American Idol recap: Katy Perry declares a contestant 'dangerous' as the Top 16 is revealed
From a group of 24 hopefuls down to just 16, American Idol is making some big cuts tonight.
Four singers from each group of 12, who performed their solos and celebrity duets last week, will be headed home tonight based on America's vote. As the 16 who have made it through are announced, they'll be performing tonight in hopes of winning votes to make it through tomorrow night's Top 12 reveal — yep, this ride does not stop moving.
So basically, don't get attached to anyone just yet, since four more will be going home tomorrow. Who did enough to make the Top 16, and who does enough to earn a spot in the Top 12? Let's take a look.
Alyssa Wray, "Killing Me Softly With His Song" — Roberta Flack
Powerhouse singer Alyssa Wray is the first to make it through to the Top 16 and she lays down a Roberta Flack classic. The arrangement follows a more traditional opening of the song that shows off some of her lower register and then glides right into a cool groove that builds up so that Alyssa can do what Alyssa does best: sing the hell out of some big notes. Last week, Katy Perry asked for less theatrics and more artistry, and she tells Alyssa that's exactly what she got from this. "You were an artist for the first time in my eyes today," Katy says. Luke and Lionel agree and love that Alyssa was able to mix the classic with the modern with that song choice. Lionel especially praises her ability to build dynamics in the performance. She's improving each week.
Graham DeFranco, "That's Life" — Frank Sinatra
Graham is so surprised he made it into the Top 16, and it's adorable. His sultry swagger vibe obviously worked last week, and it seems he's riding that wave with this arrangement on the iconic Frank Sinatra song. It has a real vibe to it, as the kids say, and Graham's voice is so easy to listen to. The judges are pleased with this performance. Both Luke and Lionel comment on how it always looks like Graham is having so much fun on stage, and that's infectious and a way to really bring the crown onto your side. Katy thought Graham "picked the best song for [his] voice" and calls his voice "cool and comfortable" but wants him to work the room a little more. "You're doing great, sweetie," she says, and Graham replies with a "thanks, mom."
Grace Kinstler, "Elastic Heart" — Sia
As if there was any chance Grace wouldn't be here! Still, she doesn't hesitate to remind us why she should stick around longer. Last week, her duet partner Joss Stone talked to Grace about holding back all the runs and riffs and saving them for the end, to really build to something big rather than giving it away upfront. The judges can see she took that note and applied it to this performance. Katy tells her that there was "intrigue" and real "storytelling" that built up to the vocal fireworks with this arrangement. Luke tells Grace that she has a "thoroughbred voice" and can really sing anything, so taking a note like the one Joss gave her will serve her well, only improving her performances. "I see so much promise in you," he says.
Alanis Sophia, "The Story" — Brandi Carlile
This is a great song choice in theory, but Alanis Sophia doesn't exactly nail it. Her "Uninvited" is the high bar she needs to clear and she seems nervous on this song. Luke knows that song is "range-y" and tells Alanis that although her high range is amazing and she has complete control over it, she needs to work on the lower register. She also needs to work on breath control. Lionel notes that although she started "in the mud," by the end of the song there was a real "explosion." He wants Alanis to work the stage and the crowd a little more, otherwise, she'll get "lost inside [her]self." There's a star in there that Lionel wants to set free!
Willie Spence, "Set Fire to the Rain" — Adele
Willie is rocking a suit, and he is working that stage. He also takes this well-known Adele song and puts a smart arrangement on it to set himself apart. Luke is so excited that instead of going high at the top of the chorus, Willie saved that big moment, drawing the audience in to figure out where he would take the song. "That's what you do to make people watch," Luke says as he heaps praise on. "Every note was thoughtful," Katy says, applauding both the vocals and Willie's performance, before telling him, "you were possessed." She means in a good way, of course. The judges thought it was Willie on another level tonight.
Deshawn Goncalves, "Feeling Good" — Nina Simone
I wrote "are you kidding???" twice in my notes during Deshawn's performance. First, in his flawless a capella opening and then again on that ridiculous note at the end. Deshawn definitely needs to work on bringing the emotion, but the guy can sing. The judges say about the same. Katy can tell that Deshawn's confidence has grown even in just one week, and obviously, he has the vocal talent, but she wants him to "bring the personality" next time. She calls this performance "next level" for Deshawn. Lionel loves that Deshawn started out cold, worked the piano, and then got up in front of the piano and worked the stage. He thinks that If Deshawn keeps doing that and performs with confidence, there's no stopping him.
Wyatt Pike, "Use Somebody" — Kings of Leon
Wyatt really takes this song and makes it his own, which is what Wyatt's all about, really. He is a performer and a singer-songwriter, and when he gets to that growl in his voice, he is truly working it on all cylinders. All of the judges want to assure Wyatt that he has the goods. Lionel tells him that he has a super-specific "style" on stage that they all love to watch and Luke tells Wyatt that "[he's] going to be able to do music for the rest of [his] life," he's that much of the real deal. Katy, too, loves what Wyatt's doing, but is ready for him to show them a more vulnerable side. She wants him to do a more stripped-down performance and hopefully make us all cry. Make us cry, dude!
Cassandra Coleman, "Wicked Game" — Chris Isaak
The final singer from the first group of 12 to make it into the Top 16 is our Florence Welch in the making, Cassandra Coleman. She seems to grow in confidence each week. The judges are looking for even more confidence, but from my seat, she seemed to bring a whole bunch of it tonight. Cassandra's a great storyteller and that's once again on display here. Luke thought that her vocals on the verses were "absolutely incredible" but he wants Cassandra to "soar" some more. Lionel assures Cassandra that her vocals are great, but she needs to "enjoy it more."
Caleb Kennedy, "Midnight Train to Memphis" — Chris Stapleton
The 16-year-old country vocalist survived a less-than-stellar showing in last week's solos and duets to make the Top 16. Now this song is so much better suited to his voice than either of his picks last week. He sounds in control and powerful. The judges give him a standing ovation. Luke loves how confident Caleb is in who he is as an artist. Lionel calls the performance "brilliant" and says his vocal performance was "wonderful." Katy comments on his "grit" and says he's becoming the country "outlaw" he mentioned in his package. Now that finally makes Caleb smile a little.
Colin Jamieson, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" — Tears for Fears
At the end of this performance, Colin opens up for this big, soaring note, and the judges seem to be in shock. "Surprise surprise, puppy surprise, who knew you had those vocals inside?" Katy says. Do I really know what that means? No. Is it still fun? Yeah, of course. I'm not a robot. The judges love this new side to what Colin can do. Last week he was rocking out now he's showing them that he's, as Katy puts it "an incredible vocalist." More than just vocals, the judges love that Colin works not just the audience, but also the camera. He's savvy and he knows he has more than just the live audience to connect with. Colin knows what's up.
Casey Bishop, "Black Hole Sun" — Soundgarden
The teen rocker moves forward! As Luke puts it immediately after Casey's performance, the girl can sing anything. "There were so many amazing notes in what you just did," he says. Lionel calls her "fascinating to watch" since she looks like a "fairy princess" and then turns into this rocker, the likes of Janis Joplin, perhaps. He wants to know where she's keeping her "extra pair of lungs" because some of the notes she's belting out seem impossible. Katy declares it Casey's best performance yet, and the vocals were "a-level." "You're dangerous, and I like it," Katy tells Casey.
Madison Watkins, "Gravity" — Sara Bareilles
Bringing the tears, tonight, folks! Madison is showing a new side to herself with this emotional ballad. Rather than bringing the party, she's bringing the feelings. By the end of the performance, she's so choked up she can't sing! We're all deep in our emotions now, girl! Lionel notes that there are a lot of powerful singers out there, but what Madison just showed is that she can be powerful and a quiet, moving storyteller. He calls the performance the "perfect presentation." Katy also thought that Madison showed them all that she's "the full package."
Beane, "Searching for a Feeling" — Thirdstory
The beginning of Beane's performance is a little shaky, but then it opens up a bit, and he's more in his element. He knows how to build up to those big power moments. Beane is another artist tonight whom the judges praise for knowing how to "reel in" the audience. He's mysterious enough and holds back until the exact right moment, and that makes the audience more engaged. Lionel and Katy call him "inviting," and Lionel wants Beane to know that people are "falling in love with him." Luke tells him that he's a great entertainer who backs it up with "great vocals." Everybody also decides that Beane's fans should be called Beanie Babies, and well, we'll see if that sticks.
Hunter Metts, "Skinny Love" — Bon Iver
Yep, this is a great song choice for Hunter Metts. It allows him to be even more vulnerable and emotional, and, most importantly, it allows him to really connect. His confidence has grown so much over the past few weeks, and you can really see that here. Luke loves that they "finally got some angst" from Hunter and thought the whole thing revealed a lot about who Hunter is and who he could be as an artist. Katy was happy to hear that "growl" in Hunter's voice and thought this performance brought him up to the next level. He's getting more comfortable, and that's exciting.
Ava August, "2002" — Anne-Marie
It's easy to see why Ava August selected this song: It's fun and poppy and feels a bit more like a song a 15-year-old would be singing, but it doesn't fit the singer-songwriter vibe she's been giving us all season. She has vocal talent and real range, but we've seen her perform much better. Both Katy and Luke call out how Ava excelled last week when she showed us the "elegance" and "grace" in her voice and performing skills. That style is surely why she made it through to this round, and Luke doesn't want her to forget that. "Classic always trumps cool," Katy reminds Ava.
Chayce Beckham, "Waiting in Vain" — Bob Marley and the Wailers
After a night of the judges telling people to work the stage, Chayce just sits up on his stool and pours his heart out (and his gritty, raspy voice), and everyone is sucked in. Katy tells him that he "checks all the boxes," and all the judges praise Chayce for his "authenticity." He's the real deal, and he sticks to that no matter what, and that, according to Lionel, is what is going to help Chayce have a long career. This isn't Chayce's most vulnerable performance, but he knows how to connect with the song and the audience.
Of course, all of this means that we must say goodbye to eight contestants, including Alana, Cecil Ray, Anilee List, Andrea Valles, Jason Warrior, Hannah Everhart, Liahona Olayan, and Mary Jo Young. Okay Idol fans, did anyone in the Top 16 surprise you? Who will you miss the most from the eight going home? And holy hell, who do you think is going home tomorrow?
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