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‘American Idol’ Recap: The Top 20 Becomes the Top 21 in Hawaii

Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan
ABC/Karen Neal

Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan on American Idol in Hawaii.

We’ve hit upon the last pre-taped, pre-coronavirus crisis episode of American Idol, before all the contestants were sent home for their safety. Let’s soak up this sun-filled, happy-go-lucky slice of television recorded in a time not so long ago (January), but that we can hardly remember.

It’s part two of Final Judgment in Hawaii, where eight singers from the Top 40 have now landed a place within the Top 20. With only 12 more spots left, judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan are tasked with deciding who goes through, and who gets crammed into the crowded garbage disposal of obscurity.

Dillon James

Last week’s episode was a nail-biter that left us hanging: Will two-years-sober Dillon James be earning a place in the Top 20 following his mesmerizing performance of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’”? Oh, come now, children. Of course he made it through. Idol loves a handsome gent in a cowboy hat with a sob story. 

Genavieve Linkowski

A lot of airtime was devoted this season to social media influencer Genavieve. And so it’s a bit surprising when the judges tell her she’s not moving on to the next round. Genevieve sang Lauren Daigle’s “Say,” which is like half of these kiddos’ go-to choice (while the other half opts for Andra Day’s “Rise Up”). Katy eases the blow by telling the bummed-out diva that she’s impressed by her growth. Next!

Franklin Boone

Oh, right. Franklin Boone is still around. He sings John Mayer’s “Daughters” because, you know, he’s got a kid and stuff. It’s fine. Nothing spectacular. The judges like him but fake him out by pretending they’re giving him bad news. Instead, he gets his Top 20 glory. I’ll be amazed if he makes it into the Top 15 to be honest. Neeeeeext.

Juliana Gargano

During her audition, Staten Island songbird Juliana performed an original number called “Growing Pains” that had Katy telling her she’s Top 5 material. Lucky for her, Hollywood Week didn’t tarnish her luster. Here in Hawaii, she eloquently belts out Pink’s “Glitter in the Air,” and the judges agree that she “can go a long, long way; maybe all the way.” If America’s also on board when voting opens up, expect to be seeing a lot more of Juliana.

Aliana Jester

While all the kids are crooning “Say” and “Rise Up” this year, I feel like last year’s reality singing competition tune of choice was Oscar-nominated “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. Aliana keeps it old school by selecting that number, and it turns out to be a winner for her. She may have brought her support pup (named Nova Lady!) to her initial audition, but she makes the Top 20 all on her own. NEXT.

Sophia Wackerman

Sophia struts all around the stage at Disney’s Aulani resort while singing lesser-known Nick Jonas single “Levels.” It’s a risky choice all the way around, as the judges are used to a more mellow side of the California contestant.

“I think what you gave last night was another level that we haven’t seen,” Katy tells Sophia. She adds that while she thought her performance was “exciting,” Lionel and Luke didn’t agree. Still, Sophia lands in the Top 20, so blessings should be counted.

Robert Taylor

This poor guy started out strong at his Oregon audition but has progressively gone downhill since. Robert’s Hollywood Week duet performance was a disaster that proved fatal for his partner. Hawaii, alas, delivers the coup de grâce.

Singing Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” does Robert no favors, as his vocals are at times strained and all over the place. Katy says she feels he forgot all the advice the judges gave him. Thus, it’s sayonara to Robert.

Kimmy Gabriela

Kimmy gives Demi Lovato’s “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” a whirl. While it’s a technically solid vocal performance, the judges don’t feel the teenager is very memorable. Particularly, Katy says she sounds like a seasoned pro with “one of the best voices,” but “it’s not enough to be a good singer.”

Kimmy makes it to the Top 20, but unless she sorts out who she really is as an artist (no easy task, mind you), she won’t be long for this Idol world.

The Teenagers

A montage informs us that Season 18’s Brat Pack has made it on through. This includes Makayla Phillps (who sings Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry”), Lauren Spencer-Smith (Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”) and Cyniah Elise (Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade”), though the latter is told by the judges she didn’t exactly knock it out of the park.

A highlight is watching 17-year-old dance squad starlet Olivia Ximines rip through Tina Turner’s classic “Proud Mary” moves in a yellow fringe dress.

Arthur Gunn

If you haven’t caught on by now, Arthur Gunn from Nepal is basically this year’s Alejandro Aranda. During Hollywood Week, Lionel complimented Arthur by saying he reminds him of Bob Marley. Taking that to heart, the young talent goes with “Is This Love” on stage in Hawaii and the judges are duly won over once again.

“I’m gonna rip the band-aid off,” Lionel tells Arthur. “You are pure light… You’re our shining star.” Naturally, that star will shine on in the Top 20.

Demi Rae

With only one spot left in the Top 20, the judges have switched into brutal mode. Such is the case with poor Demi Rae, who serves up a moving performance of Noah Cyrus tearjerker “Lonely.” Honestly, I thought she was a shoo-in. Katy even praises her to no end. Still, Demi is told it’s the end of her American Idol journey. Which only leaves us with…

Grace Leer & Lauren Mascitti

These two Nashville ladies are poised to duke it out for the final open position in the Top 20. Grace, if you’ll recall, was once a contestant on Ryan Seacrest-hosted Idol spin-off American Juniors, way back in 2003. Lauren, on the other hand, is engaged to hit country songwriter Shawn Camp. Both of them shine on stage in Hawaii -- Grace with Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and Lauren with Emmylou Harris’ “Two More Bottles of Wine.” But who will be the lucky one to move to the next round?

The judges can’t decide between the two of them, so, in a sense, the Top 20 becomes the Top 21, while viewers are tasked with voting on the Idol website and app whether Grace or Lauren ultimately gets the boot. Wacky!

And with that, Idol will return next week with a recap of the season as a cover, while producers sort out how to go about the live episodes in the time of COVID-19.

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