, noted that the judges really wanted some big musical moments from Hunter, and helped him find some even when he seemed hesitant. She wants to help him give the best performance she can. It's a great duet and the end especially features a cool back and forth. The judges all go on and on about how unique Hunter's voice is and that his strength is that he sounds like Hunter Metts even on an "off night." Katy thinks there was "fear in his eyes" and that he's too much in his head, comparing himself to the other contestants. Backstage, Jewel watches on and very much disagrees with this critique.
Solo: "Decode" by Paramore
Duet: "Wish You Were Here" by Incubus with Brandon Boyd
Idol saves our tiny rock god for last. Everyone seems to be a Casey Bishop fan — especially Jason Warrior, who looks like he's having the BEST time tonight — and she continues to do her thing here in the Top 24 round. She makes that big, powerful rock voice look easy to pull off. Brandon Boyd calls her a "natural front person" and is highly impressed with her voice. Her voice has never been her problem: After her performance, the judges of course tell Casey how "special" she is as a singer but also want her to get more into that rock character. Well, Katy Perry tells Casey to "make the stage [her] bitch" but that seems like a lot, so let's just say they all want Casey to perform with a little more grit. She is the "16-year-old girl trying to bring rock back," so she really needs to mean it.
Well, Idol, fans, now the question becomes which eight contestants out of that group of 12 would you like to see move forward to the Top 16? Who would you be devastated to lose? We'll find out which way things shake out next week.
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