Tonight on American Idol the Top 7 sing TWO. One, from the iconic Prince catalog, and another from the the year the singers were born. By the end of the night, via REAL TIME voting two singers will leave the competition, and at Top 5 will be revealed. Idol fans will be able to vote at the same time, as the show telecasts in all 50 states at the same time.
Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan have NO say on which singers live to sing another week. It’s up to America who stays and who goes.
Pop singer and former Disney star, Nick Jonas will be on hand to mentor the contestant performances. And Prince protege and percussionist, Sheila E. will be sitting in with Kris Poole and the band.
OOhhh. Old school cold open with all the singers lined up on stage, holding baby photos in front of their faces. Heh, the judges too when Ryan introduces them.
Oh. Nick Jonas will be mentoring the Birth Year tunes! A video package details Prince’s AMAZING career. I miss him. Scratch that. The songs will be mixed up throughout the night.
Jurnee– Kiss (Prince) – Jurnee delivers a good if not incredibly dynamic performance. This was an odd song choice. Her vocal is on point! She hits a couple of impressive high notes. I’m not sure it’s the kind of performance that will have folks diving for their iPhones. Lionel says, “I’m watching you sing…and I’m watching Sheila E.” He goes on to say Sheila was there every step of the way. He congratulates Jurnee. “Fantastic.” Katy says, provocatively, “You really look like a snack!” Indeed, Jurnee is sexy in purple thigh high boots and tight leather. Katy appreciates that she moved around, but wanted more! Luke calls it a great song choice. “Good job.” Katy’s right. Prince would have had the room on fire. It’s a lot to live up to.
Ryan conducts a short interview with Sheila E. She says it’s an honor to play for them. They are the next generation, she says, and the point is to spread Prince’s legacy.
Gabby Barrett – I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack (2000) – Nick shares, that like Gabby, he grew up singing in church. Lee Ann was a big inspiration for her. “Gabby almost had me in tears!” says Nick after her rehearsal. It’s his dad’s favorite song (he’s currently recovering from cancer.) This is a very good song choice for Gabby. It’s a country song that allows her to show off her big soulful voice. And belt out the song she does. Unfortunately, accommodating 14 songs means the performances are super short. The crowd is screaming. Katy admits that finally she sees Gabby as a unique talent. “That may be one of the best vocals we heard in this room so far,” says Luke. Lionel says “Do you know what was wrong with that performance? Nothing.” I’m surprised the performance wasn’t scheduled later in the lineup.
Michael J. Woodard – I Would Die For You (Prince) – What the heck. He begins the song as if he landed in the middle of it. His pronunciation is still needs so much work– “I would die for Yuuuaaah.” But I do like his phrasing a lot here. He’s energetic, fun and full of joy. The sun comes out when Michael takes the stage. That’s his appeal. He plays off of Sheila a bit as he runs around the stage. The dude is a whirlwind. Luke says it’s important for the judges to build his confidence.” he adds “Don’t be scared to cut loose. Don’t hold back.” Lionel says, “You actually owned it. If you can just relax, the sky is the limit.” True, that performance verged on the frenetic. “I loved your interaction,” says Katy. “I’m living for you, not dying,” she jokes. He sang his butt off!” says Sheila.
Four million votes are in already, says Ryan.
Cade Foehner – Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel (1996) – Cade learned how to sing and play via Fleetwood Mac records. Cade chose the song because he felt he could change it up. Nick encourages him to find the connection to the song. The performance–oh no. He’s singing flat–mangling the melody on the verse, OUCH. He improves some on the chorus. I think he was probably drawn to the spiritual lyrics. Once he lets loose later in the song, it improves. He does get a few points for approaching the song with passion. But no. This vocal is a mess. Lionel says, “You test the envelope.” He notes that he struggled on the low notes, but it didn’t matter (It kinda did!) Katy calls the rendition “interesting.” She hopes he manages his powerful voice a little better on the second song. Her mom is in the audience, voting for Cade on her phone “Sorry dad!” she says. Luke calls his look “iconic”. He also notes the horrible front end, but he agrees with Lionel that he made up for it at the end. The judges know that was bad. They are pulling their punches. Cade says he chose the song because it is spiritual with a super spooky melody. When y’all pick a song, ya gotta make sure you can sing it.
Ryan hands out various media to the judges. Luke gets a cassette tape of Merle Haggard, Katy a CD of Alanis Morissette and Lionel a Marvin Gaye LP. Artists who influenced them–dispensed in an age appropriate format!
Catie Turner – Oops…I Did it Again (2000) – When Catie realizes Nick Jonas is in front of her, she screams. “I’ve loved this kid since I was five. Nick tries to lure her “out of her own little world.” He encourages her to look at him as she sings. The arrangement has a jazzy feel–like Amy Winehouse covering Britney Spears. There’s a line of horns behind her. She plays with the crowd. This is not what I was expecting AT ALL. This is pretty great! Her vocal is good and she’s got confidence and control. She’s loses it a bit at the end. But overall, it’s good. Catie’s is this season’s little dark horse (eta: or maybe not!). Watch out Gabby! Katy calls it “interesting” and also tosses out the Winehouse comparison. “unlike anyone else,” she says. Luke tells her to look in the mirror and tell herself she’s a star. Lionel agrees, “You’re bringing a new style to the table. Own it.” Postmodern Jukebox is gonna get Catie on speed dial, very soon.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson – Amazed by Lonestar (1999) – Nick is his favorite of the Jonas brothers! Caleb admits that he hasn’t mastered the art of “walking on the stage.” Nick suggests he look at someone in the audience as he sings. And once again, Caleb delivers a reasonable cover. But he continues to be a generic performer. Who is Caleb exactly? He’s got a sweet rich tone, and he sings on key. But he lacks a distinct personality. Luke says it’s gutsy to admit his shortcomings. “You’ll keep getting better.” Lionel thinks the screaming girls are throwing him off. “If you have to think about what you’re doing, it’s wrong.” Katy appreciates that he’s trying to show the audience something different. She says he was “flopping like a gumby.” Hoo boy the judges are kinda throwing Caleb under the bus, right? The script supervisor comes on stage to say “Amazed” was her wedding song.
“Catie” is trending on twitter. The reaction to that Britney Spears cover is mixed. Lots are annoyed by her personality. I get that, but I can (and do) separate her OTT personality from her performances.
Maddie Poppe – Nothing Compares to U by Sinead O’Connor (Prince) – Accompanying herself on piano, Maddie delivers another FLAWLESS performance. She gets up on stage and does her thing as if it were easy as pie. Her tone, her phrasing, her pitch is PERFECTION. I liked Catie’s audacious performance. But this simple beauty is my favorite so far, hands down. Lionel congratulates Maddie and calls her vocal performance “amazing.” Katy calls Maddie an “artist.” She adds, “Whether you win or not, I’m still buying tickets to your show.” Luke calls the performance “Mesmerizing.” He’s tongue tied!
Michael J.Woodard – My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion (1997) – Nick calls the song a “big undertaking.” Michael had never seen the movie! Nick thinks he’s more nervous than he’s letting on. “It’s OK to be serious…believe in yourself,” he says. MICHAEL AGAIN with the ENUNCIATION. What in the heck are you singing? But then, he hits the chorus and his earnest heart shines through. He’s hard to resist, despite taking on a song that really is a bit much for him. He relies on some big notes to carry him through. Katy compares Michael to Jennifer Hudson “You could win an Oscar or a Grammy.” Luke says he “pulls people in” forcing them to watch him. Lionel says he’s got something they can’t give him–stage presence. “You’re growing so fast…just know how good you really are.” Katy says all her fans talk about at her M&Gs is Michael (He finally saw the movie. There’s video on social media of him watching on his computer!)
Cade Foehner – Jungle Love by The Time (Prince) – This cover is a better fit for Cade and his vocal range. He can growl sexily through the song and make it work. He gives it the 70’s era rock treatment, introducing a drum solo from Ms Sheila E! A raw and energetic performance from Cade. He’s lucky that came later in the show. Luke calls it “perfect” and cade a rock star. Lionel says, “you gave us instant identity.” That phrase. Sheesh. Katy her inner Christian was “blackslidden” as she watched him (even though he’s a man of God). “The children are out of control,” Lionel quips. Luke, says, “I kind of feel the same way as Katy!” Katy mentions her mom, a huge Cade fan, is in the audience “praying in tongues right now!”
Fifteen million votes so far! Ryan says the votes are “very very close.”
Gabby Barrett – How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore (Prince) – Gabby is delivering the song slow and soulful, with a few Elvis snarls thrown in for good measure as she works the stage. She ends the song with a big gospel inspired note. That was some southern fried Prince, right here. And…it looks like Gabby is heading back to the top of my power list this week. “That was what you call complete ownership,” says Lionel. “I think you are the most ready to go on tour,” says Katy. “You use the stage. It’s yours for the taking.” Luke calls it a “mic drop moment.” and and advises her to “enjoy being a big star.” Gabby says this song was her favorite to sing, because it allowed her to show off her range.
Jurnee – Back at One by Brian McKnight (1999) – It’s her parents wedding song, so it has sentimental meaning. Nick says Jurnee has a real opportunity to “win this thing.” This is such a bland song. There are a few rough spots in the performance. But for the most part, she delivers a pretty version. Not spectacular, but solid.Katy loves that song! “I thought that was really cool.” It’s not her favorite rendition of the tune. Oh. Bus. Luke says “good job and that he likes her runs. Lionel says, “You sing it the way you sing…you were completely calm through that. You already won because you’re going on tour.” What is Lionel talking about? Dang. The judges comments were pointedly lukewarm. A very soft sell from the trio.
Catie Turner – Manic Monday by The Bangles (Prince) – OH NO SHE MESSED up. She may be having issues with her In Ears? She missed her cue and didn’t pick it up until the end of the first verse. She’s rattled now. Too bad. She recovers somewhat, but not really–she stays in her head for the rest of the performance. Luke reminds her that she hasn’t had a glitch yet. What happened to her, happens to everyone. “It is your night!” says Katy, after Catie says it’s not. “It’s never perfect” in this business says Lionel. He thinks she recovered well. I don’t think it will hurt her (eta: WRONG). If anything, she’ll get a few pity votes. She says that at the last minute she decided not to play a guitar. That could have thrown her off. Oh. She admits that she forgot the words.
Maddie Poppe – If It Makes You Happy by Sheryl Crow (1997) – Maddie confesses that she doesn’t want to be put in a “singer songwriter” box because she feels she can “sing better than that and insists she can “belt if I want.” This time, she accompanies herself on electric guitar. It’s a pretty straightforward version of the song. She adds some rasp, and hits a few big notes, which she typically shies away from. Her first performance was better, but this is also very good. Lionel says “You are owning yourself…know that you have a future in this business.” Katy says “It’s so exciting to see you play like a girl…you hold your own every time you pick up an instrument.” Luke says, “You sit down at a piano, and the next thing you know you have an electric guitar!”
Caleb Lee Hutchinson – When Doves Cry – For the very first time, Caleb takes a risk with an arrangement. He sings a twangy version of “When Doves Cry” that’s even a bit soulful. He lets loose on the last chorus in a bid for a big moment. Wow. I did not know Caleb had that in him! He really took hold of that song and made it his own. Katy is so proud of Caleb, “You’ve proved so much already.” Luke says, “I believe that you can do anything you set your mind and heart to.” Lionel is also very proud of Caleb. Too bad he has the anti-pimp spot. Only minutes more to vote!
CARRIE UNDERWOOD IS MENTORING!
Because she’s loyal Ryan makes the announcement before we see a clip of her new “Cry Pretty” video. The Top 5 will be jetting off to Nashville to sing Carrie’s catalog of songs.
KIERAN DIM THE LIGHTS. Initially, there is a bit of a shuffle because the results are not ready yet! The Carrie announcement was a stall for time, basically. When Ryan gets the envelope in his hands, he holds it upside down, which is kind of hilarious.
The first person on to the Top 5 is Caleb Lee Hutchinson. Oh boy. Somebody I like is going home, for sure. Maddie Pope is next, followed by Cade Foehner. Ugh. He clearly had the worst performance tonight. Cute white dudes are graded on a curve. Gabby Barrett looks nervous! But it’s for naught. She’s safe next. Catie is freaking out, indicating with hand signals that she should be eliminated. And she is. Michael J. Woodward is the last to join the Top 5. Catie Turner and Jurnee are eliminated.
Caleb Lee Hutchinson
Michael J. Woodard