“American Idol” was about to start production on the semi-final top 20 rounds when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the show to shut down earlier this month.
It pre-taped 40 contestants singing in front of a live audience at a Disney resort in January, long before the virus had become a thing. Ryan Seacrest did an opening from his home making it clear to everyone that these kids and parents and judges (including pregnant Katy Perry) were in Hawaii long before our current shutdown happened.
“Idol” had planned to make this a three-hour episode to air tonight. Instead, it will be stretched out to two episodes, with another half airing next Sunday.
It’s a straightforward format: hear each person sing and see if they make it in later. By having four hours instead three, “Idol” was able to edit it so more of the eliminated singers get air time, it seems. (With only three hours, I’m sure some of said eliminated singers would have been clipped down or largely ignored.)
So we get eight out of 20 names while six are cut. Dillon James is the “cliffhanger.”
That means we heard 15 full performances in two hours. It’s clear given the editing that we won’t hear all 40 performances in full.
Nick Merico: He is a pretty boy band type with an okay voice. I figure his looks is what rode him to this point because his vocals are unspectacular. His “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars - a mom favorite - is underwhelming. His vocals lack the body that this song needs to make it hum. But somehow, the judges put him into the top 20. Verdict: Huh?
Makayla Brownlee ( “More Hearts than Mine” Ingrid Andress). She has a rare medical condition that caused her to have seizures under stress and it happened in Hollywood. I am not familiar with the song but she clearly re-arranged it in a way that Luke Bryan found irritating. It felt a bit twee, not substantial. Too bad. She didn’t make it. (I listened after the fact to the original in full and Makayla’s vocals just sound weak for some reason live vs. Ingrid’s studio version. The feeling and emotion in the original didn’t translate well on stage for her. And the arrangement is not an improvement. The judges noted that adrenaline might have derailed the necessary nuances to make that song work.) Verdict: Fair
Dewayne Crocker Jr. ( “Old Town Road” Lil Nas X) - He gives this country/hip-hop hybrid more of an R&B feel and a super kick. It was pure fun. He is in and surely, his grandma will be thrilled. Verdict: Works for me
Camryn Leigh Smith: The 16-year-old Acworth worship leader struggled with Hollywood after focusing so much on Christian and church music. But she did make it to the top 40 and chose a worship song “Break Every Chain” by Tasha Cobb. “Jesus is my life so I wanted to sing about the most important thing in my life,” she said. She brings the passion. But the judges looked at the totality of her performances and decided not to move her forward.Lionel didn’t connect. Katy felt this didn’t close the deal for her because it was so very specific to her faith. “You felt like you went to that safe zone,” Katy said. “We got to see that growth.” Verdict: Close call, could have gone either way.
Devon Alexander (“Tell Me You Love Me” Demi Lovato) - There is some pitch issues but I liked him more than Nick.
Jordan Jones ( “Redbone” Childish Gambone) - He owns the stage and seems to have the audience in his thrall. I liked him.
Geena ( “Finesse” Bruno Mars) - She seems like just the right type of quirky to make the top 20.
VERDICT: Shows how good the top 40 is that these seemingly solid performers missed the cut.
Louis Knight ( “Castle on the Hill” Ed Sheeran) Given how many times the producers have re-run his story line, it’s inevitable he is top 20 bound. They do it again. His rehearsal wasn’t great and he seems a little too insular during the live performance. He has a lovely resonant voice and a real sincerity. The judges give him a thumbs up into the top 20 because of his overall time up to now. “You need to be in your heart,” Katy said. “That’s where you’re best. You need to get back to your place.” Verdict: A smart move
Francisco Martin ( “Falling” Harry Styles) - He went through a bout of depression and is still fighting insecurity. He is all emotion on stage and pours it out there. The song really speaks to him and it works.Luke Bryan is jumping up and down. The judges were super impressed. Verdict: A gimme. Yes!
Jovin Webb “You are the Best Thing” Ray Montagne. He has an old-fashioned R&B feel to him but he has such confidence, such panache. He’s so in. VERDICT: Well earned
Faith Becnel ( “Ain’t Nobody” Chaka Khan and Rufus) - She has a bright personality and that is what she is riding on right now. This is just an okay performance for her. Verdict: She just skates in
Amber Fiedler (”Good Kisser” Lake Street Drive) - She is a good singer but is she a real performer that could drive votes? I’m not sure. She fell just short. VERDICT: Tough but fair.
Just Sam ( “Como La Flor” by Selena) - She takes a major risk by singing a song entirely in Spanish. But she knows herself and he kills it. She came out with a fresh image and the judges were wowed. ‘Last night was the first time I felt comfortable and beautiful,” Just Sam said. She is so top 20 and it would be shocking if she doesn’t make the top 10 (whenever that happens.) VERDICT: Bravo!
Jonny West ( “You Found Me” by The Fray) - His storyline with Margie Mays (cut before top 40!) has been a major one this season. So naturally, they are playing it up again. He’s nervous without Margie. “I fall victim to the enemy of comparison a lot,” he said. He gets a belated back story that makes it clear he will make the top 20. I adore his voice. He would sound great on the radio. “You’re a serious artist who is playing a self-sabotage game,” Katy said. Lionel: “Let me give you a definition of an artist: we’re egotistical maniacs with inferiority complexes.” Jonny is an easy in. He feels validated in the humblest of ways. I hope he makes the top 10. And Margie is being super supportive. VERDICT: Yes! Smart pick!
Dillon James ( “Times They Are a Changin’” by Bob Dylan) - He’s come back from drugs and alcohol. He is likable and has a distinctive voice. They leave us on a “cliffhanger” but come on, of course he’s in. The judges clearly are fans.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.