There are no gimmicks or themes or group performances on Monday night’s (April 1) episode of American Idol. Nor is anybody sent home! Consider that the best April Fool’s Day gift ever, as we get to see the Top 20 showcase their talents (or lack thereof) with a song of their choice one last time.
Next week, judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan will be tasked with dropping the axe on six contestants. Ahead of that, here’s how each of the hopefuls stated their case for staying in the competition.
Who licensed the Jessie J catalog for this show? I blame 2018 Idol contestant Jurnee, who seemed to perform the “Bang Bang” singer’s tracks on a weekly basis until she was eliminated. Anyway, Madison goes with “Domino,” which, I will concede, is actually a jam. Except when performed by Madison. This turns out to be the 17-year-old’s first bad showing of the season. She has a hard time hitting all the notes, and Lionel ultimately tells Madison she needs to play to the audience and work on her stage presence. Damn you, Jessie J.
A self-described “mama’s boy,” Shawn informs us that he was often teased because of his high-pitched voice while growing up. The haters can suck it, though, because those pipes are tailor-made for crooning Nick Jonas solo hit “Jealous,” which has plenty of soaring high notes for Shawn to slam-dunk. Luke’s only critique of Shawn is that he needs to loosen up and move around the stage a bit more.
As soon as Laine wowed us allin Hawaii with his suit and tie look, there was apparently no turning back. He hits the stage tonight decked out in all black for a performance of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.” Much like country and classic rock (not to mention that suit), rhythm and blues fit Laine nicely. “We are in trouble,” Lionel states, while pointing out that Laine has taken to imitating a few trademark Elvis moves. “You can take that look all the way to the bank, my friend.”
This time around, Uché leaves the fur jacket in his wardrobe closet and lets his voice do all the work. His rendition of Jessie Reyez’s “Figures” has so much high-octane soul that Katy feigns passing out, splaying her body flat on the floor. Lionel asks incredulously, “Honestly, who the hell are you?” Katy then tells Uché that he’s “a lot,” but adds, “People come to see rock stars because they want a lot.”
In a bid to prove he’s not just a goofy jokester, Eddie gives a somewhat rousing performance of The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey.” I dunno, though — I still think Eddie is a cornball and fear it’s too late for him to turn that ship around. There are definitely some folks in this thing who are at the top of their game, so if I were Eddie, I’d be highly worried about next week, when 20 will become 14.
Evelyn’s voice is so wonderfully strange, it sounds like she’s inventing new vowels every time she opens her mouth to sing. Her take on John Denver chestnut “Leaving On A Jet Plane” is no exception. “You have one of the most unique voices I’ve ever heard,” Katy says, which seems to be a downgrade from her “one of my favorite voices ever” declaration during Evelyn’s audition. Oh, well — take those compliments where you can collect them, girl.
Look, it’s cute that Alyssa showed up again this season and made it this far for a second time. But at this point, her presence just makes the extremely talented contestants stand out even more. Going with Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” is a risk that doesn’t exactly pay off, despite Alyssa working the stage better than some of her competitors. Luke tells Alyssa he wasn’t crazy about the song choice, though he’s happy to see her having a great time. Translation: Enjoy each second spent on that stage while you can.
Ryan’s got some serious vocal dynamite, and he seems to be coming for Sam Smith’s wig. Case in point is his excellent take on Lauren Daigle’s current hit “You Say.” All of that said, the whole weight-loss sob story has worn out its welcome five weeks into the season. Hang it up, kid, because plenty of other artists have kept the weight on and achieved their dreams of pop stardom throughout the history of music.
Fun hippie Raquel suits up in colorful tie-dye for a jazz-lounge take on The Cardigans’ “Lovefool.” She’s got what the kids like to call “the whole package,” in that she might not possess the most impressive vocal talent of the group, but both Raquel’s personality and stage presence are infectious, and thus her place in the Top 20 is deserved. Katy tells her “Lovefool” isn’t “a blow-it-out-of-the-water song choice,” but she “made it her own.”
I keep forgetting Logan is in this competition, and I’m confounded by the judges and producers positing him as some sort of heartthrob. His dreary rendition of Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” does nothing to fix the matter. Luke rightly points out that “it started a little sleepy.” Lionel adds that Logan was “trying to be sexy” and needs to bump the sexy up a couple notches. How about just bumping him off the show next week? Does that sound harsh? Well, that’s showbiz for ya!
For the second year in a row, I feel like I need to pull out a Klaus Nomi reference. This time it’s because Dimitrius kicks off his version of Adele’s “Hello” by trilling some out-of-this-world operatic notes like a musical space creature from the fourth dimension. He brings it home with the “Hello” we all know, but I kind of wished he would have just stuck with the the bizarre place he started from at the top. “I was holding on when you were bringing out, like, Pavarotti,” Katy quips. “And then you landed the spaceship.”
Sixteen-year-old Riley is in red pants and singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Technically speaking, Riley is a powerhouse who hits all the right notes. All three judges, however, want her to show just a bit of grit in her performances. Alas, red pants is as edgy as it’s going to get with squeaky-clean Riley, given her age. You want grit? Go slap on a Tom Waits record, Luke.
The British boy band Take That recorded a cover of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” in the mid-‘90s that completely drained the ballad of all its fragility and emotional punch. I used to think that was the most boring version of the tune I’d ever heard, but Walker Burroughs now has the dubious honor of doing an even more watered-down take on the song. Bravo, sir.
Here’s the thing with Bumbly: She’s a New York City subway singer with good (but not great) vocal chops. I think if she took on a few of these fun pop tracks that some of the other kids did tonight, she’d totally kill it. Unfortunately, she goes with Mariah Carey’s “Vision Of Love.” Fatal mistake. The whole thing amounts to a B-minus version of a legendary song originally recorded by an all-time diva in her early prime.
Ashley gets back to her piano-playing with a take on John Mayer’s “Dreaming With a Broken Heart.” It’s fine and all, but I can’t help wondering what’s going through Katy’s head as a contestant presents her with a song from her ex. The answer comes when Katy tells Ashley she wasn’t connecting enough with the judges or the audience while tickling the ivories, despite the fact that the judges told the hopeful in Hawaii that they missed her piano-playing. Hmmm.
Every week, Alejandro walks on stage and dazzles the judges with his guitar skills while singing sweetly into the mic as if he’s a seasoned vet. His choice this time around of Post Malone’s “I Fall Apart” comes a little out of the blue, given the bulk of his past song selections, but it winds up being another home run for Alejandro in the end. “You are so much cooler than us,” Katy states. “That arrangement was so next level.”
Have we seen a full performance from Kate yet? She seems to have surfaced on our screens during Hollywood Week, as if the producers realized a little late in the season that this girl has “it.” Regardless, tonight she pulls out a jazzy “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5. Whereas poor Drake McCain crashed, burned and got the boot after taking on a tune by Adam Levine & Co. in Hawaii, Kate has no problem putting her own spin on this particular number. “Where did you get the funk from?” asks an impressed Lionel.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Jeremiah works a white turtleneck and black jacket while playing piano and singing Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” And while he might have an uphill battle trying to bring turtlenecks back, he has a much easier time selling his grand performance to the judges. Lionel raves, “I am telling you from me — and I’m probably speaking for the rest of us — that was a brilliant performance.” Katy adds, “I think you are a really important contribution from the universe to music.” Is anyone else envisioning Alejandro and Jeremiah in the Top 5, at least?
Laci Kaye Booth
An old soul at heart, Laci goes with Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me,” which, to be honest, has the potential to go off the rails. Like Kate and Alejandro, however, Laci consistently makes each song she performs her own — something that’s not lost on the judges. “The talent now is ridiculous. And when I say that, you’re in that group,” Lionel tells guitar-playing Laci. He’s not exaggerating, either.
The judges are back in love with Wade, though I’m keeping him at a cautious distance. For once, I’d just like to hear him without the growly rasp, which feels a bit put-on to me. But hey — I’m just a guy here recapping these shenanigans, so GRAIN OF SALT, folks. Needless to say, I’m ho-hum on Wade’s performance of Kodaline’s “All I Want.” Lionel, on the other hand, is standing up and telling the guy something along the lines of his talent is going to save the music business. Likewise, Katy gets all new age-y and declares, “We may have found you, but tonight you found you.” Thankfully, we’re out of time now.
Next week the Top 20 are paired up with pop professionals for All-Star duets, before six hopefuls get sent back home.