We may have gotten past the side-eye-inducing drama of American Idol‘s Group Rounds, but rest assured, executive producer Trish Kinane and her mischievous band of editors aren’t going to let this Farewell Season run on the fuel of vocal performances alone.
Preposterous teenage “love stories,” tales of next-level bronchitis (#AintNobodyGotTimeForThat) and the weeping of the lambs all came into play during Wednesday’s final solos (aka The Holding Rooms of the Damned). Show of hands: Did you cringe after Sara Sturm said Lee Jean was like a little brother to her, but Ryan’s voiceover kept pushing them as future lovers anyhow? Oh, and Tristan McIntosh… if you’re in meltdown mode over a stolen song choice and we’re not even in the live rounds, then you are most definitely not ready for the horrors ahead!
Not everyone who survived the culling — 75 contestants down to 50 or so — necessarily looked like a potential bookend to Kelly Clarkson. Still, at least half a dozen performances underscored the idea that the next eight weeks — don’t forget, the Season 15 finale airs April 7 — may not be a coronation march ending in a confetti shower for La’Porsha Renae (not that there’d be anything wrong with that).
With that in mind, allow me to separate the folks lucky enough to score camera time into one of four groups: Potential Winners; Potential Favorites of Producers/Scott Borchetta; Absolute Cannon Fodder; Could Be Any of the Above/More Information Needed. (Bear in mind I’ll be back in a half hour or so to update this post with the reasons behind such harsh labels of judgment.)
Potential Winners/Top 10-ers
Jenn Blosil — Seemed disappointed in her cover of “True Colors,” but I heard genuine emotion and an easily identifiable tone.
Jessica Cabral — One of three vocalists who got an “under-the-weather” edit, and yet her “Up to the Mountain” was one of the best of the night.
Olivia Rox — Chicks who write their own tunes (Crystal Bowersox, Jena Irene, Jessica Meuse) do well on Idol — and Olivia’s “Crazy Love” wasn’t half bad.
Mackenzie Bourg — I’m still not certain his voice is strong enough to take him deep into the competition, but his charismatic, deeply felt rendition of the original track “Roses” made me see him in a new (and more potentially winning) light.
Malie Delgado — Only her final note on “Stitches” sounded rough — a minor miracle for a scrappy vocalist fighting laryngitis.
Potential Favorites of Producers/Scott Borchetta (Whether or Not They Deserve It)
Thomas Stringfellow — Scarves and hipster hats (see photo) may drive the 12-24 demo, but his vocal on “A Thousand Years” still sounded slight and a little too hiccup-y.
Tristan McIntosh — She’s gotten a ton of screentime — and her audition was pinned for weeks on the Idol Twitter page — but her meltdown over not getting “What Hurts the Most” and her spotty breath support made me wonder if Tristan should’ve waited five years and auditioned for The Voice.
Lee Jean — Producers barely let us hear three notes in succession of his “Stitches” cover, but were sure to highlight the judges’ comments about his cuteness. Blerg.
Dalton Rapattoni — Has “Hopelessly Devoted to You” ever sounded so strained and histrionic? And yet this was the pimp-slot closing number. Uff da!
Absolute Cannon Fodder
Stephany Negrete — No girl, don’t sing “Set Fire to the Rain” when you’re as combustible as a wet log in a deserted camping ground.
James VIII — So many vocal affectations in such a brief amount of time!
Mionne Destiny — I dug the extra swagger she brought to “Chains,” but seeing how this was her first second of screentime — and the judges discussed her struggle with sickness – I am trying not to get too attached.
Could Be Any of the Above/More Information Needed
Avalon Young — I’ve loved her all season, but that last run on “One Last Time” was questionable at best.
Shelbie Z — Not so sure about her choice of Daisy Dukes — or whether she brought anything new to “Alone” — but she’s got as much vocal horsepower as anybody in Season 15.
Kory Wheeler — We simply didn’t hear enough of his cover of “Fix You” — although he seemed a teensy bit behind the beat.
Sonika Vaid — I loved her lush but restrained tone on her umpteenth Ariana Grande cover, but the judges’ feedback was less than enthusiastic.
Sara Sturm — Her “Somewhere Only We Know” betrayed a limited range, but her raspy tone is really lovely.
Emily Brooke — For a contestant who was getting a Chosen One edit, there were an awful lot of iffy notes — and a wispy upper register — on her “What Hurts the Most.” Plus, her shoulder-shrug ending was just bizarre for a Hollywood Week vet.
CJ Johnson _ His Fleetwood Mac cover was energetic and passionate, but we didn’t hear enough of it to make a real determination about the quality of his vocal.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell — I didn’t disagree with J.Lo’s aghast response about Jeneve not proving she could really hold a note on “Danny’s Song,” but Keith and Harry’s opposite opinion contributed to Jeneve’s overall positive edit this season.
John Wayne Schulz — But he looked soooo cute without his cowboy hat!
Joshua Wicker — Ay yai yi — don’t let tears waterlog your vocals, dude!
Inexplicably Not Shown Singing
While I update this post, it’s your turn. Who did you dig from the Hollywood Solo Round? Make yourself heard in the comments!