'American Idol' Recap: The Top 14 Revealed Following Celebrity Duets (Critics' Take)


It’s celebrity duets night for the second dozen of American Idol’s former Top 24 (whacked down to Top 19 last week) By the end of the night, the constants will be reduced further to the remaining Top 14.

In simpler terms, once the razzle dazzle of tonight’s all star pair-up performances is over, judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan must put five more folks on the chopping block. The seven left standing will be thrown together with last week’s surviving hopefuls, et voilà -- there you’ll have the Top 14.

Caleb Lee Hutchinson & Bebe Rexha

Bebe Rexha stops by the show for two performances, the first of which is with this season’s resident country dude, Caleb. Bebe says Caleb needs to work on his dance moves, so they spice up Rexha’s current chart smash “Meant To Be” with some simple hand-on-steering-wheel choreography. Luke tells teen crooner Caleb, “Nobody has ‘aw-shucks’ country boy down better than you.” So will he make it through tonight? If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be, y’all.

Ada Vox & Lea Michele

Lea Michele is in awe of Ada’s vocal power. “With that voice, I’m not worried about you,” the Glee multi-talent says. Together they sing Wicked show tune “Defying Gravity,” and Ada leaves no high note untouched by the end. Lea’s wig is left on the wall, and Lionel proclaims, “Let me just tell you something: a star is born.”

Maddie Poppe & Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat reveals to Maddie that she herself unsuccessfully auditioned for Idol twice, the first time at age 17 during the show’s inaugural season, in 2002. The Grammy-winning pop star subsequently went on to land several songs in the charts, including “Bubbly,” which she sings on stage with Maddie. Luke Bryan’s comments at the end of the performance are interrupted when Katy announces that her pants split. She could have just kept quiet about the wardrobe malfunction until a commercial break, but why do that when you can moon the audience?

Ron Bultongez & Banners

Banners’ song “Someone to You” was played multiple times during the auditions earlier in the season, when various contestants made it through to Hollywood. Thus the producers wrangled the British singer for two duets tonight. Ron is nervous about forgetting the lyrics to Banners’ tune, but he pulls the performance off like a pro. “It wasn’t perfect, but perfection is boring!” Katy declares.

Amelia Hammer Harris & Bebe Rexha

Like Colbie Caillat, Bebe Rexha also once auditioned for American Idol. She does her second song of the evening with Amelia, and she tells the contestant that she wants “to feel the grit.” They go with Rexha and G-Eazy’s hit collaboration “Me, Myself & I.” Amelia winds up sounding infinitely better than she did the previous night, but it may be too late to turn her fortunes around at this point. Still, Katy tells the contestant, “I’ve never seen anyone pull off lime green leather pants!” So there’s that, at least.

Shannon O’Hara & Cam

Just a month ago, Shannon O’Hara seemed like a talented standout in this competition. But as the season has progressed, she’s had a hard time standing out. (The same can be said for a few other contestants. More on that below.) Shannon pairs up with country songbird Cam for a duet on “Burning House.” The Grammy nominee tells the nervous hopeful that the best way to shine is to be herself. In the end, Luke says the performance was mesmerizing, while Katy loves seeing Shannon finally come out of her shell.

Alyssa Raghu & Banners

Trivia time: Banners’ dad is Grammy winner Ken Nelson, who produced some of Coldplay’s biggest hits, including “Yellow,” “Clocks” and “Fix You.” Alyssa Raghu is hoping that when the two belt out “Yellow,” it will set her apart from the other contestants — something she’s struggled with this entire season. Unfortunately, the fireworks never really happen, despite Alyssa’s biggest champion Katy nervously shouting, “Come on! Let’s go!” from the judges’ table. Poor Lionel gets booed for simply being honest and telling Alyssa her identity didn’t come through with that performance.

Marcio Donaldson & Allen Stone

Last week Allen Stone helped Dennis Lorenzo turn out a stellar performance of “Unaware.” He’s back to partner with Marcio Donaldson for super-woke Motown classic “What’s Going On.” (Side note: Toni Braxton was initially to be Marcio’s duet partner, but she bailed because she was under the weather.) During the first half of their time on stage, Allen makes the song his own, while Marcio just kind of mimics Marvin Gaye’s vocals. He eventually pulls it together to hit some amazing notes, and this winds up being the night’s highlight. Lionel tells Marcio, “It was a spiritual moment, my friend. And now just let your magic shine.”

Jurnee & Lea Michele

Jurnee has idolized Lea Michelle since her days of playing Rachel Berry on Glee, which really doesn’t seem that long ago until you realize it’s been nearly a decade (!!) since the series’ pilot aired. You find out Jurnee isn’t just blowing smoke when she selects Lea’s little-heard track “Run to You" (off her blink-and-you-missed-it sophomore album Places) for their duet. It winds up being a smart choice: The two of them sound so good that Luke says it feels like they’ve been in a band together forever. Lionel adds that the sky is the limit for Jurnee, and so her prospects are seem good for making the Top 14.

Garrett Jacobs & Colbie Caillat

Garrett fumbled this week with his solo performance. He strikes gold and turns it all around, however, by hitting the stage with Colbie Caillat to sing her Grammy-winning Jason Mraz duet “Lucky.” Garrett dedicates the song to his girlfriend, who, to his knowledge, is back home in Louisiana taking her finals. But, surprise -- the young lady was hiding right there in the audience all along. What a wild world we live in, folks.

Mara Justine & Rachel Platten

Rachel Platten explains to Mara that her smash hit “Fight Song” was written out of her frustration from knocking on every major label’s door and being rejected. Mara equates that pain to her own of feeling awkward in high school -- which isn’t quite the same thing, but Mara’s only 15, so Rachel goes with it. The two of them stage an emotional piano-ballad rendition of the tune that leaves Mara in tears by the end. Katy tells the teenager that she finally found her center.

Effie Passero & Cam

Effie explains that she was originally scheduled to be singing with Jessie J, but the British pop star fell ill at the last minute. The contestant is now left out of her comfort zone when she’s paired up with country singer Cam for a “Diane” duet. Effie has a bare minimum amount of time to learn the song, but despite that, the two of them harmonize brilliantly together. Next to Allen Stone and Marcio, it’s one of the best performances of the evening.

Following the duets, the judges are left to decide who will stay. These five contestants are left to begrudgingly pull their suitcases out of the Holiday Inn closet and hit the road back home:

Amelia Hammer Harris

Ron Bultongez

Effie Passero

Alyssa Raghu

Shannon O’Hara

That means the below 14 contestants will now move on to compete for America’s vote, beginning next week:

Mara Justine


Maddie Poppe

Ada Vox

Caleb Lee Hutchinson

Garrett Jacobs

Marcio Donaldson

Cade Foehner

Michelle Sussett

Dennis Lorenzo

Gabby Barrett

Jonny Brenns

Michael J. Woodard

Catie Turner

That all seems about right for the most part, though I’m honestly surprised that Effie got nixed over Garrett. Alas, American Idol can be a cruel, unpredictable machine.


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