Here’s the ‘American Idol’ top 11 

‘American Idol’ lost a couple of weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic but isn’t changing its schedule, which means the season end in just two weeks May 17. This also results in a much quicker trimming of contestants.

This week, nine of the top 20 left the competition. 

While “Idol” is typically live at this juncture, given that it’s now being done remotely, it was pre-taped. The singers are performing at their respective homes instead of in Hollywood.

Amazingly, I correctly predicted the top 11 last week. I thought it would be a top 10 and added an 11th because I couldn't decide who the 10th would be and provided two choices.

In other words, the results were not shocking at all to observers who saw the performances and the judges’ comments last Sunday during the first virtual edition of “Idol” in its history. All 11 who made the cut received positive comments or had already made a mark in Hollywood. They each differentiated themselves in ways some of the nine others failed to do and picked songs that worked for them under these unusual circumstances. 

The top 11 are, in no particular order:

Arthur Gunn

Dillon James

Francisco Martin

Grace Leer

Jonny West

Jovin Webb

Julia Gargano

Louis Knight

Makayla Phillips

Just Sam

Sophia James

Voting for the top 11 will be available until 9 a.m. Monday. There are three ways to vote: the Idol phone app, AmericanIdol.com, and texting the contestant’s number to 21523. Ten votes per contestant per method. Last week, there were 36 million votes but that number isn’t all that impressive since people could vote up to 30 times each per singer. In other words, one voter could have theoretically put in 600 votes. 

Those eliminated? 

Kimmy Gabriella, Franklin Boone, Olivia Ximines, Aliana Jester, Faith Becnel, Nick Merico, Lauren Spencer Smith, Cyniah Elise, DeWayne Crocker.

Elise, a teen with a booming voice, was the lone Atlanta representative. 

The show opened with Georgia’s only winner from season 11 Phillip Phillips singing the theme tonight: “Home.” 

And to fill time, they had each judges speak to a friend: Katy Perry queried Charlie Puth; Luke Bryan did the same with Darius Rucker while Lionel Richie interviewed Stevie Wonder. 

Of the 11 performances, I only really loved Jonny West. There were some good performances and a few disappointing ones. 

My prediction for the top 7 next week?

Jonny West, Arthur Gunn, Francisco Martin, Just Sam, Grace Leer and Dillon James are the easy six. Picking the seventh is tough. It’s either Jovin Webb or Louis Knight. I am hoping for Jovin (and would even prefer Sophia) but I suspect Louis will get that slot. 

Here are the 11 performances  from Sunday in order and my thoughts: 

Louis Knight (“In My Place” Coldplay) 

He isn’t stretching himself too much with this emotive ballad. It’s just okay. It didn’t particularly move me. Katy: “I thought it was a good song choice. It made me escape to a better time.” Luke: “I wasn’t completely blown away.” Lionel was complimentary and said, “my friend.” Grade: B/B-minus

Julia Gargano (”New York State of Mind” - Billy Joel)

She chose the song because the virus has hit the state particularly hard. And Billy is big in the Gargano family. He is my favorite artist but this version doesn’t really do much for me. She has a mildly interesting voice and she gets a standing ovation from the judges. Luke is “speechless” and said it was a 12 out of 10. Lionel said she took Billy’s song and made it her song. Katy said it was one of the best performances of the season and loved her inflections. Grade: B

Jovin Webb (“Voodoo” Allen Stone)

This is a sensual song and while he brings his vocal power to bear, this really might have worked better live. He’s a great singer. Lionel likes the “old school sound” and the rasp. “It’s magic, my friend,” he said. Katy: “I was at a bar in NOLA having an extra dirty martini when you were singing. And I can’t do either of those things. I escaped with you.” Luke: “You haven’t always been completely on pitch but your believability laways compensated. This performance, you didn’t hit one bad note.” Grade: B-plus

Grace Leer ( “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) 

The one female country representative pulled in the votes and made it in. She said she sang it in the third grade talent show. I love the depth of her voice. It’s not the same as Kat McPhee, who made this “her” song season five but she brought her own take to this classic. Kat: “I never heard your voice like that at all. You went big and bold all throughout.” Luke: “You just showed America you have a big, big, big voice.” Lionel: “If country is your aim, your goal, stay right there. Hone in on where we’re trying to go.” Grade: A-minus

Jonny West ( “Faithfully” Journey)

He’s staying with Margie May’s place. She is being super supportive. He brings such a loving touch to any song. He doesn’t have the best voice or the biggest range in the competition but he carries a special level of authenticity. Another winner. Luke: “Your ability to never look like you’re sweating or forcing anything in your range is remarkable.” Lionel: “You’ve gone from that shy guy to that sexy guy, my friend.” Katy: “It’s so beautiful the life you and Margie are building... sounds like you were singing to a deeper level of love” and compared him to Alejandro Aranda last year. Grade: A

Sophia James (“In My Room” The Beach Boys”)

She admits the pandemic has made her anxious but grateful for her family. She appropriately chose a song to sing in her bedroom. She makes some strange enunciation choices but overall, a lovely rendition with a decent level of vulnerability. Lionel: “You’ve done the work sussing out your delivery sweet spot is.” Katy: “It was so upper echelon. You have a career in music.” Luke: “You are a wonderful vocalist.” Grade: A-minus/B-plus

Arthur Gunn ( “Take Me Home, Country Roads” John Denver”)

He said the words remind me of where he grew up and likes the happy, nostalgic energy. He “reggaes” up the song. It’s pleasant and gets better as it goes along, but it’s not his best. He did work harder to keep his eyes open and look at the camera. Katy “I felt so much more connected with you.” Luke: “That performance showcased you in a perfect way.” Lionel: “My friend, it’s all the way hit record for you.” Grade: B-plus

Just Sam ( “Grandma’s Hands” by the late Bill Withers”)

She stayed behind in L.A. and misses her family. She honors her grandma with this song. She brings a nice Tracy Chapman vibe to this. Much more effective than her Fantasia cover last week. Luke: “The richness and how your voice holds up at all levels of your range is what makes you so great to listen to.” Lionel: “When we first met you, you couldn’t smile like. I’m so happy and proud of you, my dear.” Katy said it was like being at church. Grade: A-minus/B-plus

Dillon James ( “Yesterday” The Beatles)

He’s taking a chance covering the ultimate Beatles classic. And I think he pulls it up. It’s countrified and a bit quicker than the original. It works for me. Lionel: “You have an absolute sound to your voice. It’s identifiable to you.” Katy: “I wanted you to give more breath to it.” She felt he needed to paint beyond the lines. Luke wants him to slow it down and let the lyrics take shape and form. Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Francisco Martin ( “Falling Like the Stars” James Arthur) 

He said his mom is a nurse so the pandemic is super stressful and he has to battle his perpetual anxiety. He is so darn likable and his delivery is spot on real. “Idol” voters love singer songwriter types like him and he is one of the better ones. Katy got all teary eyed. “It was believability.” Luke: “You’re a diamond in the rough. You know how to get all the emotion out of the song.” Lionel: “True talent, man.” Grade: A/A-minus

The judges’ save:

Mikayla Phillips ( “The House That Built Me” Miranda Lambert”) She takes a very memorable Miranda song and does just a so-so job. She has a pretty voice but adds nothing interesting. Shame. Luke didn’t say much. Lionel calls her a star (of course.) Katy: “I felt like you were singing directly to me. It was an intimate performance.” Grade B-minus

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About the Author

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