If your favorite American Idol hopeful survived the Genre and Duets rounds of Hollywood Week, you’d best white-knuckle the vermouth bottle, Sally, because there’s still the Solo gauntlet to get through before Season 18’s Top 40 is decided. To give these kiddos a jolt of encouragement, last year’s standout contestant, Alejandro Aranda, stops by to dole out a pep talk.
“It’s okay to feel nervous and it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling, but just know that it’s your song and you’re performing and you’re expressing yourself,” says Alejandro. Golly!
The first solos go by and the judges seem pleased. Katy Perry stands up and exclaims, “Oh my god! What a cool song!” after Kimmy Gabriela belts out “I’m Here” from The Color Purple. Likewise, Genevieve Linkowski and Jovin Webb work their stage magic and impress Lionel Richie, Katy and Luke Bryan.
Faith Becnel gives a so-so solo performance, while Arthur Gunn, this season’s obvious heir to the Alejandro throne, gets experimental and does a risky rearrangement of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” Not even the house band has time to learn the intricacies of Arthur’s chord restructuring here, so the 21 year old goes it alone on stage with just his guitar. The risk pays off, and he gets all three judges on their feet.
Two contestants tackle Lizzo songs — Perrin York and Makayla Phillips — and it winds up being more Liz-NO. “That was the worst song she’s picked,” mumbles Katy after the latter leaves the stage. It’s just another reminder that at this point, song choice is everything if you want to keep treading water in Hollywood, babies.
More disaster strikes as a slew of clueless crooners try their luck with original songs. Robert Taylor crashes and burns for one, while Julia Gargano freezes up and can’t even remember the title of her own tune. Jimmy Levy and Amelia follow suit and choke on stage. Only Nashville darling Lauren Mascitti wins Lionel & Co. over, with a self-penned number inspired by her grandmother, Dee.
Moving right along, real life California roommates Sophia Wackerman and Sarah Isen tanked on their duet the night before, but the former shines tonight with her powerhouse rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. Too bad the same can’t be said for Kat Lopez’s take on A Star Is Born’s “Always Remember Us This Way.”
Something tells me she’ll be joining boyfriend Alex Garrido, who was ousted in the Duets round, in the scrap heap after this darkness.
And then there’s Just Sam, who seems to have a different ailment at the onset of each new challenge. Tonight she’s got a sore throat, or a pained throat, or something. Whatever the case, the throat thing is just a red herring, because she rocks the roof off the theater with her performance of “I’m Here.” I can now see a clear path to Just Sam winning this season.
NEXT: Sheniel Maisonet, Ari Saage, Nick Merico and Marcus Tinsley all bomb in front of the judges. Poor Makayla Brownlee, who’s normally a knockout, actually has a seizure in the night’s most dramatic moment. Her father, Mark, reveals that she has a condition where her body basically can’t process stress. Still, Makayla eventually makes her way back after being tended to by medics, and aces Kacey Musgraves’ “Rainbow” to the point that Katy is in tears.
Following Just Sam’s mystery throat condition and Makayla’s collapsing on stage, thoughts of COVID-19 inevitably begin to enter my current-world mind. For in these final pre-taped episodes of Idol, the contestants have yet to be sent home for the sake of their own health.
More starry-eyed moppets blaze a trail of glory across the floorboards, including Devon Alexander, Cameron Leigh Smith, Dillon James and Lauren Spencer-Smith. Pizza delivery hunk Louis Knight, in particular, gives a stellar take on Lewis Capaldi’s “Hold Me While You Wait.” In the audience, his entire English family blubbers away. Bless.
A pack of contestants (Cyniah Elise, Olivia Ximines, YZthasinger and Geena) all slay Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Meanwhile, in Margie Mays and Jonny West’s ongoing love story, the former finally steps up her game with an emotional performance of Freya Ridings’ “Lost Without You.” Jonny holds his own, as well, with an Elton John-esque original he knocks out while playing piano.
Finally, Lionel, Katy and Luke are left to their own devices as they deliberate over who’s going into the Top 40 and who’s being tossed into the garbage disposal of obscurity. It’s a cruel biz, children.
After being separated, per usual, into three rooms, we see the following make the cut: Jonny West, Arthur Gunn, Sophia Wackerman, Franklin Boone, Makayla Phillips, Kimmy Gabriela, Francisco Martin, DeWayne Crocker, Cyniah Elise, Lauren Mascitti, Olivia Ximines, Amelia, Louis Knight, Nick Merico, Jovin Webb, Just Sam, Geena, Amber Fiedler, Dillon James.
Kiss these kids goodbye: Margie Mays, Jimmy Levy, Madison Paige, Ari Saage, Peyton Aldridge, Kat Lopez, Sheniel Maisonet.
Next week, the Top 40 heads to Hawaii in the last of Idol’s pre-taped rounds this season.