'American Idol' Fifth Judge: One Performance Is So Powerful It Moves Ryan Seacrest to Tears
“I was over there crying,” Seacrest admitted after the powerful performance. “It was like, ‘Don’t ever end!'”
After Sunday night’s solo performances, it was time to bring out the "All Star Duets" on "American Idol," with the contestants joining forces with Banners, Colbie Caillat, Cam, Lea Michele, Bebe Rexha, Rachel Platten and Allen Stone. There were several standout performances, with one so moving it even brought Ryan Seacrest to tears.
"I was over there crying," he admitted after the performance, still choking up as he tried to talk. "It was like, ‘Don’t ever end!’"
But that was only one of several emotional performances throughout the night as these contestants proved that they were more than deserving of a shot at that Top 14 position. Unfortunately, only seven of them could make it through the night and there were more than seven that made a strong case for themselves. That meant disappointment and frustration were most definitely on the menu.
With only three judges, you stand as the fourth, as your votes will certainly have a lot to say about who wins. I’ll proudly stand beside you. "Who do I think I am?" you ask. Well, I spent nearly a decade of my life sweating and bleeding to the music as a dancer, performing with the St.Louis Ballet Company. During this time, I was also a member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, as well as a gymnast, writer and cartoonist. I had a lot more energy in my younger years. And I’ve spent the last sixteen years analyzing and critiquing reality competition shows for various media publications. I’ve got this.
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe. For these next few episodes, I’ll just keep ranking ’em worst to first and we’ll see who winds up in my Top Seven each night.
TOP 12 – GROUP 2 DUETS
Alyssa Raghu & Banners
Alyssa Raghu (16) "Yellow," Coldplay
While Banners largely sang this song as it was written, Alyssa kept putting her own vibe on it. That’s primarily because there’s not a lot of vocal range or dynamics for her to showcase what she can do on the track, so she had to force those moments. It just never really worked. Katy kept shouting for the song to get going, but it just doesn’t do that, and in that way it was a disservice to Alyssa, who sounded a little flat and a lot forgettable.
Amelia Hammer Harris & Bebe Rexha
Amelia Hammer Harris (26) "Me, Myself & I," G-Eazy & Bebe Rexha
This song demanded that Amelia dig deep, wipe the polish off of her voice and get dirty with it. She wasn’t able to match Bebe’s grit, but it was nice to see her cut loose and look like she was even a little outside her head. She actually let out a growl at one point, but I just don’t think she’s bringing anything special enough to stand out in a very competitive night of strong voices. The difference is that so many of these contestants know who they are as artists and Amelia is just a nice voice with no specific direction or vision behind it.
Ron Bultongez & Banners
Ron Bultongez (21) "Someone to You," Banners
Ron got a little carried away and tried to continue singing beyond the end of the song, but that’s not his biggest problem. When he settles into the pocket of a song there is no one who sounds like him, but every time he comes out it takes him way too long to get into his groove. He risks alienating potential fans right off the bat with a tepid vocal and his deer-in-headlights look, By the end, he was fully in command of his confidence and performance, but if anything is going to take him it, it’s going to be these slow starts.
Effie Passero & Cam
Effie Passero (26) "Diane," Cam
Effie lost her original partner when Jessie J fell ill, and so she wound up partnering with Cam instead. It brought out a new side of her that suited her well as she was able to tell the story of a woman who finds out that her man is married. I still think Cam outsang her overall, and I’m not sure Effie has done enough to stand out in such a very, very crowded arena of talent, but she should be very proud that she spotlighted a different side to her voice. She didn’t have enough moments to shine for me, and I kind of think her time here might be over.
Maddie Poppe & Colbie Caillat
Maddie Poppe (20) "Bubbly," Colbie Caillat
Maddie settled her nerves by connecting directly with Calbie on this performance and that brought out a very sweet and polished performance. Maddie’s voice is so quirky and unique that this is exactly the type of song she should be singing. The a cappella portion toward the end was a thing of beauty and confirmed that Maddie needs to get over it and own her greatness. She is a singular voice in the competition, and she deserves a chance to fight for your votes.
Shannon O’Hara & Cam
Shannon O’Hara (17) "Burning House," Cam
Shannon always sneaks up on you with that voice and her storytelling capabilities. That gift made her feel completely comfortable and natural on this emotional country song as if she’d grown up singing country. She didn’t quite have the twang that Cam brought to it, but she had such passion and the conviction it was easy to forget she didn’t write this and it isn’t her story. Shannon always sneaks up on you, but once you see her, she’s not easy to forget.
Garrett Jacobs & Colbie Caillat
Garrett Jacobs (18) _"Lucky," Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
After a terrible misfire Sunday night, Garrett wasn’t playing tonight and he just made the whole competition a whole lot harder to judge. I’m still annoyed by his eyebrow, but I loved the playfulness he found in his voice and his connection with Colbie was palpable. Their musical banter was mesmerizing. Is this the best Garrett has ever sounded? I worry he might be peaking a bit too late to save his skin, but all props for finding himself here.
Ada Vox & Lea Michele
Ada Vox (24) "Defying Gravity," "Wicked"
Lea gave Ada some great advice in reigning in her instrument until it could be the most impactful, never losing the emotion and the message within the song. Lea herself has one of the most powerful voices in the industry, so it was impressive seeing Ada go toe to to with her like they were in a Broadway revue together just chilling. I was a little worried that Lea carried so much of the lead, but Ada’s harmonies were divine and I don’t think the judges had any difficulty seeing that she belongs here.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson & Bebe Rexha
Caleb Lee Hutchinson (19) "Meant to Be," Bebe Rexha f. Florida Georgia Line
Caleb needs to loosen up physically on stage, but he absolutely slayed the vocals on this song. His voice sits right in the wheelhouse of what Florida Georgia Line do and he has such a classic country vibe to his tone. He gained confidence when Bebe joined him and it became a powerhouse duet. I could see Caleb gaining his confidence and even following Scotty McCreery’s footsteps to a win. Middle America loves a good country boy, and he’s as authentic as they come.
Marcio Donaldson & Allen Stone
Marcio Donaldson (28) "What’s Going On," Marvin Gaye
Marcio was supposed to perform with Toni Braxton, but she got ill and had to pull out at the last minute, so he was very nervous when he had to shift partners to Allen Stone. Rehearsals went right up to the end, but we needn’t have worried. This is Marcio and this was divine, I loved that he introduced Allen Stone for his verse like we were at Marcio’s concert and Allen was his special guest. Both men sounded absolutely amazing and even got playful scatting toward the end. For a last-minute correction, this emerged as one of the best performances on the night. Says a lot about Marcio.
Jurnee & Lea Michele
Jurnee (18) "Run to You," Lea Michele
Easily one of the most emotional performances of the night, Jurnee had no problem going toe to toe and note for note with Lea. Both women commanded the lead vocal part and they complimented each other beautifully and lifted one another beautifully. For a moment, and this is very rare, I forgot I was critiquing a singing competition and allowed them to transport me on the wings of their voices to another place. That was a truly special moment, and the kind of rare occasion that makes stars.
Mara Justine & Rachel Platten
Mara Justine (15) "Fight Song," Rachel Platten
This is what happens when the lyric of a song touches the heart of its performer. Mara stepped outside of her body and gave us such a powerful rendition of Rachel’s song that it even brought Ryan to tears. Rachel rearranged her own song to let this upstart teenager take the lead, and wow, did she! Mara is such an unassuming little girl and then she just belts out these notes that blow you away. Today, she proved herself an artist by not just hitting amazing notes, but by interpreting a song and making us believe every word and every note. Absolutely breathtaking.
Garrett Jacobs kind of came out of nowhere and made it into my Top 7 tonight, but his last place finish dooms him to be eliminated, if I get my way … which I don’t. This week proved even tougher than the last because there are eight or nine contestants who absolutely deserve to move on, and only seven can.
Based on my math over the past two nights, those seven are Marcio, Mara, Ada, Jurnee, Caleb, Maddie and Ron, but of course the judges often see things differently than I do. Last week, we got five out of seven right.
The judges started things off easy by sending Mara through, followed by Jurnee, Maddie, Ada and Caleb and I’m five for five, matching last week’s predictions. Luke then sent Garrett to join the celebrations, based largely on what he did here tonight.
The last choice was an absolute no-brainer, as Marcio has dominated the competition to this point, and no one could even be mad about that. That means only Ron of my predictions had to get bumped for Garrett, and as he was my seventh choice, I feel pretty.
Next week the Top 14 vie for America’s votes, but only the Top 10 will survive the week. "American Idol" airs twice weekly on Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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