Get ready, America! Not only are we about to learn who you advanced to the Top 10 with your first-ever votes on the ABC reboot of American Idol, but with the first live show of season 16 comes the first live blog as well!
That’s right, we’re coming at you live and in real time with a full recap of the evening’s events, so keep the comments coming at the bottom, and I’ll respond as often as humanly possible amid 14 more performances (six of which are just for show). Or, more likely, I’ll be conversing with crickets since Idol remains television’s best DVR show … but that may not be the case for long.
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ABC announced earlier in the day that for the first time in the history of American television, a reality competition series will allow viewers to watch and vote from both coasts simultaneously. For three weeks, from April 29 to May 13, American Idol will be simulcast in all time zones across the country, and results will be revealed at the end of each show in real time.
It means there’s a minuscule two-hour window to cast votes that require live viewing, and apparently those on the West Coast who want to watch during the traditional 8pm timeslot will see a warning that voting is closed. It’s a bold strategy. Let’s see if it pays off.
We get to pick six (victory songs, yay!) finalists before new judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan sort through the scraps to round out the Top 10, so who stays and who goes? The esteemed Derek Stauffer, the perpetually more accurate yin to my yang, has his money on Mara Justine, Michelle Sussett, Jonny Brenns and Caleb Lee Hutchinson bidding us adieu. But as usual, we agree on little.
First, Gabby Barrett, Michael J. Woodard, Maddie Poppe, Cade Foehner, Ada Vox and Catie Turner should be the six who are immediately safe. And minus Michael, they should be the Top 5 that we’ll unveil in a few weeks. That would mean the eight contestants singing with a purpose are Jonny Brenns, Garrett Jacobs, Mara Justine, Marcio Donaldson, Jurnee, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Dennis Lorenzo and Michelle Sussett.
Brenns is the easy cut, but then things get dicey. Garrett Jacobs and Mara Justine certainly sang their way out of contention, but they are judge darlings that I can’t imagine being sent home. Instead, I see their salvation coming at the expense of two pairs of similar artists.
I mean, Marcio and Dennis are basically the same person, and the former inexplicably chose a Barry Manilow song. Then there’s Michelle, a pop star erased from our memories by Jurnee tackling a more impressive pop song.
The last man standing is sturdy but not flashy Caleb, serving as the final fall guy. It can’t come as a surprise considering he had the unenviable task of opening the show and was panned by the judges for everything not concerning his hip new look. Actually, I guess Derek and I don’t disagree that much after all.
So are we right? Or are we in for some surprises? On with the show!
The Live Blog Begins Now
Ryan Seacrest and his shiny suit and red-soled shoes drop the “This … is American Idol” tagline, and we’re off and running. Lionel Richie’s jacket is as bedazzled as Katy Perry’s dress, while Luke Bryan is rocking a T-shirt and a light coat. But it’s not the kind you’d wear with a suit; instead, it’s what you’d wear outside on a spring day. Backstage, it appears that Ada Vox and Michelle Sussett are wearing the same tight dress. Awkward.
Maddie Poppe is up first, and she’s in the Top 10 with America’s vote. So it’s all fun and games for The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and I’m not doing a deep dive on performances that don’t matter.
On the Fence and Falling Off
Next out is Michelle Sussett, and I reckon she’s got her work cut out for her. She’s banking her survival on an original, and it’s called “I’m a Dreamer.” It’s a bilingual immigrant anthem, which is obviously important to her, and it’s not a terrible song even if the lyrics are overtly straightforward. Still, she uses her vibrato on practically every note, and I don’t think it’ll be enough to stop her deportation from the competition.
Luke knows that Michelle is a star, but the vocal issues might be preventing us at home from realizing the potential. Katy apparently loves it when people sing in two languages, and she is proud that Michelle went the inspirational route. Lionel encourages her to continue expressing her truth.
Then it’s time for Marcio Donaldson to learn his fate, and he too is thrust into the uncomfortable role of singing for his Idol life. He’s putting his faith in Nick Jonas’ “Jealous,” and his nerves are on full display. It seems like he’s struggling with the lyrics, which keeps him muted and below the music. This one isn’t saving anyone, and Marcio and I both feel like crying at the end. His failures make me sad.
Luke pins the subpar performance on the tough situation, and he knows that Marcio is an emotional person. Katy reminds him that no matter what happens, he’s enough. Lionel cautions that this business is all about hearing no and taking punches, and this isn’t the end; it’s the beginning.
It doesn’t seem like they’re waiting until the end for some decisions, does it? Three results in, and I’m one step closer to besting Derek.
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Somebody Else Has to Be Safe, Right?
Ryan beckons Cade Foehner from the green room, covering his walk to the stage with chatter about the previous night’s performance. Cade is safe, of course, and he celebrates with a rip-roaring rendition of Gary Clark, Jr.’s, “Bright Lights.”
Garrett Jacobs is rightfully in the danger zone, and he’s hoping to turn the tides with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” Ugh, this nervous energy is going to be a problem all night, and he’s all over the place. It’s mostly off-key and chock full of pitch issues, but he fights through it as best he can. I’m telling you, he’s safe because the judges love his look, but he should be going home.
Luke lauds the song choice and applauds him for stating his case, while Katy inexplicably calls it the best Garrett has ever sounded. What in the hell are these folks listening to? For his part, Lionel wants more style and clues as to who Garrett is as an artist. The judge bias is so transparent with him.
So Far, So Good
Everyone who should be safe has been safe, while everyone who should be on the fence has been terrible. But will the trend continue with Gabby Barrett? Um, yeah. And as such, she gets to have (way too much) fun with Miranda Lambert’s “Little Red Wagon.” I still think it’s her versus Cade in the finale, with a solid bronze medal for Maddie Poppe.
Dennis Lorenzo is next, and as expected, he’s in the bottom eight. It’s Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work,” and it’s back in his R&B falsetto wheelhouse. I wouldn’t call it a “moment,” but it’s head and hair braids above the flaming pile of garbage we’ve seen from the other three fencers.
Luke promises to fight for him, Katy seconds the motion and Lionel all but guarantees him a spot in the Top 10 while throwing shade at America for not voting for him in the first place. Slow your roll, old man. Maybe if your generation was hip with the apps, he’d already be safe. And it’s actually not cool when you call it the “interwebs.”
Seven Down, Seven to Go
We’re at the halfway point, with everything going as expected, and Jonny Brenns is next to learn that he has not won America’s vote. It’s a slow and stripped-down version of Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” and while it’s far from vocally perfect, the emotional connection is there. Based on the body of work, I’m not sure it will be enough to save him. But he’s definitely giving the judges something to think about.
Luke felt like the song type suited Jonny, while previous attempts pushed his range too far, and he urges him not to forget the moments he delivered behind the piano. Katy wants him to get stage presence tips from Gabby, and Lionel notes his progress so early in his on-stage career.
And then comes the shocker: Caleb Lee Hutchinson is in the Top 10! I guess the fresh haircut paid off. This could hopefully spell trouble for Garrett Jacobs, and it also negates everything I just wrote about Jonny Brenns’ chances. But for now, let’s all sit back, relax and enjoy Chris Young’s “Gettin’ You Home,” which is exactly like every other one of Caleb’s performances this season: solid but unspectacular.
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At Least One More Surprise Coming
Caleb’s inclusion means one of Catie Turner, Michael J. Woodard and Ada Vox didn’t win America’s vote. My guess is Catie, but before we find out, a visibly shaking Mara Justine learns that she’ll be singing to prove she deserves to stick around. She lays it all on the line with Rihanna‘s “Love on the Brain,” and even with some bizarre throaty low notes, she flexes her chops and battles the nerves better than she did the night before.
Luke can’t imagine what these singers must be going through, and while he’s shocked that America didn’t vote for her, he applauds her for singing her tail off. Katy points out the importance of timing, and she urges Mara not to give up no matter what happens. Lionel points out that it’s not only about singing but also the package, and then he disses us yet again. Don’t turn on the crowd, bro. That’s what bad comics do.
Jurnee is next to fight her way off the chopping block, and she’s counterbalancing “Bang Bang” with “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman. The vocals generally come easy to her, but man, the nerves are making even her seem shaky. Still, she’s right up there with Dennis as the best of the rest stake their claim.
Between these two performances, Luke is sold. “Never have I ever seen a woman more qualified for the job who didn’t get the job,” Katy says, before asking America why there’s a disconnect (uh, how about “other people were better”?). Luke has made a career off three words, so all he can say is “I love you.” Gee, I wonder if they’ll pick her?
And Then There Were Three
It’s down to Michael J. Woodard, Ada Vox and Catie Turner, and two are safe with the other very likely to sing his or her way into the Top 10. Michael has to be relieved he’s up next because there’s no way the final two to learn their fates are both safe. He’s moving on, and he gets to “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz.
It’s time for the final result, and Catie Turner is in the Top 10. It means Ada Vox gets to stew in the green room for another 10 minutes before singing for her life, while Catie can comfortably wow with Camila Cabello’s “Havana.”
Ada vows that she’s not going without a fight, and she’s backing it up with Jennifer Holliday’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” It’s an overdone song, and while it’s screechy and doesn’t hold a candle to J-Hud (or even Quintavious Johnson from AGT), the talent, showmanship, polish and potential dwarf those she is competing against.
The crowd chants her name before Katy goes on a diatribe that ends with her making an executive decision to send Ada to the safe zone sans deliberation. It’s overly dramatic because it absolutely wasn’t perfect and has been done better so many times, but it’s a mere formality since she was going through regardless.
The Judges Make the Call
Two spots have to go to Jurnee and Dennis, while Michelle, Jonny and Marcio are easy cuts. It means it’s going to come down to Mara and Garrett for the final spot, and they’re definitely giving it to Garrett, right?
My pick is Mara’s unbridled raw potential and obviously higher ceiling, and it’s not like he’s any more seasoned or polished. Sure, he’s nice to look at, but does anyone really think this guy is going to be a star? She at least has the potential to do this as her career.
Jurnee is in the Top 10.
Michelle Sussett is in the Top 10.
What. The. F***. Huh? C’mon. Psshhaww.
Dennis Lorenzo is in the Top 10.
And so it’s the end of the line for both Garrett Jacobs and Mara Justine, as well as the obvious choices of Jonny Brenns and Marcio Donaldson. Objectively, all four were deserving, and you can make the case that Michelle’s inspirational mediocrity was worth rewarding.
I Can Show You the World
The more I think about it, the less surprising it gets. I was blinded by my preconceived notions, and upon reevaluation, I’m begrudgingly of the opinion that the judges got it right. So no objections from Billville, but what say you?
We’re back next time with the long-awaited Disney Night (thanks for the catalog, ABC’s parent company) and the new live voting concept, and the main question will be how order factors into the process.
The pimp spot has long been the ideal slot, but it would seem that going earlier would allow for and encourage more votes. After all, who would ever want to be evaluated for a performance 10 minutes before the results are due? What I do know is there’s a newfound value in watching live, and I hope you choose to do it along with me.
Are you on board with the Top 10? Do you believe that any of these performances swayed the judges or were the eliminations set in advance? If you were to split this group in two, who would be in your Top 5? Whose game is this to lose and who has their work cut out for them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
American Idol season 16 airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. Want more news? Like our American Idol Facebook page.
(Image courtesy of ABC)