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'American Idol' judges pick Dalton, Olivia, La'Porsha, Trent; public votes the other six

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"American Idol" producers have been making some strange choices during the semifinals, placing way too much power in the hands of the judges.

There was clearly backlash when the show originally said the judges were going to pick eight out of the top 10, leaving just two for the public to choose.

But the powers that be backtracked and made a compromise. The judges instead picked a top 4 and the public is now allowed to choose the other six. And in a move that smacks of laziness, pragmatism and/or Scrooge-like financial savings, the 10 remaining performs sang songs they've already performed on the show.

First up were the four singers who were picked by the judges for a quick pass to the top 10: Dalton Rappattoni, Olivia Rox, Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae. They all get to skip performing tonight.

Three of those the judges selected were my top three (Dalton, Olivia, La'Porsha). Any of them could win the show at this stage. I had Lee Jean as my fourth but I knew that was more about how much I like the guy than his actual abilities. So Trent? I get it. I think he over-emotes but I guess that's better than the other way around.

Tonight, I personally voted in three different places (app, Google, website): 30 votes each for Jeneve Rose Mitchell (she needs the help), Lee Jean (just a fan) and Avalon Young. Plus, I added 24 votes each for Sonika Vaid and MacKenzie Bourg. I am not sure Jeneve has a lock on the top 10 but I am confident the other four will be there.

My top 10 based on tonight's performances: 1. Avalon 2. MacKenzie 3. Sonika 4. Tristan 5. Lee 6. Jeneve 7. Gianna 8. Thomas 9. Manny 10. Jenn

I predict the final top 10 will be: Olivia, Dalton, La'Porsha, Trent, Avalon, MacKenzie, Sonika, Tristan, Lee and Jeneve. Those who will miss the cut: Gianna, Thomas, Manny and Jenn. Or that's just wishful thinking. We shall see.

Ryan Seacrest will announce those six spots tomorrow after the 10 survivors performed.

Manny Torres ("Master Blaster" Stevie Wonder) - Meh. He just seems too calculating. There is no there there. Grade: C

Gianna Isabella ("I Put a Spell On You" Annie Lennox version?) - Technically, she's just fine. But she is way too young for a song like this. And her voice isn't quite there yet to give this the smoky depth it needs. Grade: B/B-minus

Thomas Stringfellow ("Story of My Life" One Direction) - His audio idiosyncracies continue to bug me. And HCJ calls him out, saying  the way he cuts off notes is too much "unless you're the lead singer of the Cranberries." (I bet that reference went over his head!) "It gets annoying," he said. Grade: C-plus

Tristan McIntosh ("What Hurts the Most" Rascal Flatts) - Her stage gestures feel rather unnatural. But her vocals are really good except for a couple of notes. She will probably get enough votes to make the top 10. Keith: "A beautiful song choice for your voice. We saw a side of you we haven't seen yet." Grade: B-plus

Avalon Young ("Yo [Excuse Me Miss]  Chris Brown) - She brings soul and joy to her performance. Just beautiful. She better make the top 10 or I'll be mighty upset. JLo: "That was smooth like buttah." Grade: A/A-minus

Jenn Blosil ("True Colors" Cyndi Lauper) - If it's possible to out-quirk Cyndi Lauper, Jenn does so. And her vocal squeaks drive me crazy. And the eyebrow jewels? Ummm... no thanks. Please, America. Spare us. HCJ: "In my opinion, that was a flawless lyric delivery." Um... really? Grade: D-plus

Lee Jean ("Make it Rain" Ed Sheeran) - The unfortunate part of these reprises is they sometimes feel like reprises. Why are they doing this to us? He has the blues in him. The way he connects with what he sings earns him a top 10 spot in my mind even if this wasn't his best vocal performance to date. Grade: B/B-plus

Sonika Vaid ("I Surrender" Celine Dion) - There's a place in the competition for a good torch singer. She's totally old school but I hope she makes the top 10 just to hear that voice, even when she sings a crappy Celine Dion song. JLo got goosies on her cheeks. "Out of this world," she said. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Jeneve Rose Mitchell ("Ring of Fire" Johnny Cash) - She brings so much sophistication for a 15 year old. HCJ: "It's compelling and interesting but polarizing." Keith: "You need to let go." Grade: B-plus

MacKenzie Bourg ("Roses" MacKenzie Bourg original) - This guy brings nerdy-sexy appeal. He is gutsy enough to sing an original at this stage and it's bracing. Grade: A-minus

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Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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