'American Idol' Recap: The Top 14 Go Live
We’re cooking with rocket fuel now, and the body count is building. Just one week ago, there were 20 contestants duking it out on American Idol. Sunday (April 14) night’s episode, however brings us the Top 14 in all their real-time glory, and by the end of this Monday’s results show, there will be only 10 left standing.
Yes, we’re live for the first time in Season 17. That means all you folks get to cast your votes and push seven of these trilling kiddos through to next week, while judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan will save an additional three from the axe on Monday’s episode.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s who did what to stay in the game.
I’d almost forgotten what Laine looked like out of his new supply of suits and ties. His pre-performance montage reminds us that he is indeed a country boy at heart, with the boots, jeans and Southern drawl to prove it. Tonight, Laine rocks out with Elvis Presley’s debut single, “That’s All Right.” In the true spirit of The King, the guitar-toting Louisiana teen ticks all the boxes and gives us an eyeful of slicked-back hair, hip-shakes and hand-flicks. “You know your strengths and you play them well,” Katy tells Laine, before adding that he’s “a good-looking man.”
Anyone remember the CD single cover artwork for Jimmy Eat World’s inescapable 2001 crossover smash “The Middle”? It featured a dozen or so mannequin heads with dead eyes staring into the great beyond. That’s basically the visual equivalent of Evelyn’s haunting vocals, so kudos to her staying on brand (in my twisted mind, at least) and belting out the early-aughts tune. In floral print bellbottoms. With pink tennis shoes. Whatever works! “I have to tell you, that’s what show business is all about and you’re giving us the left, the right and the center of you,” Lionel gushes.
Alyssa isn’t wasting any time now that she’s had a second chance on Idol. She’s really come into her own, and while her song choice of Sara Bareilles’ Waitress showtune “She Used to Be Mine” gives us an abrupt slowdown following Evelyn’s energetic stage antics, it proves to be a lovely showcase for the 16 year old’s torch-song side. “So, Raghu, the sauce is on fire, girl,” says Lionel, who jumps to his feet to commend Alyssa on her growth since last year.
Eddie brings a dose of 1970s-era Elton John realness with his purple shag coat. What he doesn’t deliver, however, is a solid vocal performance of “Bennie and the Jets.” I feel like the Idol-viewing public arched a collective eyebrow last week when Ryan Hammond got cut while Eddie was pushed through to the Top 14, and tonight he’s not exactly stating his case for why he deserves to still be in this thing. The polite judges offer up meaningless non-critiques, but the writing seems to pretty much be on the wall for Eddie making it much further in the competition.
This little country firecracker has quietly been swinging from strength to strength each week. Her sassy rendition of Sara Evans’ “Suds In The Bucket” gets a standing O from all three judges and makes for another feather in her cap. Impressed, Luke asks Riley, “Well, how does it feel to become a star?”
Wade explains in his pre-taped montage that he gained his raspy voice by singing heavy metal songs in his younger days. Sure, Jan. He puts on a bluesy show with Ray LaMontagne’s “Trouble” that keeps the judges’ favor in his pocket. “I love knowing that you’re a metal head,” Katy quips, while Luke blathers that Wade’s performance was “a spiritual moment.” #Hallelujah.
I’m worried for Dimitrius. He never really comes barreling out of the gate with solid vocals on lock like some of his competitors, though he seems to bring it home by the end of each week’s performance. That said, we’re at the A-game stage where every bell and whistle counts, so I’m just not sure if Dimitrius is long for this competition. His take on Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” falls a bit flat, leaving Luke to give a vague critique to work his microphone more.
Madison has the audacity to attempt Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’”. Luckily for the leather-clad 17 year old, she nails it with some insane high notes and gets the three judges up out of their chairs. “We need security on the set,” Lionel raves while Luke tells her, “You just really made a statement, Madison.” Goodbye Kelly Clarkson comparisons, and hello Miss VanDenburg.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
Breaking news: Jeremiah and his family have reconciled. The ginger crooner explains that he recently attended his sister’s wedding, where he appears to have patched things up with his padre. Anyway, the Elton John catalog appears to be a hit with this bunch lately, and Jeremiah sits at a piano and gives us a determined take on Captain Fantastic deep cut “We All Fall in Love Sometimes.” I’m not as awestruck with this as I have been with every one of his other performances, but Katy is brought to tears, so that can’t be a bad thing.
Children, Uché strutted out of his sexy spaceship this week with one goal in mind: gyrate in red pants until their heads burst into glitter. Bruno Mars will likely never see a take on “Finesse” quite like this again, but it’s sexy and funky enough to set the three judges dancing around their chairs. Katy eventually collapses on the table after asking, “Excuse me, are we allowed to show that performance on television?” Luke adds that watching Uché tonight was like “the opening of the best awards show ever.”
My soul is so scrambled from watching Uché’s non-stop erotic cabaret that it doesn’t even phase me when Alejandro opts to skip playing guitar for the first time ever and give a full-on electronic performance of Drake’s “One Dance.” He literally drops beats with a drum machine and plays keyboard behind a makeshift DJ booth. I don’t know what’s happening, but this is thankfully not your mom’s American Idol anymore.
Wait. We’re well into April and Ashley just now casually mentions that her boyfriend is James Gray Dawson VIII, of American Idol Season 15 fame. Actually, I don’t know the level of said fame, because I didn’t watch one second of Idol that year. But way to bury the lede. Moving along, Ashley gives us a lounge act version of Coldplay’s “Fix You” that prompts Katy to say, “To me you look like Diana Krall and sing like Carole King.” If that’s Perryspeak for “I’m afraid it’s the end of the road for you, sweetie,” than I concur.
Laci Kaye Booth
Anything goes this week. Laci, who confesses she’s “a self-spray-tanner,” has consistently given us gold so far. Alas, this week she ditches her trusty guitar for a string section accompaniment and makes a snoozy song choice with Blink 182’s “I Miss You.” It does nothing but bring her previous string of A+ performances to a halt. The judges give her a standing ovation, but, oh, what the hell do they know, anyway?
The night wraps with Walker giving The Sound Of Music number “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” the old college try, because why wouldn’t it? I dig Walker, with all his lovable, Harry Potter-look-alike nerdiness. I just think, as we’re getting down to the wire, he’s lacking the natural shine coming from several of his competitors. I predict he’ll make the Top 10, but after that he’d better start taking wardrobe tips from Uché if he wants to keep that swank Hollywood set-up.
Catch you Monday night for the first round of live results.