Sunday’s American Idol kicked off the Season 16 semifinals, with the first group from the Top 24 taking the stage for solo performances.
Along for the ride was radio host/country music tastemaker Bobby Bones, who mentored each contestant as they prepared for “the most important performance of their journey… so far.” Like Billy Eichner, I never pass up the opportunity to make a bones pun, so I’ll be sharing the bones I have to pick with tonight’s contestants, as well as Bones’ bones. Ya dig?
All right, let’s do this…
Bobby’s Bones: This mentor’s first critique was also, let’s be real, his strangest. Upon hearing that Dominique hasn’t officially quit his job, Bones made him promise that he’ll do so if he moves on to the next round. He literally made Dominique scream his intentions at a poor, unsuspecting passerby. (Does that qualify as an oral contract?)
Andy’s Bones: Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” wasn’t the most exciting song choice, but Dominique did a lot with it. He brings an infectious energy to the stage, one the audience seems to eat right up.
Bobby’s Bones: In addition to being incredibly talented, Spring has a tendency to take herself too seriously. “You can’t lose that kid part of you when you perform,” Bones advised her before arranging a FaceTime chat with Spring’s favorite former Idol contestant Lauren Alaina.
Andy’s Bones: I have to imagine that Spring is a straight-A student, because she always takes the judges’ critiques into consideration and effectively implements their suggestions. Her take on Martina McBride’s “A Broken Wing” was light and joyful while still showing off her powerhouse vocals. She sang for her damn life up there.
Bobby’s Bones: When Bones asked Turner if she’s taking the competition seriously, I was afraid he might be trying to kill her (admittedly polarizing) vibe. But no! His advice was to “keep leaving impressions,” both in her performances and with her overall personality.
Andy’s Bones: If leaving an impression was her goal, Blondie’s “Call Me” was a brilliant way of doing it. Not only did Turner slay the vocals (duh), but she showed off so much personality — and I’m not just talking about her dramatic hair flip or that Little House on the Prairie dress, which I also kind of loved.
Bobby’s Bones: Touched by Lorenzo’s tragic backstory and inspired by his subsequent success, Bones wanted to see that message shine through in tonight’s performance. “It really doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said. “Zip codes don’t define us. You’re an example of that.”
Andy’s Bones: Besides the fact that Magic’s “Rude!” needs to go away forever, I agree with Katy Perry that this song wasn’t the best way for Lorenzo showcase his vocals, which are what got him to this point. And while I melted over his little shoutout to his daughter in the audience, it shall earn him no additional flames.
Bobby’s Bones: In addition to embracing her room-lighting personality, Bones advised Sussett to embrace her Venezuelan heritage. “Be proud of where you’re from,” he said.
Andy’s Bones: Sussett is the kind of performer I’m always excited to see, and I love that she took Bones’ advice by serving up an island-flavored (not to mention bilingual) rendition of Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy.” As Perry noted, Sussett’s innate ability to connect with her audience through multiple languages is her “ace,” advising her to “play it well.” (I’d say she’s playing it pretty damn well so far.)
MICHAEL J. WOODARD
Bobby’s Bones: “When you perform, the judges never know what you’re going to do,” Bones said. “You’re going to have to hone in on what kind of artist you want America to know you for.”
Andy’s Bones: No offense to Señor Bones, but I kind of love that Woodard totally ignored his advice (stop trying to put him in a neat little box!) and chose to sing “Golden Slumbers,” a slightly more obscure selection from the Beatles’ catalogue. And true to form, Woodard crushed it, blowing the judges away with his smooth vocals and sincere emotions. I’m also living for those jumpsuits he’s been sporting onstage.
Bobby’s Bones: “If you’re feeling super emotional, be super emotional,” Bones advised McBane. “If you want people to love you, you’ve got to let them in. A lot of people can’t do it … but you have it.”
Andy’s Bones: Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go” is the kind of song that should probably be reserved for TV drama promos. (I’m thinking strictly CW, but I’m also willing to accept FX if we’re talking, like, Sons of Anarchy.) Still, McBane did a decent job of tapping into the rock number’s emotional roots, even if the judges (and I agree) think the goat farmer has a lot more to give. “The voice is there,” they told him. “We just want the rest of you.”
Bobby’s Bones: After hearing about the veritable hurricane of feels brewing within Brenns, Bones told him, “It’s OK to freak out. People will relate to you. You need to show a little more emotion.”
Andy’s Bones: There was something very charming — like, even more than usual — about Brenns’ subtle performance of Vance Joy’s “Georgia.” His riffs were on point, his falsetto was a dream and his confidence (to quote Lionel Richie) is slowly “blossoming.” He also played off of the audience’s energy nicely, plastering quite a few goofy grins on his female admirers. (Truth be told, though, I’d rather we focus on his golden voice than his golden smile.)
Bobby’s Bones: “Right now, they’re saying you’re not letting them in,” Bones told Kay Kay of the judges’ perceptions. “You have to get lost in the performance.”
Andy’s Bones: I actually think Kay Kay might have taken Bones’ advice a little too much to heart. She sounded great, but in her attempt to squeeze the drama out of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain,” I felt she lost some of her authenticity. But this is an instance in which I (apparently) disagree with the judges; Luke Bryan proclaimed that Kay Kay was “just born as a star,” while Perry acknowledged tonight’s performance as a major “turning point.”
Bobby’s Bones: Knowing that Richie would be watching Diaz’s performance of the iconic “Hello,” Bones suggested… well, he didn’t really help. He just had Diaz hang a bunch of joke signs around town, then wished him the best.
Andy’s Bones: Where’s Randy Jackson when you need him?! Though Diaz managed to shake off his initial nerves as the performance progressed, this pitchy take on a Richie classic did no favors to anyone. Even Richie admitted to being “terrified” for him while he was on stage.
Bobby’s Bones: “Go out and crush it” was Bones’ only real advice for Barrett, who wondered if Nashville has room for a girl from Pittsburgh. He also got her on the phone with Kelsea Ballerini — which I still can’t believe is an actual human name.
Andy’s Bones: If there’s one thing I learned from Smash — and I have learned many things! — it’s that you’ve got to leave ’em with a big finish. And while someone clearly gave the same message to Barrett, who crushed Maren Morris’ “My Church,” they forgot to tell her to sprinkle in some personality throughout the entire performance. Like the judges, I wish she hadn’t waited until the very end before deciding to melt everyone’s faces.
Bobby’s Bones: Besides the alarming number of human beings living in Los Angeles, Foehner’s biggest concern is that he might be coming off arrogant. Bones assured him, “Just say exactly what you feel” and it’ll be interpreted as confident, rather than arrogant.
Andy’s Bones: I’d like to see a little more of who Foehner is as an artist, but one thing’s for sure — this guy knows what he’s doing on stage. The voice, the guitar skills, the hair, all of it. Even Richie, who was around for the original version of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” admitted that Foehner has “it.”
Which of these contestants deserve to continue in the competition, and who are you ready to leave behind? Vote for your favorite performances of the night below (you may choose up to five), then drop a comment with more of your thoughts.