The second half of American Idol’s Top 24 sang to the audience on Monday and took the stage opposite some real music icons, from Jewel and Josh Groban to Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd. (Guys, do you remember Incubus ?!)
Read on for our breakdown of the night’s performances, with video for each:
JASON WARRIOR, Jan. | The first solo performance of the night, The Weeknd’s “Call Out My Name,” may have started smoothly and relaxed, but things took a very sudden, very emotional turn. At the end of Warrior’s performance, he was on his knees, apparently in tears. When he met duet partner PJ Morton, he asked how he could record his music outside the church walls. The solution, apparently, was to idolize the church, which led to a really unexpected rendition of “How deep is your love?” The Bee Gees. There is no denying that Warrior has a natural talent (Lionel Richie even said, “It couldn’t be better”), but sometimes I wonder if Warrior has to apply it so thickly to every performance. A little variation didn’t hurt anyone. Click here to see.
Madison Watchkins, Jan. | First, Watkins managed to change my (previously negative) opinion on Justin Bieber’s “Holy”, which in and of itself is an achievement. It was a good choice for her solo as it felt current and showed some of her range. Tori Kelly was also an inspired choice as Watkins’ duet partner for Stevie Wonder’s Don’t Worry About A Thing, even if she suffers from Ryan Tedder Syndrome. (We already know Kelly can sing. She didn’t have to outshine her partner on these runs.) Luke Bryan called her a “natural entertainer,” while Richie praised her for responding to what Kelly did rather than herself focus on them own prepared part. Click here to see.
BEAN, 23 | I have the feeling that we are really experiencing an artistic development with Beane, even if his cross-border cheesy performance of Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” reminded me that he is definitely a wedding singer. Robbie Williams’ “Angels”, which he then sang alongside Groban, was a much better fit. He opened his mouth and the loveliness streamed out, which complemented Groban’s voice perfectly. (I didn’t expect him to hold his own against Groban, but he totally did.) Additional points for Beane for swapping “her” for “he” as an act of “defiance”. See:
HANNAH EVERHART, 17 | I’m really enjoying this young star on the rise, so it pains me to say that her solo performance of Chris Stapleton’s “I Was Wrong” … wasn’t her best. She was then introduced to Jason Aldean, with whom she shared some ribs before sharing the stage. The judges for the most part enjoyed what she put forward, but they pushed her to believe more in herself. In all honesty, I’m just disappointed that we never heard of the chicken she was supposed to send “dead or alive” to Claudia Conway via FedEx. Which was it, Everhart ?! Click here to see.
MARY JO YOUNG, 19 | Real talk: I’m so sick of hearing Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill,” and I appreciated that Young turned things upside down at least a little to show off their reach. And don’t even make me start her duet with Jewel. I was getting excited about Foolish Games and that was before my ears were blessed enough to hear their voices together. The close harmonies, the growl, the hat – everything! I’m pretty sure I had a power outage during this performance, and when I got to I saw that I had just written, “Yes! Yes! YES! “Over and over. It was so good. See:
CHAYCE BECKHAM, Jan. | Oh, another Sheeran song? They. Do not do it. Say. Beckham picked “Afterglow” for his solo appearance this week, and while it wasn’t incredible, it was definitely solid. As Bryan noted, it felt like Bruce Springsteen was taking over the song. I’m not sure if I would have paired him for his duet with Boyd as their opposing voices struggled in the mixing department, but it was still a good performance. And I’ll take any excuse to visit Drive again. Click here to see.
COLIN JAMIESON, 22 | It’s easy to forget how high most of Bruno Mars’ songs are since he makes them sound so effortless, but these notes aren’t easy. But Jamieson managed to absolutely kill “Locked Out of Heaven” without breaking a sweat. (That said, I wish he hadn’t bothered to record the guitar halfway as it only compromised his incredible vocals.) Then came his duet with Kelly, who appears to be just teaming up with other heads of luscious hair. And while their collective hair game was definitely strong, their vocals on “Hollow” were even stronger. This was one of the best duets of the night for me. See:
LIAHONA OLAYAN, Jan. | I felt like this cracker was radio ready and highly marketable from day one, and her solo performance of Audrey Mixa’s “Just Friends” only reinforced that belief. It was a risky move for Olayan to join Morton for a dramatic duet on “Say So,” who admitted being afraid to show her vulnerability, but it was definitely worth it. She held her own on stage with Morton, and the judges were right to celebrate how far she has come. Click here to see.
AVA AUGUST, 15 | The irony of August of playing Olivia Rodrigo’s “driver’s license” as a solo when she is not even old enough to drive a car on her own will not be lost to me. And neither is August’s incredible voice, which has a beautiful quality well beyond its years. Come on, if you can give Groban the chills, you know you have it. Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was an inspired choice for a duet, and the end result was absolutely stunning, as if it were meant for her to sing. The judges compared her to Judy Garland, whom I hadn’t thought of. However, I’ve been pondering how stupid I was not to have August on our (extremely) early top 10 prediction list. I really stand for it. See:
CALEB KENNEDY, Jan. | Remember how tough Bryan was against Alex Miller earlier this season, constantly trying to steer him away from the old school country in hopes of discovering a fresher sound? This is how I feel with Kennedy, who did a good – but not particularly exciting – cover of “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band. His duet “Fly Over States” with Jason Aldean was also a kind of slumber party. The judges clearly disagreed with me when they praised Kennedy for “being obsessed with a very old, experienced compatriot”. Is that really a good thing for this competition? Click here to see.
HUNTER METTS, 22 | When I first saw Metts compete against Sia’s “chandelier”, my head tilted to the side like a little dog trying to understand human language. But when he started reducing the ubiquitous jam, I started getting into it. I found it a little sleepy though, and noticed that not a single judge advocated it. Metts got a second shot and duet with Jewel (who immediately drew the comparison with Ryan Phillippe) on the singer’s timeless classic “Foolish Games”. She asked to deliver a big vocal moment, but it never fully manifested itself, resulting in a performance that really only featured Jewel’s voice – which, by the way, sounds better than ever. I actually thought the judges were too nice on this subject. Where’s Simon Cowell when you need him? Click here to see.
CASEY BISHOP, Jan. | Best solo of the night? Best solo both nights? Either way, Bishop was singing the hell out of Paramore’s “Decode” and the producers knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to end the night with her. I wish she’d been paired with Jewel for her duet, but Boyd wasn’t a bad choice – and “Wish You Were Here” wasn’t a song I haven’t thought of in at least a decade, either. This girl is top 5 material, no question about it. See:
Which of the eight (8) entrants who performed tonight deserve a spot in the top 16? Then weigh in using our survey below Leave a comment with more thoughts.