The second part of our two-part deep dive into the Top 20 offers more exclusive performances and interviews, setting us up for our boldest (and probably wrongest) prediction yet!
Tonight, we got to know the other half of the "American Idol" Top 20 before next week kicks off the first-ever "at home" voting rounds for this venerable franchise.
Once again, we were treated to lots of unseen performances, behind-the-scenes footage and a great recap for each of the contestants to remind us why we fell in love with them before, or maybe fall in love for the first time.
Remember, how we suggested "Idol" should just embrace their unique position and run all summer long, eliminating only one contestant a week -- well, maybe after Top 12 or Top 10? Yeah, they're still not doing that so far as we know, but they totally should.
Then we'll really get to know these kids!
We already know the new season of "Bachelor in Paradise" and "The Bachelorette" have been delayed indefinitely, so what else does ABC have going on?
Oh, and we also got the results of the stupidest vote in "American Idol" history when they pitted country singers Grace Leer and Lauren Mascitti against one another for that 20th slot.
Why is it stupid? Because they're two of the best talents in the competition, period. They should have both been in there from the beginning. How about giving Nick Merico the boot?
Last week, we ranked the first half ot the Top 20 based on what we think their overall potential is in this competition, effectively predicting the order we think they should go home. We're going to do it again this week, and then give a quick rundown combining our two lists to see if we can predict the elimination order of the entire season.
Do NOT put any money on these predictions. We've certainly had some success in casual pools in the past, but these are extraordinary times and the ABC reboot has been far harder to predict with contestants going home in batches.
(20, Destrehan, LA) There's something about Faith that draws you in, but we're still not sold on her vocally. It just always sounds like it could all go off the rails at any moment. If she can truly find the right songs to connect with and let her voice soar, she might be able to make a run for the middle, but we just can't see her going much further than that.
(17, Lakeland, FL) Kimmy has one of the biggest and most impressive natural instruments on the show, but Katy was right in that she hasn't always been memorable. We think she's relied a bit too much on runs at times and doesn't always seem like she's connecting with the best songs. She's good on empowerment anthems, but she needs to find who she is and learn how to project that before she's going to connect with an audience.
DeWayne Crocker Jr.
(23, Pensacola, FL) We're not sure about the lyrics to his grandma anthem in that unseen Hollywood performance, but DeWayne put some stank on his vocals and really brought the audience to their feet. His great-grandmother may steal our hearts every time we see her, but DeWayne is a vocal force to be sure. Tackling Lil Nas X in Hawaii shows his diversity as an artist, and if he can keep us guessing, that might just be the niche he needs.
(28, Nashville, TN) Lauren is as authentically country as Grace Leer, but in a totally different way. A singer/songwriter in her own right, she has a more current sound to her vocals and presentation, but shares that same ability to connect with a lyric and with an audience. Purely based on vocals, she may not be quite as strong, but based on artistry she has the edge. Bottom line, these two should have never been squared off.
(19, Tampa, FL) Faith made her first real connection on Kelly Clarkson in Hollywood, pouring all of her life experiences into each line of the verse, and carried it straight through to Hawaii. We felt that connection with her, with the lyric and with her story and that's what matters on a show like this. She's raw and unpolished yet, but if she can hone that ability, she can really find her way through this competition.
(19, Philadelphia, PA) Louis has an earnest sincerity about him that has you rooting for him before he sings a single note. And then he does open his mouth and he's got such a rich and full tone to his voice. That British accent shining through is only going to endear him even more to voters. This is one of the season's top contenders for sure. He connects with his music, he writes original stuff, he's adorable and so likable. That's a winning combo.
(19, San Francisco, CA) We got yet another glimpse into Francisco's soul with his Kings of Leon from that first nerve-wrecked audition. He then wrapped Hollywood Week with a heartfelt original that showed his artistry. Seriously, that he can pull performances out of himself like this when he doesn't believe in himself, what is this guy going to be capable of when he realizes how good he is and believes it! His humility and grace under pressure have already made him a fan-favorite.
(18, Atlanta, GA) Cyniah has one of the purest voices in the competition, soaring effortlessly through her incredible range, power and strength. When it comes to female vocalists, she's easily one of the strongest the show has had. But does she know enough who she is to connect with America, because they demand so much more on this show than just a great voice. We're a little worried for her in that regard.
Grace Leer (America's Choice)
(28, Nashville, TN) Like a throwback to the classic country vocalists of the '80s and '90s, Grace is so authentically true to her genre. Her voice has a wonderfully rich texture and signature quality that is so smooth, it just slides down your eardrums like molasses. It's that kind of woman's voice that could rile you up talking about betrayal and bring you to tears with a story of heartache. It's what country music is. Her Hawaii performance was a showstopper and proof that she deserves her shot at stardom. She and Lauren are two peas in a slightly different pod and both deserving of this shot; they should have never been pitted against one another.
(28, Gonzales, LA) If this was just about the voice, the Top 2 would come down to Jovin and Arthur Gunn. There's just no one at their level of artistry and vocal prowess. Yes, they're both kind of in that gritty rock vibe, but that's not what it is. They're so polished and sure of themselves as vocalists, putting them light years ahead of even some of the best vocalists of the season. But can they connect with the rest of whatever America looks for?
(26, Bakersfield, CA) Dillon is so much more than a great story for reality television, though he's also definitely that. Even more, though, Dillon is a true artist with a vision for who he is, what kind of music he should be performing and he's got the chops to back it up. His unseen original here wasn't a stellar song but we found ourselves getting into its groove anyway because he has a natural grit that is so compelling when he performs. We see a sentimental favorite.
As promised, we're taking our rankings from last week and splicing them into this week's final results to see how we think the entire Top 20 will shake out, listing them from "worst" to first, though none of them are really bad at this point.
Are we right? Most assuredly not, but it'll sure be fun to see how wrong we are starting next week.
Nick Merico (24, Woodland Hills, CA)
Lauren Spencer-Smith (16, Vancouver Island, Canada)
Faith Becnel (20, Destrehan, LA)
Olivia Ximines (17, Menifee, CA)
Kimmy Gabriela (17, Lakeland, FL)
Makayla Phillips (17, Temecula, CA)
DeWayne Crocker Jr. (23, Pensacola, FL)
Aliana Jester (19, Tampa, FL)
Louis Knight (19, Philadelphia, PA)
Julia Gargano (21, Staten Island, NY)
Francisco Martin (19, San Francisco, CA)
Cyniah Elise (18, Atlanta, GA)
Sophia James Wackerman (20, Long Beach, CA)
Franklin Boone (27, Durham, NC)
Grace Leer (28, Nashville, TN)
Jovin Webb (28, Gonzales, LA)
'Just Sam' Diaz (21, Harlem, NY)
Jonny West (23, Murietta, CA)
Arthur Gunn (21, Wichita, KS)
Dillon James (26, Bakersfield, CA)
The Top 20 perform for your votes from their homes as "American Idol" continues next Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.