The American Idol
reboot continues at breakneck speed. And after five sets of auditions and a whole heck of a lot of Hollywood Week crammed into one episode, it's already time for the solo round.
The previous two hours encompassed the Lines of 10 and the dreaded group round, featuring a whopping 60 performers who either sang or had their names mentioned in passing.
It was brutal to keep up with everyone and equally savage that so many thought "Love Yourself" offered the best opportunity to demonstrate their respective voices. I mean, the song doesn't even show off Justin Bieber's range.
I guess it's so monotone that there's potential to "make it your own," but one of the reasons it's so good is because of the Biebs' restraint. It's like Christina Aguilera on "Say Something" with A Great Big World. If she adds the over-runs and hand waves, it ruins everything.
As impressive as the sheer volume of Hollywood singers thus far is (the Lines of 10 and group round each got its own episode in previous seasons), there are still -- by my count -- 19 featured auditions who haven't made an appearance yet.
The list includes standouts like Brandon Diaz, Amelia Hammer Harris, the country sisters, "Happy Birthday" Cody Martin, Carly Moffa and Amalia Watty. So will we hear from them now as the season 16 Hollywood Week draws to a close? Let's hope so.
The Most Dramatic American Idol Ever
Bachelor host Chris Harrison is on hand for an April Fools' Day introduction, and then daddy's girl Gabby Barrett kicks things off with Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way." It's stellar, and this girl may be a star. Just ... wow. Everyone better hope they end up in her room.
Marcio Donaldson, who is raising his sister's baby, is great but doesn't have a "moment" on Aretha's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."
The same goes for Effie Passero on Heart's "Alone."
The above-mentioned Amelia Hammer Harris -- daughter of the late Jack Hammer -- exudes star power during her first Hollywood Week screen time, and country rocker Cade Foehner is another to keep an eye on after his rip roaring rendition of "Feel It Still."
We're trimming the field from the 169 who made the trek west down to 50, and three of the above better make the cut. We're off to a strong start.
Keeping It Original
Harper Grace fancies herself a songwriter, and her original tune "Rest in Peace" is about an ex who stabbed her in the back. She thinks the dude will know it's about him, and it's a betrayal that is likely to haunt him at least for another couple months.
Original in their own right are Noah Davis and the wonderfully eccentric Catie Turner, and they forge emotional connections on Kelly Clarkson's "Piece By Piece" and a non-catchy original called "Pity" about misogyny, respectively. Still, the judges have some concerns about Noah's waning confidence.
The Battle for Home
Another standout audition who hasn't appeared yet in Hollywood is Brandon Elder, who was traded for a car and then adopted by Patricia Elder, who died of cancer a few years ago. His solo round performance is juxtaposed with that of Dennis Lorenzo, a recently married father from Philly.
They're both singing Chris Daughtry's "Home," and they're good but not great. Lorenzo is smooth but doesn't sell the desperation, while Brandon has the grit but is overly pitchy.
Maddie Poppe has been spectacular so far, and her folksy original "Don't Ever Let Your Children Grow Up" -- her dad's recommendation -- gives me goosebumps and makes Katy Perry cry.
Rising to the Challenge
Michelle Sussett, who ordered the judges to dance during her audition, moonwalks across the stage while powering through a strained voice on Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out." She's wearing a T-shirt that says "Model" tied into a crop top, and the judges liken her to Gloria Estefan.
Next up is Ron Bultongez from the Congo, who initially got a no before Lionel Richie changed his vote and awarded a golden ticket. Since his audition, he's become the legal guardian of his two younger brothers, and it's given him renewed motivation to chase his dreams and provide a proper life for his family.
After the surprise goosebumps he delivers on Phillip Phillips' "Home," it looks like Lionel made the right choice. Ron exits the stage and breaks down in tears.
Standout Jonny Brenns is still missing his dad, who is pushing for college and can't offer approval or support for the musical aspirations. He comes up a little short channeling his emotions into OneRepublic's "I Lived," and while I like him, it's not quite up to snuff.
Don't Forget the Lyrics
Karaoke queen Crystal Alicea struggled to remember the words during the group round, and the brain farts are back as she limps through a rendition of Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain" that lacks power and feeling.
Deonte Baker got snaps from the judges the first time around and considers himself a shoo-in who makes audiences forget anyone else exists, but his take on Sam Smith's "Too Good at Goodbyes" is all over the place. It consists mostly of screaming, prompting Katy to ask the tech guy to turn the monitor down. Deonte takes the judges' facial contortions as a good sign.
Army wife Jurnee makes a terrible song choice with Ariana Grande's "One Last Time," and this one definitely puts her on the fence.
Katy's pretend boyfriend Trevor Holmes is solid but a bit too dreamy on Phillip Phillips' "Home." It's not a "seduce the crowd" type song, but he's probably earned a spot.
Marcus' best friend Maddie Zahm wants to step out of her shell, but she's still holding back some on Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain." The judges "know it's in there," though.
After struggling to set up the piano mic, 17-year-old nanny Shannon O'Hara dazzles on "Up to the Mountain." I wonder how it affects Maddie Zahm when you can compare apples to apples like this?
Genavieve Linkowski is the oldest of 10, meaning she's brought along quite an entourage. But even though her huge voice is on display during Kesha's "Praying," it's a bit too over the top and lacks control.
Louisiana heartthrob Garrett Jacobs's voice is so strained that his falsetto is iffy right now, but he's still going with Chris Isaac's "Wicked Game." His pitch is fine, but he can't hit the notes.
Who Will Rise?
Vocal coach Britney Holmes was the ultimate "no that should be yes," but she got a second chance thanks to a public vote revealed on Dancing with the Stars. It's been an emotional roller coaster, and she's feeling the pressure to deliver. She manages to fit her entire range into Ed Sheeran's "Dive," and it works.
Then comes the "yes that should've been a no," courtesy of Gabbii Jones, whose dad gave her 30 days to become a star. She screams Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons," and it's pretty terrible.
Thaddeus Johnson chose Katy Perry's "Rise" because it describes his life, and he wants her to feel like he's why she recorded it. He succeeds, and she tells him, "That's how you do my song."
Rounding into Form
We didn't see Kay Kay until Hollywood Week, and what immediately jumped out was that she looked like a star. She excelled in the group round and continues the trend with Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain."
Bayou boy Laine Hardy had to deal with Beliebers during the group round, but now he's back in his wheelhouse with Chris Stapleton's "Fire Away." I don't love it, but it seems like with his look and unique sound, there's no way he's going home. Luke Bryan whispers, "Either he ain't got it or his voice is gone."
Caleb Lee Hutchinson's ability has never wavered, but he's having a tough time being away from his family for this long. He's solid on Josh Turner's "Your Man," and thoughts of Scotty McCreery are never far once you hear "Lock them doors and turn the lights down low."
The final soloist is bubbly and likable Philly native Michael J. Woodard, who cleans shoes and balls at a bowling alley. He's going the musical theatre route with "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret, and even though the judges eat it up, it doesn't feel relevant. Still, Katy is so excited that she throws her chair.
Escape the Room
The 77 remaining contestants are divided into three rooms, but only two groups will be headed to the showcase round.
Room one has Catie Turner, Maddie Zahm and Dennis Lorenzo, which means it's a definite yes. I tried to ID as many people as I could, and joining them are Jurnee, Trevor Holmes, Michael J. Woodard, Cade Foehner, Milo Sposato and Garrett Jacobs.
Deonte Baker, Gabbii Jones and Crystal Alicea headline room two, which doesn't bode well for Genavieve Linkowski and Brandon Elder. I'm not sure if it's fancy editing, but when the announcer was reading names to divide the groups, it went, "Brandon Elder, Christine Jones, Amalia Watty." Lionel Richie tells a story of the Commodores getting rejected before he breaks the bad news, and if Amalia is gone, it's a crushing loss.
We now know the fate of room three, which includes Aida Vox, Jonny Brenns, Mara Justine, Thaddeus Johnson, Samothias, Laine Hardy, Britney Holmes, Ron Bultongez, Lee Vasi, Kay Kay, Maddie Poppe, Effie Passero and Marcio Donaldson.
Just like that, folks, we're down to our Top 50. And after one performance before a live audience, the field will be cut in half as we narrow it to the Top 24, presumably 12 of each gender.
There's simply no possible way to cram 50 performances into a two-hour show, so our viewing experience will once again come at the discretion of those who already know the results. And the presentation is sure to be catered as such. But on the bright side, these should be the last cherry-picked line-up before we get to make our own judgments based on all the available information.
And speaking of unknowns, here's the list of featured auditions we still haven't heard a peep from: Brandon Diaz, Ricky Manning, Les Greene, sisters Taryn Coccia and Payton Taylor, Cody Martin, Caitlin Lucia, Drake Milligan, Mylon Shamble, Brielle Rathbun and Carly Moffa. And, of course, there's Amalia Watty, who was most likely eliminated in room two.
The good was great in the solo round, and standouts include Gabby Barrett, Cade Foehner, Harper Grace and Maddie Poppe.
Who were your favorites and who do you think has superstar potential? Who is a lock for the Top 24 and who needs to up their game to have a chance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of ABC)