Reality Check: Are We Witnessing American Idol's Deepest Bench Ever?

American Idol Season 14 has the potential to hurt so good — and no, this is not a reference to some Fifty Shades of Grey-type foolery.

Instead, as you’ll see on this week’s Reality Check, my co-host Melinda Doolittle and I are wondering whether an incredibly deep talent pool could lead to a Top 12 in which every single elimination becomes a painful one.

We also wonder about how subtle is too subtle once the live voting rounds begin, dish the rise of Qaasim Middleton and Tyanna Jones during the House of Blues showcase round and go off on tangents about Olympic figure skating, tainted omelettes and the poetry of Beyoncé.

So press PLAY for the full Reality Check experience — complete with the Kendra Chantelle shout-out you already knew was coming!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Me. says:

    First of all I want to know why is SHE? still in the competition. I can’t even be bothered to remember how to spell her name. And what happened to Ben the single Dad from last season. We kept seeing him in the holding room but then nothing.

    • Mike says:

      That’s because when they screw up they don’t like to explain themselves. And the fact that Shi made it over Rachel or some of the others is ridiculous. And can I ask why when someone doesn’t get through we never see their performance as to why they weren’t sent through(specifically Hunter Larson and Jaq Mackenzie). They were both getting high praise right up through Hollywood week and then, out with no explanation.

      • Chris says:

        Lover Hunter Larson. Reminded me of a younger Amy Adams. Shi! Ugh..SMH. I don’t want to hate on her so I won’t. But if there is any justice in the world the Shi will be gone week one!

    • Lili says:

      cause if they dont have annoying people in the top 24 we wont vote for the singers that the producers chose to be in the top 16/12.

      • ding ding ding! it’s interesting, though, because the producers must be so far removed from the market as AI hasn’t produced anyone major since around season 5 or so. (that’s not to say that some of the others haven’t had some success, or that they weren’t incredibly talented, but who since daughtry has had notable success?) so they keep pimping these people that get out into the industry and flop. if they would JUST keep the viable, authentic, and truly talented artists (also without the confines of an even gender split), we’d have a REAL competition, and more likely a successful winner. what’s the squeezebox chick gonna do after this? right.
        of course, i’ve been saying this for years, along with many others, but apparently the peeps with AI don’t really understand it…not that they should listen to our ultimate wisdom. ;)

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Scotty McCreery has had a successful career in country music. I wouldn’t say everyone has “flopped”. They may not be superstars but there are plenty of contestants that have held their own.
          I think David Cook could have been a superstar but that wasn’t what he wanted. He prefers smaller, more intimate venues and a more normal life.
          That said, terencetransparent, I don’t disagree with much of what you’ve written.

          • You’re right about Scotty. That’s my error, probably because I don’t generally listen to country (I don’t dislike it, though).

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            That’s okay, you’re forgiven – I don’t listen to a lot of it but my husband does. I also hear Casey James periodically on the alt country stations and he is still one of my favorites. Not the greatest vocalist in the world but his music has a very honest sound and wow, can he play that guitar. But I absolutely agree with you 100 percent about Idol not keeping the truly talented artists. I’m still upset about Season 10’s Lauren Turner being eliminated from the Top 24 (that was the year Scotty won, Lauren Alaina was endlessly pimped, and Haley Reinhart got the non-stop Hate Treatment from the judges). Go to YouTube and google Lauren Turner singing Etta James’ “Seven Day Fool”. It is still great stuff.

        • TiaGata says:

          Philip Phillips is successful, Jordin isn’t doing too badly, I PERSONALLY LOVE CANDICE, so there are a few for me.

          • You’re right…but AI refers to itself as “the search for a superstar”. They haven’t produced one in a while. PP’s success isn’t HUGE, but he’s doing good for himself.

          • darcy's evil twin says:

            Idol has produced a couple of superstars, an oscar winner, Chris Daughtry, and a host of people that are supporting themself in some capacity in the entertainment business. Sometimes it’s about the journey, no matter how they bill the program. :-)

      • Ok now Michael and Melinda decide they like Qaasim? He has been my favorite from the beginning and I said “watch out” cause the boy can also dance! He has u tube videos and is amazing. So on top of great singing he will be a stellar performer. To see him dance google “Qaasim Middleton Going in Brooklyn! We Go Hard!” He is good enough to go on SYTYCD. And I love his mom too!

      • They have one annoying person each year! LOL

        • And Shi is the choice for this year! LOL

          • Jaszy says:

            no, that goes to Daniel! He’s not good, period.
            Shi’s fabulous! Stop hating!

          • Blah, Blah, Blah! Every time I comment you are there making some nasty remark! Go follow someone else around! And Im not the only one who doesnt care for Shi!

          • Jaszy That comment above was for you! I DONT HATE! And I dont like being accused of that! I go out every month and protest for peoples rights, everyones rights and of other races. So people are treated fairly by police and not judged by their color, race or gender! So their not choked for selling loosies! You hit a nerve and just because Shi is not my favorite does not mean Im a hater! I have my own set of favorite singers just like everyone else! Hate is a huge bad word!

          • Jaszy says:

            I know you’re not the only one. You’re just one I happened to reply to about it! I also reply to others as well. And what was nasty about my comment?
            Nothing was. I just said that Daniel’s voice is not good.
            I’m telling you and other Shi haters, she’s just misunderstood, and people who are often misunderstood are often disliked.

          • Im sorry Jaszy, I just get touchy about that word!

          • Jaszy says:

            I know who you were referring to. How did I hit a nerve? By calling you a hater? Obviously, your view of that word runs deeper than what I meant it as.
            Calm down. Maybe I should’ve used a different word, but don’t take it so seriously.
            Would indifference or dislike been more agreeable?
            I didn’t mean “hate” as it’s worst connotation, which is what you’re referring to in your follow-up post. Geez!

          • Oh I just read your other post and you do sound like you should have used another word! Ok that I will apologize for my quick temper on that subject. I hope you will accept!

          • Jaszy says:

            I haven’t brought color, race, or gender into anything. I don’t know why you went on this tangent for.

          • The hate word. Im not a hater just because I dont agree with you about one contestant. I have my own favorites! And you have yours! Lets leave it at that! The only reason I talked about the race, gender, and the fact that I protest against hate, you should be able to figure out. Dont call people haters without knowing them.

          • JayNC says:

            I think you protest a little too much. In my experience, the people that scream loudest about tolerance and not “hating” tend to be the least tolerant and most hateful. Just sayin, hope that doesn’t apply to you. Tolerance goes both ways.

          • It does not apply to me, but thank you for your thoughts on the matter!

          • Jay NC Also I had never went to a protest in my life until I saw the cell phone coverage of eric garner, so it wasnt a usual thing for me and pretty new! So no, Im not a screamer and wasnt ever active before in these kinds of things, but its ok!

    • Runner says:

      Judging from all of the push back I’ve heard, I doubt Shi (LOL – when you type it, it’s funny :) will make the top 12. She’s been inconsistent at best. And that’s as nice as I can be about it… I still miss Jelly.

  2. donna says:

    excellent but TOO SHORT! what about the melinda and slezak’s veto? and some of the other performances???

  3. Simon says:

    I hate the sound of Rayvon’s voice. I think it’s totally pretentious. I have a feeling he’s gonna be one of those Danny Gokey contestants that everyone loves initially but then gets sick of. And I hated Danny from the beginning too.

  4. Tom22 says:

    Another fun “Reality Check”! (my favorite work procrastination tool). Nice balanced treatment of key conflicting motivations and urging us to look past distractions we might have to vote for perhaps, lesser talent.

    Fair or not, I think my lack of “connection” with Clark’s songs could be like Michael’s memory of the other contestant singing the same song. When I want/think/feel that “Georgia on My Mind” should be sung more like Casey Abrahms did in Hollywood week, its very easy for me to feel Clark’s style is pressed and misses some of the beauty songs evoke even if I can’t fault his execution of doing what he set out to do. Maybe a choice to sit on the sidelines rather than voting for him could even as petty as not particularly bonding with guys that have his fair skinned, fair haired, good looks and even-bearing in my life’s personal and professional situations(We all probably do that a bit even if we don’t actively admit why we just don’t particularly “feel it” with a singer) . Yes, Melinda is right, we should try to be responsible voters(I’ll try, but I think “who you want to hear more from” is a fine motivation for picking one’s votes)

    100% great way of describing that it wasn’t the “sing-off” itself, but the “you’re out. She was out but now we’re kicking you because we like someone we kicked out better than you” aspect that took it from “tough choices” to “sort of rude”.

    • BobL says:

      I was with you on thinking Clark “misses some of the beauty songs evoke” until I listened to his entire HOB performance (available on youtube). He began with a shout-out to Ray Charles–you could tell he really loves the man–and then sang two-thirds of the song in quite a traditional, melodic way. I still think he went a wee bit overboard with the ending, but there must be intense pressure on these contestants to stand out form the crowd, to really go for it, so to speak. Clark is not my favorite at the moment, but the guy can really sing. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the live shows.

    • Temperance says:

      The last minute sing-off was horrid, but Clark’s HOB performance was the best of the show (so far). I’m with Melinda… ain’t nothin’ topping that.

  5. joey says:

    Yes, they definitely have a deep bench this season. But…..if the camera keeps focusing on J Lo when the contestants are singing, then it doesn’t matter how deep the bench is. It’s still only the J Lo show, and she’s not that interesting. ..
    We’ll see what the producers have in mind when the live shows start. Will they introduce the judges first and the singers second? Who is going to get top billing? The judges? Or, the singers? That’s the whole ball game to me. Who is the star of American Idol? A has-been fly girl, or a new, rising talent?

    • Meg says:

      Yes, Yes! I agree.

      • Terry says:

        100% agree, the camera should stay on the contestant the entire time they are singing! Good grief it’s not like they sing the whole song, it’s only a minute and a half FFS, no need to be cutting away to JLow! Ugh!!!

    • earwitness says:

      They’ve always focused on the judges during the singing. I’ve never liked it.

      • joey says:

        No they haven’t always focused on the judges. Go to YouTube and type in Kelly Clarkson Stuff Like That There, and you’ll see how they used to give the singers a chance to be a star.

        • darcy's evil twin says:

          Thanks so much for that suggestion, Joey. It had been years since I watched that performance and It’s one of the best ever on Idol, IMO. It makes me miss the contestants singing songs from the American Songbook and Big Band Week, which can really separate the wheat from the chaff (that’s a nod to Mr. Slezak and Melinda).
          Yes, you’re correct – they didn’t always focus on the judges.

  6. earwitness says:

    First check in for me this year. A very talented group of singers this year. Shaping up as possibly the best overall, ever. Am enjoying it a lot and I don’t care a bit what the ratings are like. Best produced also, imo.

  7. Bonic94 says:

    SARINA JOI-CROWE!!! I believe that she can give the men a run for their money!! She is a beast and I believe with the right guidance she can be in the win the whole thing

  8. Timmah says:

    Every year at this stage people think it’s the most talented group, but it’s only because we haven’t heard them enough yet to get sick of them.

    • Angie_Overrated says:

      I seem to remember people were NOT saying this last year. Nor were they particularly jazzed the year prior (even though I really liked that year). This year has a very different buzz. I hope it works out for the show because they desperately need a good year.

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      Oh no we don’t, Timmah. Season 9 immediately comes to mind. The field was rather thin anyway but then things took a turn into bizarroland when four of the best contestants in a field of so-so contestants were sent packing (Katelyn Epperle, Lilly Scott, Alex Lambert, and Todrick Hall). Crystal Bowersox was the best thing about that season and the only reason I watched.

  9. Lunakit says:

    Jason Averett, where ARE you!!!?????! I feel like the conversation feels “meatier” and covers more territory when Jason adds his salt and pepper to the soup.

  10. Jared says:

    Michael and Melinda, you absolutely nailed what I was feeling when I saw the singoff between Maddie and Rachel. They should have both gone through or maybe we just didn’t need to see all of “that” go down. I preferred Rachel a bit more and was sad to see her get the ax and I felt for her. Maddie is good though.

    • Terry says:

      So it was really Maddie’s spot all along and that was just for “drama” or they based their decision on Maddie’s looks and that makes my blood boil! Ugh really? I just want to smack the judges! I’d start with JLo first !

  11. Kate says:

    Another wheat/chaff conversation. I love you guys.

    I am STILL refusing to get too invested in hoping for a great season until we get the top 12. The judges still have a chance to screw things up royally by including Shi by Sheree and Insufferable Child and a few of the other less impressive contestants whom I can’t even remember right now.

    Tyanna’s HoB performance reminded me SO much of Majesty Rose. The hair probably played a role, but it was mostly her arm movements and out-of-nowhere killer performance. And we all know how that turned out (Let It Go, Majesty? REALLY?).

  12. Kenneth Chow says:

    Sorry, I think Michael and Melinda will be extremely as I think the guys picks will absolutely bomb this year as I believe Daniel, Trevor and Riley will all be in this years top 12 which would mean a lot of better guys will miss out. Here’s why…

    The idol demo seems to casts boys that are young and cute and Daniel was casted to be the tweeny grandma/ little girls bait which gets you way further than they should go,hence, this years Lazaro situation, Trevor is your best bet bet for your cute white teeny bopper bait, no other guy fits this better than him hence making top 12…Riley because he’s the only country guy… The others guys are likely Rayvon, Clark and of right now…top 12 predictions….

    1. Clark Beckham
    2. Daniel Seavey
    3. Jackie “Jax” Cole
    4. Joey Cook
    5. Maddie Walker (token country girl)
    6. Rayvon Owen
    7. Riley Bria
    8. Sarina Joi Crowd
    9. Savion Wright
    10. Shannon Berthauime
    11. Trevor Douglas
    12. Tyanna Jones

    I personally this would still be a strong lineup, but in this situation… I would be very worried about the weeks where Daniel start staying over Rayvon, Clark, Sarina etc.

    • Timmah says:

      Pretty solid list of predictions, but I’m almost certain Michael Simeon is going to find his way in there. He’ll probably get in ahead of Savion or Rayvon.

      • Kenneth Chow says:

        That could happen which makes it even worst, but personally I don’t think Michael is connecting with the public, but he is a cute white guy and I’m not a young girl, but a young guy (gay, but still)…so, what do I know???

      • Temperance says:

        Agreed. Trevor, Shannon and Riley are on the weak end of that list, and Simeon is a shoo-in.

  13. Runner says:

    I love the dance interlude, y’all. Too funny.

  14. number one: are we not gonna talk about how abysmal it is that shi beat out jelly?
    number two: this slow-dance daniel kid? how did this happen? easily would’ve traded him for cody.

    lastly: what happened to some of these other singers that showed a lot of promise? *ahem* najah, erica washington *ahem*

  15. Bonnie A. says:

    A rat’s paw? Yuck! But that was communicative–I also felt kinda yucky after that sing-off exchange and agree that BOTH Shannon and Maddie could have been in the top 24.

  16. Ginger Snap says:

    Let’s be honest about it Maddie is in because she’s the right age. The producers are distancing themselves from any girl who is old – in their eyes

    • Temperance says:

      She’s also got perfect pitch, so she’s already going to be a better contender than a lot of the others (because we all know about the incessant harping on pitch).

    • darcy's evil twin says:

      I don’t have a problem with Maddie making it into the Top 24. I like her a lot. But I agree with Mr. Slezak and Melinda about the whole way that “sing-off” was handled. It was awful and Rachel had every right to be angry. Rachel should have gone through instead of Shi.

  17. Shirley Ann says:

    Melinda and Michael! You two are just wonderful! Thanks for helping me to put my thoughts about the Top 24 in divine order! I love Tyanna, Clark & Rayvon!

  18. ayela says:

    I love Michael and Melinda and this episode was no exception. It did feel, though, that it ended all of a sudden before they were really finished.

  19. Mafs95 says:

    Loved this Reality Check episode! So much fun… I grooved a little bit when Crazy In Love and Drunk In Love snippets started. Haha.
    I think this Top 24 is quite good. Even the ones I wouldn’t put in the Top 24 (Daniel, Shi, Trevor, etc…) are at least somewhat good.
    If I had to make a Top 12 right now with 6 guys and 6 girls (uggggh why is this still a rule, idk), I think I would choose:
    Girls – JAX, Sarina, Katherine, Tyanna, Joey, Lovey/Maddie
    Boys – Clark, Rayvon, Nick, Savion, Quentin, Riley/Qaasim
    Obviously, it will probably be different and my opinion might actually change (like it does 90% of time) after the Top 24 performs. I still remember I didn’t care for Haley at the beginning, I was even mad she made into the Top 13 but now I love her so much she’s probably in my Top 3 Idol contestants ever! Another one I didn’t warm up until later in the competition was Jess Meuse from last season.
    What about you guys? Do you already have a favourite? I still don’t have one, but If I had to bet who’d be the winner like right atm, I’d say Clark. He has that whole “winner” type of vibe, not sure how I can explain that. Tyanna is very likable, so she could also have a Jordin-esque type of win. JAX is very popular and will probably go very far in the competition, but she’s also very polaryzing and I think that’ll result in a Top 5/6 elimination.

    • JayNC says:

      I like Savion, Tyanna, Clark, Nick, Sarina as far as singers go. I find Jax, Riley, Quentin, Joey interesting and look forward to seeing more of them too. I definitely do not like Qaasim (too frantic, scary mouth) or Shi (too fake). Trevor and Daniel I think we are going to get tired of but they will probably stick around for a while. The rest I just don’t know enough about yet, so I reserve the right to completely change my mind after Thursday.

    • Jaszy says:

      OMG, I remember not liking Haley Reinhart in the beginning as well…I wanted Kendra Chantelle to make it over her…but after BENNIE, HALEY became one of my favorite contestants of all time.
      I also loved Jessica Meuse from last season, but unlike you, I fell in love with her from the beginning.
      JAX better not get eliminated in 5/6 position. I want her to win…if not her, then another girl. Don’t care for the guys too much, which is almost like every year..

  20. Simon says:

    It’s interesting how the genre distribution changes from year to year. Last year there was a ton of country (CJ, Dexter, Ben, and to some extent Jessica in the top 13 alone) and pretty much just Malaya representing R&B. This year, there’s barely any country, but there are a ton of great female R&B singers, which unfortunately means vote splitting. Sarina-Joi has the best voice, Loren is the prettiest, and Tyanna is the youngest, but Adanna doesn’t really have anything that sets her apart, so my guess is she’ll be the first to go.

    One more thing. Did anyone watch Shi’s full House of Blues performance online? It is completely bizarre. She ends her performance with a lot of weird antics that make Jax’s long pause seem unnoticeable by comparison.

  21. James says:

    Still stings to see someone like Hunter or Jaq not make it in over someone like SHE or Loren….

    • Jaszy says:

      It’s Shi….and I really like her….lol…it’s kind of bugging me that a lot of people don’t like her. I think she’s misunderstood. I don’t think Shi knows who she is as an artist, that’s where I feel there’s a disconnect between her and the viewers…

      • Smokey says:

        True, she has been from an Amy Winehouse vibe to running wild around the stage like a hard-rocker at House of the Blues ………..that stirs-up the live crowd and gets a judge or two happy that the crowd is livened-up, but can crash in live voting…..

        ………..She hasn’t really defined herself yet, and may only survive in the competition for any distance, by sticking to an R&B type theme and claiming the slightly off-beat Jazz-Blues niche……. I don’t dislike anyone in the competition, so I have no problem with any of them —– but I agree that Shi isn’t clear on where she’s trying to define herself yet…………… it will be interesting to see what she tackles in the top 12 girls show.

        • Mafs95 says:

          I actually know what she’s singing for Top 12 but I don’t want to post spoilers, so all I’m gonna say is the song rhymes with Nigella and the artist rhymes with banana.

    • Jaszy says:

      But I do agree with you in that I think BOTH Jaq and Hunter…(I want to say Maddy too should be included), should’ve made it. I just wish they’d do away with the gender quotas….because my top 24 would’ve had more girls in it…including the ones I just mentioned.

    • I strongly disagree with you about Loren. I feel that after group rounds she has started to redeem herself. While MHWGO was not her personal best, at least she has the advice and is using it in every possible way. Also I heard that she has strep throat and so I wish her all the love in the world!!! :)

  22. Roxy bright says:

    It’s not all about the voice, it’s about charisma and star quality – joey, Daniel, jax, cool Maddie, Riley, Sarina, Trevor, tyanna, nick, Loren, are in the top 12 i reckon.

  23. David says:

    Mark Andrews is my favourite this season, although he’s been struggling. Hoping he can pull it together for live shows. Can’t help but feel Tyanna’s pitch struggles might return during live shows- I’m getting Malaya vibes from her… Plus I really don’t understand the love for Maddie, I find her performances super bland…

  24. earwitness says:

    So is Daniel the young kid? I don’t know the names yet. He’s cute I guess but is really too young still to offer up anything interesting musically. Putting him in the top group risks the prospect that he might get voted forward for quite awhile over more experienced and talented singers.

    • JayNC says:

      Yep that is exactly what I am worried about. Cute, and a pretty good singer, but he is so not ready for prime time. I wish they would RAISE the age limit a bit.

  25. How do you shut off the ads on the page that keep running all through the show? It is >>>>>>>> annoying!

  26. Jill Moy says:

    DEEPEST BENCH??????? LOL!!!!!!!!

  27. Smokey says:

    In the next cutting-curve of the competition for the girls, Adanna and Alexis are almost sure to go, even Maddie and Loren are not safe. Why? Because others are gaining more interest.

  28. darcy's evil twin says:

    Finally got around to watching Reality Check this morning. As always y’all did a great job Mr. Slezak and Melinda – I just wish you had discussed a few of the other performances. I agree with Melinda – Clark Beckham is my favorite so far. Rayvon doesn’t really do much for me but wow, what a voice. It’s kind of like Sarah McLachlan – she has a lovely voice but I would rather poke out my eyes with pencils than listen to anything she sings.
    Sorry, I do not care for Qassim.

  29. I’m disappointed that you didn’t cover the Shi vs Jelly, or the mysterious disappearance of Hunter Larsen.

  30. ss says:

    That’s funny I have never heard that expression “deep bench” before and all of a sudden I hear it used like 5-6 times on this page and in the video.

  31. Vicky Enriquez says:

    Ya, and after this last weeks guys that didn’t make it through mainly, we have a lot less of that deep bench than we did before! It’s like having a winning baseball team of players, but the management just starts taking them away one by one, until we’re no longer the winning team! In this case, it’s the America’s votes that did it! ;(

  32. Anne Brown says:

    Alexis made it through – can’t believe it – she is not that good.

  33. Jacqueline ramnauth says:

    Keep Quaasim on the show. He is the only contestant with personality.

  34. Robin Jones says:

    Quassim looks like an alien! He sucks! Omg can’t wait for his ass to go home. My whole school votes against him. Hahah boiiiinnggggg

  35. Lady gaga says:

    Qassim or whatever needs to be chopped off the show. He’s stinky poo poo