American Idol Farewell Season Recap: In Sickness and in Hell Week

Hi, my name is Michael, and I’m an American Idol conspiracy theorist.

I live to detect (and overanalyze) every subtle dig from J.Lo, Harry and Keith, every unflattering camera angle or soundbite selection from the show’s producers, every early signal that behind the Idol curtain, an early “winner’s edit” is being fashioned from a few well-executed notes, a fawning reaction shot, some duct tape and a chain of paper clips.

Which is why Hollywood Week is such a fascinating, frustrating experience. The initial “Lines of 10” round boils down 190 contestants’ performances into a single hour — and there’s almost no explanation given when early faves get booted or well-liked hopefuls get relegated to roles like “Girl Standing in the Background With Guitar, Looking Vaguely Forlorn.”

In other words, unlike the live telecasts — where each vocalist gets the same uninterrupted 90-second performance slot — in Hollywood Week, you’ve got to take producers’ word for it. (Or at least accept that — even if you question their intentions, you don’t have much supporting evidence to throw back in their faces.)

With that dynamic in mind, allow me to make 10 definitive observations from Wednesday’s one-hour telecast — bearing in mind there’s no real way to cover every advancement or elimination in this recap space (without resorting to a boring laundry list):

1. Jordan Sasser is cannon fodder. The manbun-sporting fella whose wife failed to score a golden ticket — and made it really awkward afterward — tackled Tori Kelly’s “Should’ve Been Us” for his Line of 10, and proved he has neither the range nor vocal control for such a mighty task. That’s bad news, considering that if you’re going to go far on Idol, you need to be able to honestly assess your own strengths and limitations, and choose your songs accordingly.

2. Dalton Rapattoni needs to tone down the breathy boy-band affectations. Yeah, yeah, his guyliner-ed eyes probably make him a shoo-in for the Top 12, but prior voting patterns show that the Idol audience craves artistic authenticity over good looks — and his “California Dreaming” lacked the emotional heft possessed by even Idol’s weakest winners.

3. Jenn Blosil’s got a whopping range. She still seems spacier than NASA’s Discovery, but when she stretched her voice to its highest point, it still managed to sound quite pretty.

4. Olivia Rox should break out the sparkly pink guitar on the regular. Yeah, that’s shallow, but you have to admit it’s pretty damn cool.

5. Jessica Cabral’s “Photograph” was the most nuanced, note-perfect vocal of the entire hour.

6. Maybe I underrated Sonika Vaid’s audition. Her “Almost Is Never Enough” — or at least the few seconds we heard of it — was a study in beautiful restraint.

7. La’Porhsa Renae made me like a Katy Perry song! (But while I’d download her slowed-down “Roar” tomorrow if it was on iTunes, she needs to be careful not to overdo it with the runs.)

8. PLEASE DON’T MAKE THIS A DATING SHOW, FOX! If Manny Torres and Daniel Farmer are really as interested in macking on the lay-dees as producers would have us believe, maybe someone should give them a Golden Ticket to advance to the Top 48 for the next season of The Bachelorette?

9. I’m sure she didn’t mean it the way it came out… but did anyone else wince when Melany Huber’s mom greeted her after her elimination by declaring, “It’s OK. I love you anyway.”

10. Not having electricity in her house is not an excuse for the way Jeneve Rose Mitchell clips her notes. Still, her ability to infuse her spunky personality into her song choices makes her a legit threat.

11. Producers have shown Tristan McIntosh’s face more than any other contestant this season, but she fell out of the pocket and went flat on at least half a dozen notes during her ill-advised Carrie Underwood. (Now might be a good time to remind contestants of what I said re. Jordan: “You need to be able to honestly assess your own strengths and limitations, and choose your songs accordingly.”

12. I’ve always wanted to hear Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” on Idol. I did not want it to be done by a 16-year-old with a deeply limited range and less natural rhythm than Ted Cruz.

13. For maybe the first time in Idol history, I wasn’t particularly upset by any of the “eliminated with no explanation” montage contestants.

14. Learning that megatalented Trent Harmon had mono during Hollywood Week sent me to the brink of collapse, but his Sam Smith cover, while far from perfect, was deeply heartfelt with some “yes, sir, you did that!” notes, to boot.

15. As with Tristan, I was not quite as enthusiastic about Emily Brooke’s Line of 10 performance — particularly her garbled enunciation — as the judges. Was that really the best way to end the episode?

What did you think of Night One of Season 15 Hollywood Week? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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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67 Comments
  1. Florence+TheMachineRULEZ!!! #TeamMariah says:

    I disagree with you about Emily’s vowels. I really liked it and her voice is very powerful as well. Laporsha, Trent, Jessica, Jenn, Tristian, and Sonika were standouts as well

    • Lyn says:

      Lots of lookalikes to celebrities this season. Jenn reminds me of the lovely Eloise Mumford. I hope she stays in for a good long time.

      • Florence+TheMachineRULEZ!!! #TeamMariah says:

        Same here. Her voice just moves me

      • Tom22 says:

        I wish more of them had a sort of easy presence and charisma. Joey Cook was pretty fun to watch and hear talk. Caleb had some personality but not much original (but solid covers) going on musically. All of season 10’s contestants seemed to be likable and held the stage and camera well…on top of most being very good singers. Personality comes through the music (but it’s a 3 legged stool, of voice, understanding music, and having a personal essence that shines through the first two)

  2. Andrea says:

    I was hoping to see some people that they didn’t show. Did they bother to introduce us to any new people during this episode, because it didn’t seem like it, and that’s a shame. I’m glad Trent Harmon pulled it together, but I’m sad to see Melany Huber get cut.

  3. Rob says:

    Is it just me or are there an absurd amount of “Worship Leaders” on this season? Literally every time you see someone who’s a Worship Leader, take a drink and then you’ll be dead by the end of the episode.

    • Person says:

      Yes, I noticed that too.

    • Jillette Razer says:

      Omg yes praise

    • Velocisexual says:

      Not just on American Idol, over the past couple of years I’ve seen that term show up more and more on almost every reality competition I watch, it’s ridiculous. You people are obsessed with religion.

      • Mikela says:

        I kind of doubt some of those “lworship leaders are even that religious. I suspect it’s a great way to earn a solid pay check for singing while only working a couple of days per week, leaving plenty of other time to pursue a music career.

        • Ben says:

          A good chunk of the worship leaders are probably unpaid, and just do it voluntarily on occasional sundays. But it still makes for a more relevant ‘job’ than whatever they do during the week.

    • KHEsmith says:

      YES….. I commented on that during last night’s episode…. and by the way, what is a “worship leader”? I think it’s a way to say you have a profession when you really don’t….. just go to some random church and self righteously tell people to pray and be kind to others? Call me cynical, but I am skeptical. I’m also an atheist, so I’m not qualified to make these judgements.

      • Lyn says:

        IMO a worship leader is a musician who plays hymns and generally serves as religious Pep Squad.

      • Ben says:

        A worship leader is generally just the person who chooses the songs for the week and then stands up the front and leads them. It’s also probably not their actual profession, but merely something they do on a sunday that is relevant to the fact they can sing. My brother, for instance, has in the past been a worship leader while also having a day job of being a partner at a major private firm pulling in 6 figures. So making an assumption that they really don’t have a job is probably a poor one.

        Generally speaking, being a worship leader is something you volunteer to do at your own church that you have already been attending (not a random one) and does not need to involve any ‘self-righteousness’ at all (and if it does involve self righteousness, it will be just as grating to the people who sit in the church as it is to you in concept). Some of them might actually be employed into that role, but I doubt very many of them would be. Most churches probably have a lot of different worship leaders, so that it is just something they do every month or two.

    • TD says:

      Not just this year. A lot in the last couple of years.

  4. S. says:

    Tristan was clearly just nervous. Definitely heard some ‘this is scary’ quiver. I don’t think it’s fair to call it about weaknesses vs. strengths assessment with her as if her ability to sing it is a problem. Her Youtube stuff clearly says that is well within her range vocally. She’s 15 and this is very daunting. If it keeps happening, then it’d indicate a problem and that she wasn’t ready. I don’t think it will. She’s performed in front of crowds before, so I think it was just the anxiety of Hollywood Week and judging specifically.

    • karenc3 says:

      I’m sure she was nervous, especially being Hollywood Week. But if she makes it through, I’m wondering about her handling the live shows.

  5. I agree about Tristan. I think she thinks she’s a better singer than she is, and reaches for notes she just can’t quite hit full on. Simpler song choices would be a smarter choice for her, as she has a lot of what can make it in this show. Loved Sonika, Emily and the tiny bit we heard of Jenn

  6. Ben says:

    Yay! Michael is finally on board with Sonika. You really did underrate her Michael – she has effortless beauty in her voice that just doesn’t need bells and whistles to work. Also, 11-15 came as a bonus when you told us we’d only get 10 observations.

  7. Mike says:

    Wouldn’t mind a TRENT HARMON VS TRISTAN MCINTOSH FINALE!!! :)

  8. Sarah says:

    Was it me, or did, like… EVERYBODY have an accoustic guitar? Every. Body. As much as I love those things, and can’t put one down myself, I am wondering if that may have been more of a mask for less nuanced singing… I about screamed, “Somebody get an electric and put a wireless transmitter on that thing or something!!!” It got… almost annoying. Singing without one was more noticable than singing with one.
    …But that’s my true blue, blessed rock and roll heart. The louder the better. Don’t mind me. LOL
    *
    I can’t wait for the alumni to come back.

    • Timmah says:

      I had the same thought last night. There are freakin’ guitars everywhere, most of them being used as a crutch to cover up for weak vocals.

  9. Gailer says:

    Ugh, these judges and their choices

    • Amy says:

      Ugh, these producers and their choices.
      Those judges are (highly paid) tools.
      Not trying to by cynical, it’s just really who I believe make the real choices on AI.

  10. daysbradypats says:

    Ideally, right now I’m hoping for a Jessica & Trent finale. It’s definitely a girl’s year overall though. There’s just not a lot of guys that are drawing me in so far this year.

  11. CK says:

    Jeneve is going to be that contestant that everyone goes crazy for while I’m in the corner thinking “what?”. Gianna needed someone to stop her to stop her mid performance and just say “Girl, Chill” because that “One Night Only” was overbaked. Manny and Daniel’s edits are killing me. Overall, I’d give the episode a B. There were some good performances (Sonika, Trent, Jenn, La’Porsha (who needs to do “Roar” live with Kennedy Davenport dancing in the background), Emily, etc.), but nothing had me out of my seat.

  12. Ethan says:

    They made a HUGE mistake in eliminating Melanie Tierce, she was fantastic. Also curious that we didn’t hear from Brandy Burnette, who had a really strong audition.

    • Joe R says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Melanie was great and her elimination made no sense, especially considering some of the people that were sent through. Grrrr.

  13. John says:

    Michael, nothing said about Jen Blosil’s unfortunate “my brother called me J-Blo” comment? Also the early cut of the quirky Melanie seemed harsh – no? I liked her and her audition that Harry walked out on. Thought she should have been moved forward. Thoughts?

  14. Influencze says:

    I’m disappointed that no one has pointed out how much that green haired girl looked like an oompa loompa.

  15. kevstar says:

    I definitely agree on your assessment of Jordan and Dalton. I also can’t believe they let Dalton’s green haired rival through. She sounded awful to these ears. And yes, Sonika was a standout, along with La Porsha, of course.

    • Lyn says:

      LaPorsha tends to church it up too much and that hair! I’d hate to be seated behind her at the theater. She’s cannon fodder IMO.

    • Amy says:

      To my ears too Green girl was aw-ful. …off pitch shreiking. So, I thought, probably they are building the “story arc” of their competition, to which she’ll eventually be cut in a more dramatic way. Last night would have been too predictable, when they only just started ‘playing up’ their ‘story.’

  16. GW says:

    Okay. the best guys are:
    Jordan
    Trent
    Dalton
    The best girls are:
    LaPorsha
    Sonika
    Jenn B

    Everyone else can just go home now.

  17. Beverly says:

    Down here in the shallow end I wonder why no one has mentioned LaPorsha’s hair. That has to be the most distracting thing about her. Her voice is great but I agree about the excess of runs.
    What is with the hair? Anyone?

  18. Taryn says:

    Do we know if Chynna Sherrod and Avalon Young made it through?

  19. Timmah says:

    I don’t see anything original about Trent. That was a mediocre Sam Smith impression at best.

  20. Timmah says:

    I have to take issue with observation #2. The voters have proven time and again that they could care less about artistry as long as you’re a cute guy with a guitar.

  21. jeff says:

    the guy who had been in rehab for drugs, what happened to him. I have downloaded Need to breathe’s Brother song because of him

  22. Yooperbrat says:

    Not sure what to think of last night’s show. I do agree with the judge’s decision on who was cut and who’s made it through to groups…
    It was quite obvious nerves affected just about ALL of the singers. And I think it caused a few to be cut who should have stayed and a few who stayed who should have been cut, but I think group’s week will find them out of the Top 24…

    The two stand outs from last night:
    La’Porcha
    Emily Brookes
    If you tamed down La’Porcha’s vocal gymnastics and Emily’s nerves, which both can be done with the help of vocal coaches, these 2 will be dynamite in the Top 24…

    Looking forward to tonight and seeing who else makes it through. One to keep an eye on, John Wayne Shulz.
    He’s got the whole package that Idol wants, and will surely exploit. Talent, looks, military service, and a backstory everyone can relate to with having a cancer tragedy in the family…

    • Florence+TheMachineRULEZ!!! #TeamMariah says:

      Agree with your top 2. Also I was worried that coming in Hollywood, that emily was gonna be crushed by nerves big time, but fortunately she did not. Emily is one confident girl

  23. Mary says:

    Hard to judge since we only got snippets, but I am glad Jessica made it. She is the only one who got my attention. Manny is really annoying so even with a good voice he is off my list of ones to watch. Sorry Poa make over made her look like Lia from Star Wars, if she makes it I hope that we don’t have to keep seeing Shi, however you spell it, because her acting skills are bad. I felt like we were watching this show on speed, if the producers insisted on making it a short season maybe they should of skipped Hollywood week and just name the top 24.

  24. Sonika really stood out to me and the stage mom that knew JLo was rather annoying.

  25. gale1001 says:

    La’Porhsa wins two awards: 1) most in need of a makeover, and 2) most number of teachers in her elementary school who asked, “now how do you spell your name again??”

    • Lyn says:

      How about most likely to be a Macy’s Parade balloon?

      • Amy says:

        oooh bad, but lol. And last night I think “that hair” was tinted gold at the center to match “that golden jumpsuit.” oiy. Hate to pick on her, her daughter is a cutie and the mom/daughter thing makes her one you want to root for (if it weren’t so contrived by Idol, that is)…but last night I found myself envisioning how (if Idol still actually had a budget for a stylist team) she might be restyled during the season.
        Unfortunately, big voice or not, LaPorsha just is not my kind of singer..doesn’t sound that special to me.

  26. Lyn says:

    When did forced volume and shrill shrieking come to be called singing? I can’t believe how bad some of those people are. And the backwoods girl with the hat needs early elimination.

  27. Serene says:

    It’s a shame that “mono” dude wasn’t removed from the competition as soon as they found out he had contagious “mono” that is so unfair to the other contestants. This is a singing competition. He touched and sang into the mic that other contestants had to touch. The other contestants are going to wonder why they are getting sick and can’t compete.

  28. Smokey says:

    Jenn is now my sweet bae,,,,,,,,,,,x’s and o’s on Valentines day.

  29. Heather says:

    Two words…Melanie Tierce. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Green hair space cadet goes through with her screaming, but Melanie Tierce is booted?! RIDICULOUS!