‘American Idol’ top 24 solos and celebrity duets recap part 1

Alyssa Wray performed during the Sunday episode of April 4, 2021 of "American Idol." (ABC/Eric McCandless)
Alyssa Wray performed during the Sunday episode of April 4, 2021 of "American Idol." (ABC/Eric McCandless)

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

This is the first time America gets to vote, and they had plenty of great choices Sunday on “American Idol.”

The first 12 out of 24 performed solos and celebrity duets, and the rest will do so on Monday night.

The vote results are simple: the top eight each night move on to the next round, leaving a top 16. This means eight will be gone by tomorrow night.

On Sunday, there was only one disastrous performer, and that would be poor country singer Cecil Ray. His nasal voice was hard to take, and his stage presence was wooden at best. He is going home for sure.

The other three likely to miss the cut include Deshawn Goncalves for his lack of animation on stage, Andrea Vallas for being oddly forgettable despite her eye patch and Alana, in part because “Idol” has barely featured her to date. (If Alana survives, Alanis or Anilee could go home.)

And oddly, there are five women with names starting with the letter “A” making for a confusing night: Alyssa, Alanis, Alana, Andrea and Anilee. That can’t possibly help any of them.

My ranking of the 12:

1- Graham 2- Grace- 3- Willie 4- Alyssa 5- Alanis 6 - Cassandra 7 - Alana 8 - Andrea 9 - Anilee 10- Wyatt 11- Deshawn12- Cecil

My ranking of Wyatt is purely a taste thing. I am certain he will make it through to the next round.

Alanis Sophia (”Alive” Sia) — Wow. She really has it going on tonight. She hits some big notes and seems very polished on stage.

Duet with Jimmie Allen (”Shallow” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) She has a beautiful voice and does a fine job harmonizing with Jimmie.

Judges: Katy likes the solo performance, dubbing it “controlled.” She thinks Alanis was a little intimidated by being on stage with Jimmie and Luke says she needs to own the stage.

Overall: A-minus

Cassandra Coleman (Find Me” Sigma featuring Birdy) — I do adore her voice. I’m not familiar with this song, and I’m not in love with it, but she does a solid job.

Duet with Ryan Tedder (”Apologize” OneRepublic) — Ryan instills more confidence in her during rehearsals. Very pretty. She doesn’t fold. She hangs in there with aplomb.

Judges: Lionel says she is concentrating too much on her face. Luke says she’s in her own lane and her own style but wants her to own her moment and watch the nerves. Katy says her voice is a “spiritual experience.”

Overall: A-minus/B-plus

Alyssa Wray (”Something in the Water” Carrie Underwood) — Starts a little weak to me but picked up steam by the end. Her big notes are more interesting than her mid-range.

Duet with Katharine McPhee (”I’m Your Baby Tonight” Whitney Houston) — Kat, who was runner up 14 seasons ago, is 37 years old. She is astounded that Alyssa, a mere 19 years old, had no idea about this song. And she gets confused when Alyssa utters “Period!” when she finds out they are both Aries. “So is that a young person’s thing?” says Kat. Yikes! Anyway, the duet is super fun. Alyssa is confident and driven and in some ways, may have outsung Kat.

Judges: Lionel says they complemented each other. Katy says she was the first singer who held her own but said don’t think about the feeling during her solo, just be it, else it’s too polished. “Don’t be afraid to get dirty with it,” she says. Luke says she has “star sparkle.”

Grade: A-minus

Wyatt Pike (”rubberband” Tate McRae) — He dispenses with the hat. His hair is a fascinating tousled mess. He’s a boring singer-songwriter, and this song does him no favors.

Duet with Ben Rector (”Brand New”) — Wyatt drops the guitar, letting Ben do that work. This is very pleasant, and they are super comfortable with each other. Ben has a more interesting voice.

Judges: The judges give the duet a standing ovation. Katy says he “stepped into your stardom. You can go on tour today and fit in right now.” Luke says it was emotional and so “right in your moment.” Lionel says he has stage presence.

Grade: B

Alana (”Blow Your Mind” Dua Lipa) — She has gotten very little airtime, so this is her chance to get votes. She has real stage presence and pulls off the pop thing.

Duet with Brian McKnight (”Back at One”) — During rehearsal, she misses the words. This is the first time he has ever tried his iconic song as a duet. She can’t quite outshine Brian, but she does OK.

Judges: Luke likes the energy on his solo performance and some of her vocal work at the end of the duet. Lionel enjoys her stage presence, but she needs more attitude. Katy says she embodied entertainment but needs to take more risks with her notes and “let it fly!”

Grade: B-plus

Anilee List (”my future” Billie Eilish) — She sings perfectly fine but lacks a certain gravitas. I just stared at her double nose ring the whole time.

Duet with Joss Stone (Tell Me Something Good” Rufus & Chaka Khan) — Joss only has one nose ring, and Anilee dispenses with one of hers, probably on the advice of the producers. Joss has so much more personality. Anilee possesses vocal skills but lacks that connection with the audience. At least this is super energetic.

Judges: Lionel says Anilee needs to channel Joss who felt relaxed while it was clear to him that Anilee was in deep concentration. Katy likes her powerhouse voice and felt like she was at a gospel brunch but wants her to push her voice more. Luke says she was “close to next-level greatness.”

Grade: B-plus

Deshawn Goncalves (”Forever Young” Bob Dylan) - Another example of a great voice but is he someone I would watch for two hours in a solo concert? No. He does a nice job turning this Dylan classic into gospel.

Duet with Ryan Tedder (”I Lived” OneRepublic) - Deshawn lacks stage presence and that is accentuated by this duet against someone who has plenty.

Judges Katy loves his beautiful voice but says he needs to loosen up. Luke says Deshawn has great tone but has to move around a bit more. Lionel says he has to enjoy being on stage more.

Grade: B

Graham DeFranco (”Raye” John Splithoff) — He goes for a bluesy tune that is in his wheelhouse. The song is a bit of a snooze but he emotes very naturally.

Duet with Ben Rector (”Love Like This”) - He met Ben in high school 11 years earlier. Graham feels like the song is tough on him in the higher ranges. But they hit it out of the park. It’s just pretty and Graham provides multiple levels of emotion, even on his high notes.

Judges: Luke loves how he can turn a song into his style and picked the right song for his solo. Lionel says he evoked an emotion even with a whisper, courtesy of his good storytelling voice. Katy says the first song was more vibe-based but lacked emotional feeling, but the second song, he really drew her in, aided by the lyrics.

Grade: A/A-minus

Andrea Vallas (”Los Vas A Olvidar” Billie Eilish & Rosalia) — This is a big risk. She goes for a moody bilingual ballad. She does fairly well but does get pitchy at points.

Duet with Brian McKnight (”Careless Whisper” Georgia Michael and Wham!) — She had eye retina detachment surgery and was forced to wear an eye patch. She has a very lounge-worthy voice. They chose some interesting harmonies, and it’s ultimately quite lovely.

Judges: Lionel likes the complement of the two voices and was able to stand on her own. Katy liked her solo and thinks she has a lot of tricks up her sleeve.

Grade: B-plus

Cecil Ray (”Paint Me a Birmingham” Tracey Lawrence) — The first truly terrible performance of the night. All nasal and leaden. Snooze. He does not look happy up there.

Duet with Jimmie Allen (”Freedom Was a Highway”) — Cecil says Jimmie’s an inspiration. Cecil does sound better here, and he shows a bit more fighting spirit on a great song. But he isn’t ready for the top 16.

Judges: Luke says he had pitch problems and needs to be on point if he makes it to the next round. Lionel says he needs more comfort and attitude.

Grade: C+

Willie Spence (”Wind Beneath My Wings” Bette Midler) — I’m not sold on this song choice. He does a perfectly adequate job but will this song get votes? I don’t think so. It feels old and makes him feel old.

Duet with Katharine McPhee (”The Prayer” Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli) — This song reminds him of his grandfather who died last year. He redeems himself with a powerful rendition of this powerful song.

Judges: Luke says he’s in love with him and the way he goes about singing and performing on stage. Lionel dubs him “Willie Pavarotti” and calls him “mesmerizing.” Katy says the duet was his lane. “To win this, it’s about song choice and those amazing classic songs that other powerhouses sing that show you are also a powerhouse.”

Grade: B-plus/A-minus

Grace Kinstler (”Queen” Jessie J) — She looks and sounds a bit nervous but picks it up during the chorus. I don’t particularly like this song.

Duet with Joss Stone (”Midnight Train to Georgia” Gladys Knight & the Pips) - Joss tells her hold off on the runs until the end. The analogy: you don’t show up on the first date in your lingerie. It works. Grace holds back a bit, then takes the song to great heights by the end against a powerhouse duet partner.

Judges: Lionel loves her confidence and voice, considers it a “winning package.” Katy says the duet was a timeless classic, and she needs to keep picking those types of songs. Luke loves watching her grow as an artist.

Grade: A-minus/A

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