RECAP: Judges Pick Second Half of American Idol’s Top 14

AMERICAN IDOL: Jordin Sparks and contestant Trent Harmon in the ““Showcase #4: Judges Vote” episode of AMERICAN IDOL airing Thursday, Feb. 18 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ray Mickshaw / FOX.

After a pretty lackluster set of solo performances last night, the contestants needed to step up their game, big time. Before the show started judge Harry Connick Jr. relayed that the duets with previous American Idol contestants would be used heavily to make their choice for the Top 14 since, “across the board everyone as hovering in a kind of mediocre place.” No pressure. Contestants of Idol past this week included Jordin Sparks, Kellie Pickler, Haley Reinhart, Chris Daughtry, David Cook, and Constantine Maroulis.

Amelia Eisenhauer was up first, teaming up with Kellie Pickler for “Suds In The Bucket.” While Amelia was solid throughout, it was obvious from the get go that this duet was not really a duet. It was Amelia’s time to be a back up singer, fiddler, and awkward dancer. This and her unfortunate song choice of “Wake Me Up” last night will likely lead to Amelia’s dismissal.

Haley Reinhart and Kory Wheeler took on “Benny and the Jets.” Kory could have easily faded into the background next to powerhouse vocalist Haley. But Kory stepped it up. Some sort of fire was lit under his ass (and behind his blue eyes), and the performance showed it. He was energetic and sounded incredible. The judges definitely took notice.

Lee Jean paired up with Chris Daughtry for “Home.” Lee Jean was obviously out of his comfort zone. I mean, he wasn’t singing Ed Sheeran so that’s not a surprise. He looked nervous throughout, and it was painfully evident next to Chris. His vocals were shaky throughout most of the song. Towards the end, he finally found his groove, and showcased his tone. Probably one of his worst performances, but the judges loved it. Their praise can only mean one thing; he’s going to take someone’s more deserving place in the Top 14.

American Idol did something incredibly original and gave us a paring of two rocker white dudes: CJ Johnson with David Cook. The duo sang “The World I Know.” Honestly, I tuned out about twenty five seconds in. The performance was dull. I couldn’t really tell their voices apart, except when CJ hit dud notes since the song was completely outside of his register. Keith said, “I think you did as good as anybody could with that song,” which is a nice way to say it was unoriginal.

The award for most awkward chemistry goes to Manny Torres and Jordin Sparks. In the package, Jordin had Manny say the words to their song, “No Air,” and I cringed with how uncomfortable Manny was. To be fair, as soon as I looked away from their strange hand holding, Manny sounded pretty good. The style of song fit perfectly for his tone. But I couldn’t get over him walking towards Jordin on his tippy toes.

Jenn Blosil stole the spotlight from “All Star” Idol Constantine Maroulis during “My Funny Valentine.” Jenn can do no wrong in my book. Her voice is so unique, but because of that, it probably won’t take her as far as it should in the competition. No, her vocals weren’t perfect, but frankly, I don’t give a shit, that’s how much I love when she’s good. Jenn could have (should have) sang this alone, because when her voice mixed with Constantine’s it was too jarring. Keith heard it as a “shouting match,” which I’ll have to agree with.

Kellie Pickler came back again to sing “Best Days of Your Life,” with Tristan McIntosh. Tristan took the lower part of the song’s harmony, which was a bad choice. She struggled in the low register, and never really caught up throughout the performance. Her lack of experience was obvious as she wandered around on stage, and Harry made sure she was aware of it.

Olivia Rox and David Cook took on “Light On.” I never disliked Olivia, but she’s really started to grow on me. She sounded like a different person on stage tonight, and I’m hoping so much that this is her real voice. She has the opposite of resting bitch face, as in she always looks happy. That shouldn’t annoy me, but while performing, it does sometimes. Once she starts picking up that performance skill, she’ll be amazing.

Haley Reinhart and Adam Lasher sang the classic “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.” I’m still not really sure who Adam is, which is not his fault at all. He was doomed to fail from the get go with lack of screen time. Haley sounded absolutely stunning during the song, and stole the show. Adam has a nice tone, and he sounded just fine, but that’s the problem. He really needed to be standing out to get further in the competition. He also did an awkward hand hold thing at the end which made me cringe. Sorry Adam, it was nice getting to know you for a second.

Rocker Chris Daughtry and different type of rocker Dalton Rapattoni teamed up for “Higher Ground.” This is a combination of white rocker dudes that’s actually enjoyable. The two have such different styles of singing and performing, but they worked really well together. Their harmonies were smooth. Dalton’s attractiveness is just a cherry on top at this point. Harry noted that the fire in the performance was mostly due to the band, and while that may be true, it didn’t take away from Dalton and Chris’ chemistry.

Ryan then sang some of R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” which was no doubt to fill some time. But I already experienced too many cringeworthy moments, so moving on…

Front runner Trent Harmon and Jordin Sparks chose “To Love Somebody.” Jordin gave him solid advice, and told him to turn down his vibrato. He listened, and it certainly paid off. The way Trent maneuvers through his head voice, to falsetto, to vibrato, is so effortless and flawless, there’s no way his performances could ever sound bad. Now if only he could turn down that scrunched up face thing he does…

To end the show, Constantine and Shelbie Z performed “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which sounds like a bad idea before either even opened their mouths. Talk about a screaming match, Harry. I get this song is shouty, but Queen can get away with it. Shelbie and Constantine, not so much. In the softer parts of the song, Shelbie sounded amazing, and she definitely knows how to work a stage. J.Lo says she lost Shelbie, and Harry couldn’t find the point of view of the song as a duet. Tough break, Shelbie.

After the judges deliberation, we say goodbye to Adam Lasher, Shelbie Z, Kory Wheeler, Amelia Eisenhauer and CJ Johnson. I’m baffled with their choice to keep Lee Jean, Manny, or even Tristan McIntosh over Kory. Kory had a much better week than both of them, but I really shouldn’t be surprised; just compare screen time.

This means your Top 14 is: Avalon Young, Dalton Rapattoni, Gianna Isabella, Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Jenn Blosil, La’Porsha Ranae, Lee Jean, Olivia Rox, Mackenzie Bourg, Manny Torres, Sonika Vaid, Thoms Stringfellow, Tristan McIntosh, Trent Harmon

Until next week!

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