This week, American Idol finally got edgy and sleazed it up (in the best way possible!) by having the contestants choose the hottest Italo disco jams from yesteryear to perform for viewers.
Ha! If only. No, the Top 10 took on songs from the Disney catalog — Disney of course being the parent company of the series’ current network, ABC. For added fantasy stardust, Katy Perry sat dressed like Snow White between Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, while the producers also wrangled Idina Menzel, singer of mouse-house smash “Let It Go” from Frozen, for mentor duty this week.
Idol threw a lot at us on Sunday (April 29) evening. For starters, this week marks the first time the show will air live in every US time zone, with viewers being able to cast their votes, either online or on the Idol app, and see the results in the episode’s final minutes. That means the show is down from two to one episodes per week in the final stretch. Why, you ask? Because ABC is now dedicating Monday nights to Dancing With The Stars: Athletes Edition. Showbiz is a fickle beast.
How, then, is the final performer of the night supposed to compete with the the amount of votes the first and second performers rack up? Best not to ask the tough questions. Instead, let’s just focus on who did what, and who got the boot.
Idina coaxes Maddie into exploring her full vocal range during rehearsals. Sure enough, the young contestant does an impressive, old-timey turn with The Jungle Book’s “Bare Necessities,” and pulls out a few big notes at the end — all while strumming the ukulele, no less. My only issue is that Maddie seems a bit blasé about meeting Idina Menzel. Broadway may be a long way from Clarksville, Iowa, but best bow down to Ephalba, girl — even if you have to fake it.
I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m over Jurnee. The judges harbor a sincere fondness for her — last week she received a save from Lionel after America didn’t vote her through to the Top 10 — perhaps because she brings an otherwise-missing sense of pop to a season already awash in country, folk and rock. But she’s sharp most of the time with her singing, and overall she’s just not up to scratch. Jurnee sings “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana, and everything I said about her above holds true for this performance, too. Lionel politely tells Jurnee she was present on stage, which is basically as bold as saying the sky is blue.
Cade’s slightly older sister shows up to support for her flourishing rock star brother. It provides the opportunity for the Idol editing team to haul out photos of the siblings back when they were, in sis’ words, “chunky children.” Cade is perplexed about how to tone down his growly, sultry vocals for a Disney song — in this case, The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss The Girl.”
Idina encourages him to just be himself, which results in Cade turning the tune into a Goo Goo Dolls-esque ballad. Luke states that he believes Cade can “bring the rock and roll genre back.” Later, as if it wasn’t embarrassing enough for Cade’s childhood photos to be splayed out across America’s TV screens, Ryan Seacrest manages to drag out of the blushing crooner that he and fellow contestant Gabby Barrett are involved in somewhat of an off-camera romance.
Tonight, Adam looks like he bypassed his usual Ada drag and went straight for an Oprah in A Wrinkle In Time vibe. Idina thinks Adam is a great role model for many kids. She suggests he sing The Lion King’s “Circle Of Life” in his lower register, so the pain and warmth in his voice can shine through. When Ada hits the stage, however, it’s sadly not one of his more memorable performances. There’s no deterring Lionel’s enthusiasm, however: “I think you are a movement unto yourself,” he tells Ada.
I’ve been waving a banner for Venezuelan firecracker Michelle all season, but tonight I get the feeling that her time might be up. I’m okay with that. She takes on “Remember Me” from Coco, which, if nothing else, allows her to once more show off her bilingual capability. Katy tells Michelle she’s “a star, a star, a star!” Despite that, I can’t shake the thought that Michelle’s number might be up.
In so many words, Idina tells Cade’s girlfriend Gabby to reign the vocals in this week. That leads to the Pittsburgh country singer looking extremely self-conscious while on stage as she struggles not to bulldoze through “Colors Of The Wind” from Pocahontas. Several wrong notes are hit, and it’s borderline painful to watch. Restraint is clearly not Gabby’s forte.
Michael J. Woodard
While every other contestant in the Top 10 has become fairly predictable, Michael thankfully continues to operate on his own planet. Before and after his stellar reworking of “Beauty And The Beast,” both Idina and Katy, respectively, call Michael an angel. Katy adds that, as a performer, he falls somewhere between Michael Jackson and Frank Ocean.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson
It’s kind of becoming apparent: Caleb is going to win this thing, isn’t he? He’s got the aw-shucks country boy thing down pat. Plus his performance of Toy Story’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” is cute enough for Caleb to show a slightly different side. Take note, remaining contestants: this is your competitor to beat, and you’ve only got a few more weeks to step it up.
After Michael, Catie with a C lands one of the night’s other standout moments with her flawless take on “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty. (Side note: Catie’s also weirdly starting to morph into a Lisa Loeb clone more and more obviously as the weeks peel away.) Lionel rightly tells the young contestant, “You’ve just taken us on a magical, magical journey.”
Keeping tabs on all of the contestants’ family members is job unto itself. This week we’re reminded that Dennis has another daughter, who he’s not seen for at least two Christmases. She shows up to spend a day at Disneyland with Dad ahead of his performance of The Lion King’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.” Dennis only made the Top 10 by the grace of a judges’ save last week, and so he really needed to up his game this time around. That said, I wouldn’t put any money on him hanging in the competition past tonight.
This week we say goodbye to Ada Vox, Michelle Sussett and Dennis Lorenzo. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but, again, this new “live results” system seems unfair to the final performer of the night. Granted, viewers are free to vote for the contestants before they actually perform each episode. Doesn’t that take away from the point of voting based on actual talent, though?
Moving on, there are only three weeks left before this season’s finale. Next Sunday (May 6) will see the Top 7 pared down to the Top 5.