‘American Idol’ recap: Hollywood round duets

Ava August and Hunter Metts during the duet round of "American Idol" in Hollywood airing March 22, 2021. (ABC/Eric McCandless)
Ava August and Hunter Metts during the duet round of "American Idol" in Hollywood airing March 22, 2021. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

For the first time, “American Idol” has paired the finalists up in duets, which sounds a little like a gimmick taken from “The Voice.”

But unlike “The Voice,” there is no mock boxing ring.

Instead, they simply sing on the Dolby Theatre stage, properly distanced.

Also for the first time, the judges provide feedback as the duos prep, which is something “The Voice” has done for the past decade.

Stealing ideas from ‘The Voice” is not a bad thing. The duets replace the “group” rounds, where gatherings of four or five singers performed at a time. By cutting it to two, this enables individual singers to shine more while still providing the requisite “drama” the producers need to make an entertaining TV show.

The two hours featured someone fainting from dehydration, one singer having trouble finding her partner, examples of missed lyrics and way too much “Watermelon Sugar.”

Based on the two big boards that revealed the duet pairings, there were 93 contestants left for this round. Unlike past years, the show has not been specific about how many people are getting cut during each round. In the end, we saw a little under half the singers. (Atlanta’s Xavier Washington was not featured, but Georgian Willie Spence was.)

The next round after this is “showstoppers,” where the remaining singers get to perform with a live band. That airs next Sunday and Monday.

Liahona Olayan & Laila Mach (Machhona)

Liahona is only 15, and when her brother was cut in the first round, she wilted. Katy Perry watched her slog through “Stay” in rehearsal and told her to buck up and get over it. Unfortunately, during the actual performance, Laila is fine, but Liahona has dead eyes and no life to her. When Katy asks if she wants to be there, her half-hearted “yeah” says everything. “You’re not showing it,” Katy says. “There are other people behind me who want it more and will fight tooth and nail to get it. You’re wasting everybody’s time.” Liahona says she is doing this for her family but for her to succeed, she needs to do this for herself! Despite Katy’s admonitions, they put her through anyway. Laila is also going to the next round.

Cameron Allen & Graham DeFranco (Grahameron)

They pick Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” and it doesn’t work. Luke suggests during rehearsal they liven up the chorus, but the energy is still lacking. Graham is still good enough to make it to the next round, but Cameron is cut.

Beane & Kari Erickson (Dean & Carrie)

Here we go again with “Watermelon Sugar.” But this time, the duo shows some pizazz. The judges, though, are underwhelmed and Katy “bans” the song. Kari is out, but Beane stays.

Anthony Guzman & Adriel Carrion (Double AA)

Bobby Bones, the mentor, hears them sing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” during rehearsal and says it’s a bore. Change it up! So they opt for... “Watermelon Sugar.” Katy curses when she finds out they are singing this. But Adriel attacks it with genuine fervor, and Anthony sounds both dominant and smooth. The vibe is there. They both make it into the next round.

Madison Watkins & Deshawn Goncalves (Kingdom Kids)

They become fast buddies. Deshawn and Madison connect well and do a compelling duet. Madison sounds wonderful even though she appears to be dressed straight out of a John Hughes movie. “That was an experience,” Lionel says. They go through.

Claudia Conway & Hannah Everhart (Rollin on Sass)

The judges and producers pair up a small-town conservative girl with a liberal Jersey TikTok teen who happens to have very prominent parents. Hannah is unhappy. She gets something to eat and disappears. Claudia has to track her down to rehearse. Katy and Hannah want Claudia to push herself more. Katy wants teamwork. They opt for another Harry Styles song “Sign of the Times.” They are so different. They also do too many harmonies and not enough solo work. Hannah has a stronger voice and goes through. Claudia doesn’t cut it. On the bright side, they end up meshing well, and Hannah jokingly promises to send Claudia a chicken.

Alex Miller & Emisunshine (Minor Harmony)

Luke Bryan tells them not to sing “I Walk the Line” because he wants to hear big notes and take Alex out of his old-school country comfort zone. But after trying to find another song, they decide to stick with the Johnny Cash classic. Fortunately, they bring buoyancy to the duet, and Emisunshine even yodels. Luke says he wanted to push them and suggests Alex do a pop song next time. He also wants Emisunshine to clean up the vibrato. Still, both get the green light to move on.

Murphy & Lizzie O’Very (A Different Breed)

This is a crazy all-over-the-place version of “Dreams.” Her voice is thin and reedy. Not my taste. Murphy is over-emoting. This is just too much. Yuk. But somehow, the judges give them a standing ovation. Lionel says Lizzie brought out something different in Murphy in a good way. Both make it to the next round.

Cassandra Coleman & Wyatt Pike (The Lass & The Lad)

Cassandra has to battle nerves, but she is special and as Katy says, “Wyatt, you made her feel safe.” There is definite magic here. They harmonize very well. This is my favorite duet so far.

Monica Leah & Miguela (The Deuce Formula)

They put in a lot of effort and Monica is so psyched at the end, she says “yes!” triumphantly at the end. But their “Titanium” is actually full of off-putting harmonies. Lionel says they spent too much time in a “dual” as opposed to a “duet.” They are both out.

Ronda Felton & Funke Lagoke (Melanated Queens)

Ronda is stressed out and doesn’t feel like she deserves to be here. Funke helped make her feel better. Their duet of “Tell Me” isn’t quite transcendent but isn’t bad. Katy is done with Funke, but Luke is a fan. Lionel called the duet a “trainwreck.” As he is about to address Funke, she faints and falls on her face. It’s so sudden. She busts her chin and ends up in the hospital to get stitches. She is dehydrated. Both do end up moving forward.

Willie Spence & Kya Monee (Destin2Be)

When duets work, they work. And these two harmonize well as Willie tackles Rihanna again, this time with “Stay.” Lionel: “That was divine. The two of you fractured us!” Both move to the showstopper round.

Montaged: Ben Dobson & Henry Thompson (The Hair Bros), plus Jazzy Rose & RE’H (Similar Opposites) — We only get snippets and all four go through.

Zach D’Onofrio & Sloan Simon (The Catie Turner Fan Club)

Sloan is a peppy cheerleader. Zach is an awkward nerd. Their “You Make My Dreams” was sweet but too tentative and mellow. Zach’s hesitancy is evident. Katy: “Both of you need more experience.” So, they are cut.

Chayce Beckham & Christina Daugherty (Chasin Red)

There is chemistry between these two, and they do a breakup song. Christina is off-key at first, but once they find their pocket, there is real intensity and emotion at play. Chayce has star potential. Luke likes the unique voices and feels they brought authenticity to the song. Chayce goes to the next round, but Christina is gone.

These singers only get 24 hours to prepare. So every year, there is a segment of folks who forget their lyrics. That’s the case with both Alec Shaw & Sadie Leigh (The Squirrley’s) as well as Samantha Sharpe & Alana (Tea & Honey).

Althea Grace & Camille Lamb (Buy-One-Get-One)

After some initial friction, they start rehearsing well together, but Althea’s daughter lands in the hospital. Althea is distraught she isn’t there for her and feels angry her kiddo has to suffer. She channels those painful emotions into “You Don’t Own Me.” They bring strong harmonies and the proper intensity, ensuring their move to the next round.

Hunter Metts & Ava August (Ten-OC)

Amusingly, the producers point out that Hunter looks like Ryan Phillippe, the actor. Neither teen has any idea who that is. They are well connected as duet partners and their “Dancing on Our Own” is lovely. Luke says that was very “star-like” but they missed the “big” moment and played it too safe. Both still make it through.

Grace Kinstler & Alyssa Wray (The BBG’s)

The final two we hear tonight. They are the two big voices in the competition and collectively blow the Dolby Theatre roof with huge notes. Alyssa tends to overdo the vocal gymnastics, but they finish strong. There is no doubt these two singers will make the top 24.

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