Tonight marks my favorite part of the Hollywood round on American Idol.
The cattle call round is over. So is drama-filled group night, where we hear so little of anyone singing anything that it’s difficult — if not downright unfair — to judge singers on the few notes Idol chooses to let us hear.
Now we’re down to 70 singers. And they’ll be performing solo for a spot in the Idol semifinals.
Last year, at this point, we were treated to some wonderful performances. Among the standouts: Angie Miller’s original, “You Set Me Free;” Kree Harrison’s introduction to Idol viewers singing “Stars;” and Charlie Askew’s confident take on “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Judging from the teasers Idol posted on Tumblr, we’ll hear at least a couple of originals tonight.
And, of course, Idol has another twist in store.
By the time Thursday’s episode ends, we’ll be introduced to 15 female semifinalists and 16 potential male semifinalists. America will get to vote which of the last two males gets a spot in the semifinals.
Which might not matter anyway. Because next week is the semifinals, and anyone who has watched Idol for any length of times knows the show cannot fit 15 performances into one night.
So the judges will apparently cut some of the singers they just put into the semifinals before they even have a chance to sing again. Hmm.
By the way, wouldn’t it be nice to know which singers have made the Top 70? Would it be too much to ask the show to post that on its website?
But enough griping. On with the performances …
Emily Piriz: The 17-year-old from Florida is the first contestant to learn her fate. She sat behind a keyboard and sang “Stars” for her final Hollywood performance, and did it very nicely. That seemed worthy of the semifinals, but it’s tough to judge without hearing from other singers. And Emily makes the top 15 girls. Grade: B
Spencer Lloyd: The 19-year-old from Arkansas sounded great in his first Hollywood performance (“Say Something”), but probably slipped a notch during the group round, when he wasn’t all that interested in helping his colleagues learn their lines. He sang an original during his final Hollywood performance, and it didn’t go over very well. Harry said it sounded like a public service announcement. We’d be better able to judge for ourselves if Idol didn’t let the judges talk over the singing. But he advances. Grade: C–
Jillian Jensen: The gal who made it so far (just short of the finals) on The X Factor, opted to sing an original song for her final Hollywood performance. We didn’t really see her in the group round. But she sounded quite good on that original. And it was good enough to get her into the top 15 girls. And Jillian breaks down in tears of joy at the announcement. Grade: B
Not making it into the semifinals: Madelyn Patterson, Sabrini Lentini, Lebryant Crew and Michael Simeon.
George Lovett: While they get the bad news, Idol plays the Hollywood performance of George, who absolutely sparkles in his solo. And he becomes the second male to advance tonight. A well-deserved yes, though I don’t remember him being featured much to this point. Grade: B
Sam Woolf: Apparently contestants could either chose a song from a list or perform an original for their final Hollywood performance. Ryan tells us many of the original songs fell flat. Then Sam Woolf steps on stage to sing an original about his mom called “I Try.” Sounded pretty good. Not Angela Miller overwhelming, but solid for sure. And Sam advances, becoming the third guy to do so. Grade: B–
Keri Lynn Roche: Wow, Keri Lynn got cut after that soulful performance. Dang, I don’t get it. But it would be better to know if we saw all the performances, then got the results. But I really liked that solo from Keri. Grade: B+
Malaya Watson: She’s 16, she plays the tuba, she’s from Michigan, and she was the one singer who stood out from her group in Hollywood. After being stopped the first time through, Malaya sings “Believe” a second time, hits a heck of a glory note, but shouts her way through much of the performance. I didn’t love it. Yet she makes the top 15. Grade: C
Maurice Townsend: He’s sounded great every time I’ve heard him on the show, and he turned in another very good performance covering the Miley Cyrus hit “Wrecking Ball.” And he gets a well deserved advance into the semifinals. Nice choice, Idol. Grade: B
Bria Anai Johnson: Dang, she just delivered a heck of a rendition of “It’s a Man’s World” in her last Hollywood performance. What a voice! And she’s just 15. We met her during the Atlanta audition episode. Grade: A–
Jess Meuse: She’s the singer-songwriter who didn’t come off very well during the group round in Hollywood. Looking to redeem herself, she chose to sing an original for her final Hollywood performance. The song is “Done,” and it ran circles around every other original we’ve heard so far tonight. Very, very good. Grade: A–
Jesse Roach: Another singer-songwriter type, she sings “Wide Open Spaces” for her final Hollywood performance and seems to have missed a line in there. She’s the same type of performer as Jess Meuse, so they’re hearing their fate together. You have to think Jess Meuse has the edge. But Idol is going to make them engage in a sing off to see who makes it. Grade: C–
Dexter Roberts: The 22-year-old from Alabama has been one of the most impressive country singers to date and is next to learn his fate. And he makes it. Idol chops up his performance so much with talk and judgments and clips of Dexter in the elevator, that I’m not going to try to grade it, but it sounded pretty good.
Emmanuel Zidor: He sings “I’m Going Down” for his final performance and unleashes one heck of a high note there at the end. He certainly doesn’t lack for performance flair. But Idol also reminds us that his Hollywood round effort didn’t go so great. Emmanuel is in tears as he appears before the judges. He says he’ll be devastated if he goes home. He doesn’t have to be devastated yet. He makes the semifinals. Grade: B–
M.K. Nobilette: After a rough group round, the 20-year-old from San Francisco sings “The A Team” for her final Hollywood performance. She’s giving Jennifer goosies. She’s not giving me goosies. That came off as a very mediocre performance. She advances. Grade: C
Kristen O’Connor: The 24-year-old from Florida was a first-night standout in Hollywood and came back with a solid performance in the final solo round singing “Unconditionally.” She has a pretty strong voice and a heck of a smile. And Idol wants fans to vote on whether they think she advanced. No thanks, Idol. I’ll vote when it counts. And she advances, too. Grade: B
Jordan Brisbane How’s that for a coincidence: His Idol judgment comes on his 16th birthday. He advances. Wasn’t so sure after hearing that very mediocre version of “Halo.” Grade: C
Leah Guerrero and Andrina Brogden: They’re going to learn their fate together. I actually liked Leah’s vocal a little better; Andrina seemed to have the better stage presence. And Andrina advances. Grades: B–
Malcolm Allen: The 21-year-old sang “I’m Going Down” for his final solo. And displays a nice, rich voice. He’s a deli grocer we met just briefly in the Austin auditions and whom we haven’t seen much from since. He makes the final 15 guys. Grade: B–
Alex Preston: He’s apparently another contestant who opted to sing an original for his final solo performance. Not crazy about the faces he makes while he’s singing. But I like the song, and he’s got a unique sound. I’d rate that as the second-best original we’ve heard tonight. Alex makes the semifinals. Grade: B
Casey Thraser and C.J. Harris: The two guys from Alabama will hear their fate together. Both are country singers, both are dads. C.J. sounded wonderful in his final solo performance. They’re asked to sing off. C.J. sings “Whipping Post.” Really well. Casey seems to have a more traditional country voice. And we won’t learn their fate until tomorrow night. Nice cliffhanger, Idol.
Meanwhile, the show has a lot to do tomorrow night. By my count, the show introduced us to nine male semifinals and eight female semifinalists tonight, as follows:
Bria Anai Johnson