The 14th season of American Idol came with its fair share of changes, from contestant mentors and associated record label, to format, show length and programming schedule (ironically, the judges and host are one of the few things that didn’t change).

As we begin the brand new American Idol Showcase round to whittle the Top 48 down to 24, we are a stone’s throw from the live shows. And I, for one, can’t wait for that to happen more so than in seasons past, for reasons I didn’t anticipate.

American Idol Recap: The Winners and Losers of Hollywood Week>>>

More than anyone (except maybe my fiance… wedding planning ain’t easy), I appreciated the switch from two hours to one and from two nights a week to one (coming later this season). But while the live shows won’t suffer without the filler-heavy results hour, everything prior to that has. And it’s made the audition rounds, Hollywood Week and this new showcase round largely irrelevant.

Look, I know they’ll never be able to show everyone. But the pared-down episodes have led to a number of singers who were featured whose fates we are left wondering about (looking at you, David Oliver Willis). Likewise, we have several in the Top 48 who we haven’t seen all season (where you been, Casey Thrasher?).

I’m not suggesting we go back to the old ways, but an even more drastically different format might be needed to accommodate the current changes. All I’m saying is don’t show me someone good and then never tell me what happened to them.

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m crazy for caring enough to write all that? Anyway, on with the showcase showdown!

Welcome (Back) to Hollywood

The 28 remaining girls and 20 guys have gathered at the House of Blues to hit the stage in front of a real live audience for the first time in the competition, and then they’ll walk down the runway of shame or glory for final judgment.

Lady-charmer and Connick-dubbed favorite Michael Simeon is up first, and he includes a touch of the rap in his version of MKTO’s “Classic.” It’s on par with his other performances, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t be advancing to the live shows. Verdict: Top 24.

Loren Lott is next to learn her fate, and she picks a lofty tune in Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Note-wise, her rendition of the most popular prom song of the late ’90s is on point, so the chops are up there on a song that would doom most by comparison to the original. The only thing I don’t like is her over-pronunciation of the lyrics, which is something that shouldn’t be noticeable. She thought she killed it, but Harry didn’t feel the connection. Verdict: Top 24.

Bushy-haired toy designer Adam Ezegelian goes with a classic tune in White Snake’s “Here I Go Again,” and while he’s clearly the rocker of the season and oozes personality, it’s too cookie cutter for my liking. Verdict: Top 24.

The Beat Goes On (Ba Da Dum Da Dum Dum)

I-overplan-every-note Cody Frye chooses Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” for his final performance, and it’s out of his wheelhouse and just doesn’t stack up. Verdict: Eliminated. 

Pageant girl Lovey James has been preparing for this her entire life, and she’s hoping Little Mix’s “Wings” will get her to the live shows. It’s uneven and definitely doesn’t excite me, but Harry thought it was the performance in which she came alive the most thus far this season. Verdict: Top 24.

That’s two advancing singers from each gender, with just one departure. That means we’ve got 43 singers left to fill 20 spots. 

Cuts and Sing-Offs

Cue the rapid elimination montage, as Hector Montenegro, J. None, Reno Anoa’I (who sadly and tearfully apologizes for letting his family down), Zack Kaltenback and Hannah Mrozak are all sent home. Congratulate yourself if you remember seeing more than two of them.

After a slip-up during Hollywood Week, Adanna Duru knows she needs a home run, and she definitely looks the part as she launches into a frantic rendition of James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World.” Outside of the scream-singing, she kills it, as J-Lo attests to it by fiercely swaying her head like she’s at church. Verdict: Top 24.

Maddie Walker has continually surprised the judges by being someone who doesn’t stand out until she starts singing, and her country version of Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” has a few bad notes but is still pretty solid. It’s good or great, but not exceptional. The talent is there, though. Verdict: Eliminated. But wait.

As soon as she walks out, Harry starts a chorus of second guessing, and it apparently came down to the wire between Maddie and Rachel Hallack, another southern girl with a different set of pipes who forgot her lyrics during the group round. Her version of Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” is similar to Maddie in that it’s perfectly acceptable, but it doesn’t blow anyone away. Verdict: Sing off. 

They call Maddie back in and order the two to fight to the death. Maddie sings Kelli Pickler’s “Red High Heels,” and it’s more of the same: Solid but not spectacular. Rachel goes with “Son a Preacher Man,” and at one point she talks the lyrics. Neither is a clear winner, but I give a disappointing edge towards Maddie. Their skills are different, but in terms of being ready for primetime, the judges give Maddie a one percent margin and put her through.

It’s disappointing for Rachel, but quite a turnaround for Maddie, considering five minutes ago, she was told she was out. Rachel feels dissed and is standoffish afterwards, and she believes her experience should have been the deciding factor.

That’s 35 singers left for 18 spots.

The Wow Factor

Clark Beckham has been dealing with nerves that caused him to get off to a rough start in Hollywood, but his “Georgia on My Mind” is exquisite. He belts it out, and it’s goosebumps all around, just spectacular. Possibly the best so far this season. Verdict: Top 24. Wow. 

Daniel Seavey didn’t mean to become a ladies man, but it just happened naturally. He again takes on Paula Abdul‘s “Straight Up,” and c’mon, the kid just isn’t ready. I’m not saying he never will be, but he’s shaky and doesn’t have any real power in his voice. Oh, and I can’t tell, does J-Lo think he’s cute? Verdict: Top 24. Wow indeed. Have… we… learned… nothing?

Formerly homeless Tyanna Jones has been on an emotional roller coaster as of late, but you wouldn’t know it from her “Love on Top.” It’s not only enjoyable, it’s also thoroughly entertaining. Verdict: Top 24.

Results for Rayvon Owen and Shannon Berthiaume come as a combo. He sings something about being by someone’s side, but I can’t understand anything he’s saying. Shannon, who has consistently impressed me, now wants me to “Take Another Little Piece of (Her) Heart” in her first performance ever in front of a crowd, and I graciously accept. Verdict: Top 24 for both. 

The artist of the season, the single-named and eye-cross tatted Jax, sings Lady Gaga’s “You and I” with a super-long dramatic pause. Like so long that everyone thinks she’s done. J-Lo didn’t think it was her best, but she’s one of the most unique and memorable performers we’ve seen. Everyone knows who Jax is. Verdict: Top 24. 

Hollywood Goes to Hollywood

So after the first half of the showcase, we’ve seen 19 singers snatch up 12 spots, meaning there are 29 left in the running for the other 12. 

We end with a shot of Hollywood Anderson prepping to take the stage after a rough go in the land of his namesake. He wowed during the audition, but the journey has been rocky ever since. And it has many, including the judges, asking just how many passes one person deserves. 

He’s teary-eyed before they call his name to perform, and we’re left wondering if he will belt it out or choke. My money is on the latter. Just statistics, bro. 

Who was your favorite of the epsiode, and is there anyone you think is being overrated by the judges? Clark Beckham surprised me, while I think Daniel Seavey has no chance of winning this thing. And is there anyone you saw from the auditions or Hollywood who you expected to here but who has apparently vanished? Like David Oliver Willis? Insert meme of dead horse being beaten. 

You can watch American Idol on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)

Bill King

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Emmy-winning news producer & former BuddyTV blogger. Lover of Philly sports, Ned, Zoe, Liam and Delaine…not in that order