The night prior, American Idol left us with a Group Round cliffhanger wherein Nate Walker was rushed off by paramedics because his head was pounding and his stomach was hurting. He also lost his voice.
Monday (March 25) night’s episode ties that up with an anticlimactic bow: Nate is somehow in and out of the hospital within two hours, and rejoins his group Ain’t Goin' Home to see all four members zip on through to the next round. I don’t know what kind of favors being an Idol contestant gets you from the medical community, but I do know it takes two hours just to pick up a get well card at a hospital gift shop in Los Angeles.
After the ringer the Group Round put the beat-down hopefuls through, they must now survive the Solo Round gauntlet. And they’ll be doing so with both a full band behind them and a hefty lack of sleep due to late night rehearsals.
Many season faves like Walker Burroughs and Ryan Hammond flash by the screen and do fairly well, given their shattered nerves and sleep deprivation. Walker gets through Elton John staple “Your Song” with ease, prompting judge Katy Perry to declare, “Harry Potter can sing!” Ryan aces Adele’s “All I Ask,” and 16-year-old Texan Riley Thompson’s performance of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” is fine. But fine isn’t fantastic, and these kiddies need to step it up.
Kai The Singer explains that her church raised funds to not only get her to the Louisville auditions, but also to Hollywood. I personally think she sounds great while tackling Freya Ridings’ “Lost Without You.” But Katy Perry quips to Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, “She is so nervous… She just needs confidence.”
You know who’s lost their mojo? Juan Pablo. His tyrannical side reared its head during the Group Round, and Katy previously warned him to veer away from being cheesy. While clearly on edge, Juan Pablo flounders this evening with Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons.” It’s not good, y’all, and he seems to have as little control over his voice as he did over his fellow group members the night before.
Raquel Trinidad turns out Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” while Evelyn Cormier serves us ‘90s alt-rock diva vocals for Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” But (unofficial) Nashville mayor Eddie Island takes a big risk by performing “1974,” a forgettable original tune. “He’s got a good voice, actually, but that was a really bad song,” Katy remarks.
Eddie isn’t the only one to climb out on a limb with an original number. Alejandro Aranda does his own cut, “10 Years,” which comes across to me like “15-minute jam session at a John Mayer concert” material (a.k.a. beer garden break). But the three judges are smitten and give Alejandro a standing ovation — something that doesn’t happen when Wayne Cota opts for his own original song. “What was he thinking,” Lionel asks as Wayne departs. “I did not get it.”
Later, New York state teen Madison Vandenburg decides to go with an original before Idol mentor Bobby Bones wisely intervenes and warns her that she needs the judges and viewers to have an emotional connection to the song. Madison switches to Adele’s “All I Ask” at the last minute, and Katy commends her: “Great song choice.”
Hollywood Week’s toll is is heavy, particularly with Nate Walker, whose voice still hasn’t recovered enough for his performance of “Always On My Mind.” Likewise, emotionally-wrecked country contestant Tyler Mitchell blanks on the lyrics to Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos” in a painful moment, while Margie Mays is a straight-up sobbing and belching hot mess.
Drake McCain, 17, has better luck than Nate with “Always On My Mind,” and Manhattan subway singer Bumbly and Los Angeles production assistant Nick Townsend cruise by unscathed. However, with all the cream rising to the top at this stage, California college student Gaba falls flat with Labrinth’s “Jealous.” Former standouts Myra Tran and Shayy also fail to connect due to poor song selections.
And now it’s time for The Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon Show. This guy sticks the landing with every performance, and his masterful take on “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is no exception. With no one in his family showing up to root him on, Jeremiah finds support from his boyfriend in the audience and all three judges, who give him a standing O. Be warned: This ginger means business.
Other contestants putting in the work are Laci Kaye Booth, who nails Grace Potter’s “Stars” with only two hours of sleep, and Sugar Land, Texas dynamo Uché, who dedicates his game-changing performance of Alessia Cara’s “Scars To Your Beautiful” to his three sisters. Likewise, Shawn Robinson and Alyssa Raghu, a Top 24 contestant from last season, only seem to get better with each passing round.
Alas, tonight appears to be the final act for 15-year-old Texas cowboy Austin Michael Robinson. Like Madison Vandenburg, he makes a last-minute song switch — from Dan + Shaye’s “Speechless” to Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute — but it’s a fatal error, as he leaves himself no time to squeeze in even one rehearsal with the band. He crashes hard in front of the judges, leaving Katy to state the obvious and declare, “That was his worst performance.”
The Solo Round ends with an on-stage proposal, as Las Vegas native Johanna Jones’ is surprised by her ring-wielding college student boyfriend. It’s a good thing she sang the hell out of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” just moments before, or this might be one awkward engagement. Katy legit turns the waterworks on and ponders, “Why can’t someone love me like that?”
From here, the remaining 98 contestants are divided up in three separate rooms as Lionel, Katy and Luke deliberate over how to whittle the herd down to 40.
Room 1 contains early standouts like Nick Townsend, Shayy, Drake McCain, Walker Burroughs, Kai The Singer, Ryan Hammond, Laci Kaye Booth, Laine Hardy, Evelyn Cormier and Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. They’re told by Katy that they’re all safe. Room 2 is less fortunate. Here, Lionel informs Juan Pablo, Gaba, Austin Michael Robinson, Katie Belle and Moriah Formica to pack their bags and get the hell out (in much kinder words).
In happier news, also making it through are Room 3’s Tyler Mitchell, Dimitrius Graham, Alyssa Raghu, Wayne Coat, Bumbly, Myra Tran, Nate Walker, Assata Reney, Riley Thompson and that strawberry farmer dude.
On Sunday night (March 31), American Idol jets off to Hawaii for next week’s final judgment, where the 40 remaining contestants will be slimmed down to the Top 20.