American Idol recap: Showstoppers battle for a spot in Top 24
After Hollywood Week's Genre Challenge and Duet Challenge, judges Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, and Katy Perry have narrowed down Idol's season 19 crop of contestants to 64. To make the next round — the Top 24 — everyone gets one last chance to plead their case by way of a show-stopping performance for the judges in the, yep you guessed it, Showstopper Round. But moving from 64 down to 24 is a huge cut, so be prepared for some of your favorites to be stopped short of making it to the audience vote next week. The music business is tough, people!
Over the next two nights, we'll watch as singers perform their final Hollywood Week song and make their way to Final Judgment, either joining Katy and Luke for an onstage sit-down or having the weirdest Zoom meeting with Richie in "The Lionel's Den." (Lionel had potential exposure to COVID-19 and was quarantined at the time; he also watches the performances virtually.) What a way to get the news, regardless of if you're in or out, huh?
Here's the first group of Idol artists to learn their Hollywood Week fate:
Alyssa Wray / 18 / Perryville, Ky.
"I'm Here" from The Color Purple
Katy may be turned off by Alyssa's "vocal gymnastics" in this song from The Color Purple musical, but come on! It's called the showstopper round! Obviously, this song is more theatrical in nature, but Alyssa navigates it well and doesn't leave anything on the stage. She demonstrates her immense power, control, and ability to connect with the song. In her Final Judgment, Luke mentions working on "better blending [her voice] from top to bottom," and Katy warns her about "overcompensating." Still, they think a lot of that will come with experience... which she'll get on American Idol... because Alyssa Wray is the first to make it into the Top 24.
Jason Warrior / 25 / Chicago, Ill.
"Believer" by Imagine Dragons
We really haven't seen much of Jason Warrior since his audition, but one can imagine he's been bringing the solid vocals and the heightened emotion to Hollywood Week. He certainly brings both to his Showstopper Round performance. Jason pushes himself a bit and goes with a big rock song and the risk really pays off. It sets him apart from the crowd, for sure. By the end of the impassioned performance, Jason's on the ground absolutely belting. Again, Katy isn't into the dramatics but this time Luke reminds her what is exactly at stake for these artists — of course, they're going for it. In the Final Judgment, Lionel tells Jason not to "overdo it" but yes, of course, Jason Warrior is in the Top 24.
Alex Miller / 17 / Lancaster, Ky.
"Silver Wings" by Merle Haggard
The last time we saw country king Alex Miller, Luke was telling him that to move forward, he needed to push himself out of his old school country comfort zone and do something unexpected and more modern. So, when Alex steps on stage for his showstopper and busts out a Merle Haggard classic, you pretty much know this is going to be the end of the line. The judges want to know who Alex Miller is as an artist and they don't get any closer to figuring that out here. Katy and Luke inform him that his Idol journey has ended here. But, hey, Alex has a great outlook on the whole thing, is only 17, and remember during his audition how Luke promised to help him perform at the Grand Ole Opry one day? Luke calls him up after the Final Judgment to tell Alex that they'll be performing together at the Opry. What a nice ending to this story!
Andrea Valles / 23 / Houston, Tex.
"Blinding Lights" by the Weeknd
Andrea failed to impress Katy in her audition, but since then, she's been steadily improving (her Genre Challenge performance of "Lay Me Down" was a standout). This performance is not her best vocally or performance-wise, and as Andrea leaves the stage, Katy tells Luke that it "was the wrong song for her'' and they're a little disappointed. She heads into The Lionel's Den (this makes me laugh every time) for her Final Judgment and he warns her to up her game... because she is headed into the Top 24.
Chayce Beckham / 24 / Apple Valley, Calif.
"You Should Probably Leave" by Chris Stapleton
Chayce Beckham would probably have to get up on stage and just refuse to sing to not make it to the Top 24 at this point — and even then, the judges love him so much he might still make it through. It's a good thing he's been so consistently good this season because his showstopper is not his best performance. Chayce sounds great on Chris Stapleton songs, with his rasp and raw emotions, but as Katy and Luke discuss afterward, this performance was much too "linear" to do much for him. There were no big moments. Still, they love him, and they want him to start believing in himself and his talent, because uh duh, this guy is easily in this season's Top 24.
Caleb Kennedy / 16 / Roebuck, S.C.
"When You Leave Tonight" by Caleb Kennedy
Another country guy with some real grit to his voice, Caleb Kennedy won over the judges in early rounds but apparently almost got cut after a rough Duet round. He was planning on singing a big Travis Tritt song to win them back in the Showstopper, but at the last minute, he decides to sing an original — hey, it worked in his audition. The judges prefer Caleb's, um, original original to this one, and want him to really work on honing his songwriting craft because he has enormous potential. We'll see if he breaks out any more of his own songs because the teen country singer is in the Top 24.
Wyatt Pike / 19 / Park City, Utah
"Blame it on Me" by George Ezra
Wyatt Pike just keeps getting better. This is the perfect song choice for Wyatt to remind the judges of what he does best — he is such a great, unique performer and that is on display in this George Ezra song — and it earns him a standing ovation. In his Final Judgment with Katy and Luke, Katy tells him how they love seeing him grow and develop who he is as an artist. Luke praises Wyatt for always being himself and wants him to continue doing that as part of the Top 24. "Don't go changing on us," Luke tells the excited artist as he leaves the stage. Wyatt has to make the Top 10, right?
Cassandra Coleman / 24 / Columbia, Tenn.
"Running With the Wolves" by AURORA
Wyatt's duet partner, Cassandra Coleman, is up next and the nerves that left when she had a partner up there on stage are decidedly back. Thankfully, once she starts performing, they seem to disappear. Cassandra's vibrato and her higher register are great here and she really shines on the chorus. The judges can't help but get on their feet by the end. Katy tells Cassandra that she reminds her of Florence Welch and she wants her to find her confidence and "freedom" like Florence has. Luke wants more "consistency" from Cassandra, but it's very clear she's earned a spot in the Top 24.
Amanda Mena / 18 / Boston, Mass.
"All By Myself' by Céline Dion
Anthony Guzman / 27 / Santa Rosa, Calif.
"This Love" by Maroon Five
A big voice and a big personality, Amanda Mena and Anthony Guzman get the heave-ho in the same package. But it's not for lack of trying! To be honest, I'm surprised that Amanda's getting cut because she's been consistently great. Tackling Celine Dion in her Showstopper was a big risk, and although it's not her best, she's up to the challenge. The judges are on their feet afterward. According to Katy, though, she wants Amanda to figure out who she is as an artist before moving forward. In Anthony's case, he seems to be overshadowed by his audition Viking gimmick no matter how much range he tries to show the judges. His "This Love" performance shows a new, fun side to him, but Lionel tells him that he won't be making it through, and he needs to "hone in on who [he is]." Next time, maybe?
Beane / 23 / Boston, Mass.
"What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye
Someone who is apparently giving the judges enough artistry is Beane. Let's be real though, the best part of this segment is Beane telling us that since Katy told him in the Duet Challenge that she wanted to "see the diamonds in his eyes" he decided to not only bring them metaphorically by way of his performance but also literally, by adding more highlighter to his eyes. Is that the reason Beane makes the Top 24? We'll never know. He also puts on a real show for Katy and Luke and they can't help but give him a standing ovation afterward. It could also be that.
Hannah Everhart / 17 / Canton, Miss.
"Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus
This is an interesting song choice for Hannah Everhart. The big ballad seems to get away from the country singer, who says she has never performed with a full band before. Still, the judges think there's real potential there, and during Hannah's Final Judgment with Luke and Katy, they beg her to really "do the work." They want less of the character and more focus on vocals and artistry. She'll get another chance to show them she's ready when she performs in the Top 24. As long as she brings Katy a full slab of ribs, as one does.
Graham DeFranco / 27 / Rockwall, Tex.
"Beautiful War" by Kings of Leon
Graham reveals that right before his audition, his father, who was supposed to come with him, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He really wants to be able to call him and tell him he made the Top 24. His Showstopper performance isn't exactly a showstopper, but the warmth and raspiness in his voice that everyone loves are still there. Neither Katy nor Luke are "crazy about his song choice" and Katy says it was "a gallop" and there needed to be "one sprint moment." But they love Graham's voice and find his "personality so infectious." Their word of advice as they announce he's made the Top 24 is that he needs to begin "trusting and believing in [his] talent." "Play to win," Katy tells him. Graham's dad is pumped when he hears the news.
Murphy / 27 / Baltimore, Md.
"Am I Still Mine?" by Murphy
The judges seem to be hammering home "artistry" and rewarding people who know who they are as artists, which makes Murphy's cut at this stage so surprising. He sings an original and there's not really a noticeable difference from the previous rounds he's made it through. Afterward, he comments about how "at home" he now feels on stage — which points to some growth. In the Final Judgment, Katy and Luke tell him that they believe in him and love what he's shown them so far, but that he…"need[s] more experience as Murphy." And that's pretty much it. He takes it well, but that's a rough exit for a guy on his birthday, no less.
Alanis Sophia / 19 / Dade City, Fla.
"Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette
Casey Bishop / 15 / Estero, Fla.
"She Talks to Angels" by The Black Crowes
The two younger female artists with a rock edge and power vocals get paired together here for the Final Judgment. As soon as Alanis Sophia started singing "Uninvited" in her Showstopper Round, all I could think about was why more people in singing competitions don't pick this song. It's got great dynamics and can really show off a singer's range and control. Alanis Sophia uses it to her advantage. Casey is looking to redeem herself after a terrible showing in the Duets, and she succeeds. It's not my favorite song choice of hers, but it does a good job of reminding the judges why they loved her in the first place. Katy and Luke sit both ladies down to talk about how there are fewer and fewer slots available in the Top 24 and... we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out their fate. Honestly, I'd be surprised if both Alanis and Casey don't make it through.
Season 19's Top 24... So far