Powerful original songs, searing performances and two boneheaded decisions that will leave us scratching our heads for a long time -- that one went through and that one didn't?!?!
We’re not sure what it is this season, but it seems like quarantine has inspired even more people to get out of the house and audition for “American Idol.” And by more people, we mean more incredible people.
One of the best vocalists to ever audition hit the stage tonight. We feel confident in saying that even if this show isn’t their path, or they don’t win it, they’ll be up there with the best of the best someday. Seriously, the talent is that real.
We also saw an incredibly hip and current brother/sister duo tackling an original song they wrote together that’s ready to be on the radio today. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses as the judges made some questionable calls along the way, too.
First, an absolutely disappointing vocalist somehow eked through the judges, despite offering up no reason for that to happen, while a unique artist who performed their own song with a cool and quirky song was sent home in tears. That’s the one you support, the one with potential to connect … not the goober dancing around who has nothing fresh to offer.
Oh, and did we mention Thor auditioned? He came in roaring like a Viking, complete with Thor’s hammer, and then he opened his mouth to sing and -- let’s just say, we did not see that coming!
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.
Just for fun, I'm going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are.
(“Fireball,” Pitbull - 25, Cuba by way of Miami, FL) He’s fun to listen to when he talks, with an interesting rasp and a charm about him, but there was nothing to him as a singer. He couldn’t even really rap or deliver with the same type of charm and stage command that Pitbull pulls off. Certainly he could be entertaining in a nightclub environment, but this guy is definitely not “Idol” material. We’re not quite sure how this happened, but Luke and Lionel sent him to Hollywood where he will likely be destroyed.
(“Listen to My Heart,” Ammon & Liahona Olayan - 17, Wahiawa, HI) Ammon came in with his younger sister, the oldest of eight total siblings. They’d bonded over living in a tent for awhile on the Big Island, and that connection came through music and songwriting. Their original was catchy and brilliantly written, but she did outperform him, showing more control and power. Their harmonies, however, are to die for with him an accompaniment of her. But she was definitely the brighter star of the two.
(“Cry Me a River,” Michael Buble - 27, Santa Rosa, CA) Considering he literally came in roaring with Thor’s hammer, we were surprised how small and subdued Anthony’s performance. Never mind the surprise song choice after a rock-and-roll introduction, Anthony didn’t quite deliver this piece with the jazzy energy we were needing consistently throughout. It was a solid vocal, in pitch and competent, but it didn’t have quite enough pizzazz to get us super excited.
(“Wayfaring Stranger,” Johnny Cash & “At Last,” Etta James - 17, Canton, MS) There’s something very interesting about the way Hannah delivers old-school country, bending notes to find where she wants to be. She missed a few big notes along the way, but still has this compelling quality about her both as a person and as a quiet and subdued performer. She definitely needs to step it up and be confident in what she can do. We’re with the judges, why did she play it safe when she had “At Last” in her pocket? It took Katy to pull her out of her head, but when she did, Hannah proved she’s got the goods to draw us right into her orbit. She needs a lot of coaching and confidence, but it’s all in there.
(“Addicted,” Ace Stiles - 16, Tulsa, OK) We’re going to come right out and say the judges got it wrong on this one. Ace’s story about coming out as trans and the hardships he’s faced at school and in his community is painful and inspiring (he has an incredible attitude), but his original song and delivery was every bit as good or better than many who passed through. In fact, it was a pretty bad idea to put his story in the same episode as Yurisbel, because that dude was awful and he’s going to Hollywood.
(“Live Wire,” Motley Crüe & “My Funny Valentine,” Sarah Vaughan [after Frank Sinatra] - 15, Estero, FL) She came in with a bit of a rock look to her, and that look was no lie. That said, she did not give us a hard rock take on this track, but rather a soulful vibe that actually suited it quite well. She proved she’s got range and power in her voice, as well as impressive control and timing. It’s actually her wheelhouse to perform in that pocket, as she proved with a very powerful interpretation of a Sinatra standard.
(“The Way It Was,” The Killers - 24, Columbia, TN) We’re not sure the last time we saw someone so visibly take their nerves and use them to fuel their performance to the next level. Cassandra hit her gear by the second line and never let up. Yes, it had its shaky moments, but also powerful notes and a powerful aching throughout that was palpable. It was a simple, straightforward, beautifully executed audition, there’s really very little to even say about what she’s got and what she can do. After Lionel put her in front of the piano it became clear she has no idea how good she is. If she figures that out, she could be unstoppable.
(“Falling Out of Love,” Calvin Richardson - 26, Marks, MS) Calvin is making the most of his second chance in life after incarceration. Motivated by his son and the life he wants to inspire, he really poured all of his pain into a performance that was a big wild and frantic, but beautiful in its unrestrained glory. There were cracks from emotion because Calvin wears those emotions on his sleeve, using them as a guide. He truly is an inspiration and proof that you can’t throw people away for their mistakes because some of them might just stand back up and surprise you.
(“Golden Slumbers,” The Beatles - 18, Boston, MA) The judges didn’t even bother to critique or deliberate, so far as we know, and we kind of have to agree. Amanda had such command of the lyric and her emotion in presenting it, she put her own spin on a classic song way older than she is. That’s always the mark of a true artist, that they can prove great songs timeless and relevant through their interpretation.
(“What Brings Life Also Kills,” Kolton Moore & The Clever Few - 24, Apple Valley, CA) There’s a natural rasp and grit that can exist in a voice that can’t be taught and is an absolute gift when wrapped around a strong ability to sing. Chayce has that magical combination. So much pain can live inside those breaks in the voice, and Chayce’s life story permeates through every line he delivered. It’s that authenticity that audiences connect with and makes a singer give you those goosebumps all up and down your body. Chayce has that ability to make us believe in him.
(“Listen to My Heart,” Ammon & Liahona Olayan - 16, Wahiawa, HI) After living for some time in a tent with their six siblings, Liohona and her older brother decided to audition for “American Idol.” While they were auditioning separately, they did perform a duet of a song they wrote together, and she had such a strong and current vibe to her vocals, it was like we were listening to a hip record, complete with riffs and a little bit of rap. This is one talented young lady.
(“Diamonds,” Rihanna - 21, Douglas, GA) After a health scare, Willie has dropped 200 pounds already from a high of 600 pounds. Ryan Seacrest joked it was so he could have more power in his lungs to better sing, but boy he had no idea how right he was. Willie had us with the very first note, making a challenging song look absolutely effortless. Seriously, every choice he made was divine, every moment vocally a tour de force of passion, strength, control and emotion. We believed him in this song, and we believe in him and we believe he’s one of the best singers to ever come through this show.
”American Idol” continues every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.