And then there were 10.
Following Sunday’s first “live” episode of American Idol, Monday’s actual first live (no quotation marks!) episode eliminated four more hopefuls from the competition: Marcio Donaldson, Mara Justine, Jonny Brenns and Garrett Jacobs.
That means Season 16’s official Top 10 is: Maddie Poppe, Cade Foehner, Gabby Barrett, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Michael J. Woodard, Catie Turner, Ada Vox, Jurnee, Michelle Sussett and Dennis Lorenzo. (Those last four singers were hand-saved by the judges.)
First of all, I’m utterly heartbroken over the loss of Donaldson, the heart of this competition. I applaud the judges for saving Sussett; she’s a star, even if America has failed to recognize that up until this point. I wasn’t surprised to see Brenns or Jacobs go, though I’ll miss their collective handsomeness. Mostly, though, I’m just glad that Ada is making it through to Disney Week so she can give us the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” we deserve.
OK, now that we’ve gotten all that unpleasantness out of the way, let’s discuss tonight’s performances — which contained almost no unpleasantness at all:
MADDIE POPPE (“Walk Like an Egyptian”)
Season 16’s throwback queen did it again, opening the episode with a laid back take on this classic Bangles bop.
MICHELLE SUSSETT (“I’m a Dreamer”)
The odds were stacked against Sussett at the top of tonight’s episode; not only did America vote her into the “danger zone,” but she also came prepared with an original song — always a risk in Idol World. Fortunately, for Sussett, her self-penned anthem of courage was a jam.” Like, that song could have easily been a forgotten track on the Greatest Showman soundtrack.
MARCIO DONALDSON (“Jealous”)
No lie, I was pretty shocked that Donaldson wasn’t immediately put through to the Top 10. And something tells me the feeling was mutual, because Donaldson — who routinely wows me with his vocal trickery and offbeat charisma — simply didn’t bring his A-game tonight. That said, I appreciated him sprinkling a dash of Michael Jackson cheese on that Nick Jonas pizza. (Sorry, I’m waiting for pizza to get here. Expect more metaphors as the wait continues.)
CADE FOEHNER (“Bright Lights”)
A pair of conflicting thoughts struck me as I watched Foehner slay this Gary Clark, Jr. blues jam. First: He might be the most consistent performer in the competition; you can always count on him to nail the material, connect with the audience and look fine as kale while doing so. But to borrow the judges’ favorite line, I still want to see more of him. I want him to step out of his comfort zone. And I’m not sure he’s being encouraged to do so.
GARRETT JACOBS (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”)
Johnny Eyebrows chose to throw it back this week, converting this iconic Creedence Clearwater Revival song into a chill, sexy little number that I absolutely loved. It wasn’t the kind of performance that demands a re-watch, but it certainly made my job easier. (I really don’t want to be mean, guys! … Also when is that pizza getting here?)
GABBY BARRETT (“Little Red Wagon”)
I liked Barrett’s take on Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” last night, but I loved her (literally) bouncy take on this Miranda Lambert hit. And I feel like it’s the kind of thing she really wants to be doing; Lord knows she’s got the confidence for it. (Like Katy Perry, I would also like to know what Barrett had for dinner. AND IT BETTER NOT BE MY PIZZA!)
DENNIS LORENZO (“This Woman’s Work”)
Lorenzo was another contestant I figured would be a shoo-in for the Top 10. Alas, America didn’t guarantee him a spot in the safety zone, forcing him to defend his honor with a gorgeous, chill-inducing rendition of this Maxwell slow jam. Not only did he prove he can keep his cool under pressure, but I don’t think a Season 16 performer has ever done more with less. #SimplicityWorks
JONNY BRENNS (“Demons”)
I maintain that Brenns is more of a small-venue performer than the kind of stadium-ready “idol” this show is looking for, but goodness, if I wasn’t charmed by his emotional take on that Imagine Dragons hit. I’ve rooted for him since Day 1 — OK, maybe more like Day 2 or 3 — and I’m really excited to watch him continue growing, no matter which stages await him in the future.
CALEB LEE HUTCHINSON (“Gettin’ You Home”)
Look, I have nothing against Hutchinson personally — and it’s pretty clear that America loves him just as he is — but his performances are like getting to be like Nyquil at this point, proving that you can be vocally on-point but still give a completely forgettable show. He may have done Chris Young proud, but the most exciting part about Hutchinson’s time on screen was analyzing his (somewhat) new ‘do.
MARA JUSTINE (“Love on the Brain”)
Quick question: Where the hell was this girl last night?! Was that Justine’s less-confident twin sister who butchered The Greatest Showman? Because the girl who took the stage tonight didn’t even break a sweat whilst demolishing this Rihanna song. I can’t say I was surprised that America didn’t immediately put her in the Top 10, but of all the contestants who had to defend themselves in song, she brought it the hardest.
JURNEE (“Never Enough”)
Can someone explain why Jurnee chose to perform the same song she gave us prior to making the Top 24? Don’t get me wrong, she nailed it once again, but does ABC have some sort of deal with The Greatest Showman? One tonight, another last night and a third used in promos for Dancing With the Stars. Look, I love me a bearded lady as much as the next carnival goer, but enough is enough.
MICHAEL J. WOODARD (“Believe in Yourself”)
Always a surprise — and a pleasant one at that — Woodard chose to celebrate his entry into the Top 10 with a joyous take on one of The Wiz‘s most memorable ballads. He sounded great, he looked fly and he deserved every ounce of relief he must have felt as he sashayed over to safety.
CATIE TURNER (“Havana”)
Boosted by the good news that she was guaranteed a spot in the Top 10, Turner earned herself a permanent place in my Apple Music library with this slick cover of Camila Cabello’s legendary earworm. Not only did she look cool as hell performing it, but this might have been her most impressive vocal performance yet. Absolute fire.
ADA VOX (“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”)
Is this famous Dreamgirls number a little on-the-nose for a contestant singing for her life? Sure, but no one does on-the-nose better than drag queens. And this queen did it. She let her emotions get the better of her in a few spots, but she ended on a (literal) high note and the crowd was eating out of the palm of her hand.
Your thoughts on Season 16’s Top 10? Were the right four singers eliminated? Vote for your favorite performances below (you can pick up to five), then drop a comment with your reaction to Monday’s episode.