The fact that Sunday’s American Idol ended with a contestant being rushed to the hospital feels on par with the vibe of Hollywood Week thus far. As we saw tonight, not even our favorites are immune to the occasional misstep — and the pressure is on.
Read on for a breakdown of how 38 memorable contestants fared in the first night of Hollywood Week:
STILL IN THE COMPETITION:
* Laci Kaye Booth (Katy’s little “diamond in the rough”) breezed through to the Group Rounds with a stunning solo performance of Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman,” putting her own country twist on the classic song. Laci left Katy so overwhelmed with excitement that she had no choice but to throw a chair. Her group then sang Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” and although the harmonies were a damn mess, Laci stood out as the quartet’s confident leader and remained in the competition. From that same group, the insanely likable Katie Belle was also put through, as was Laine Hardy, who’s really impressing me with how much his sound has matured since last season.
* After inspiring the judges with her first audition, Shayy once again displayed the power of perseverance during the Group Rounds. As hard as this may be to believe, Shayy had never heard Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” before, and her impaired vision made it difficult for her to learn the lyrics in such a limited time. But Shayy’s group members — including Demetrius Graham, who FaceTimed his mom for a sob-inducing performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings” — rallied around her, even wearing special glasses during their performance that replicated how Shayy sees the world. I was pleased that both of these singers (plus Assata Renay) made it through. Watch:
* Though we haven’t seen his group perform yet, Alejandro Aranda once again wowed the judges with a thoughtful take on Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” which he transformed into a soulful love song. And those quick fingers! This man is a wizard on the guitar, I tell you. A wizard! Watch:
* Madison Vandenburg didn’t take being called “the next Kelly Clarkson” lightly, returning for Hollywood Week with a cover of the original Idol winner’s hit ballad “Already Gone.” It was a risky move, but with those golden pipes, Madison didn’t have much to worry about. It was powerful, emotional and accessed a level of pain you really believed. Once again, Katy was so overtaken by her own emotions that she literally ran out of the auditorium. I’m very curious to see how the Group Rounds go for her.
* A fan favorite from Day 1, Myra Tran blew the lid off the venue this week with her solo performance of Sia’s “Chandelier,” taking her voice to places I didn’t even know existed. But things got a little tricky in the Group Rounds, as Myra and her fellow group members — including Moriah Formica — felt they were being mistreated by self-appointed leader Juan Pablo, who said the group’s gender ratio made for a “peculiar dynamic.” Katy said she’s worried that Juan Pablo’s persona is borderline cheesy (ya think?), but the judges put him through, along with Myra and Moriah. Watch:
* Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, who revealed that he’s no longer working as a janitor at his father’s church, put his all into his Hollywood Week callback, telling the viewers, “I have very little to go back to.” Fortunately, he killed it, commanding Carole King’s “Beautiful” as if he’d written every word himself. Given his musicianship, I suspect he’ll do well in the Group Rounds, but we won’t know until tomorrow.
* Despite fumbling the lyrics to “California Dreamin” (which he wrote on his hand!) during his group performance, abuse survivor Wade Cota was put through to the next round, as was Hot Strawberry Farmer™ Kason Lester.
* After stunning the judges with a solid performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Believe in You and Me,” Nate Walker entered the Group Rounds on a high — until he started getting sick, which ultimately led to him being taken away in an ambulance. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s episode to see how things pan out, but it’s looking like his group is now a trio.
* Other singers who made it to the Group Rounds but have yet to perform include: Logan Johnson, who served up a lovely cover of City and Colour’s “Sensible Heart”; Margie Mays, whose a capella rendition of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” was so good it made Katy sneeze; Eddie Island, who also got a big reaction from Katy by performing Death Cab for Cutie’s “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark”; friendly hardware store employee Shawn Robinson, whose impressive cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” was smooth and effortless; real-life Archie Walker Burroughs, whose take on Stevie Wonder’s “Whereabouts” was the best he’s sounded yet; Nick Townsend, who performed Shawn Mendes’ “Life of the Party” better than the artist himself; plus Dalton Elliott, Tyler Mitchell, Ashley Hess, Evelyn Cormier and Clay Page.
* Courtney Penry (aka Ryan Seacrest’s one true love) was prepared to “let the pieces fall where they may.” Unfortunately, they did not fall in her favor. I had a bad feeling about this performance when she started sobbing, and those concerns were confirmed when Penry forgot the words to her song midway through. It’s all for the best — she would have been eaten alive in the Group Rounds.
* I was a little more surprised to see Ashton Gill, who auditioned with Laine Hardy along as her back-up guitarist, cut before the Group Rounds. Her performance of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” wasn’t super exciting, but I appreciated her confidence, and I really thought she was going to make it to the next level.
* After capturing America’s collective heart with her tragic tale of becoming a widow at age 27, Lauren Engle hoped to keep our attention with a performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.” Sadly, her nerves got the better of her, and the judges were forced to cut her loose.
* Other singers we lost before the Group Rounds: Peach Martine, Jorgie (of Jorgie and the Jorgies fame), and drill sergeant Landen Knowlton.
* Then came the Group Rounds, which sent clog dancer Zebulon “Zeb” Spencer and teen titan Chloe Channell packing.
* One of the more ridiculous casualties of the Group Rounds was Jade Flores, who dreams of becoming the first female Hispanic country singer. I’m honestly at a loss. “Stronger” was a perfect fit for her voice, and she absolutely killed it. The fact that the judges put Juan Pablo through ahead of Jade is utter nonsense.
* I was also sad — though not at all surprised — to see Colby Swift get the boot (pun intended). His solo performance was a little shaky, but the judges sent him through to the Group Rounds based on his potential. Maybe if Colby had worn his lucky boots, rather than the new pair Luke gave him, he might have remembered the words to “Grenade.” Instead, he… well… bombed.
* And Luke was devastated to have to break the bad news to Ethan Payne, who first met the country star through Make-a-Wish a few years ago. In this case, the song choice (Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha’s “Meant to Be”) was spot on — but the performance was not. “It shattered my heart,” Ethan said of his hero sending him home. “But I still love him.”
* William Oliver Jr. was also sent home during the Group Rounds.
Were you surprised by any of Sunday’s eliminations? Which remaining singers are you still pulling for? Drop a comment with all of your thoughts on Hollywood Week (thus far) below.