‘American Idol” recap: Hollywood Showstoppers, final judgment, part 1

Jason Warrior performs during the Showstopper round on "American Idol" that aired March 28, 2021 on ABC.  (ABC/Eric McCandless)
Jason Warrior performs during the Showstopper round on "American Idol" that aired March 28, 2021 on ABC. (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

The “Idol” Hollywood round is slimmed down to three rounds instead of the usual four.

In this case, the live band “Showstopper” round cuts them from 63 to 24.

“Idol” reveals them over two nights. In night one, ten of the 24 are named. They also show a few notable rejections. The biggest surprise cut is Murphy, the nearly blind busker.

And this is definitely not a normal year on “American Idol.”

Lionel Richie was exposed to someone with COVID-19, so he has to watch this next Hollywood round from his hotel room.

The rest of the top 24 will be revealed Monday night.

Here are the folks who made it into the top 24 so far:

  • Alyssa Wray
  • Jason Warrior
  • Andrea Valles
  • Chayce Beckham
  • Caleb Kennedy
  • Wyatt Pike
  • Cassandra Coleman
  • Beane
  • Hannah Everhart
  • Graham DeFranco

Two are in a cliffhanger at the end:

  • Alanis Sophia and Casey Bishop

A few do get cut on camera:

  • Alex Miller
  • Amanda Mena
  • Anthony Guzman
  • Murphy

Here are the performances:

Alyssa Wray (”I’m Here” from “The Color Purple) — She is built for Broadway with that monstrous voice. At age 18, she is well beyond her years in presentation and power. Katy Perry thought she brought too many vocal gymnastics and said she can overcompensate. “You don’t have to throw 52 cards in our faces,” Katy says. Despite the critiques, she’s through into the top 24.

Jason Warrior (”Believer” Imagine Dragons) — Great name for a singer, eh? This 25-year-old music teacher personifies intensity and brings solid technique and stage presence, jumping around the stage like he’s possessed. His voice, though, just doesn’t resonate with me. Lionel, even remotely, is super excited and the other two judges give him a standing ovation. “That’s how you fight!” Luke said. Katy said, “He needs to harness that. He might shoot his voice out one day.” Jason said all the pain in his life came out in that performance. Lionel gives him the news: he’s in the top 24 and Jason cries with gratitude.

Alex Miller (”Silver Wings’ Merle Haggard) — He is a super charming teen with a deeply old-school country sound. When Luke suggested during the duet round to try something more modern than 1959′s “I Walk the Line,” he didn’t listen. And when Luke again asked him to pick a more current song, Alex this time went with something newer ― but only ten years newer. This Merle Haggard song is 52 years old! As soon as Luke heard it, you could see the look of disappointment on his face. There is nothing really alarmingly wrong with his performance, but Katy is underwhelmed. “Idol” is seeking someone capable of being a 2021 song, not a throwback to 1969. Luke also thinks he hasn’t quite figured out at age 17 a distinctive modern-day artistic vision. BONUS: Luke later gave Alex the future opportunity to sing at the Grand Ol’ Opry.

Andrea Valles (”Blinding Lights” The Weeknd) - She looks a little like early Madonna meets Cecily Strong and seems very nice but lacks a certain sparkle. Katie found her initial audition mesmerizingly dull. Andrea did better during the genre challenge. Her performance is oddly edited with judges’ commentary overlaying her vocals and what little we hear is just meh to me. “Wrong song,” Katy said. She gets through but was likely one of the borderline picks.

Chayce Beckham (”You Should Probably Leave” Chris Stapleton) — His back story is repeated again about his drinking and not taking care of himself, and he reveals himself to be humble and human. He possesses a bracingly compelling raspy voice. He has enough stage presence and the requisite good looks to win this entire competition. (Phillip Phillips pulled it off season 11.) The judges noted his voice sounding “shot” and the song lacking enough melody for him to show off his skills. He wishes he had picked a more upbeat, attention-grabbing song.

Caleb Kennedy (”When You Leave Tonight,” original) — Dumping a Travis Tritt song with the live band at the last second in favor of his own, 16-year-old Caleb goes solo, taking a major risk. But he holds his own, bringing gritty vocal nuance and pain on a big stage and making it work. Luke said the showstopper song was good but his audition original was better. Katy said don’t second-guess himself. He is clearly good enough to be in the top 24.

Wyatt Pike “(”Blame It On Me” George Ezra) — He is the quintessential busker-type singer-songwriter with that brimmed hat and his constipated facial expressions. Up to this point, I haven’t liked him, but this song works for him. He is an easy in to the top 24.

Cassandra Coleman (”Running with the Wolves” Aurora) — She battles nerves and her previous round duet with Wyatt kept her grounded and calm. She hopes to be present for this performance. The comparison to Florence Welch is apt. She has a really strong, sweet, interesting voice, and she does her best job yet. And she’s super likable. The judges said she is getting closer to her “freedom” on the stage. She could go far in this competition and will be in the top 24.

Two promising early auditioners fail to make the cut: Amanda Mena (”All By Myself”), who hits some off notes and Katy feels lacks artistry, and standards-singing Viking boy Anthony Guzman (”This Love”), who has a good voice but lacks the X factor.

Beane (”What’s Goin’ On” Marvin Gaye) — He brings a surprisingly assured and confident take on this R&B classic. It just works across the board and impresses the judges as well. He’s through.

Hannah Everhart (”Wrecking Ball” Miley Cyrus) — She is the Southern gal who supposedly resembles Katy Perry but not really. She has a distinctive edgy rocker personality. Her vocals are hardly clean but on the most part, her attitude is what carries the day. I would consider her a borderline case, but she makes it to the top 24.

Graham DeFranco (”Beautiful War” Kings of Leon) — This hirsute pilot looks like a lead singer of a band and kills it. The song choice felt just short to Katy and Luke, but they like his personality and his vocal sincerity. He has a spot in the top 24.

Murphy (”Am I Still Mine,” original) — The cheerful busker is losing his sight and may be completely blind by his mid-30s. He struggles with the light, which is hurting his one workable eye. His original song is achingly pretty. He sounds like he does what it takes to make it to the top 24. But the judges make an odd call: they say no. He leaves with grace.

To end the two hours, the producers pair two similar singers and plan to eliminate one tomorrow. So this is pure cliffhanger material:

Alanis Sophia (”Uninvited” Alanis Morissette) — She is named after the 1990s singer and her mom’s favorite, so why not sing one of her classic songs? Alanis knocks it out of the park and she commands the stage. Luke said she has surprised them.

Casey Bishop (”She Talks To Angels” The Black Crowes) — Luke predicted early that she could win it. But they didn’t like her duet. She hopes to let loose. Unfortunately, she is all over the place. There are some great moments and a few pitchy points. She is only 15. She could come back another year a bit more mature.

I’d be shocked if they didn’t choose Alanis in Monday night’s episode, which airs tonight.

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