American Idol: Season 15, Episodes 13 & 14

The second half of the Top 24 tries to make an impression on judges Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. First solo, the day after with people who know what it’s like to compete inside the pressure-cooker that is American Idol.

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Episode 13: Solo Round
Who’s ‘in it to win it’? Judging by the song choices in the Solo Round, only a handful. The majority of the contestants either wants to save the big performances and dito songs for the live shows, or they really don’t know what they’re doing. Shelbie Z kicks off episode 13, with Gretchen Wilson’s ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’. It showcases Z’s toughness, but not much else. There’s neither a climax nor a high note, nor something to get the crowd excited. The same goes for Manny Torres, who just wants to have a good time on stage. He’s energetic, optimistic, and it’s fun to watch his personality, however, why in the world would you pick ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ by Coldplay? That’s elevator music, Manny. At least it’s uptempo. Something ‘Let it Go’ by James Bay isn’t. Kory Wheeler plays the piano while singing, and I get the feeling his singing suffers from it. Amelia Eisenhauer starts off Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ slow, and I wish she would’ve stayed in ballad territory. It was the wrong choice to switch to uptempo; it all goes downhill from there.

Sorry, I’ll Be, Runaway
Jenn Blosil sings ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber. Picking a Bieber song should disqualify you. Same goes for Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Demi Lovato. Jenn does turn it into a pretty piano ballad, though. It’s a ‘breath of fresh air’, according to Harry, but ‘out of tune’. C.J. Johnson pulls out Edwin McCain’s ‘I’ll Be’ and sounds hoarse. His pitch is all over the place, too. Keith and Jennifer were listening to something else, because they thought it was a ‘great vocal’. No, it wasn’t. And who thought it’d be a good idea to let the man with the guitar, perform without a guitar? Lee Jean does have his guitar with him on stage. Unfortunately, I can’t hear him playing it. Idol has the tendency to put the contestants’ instruments way back into the mix. He plays a very professional version of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Runaway’, as if he’s been doing it for years.

You Know When You’ve Been Daltonized
Trent Harmon is outdoing himself every time. His take on ‘What Are You Listening To’ by Chris Stapleton is pitch perfect. He’s got tremendous timing as well. Harry wasn’t on the edge of his seat, but hey, that’s Harry. Tristan McIntosh sings Carrie Underwood’s ‘Good Girl’, and wants to make us believe she’s a bad girl. I’m not convinced. She’s got a great voice, but she should pick a song closer to home. Adam Lasher, with his 28 years, looks like a mentor; not a contestant. He’s a bit ‘wishy washy’ with ‘Black and Gold’ by Sam Sparro. The first real performance of the night comes from Dalton Rapattoni. You’ve got to have balls, taking Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ and turning it into a brooding ballad. In other words: completely daltonize it. Awesome. Closing the night, is Olivia Rox with Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’. Is it good? Yes. Do I like it? No. But is it good? Absolutely. It’s just that the song is more of an idea than an actual song, and I can’t get past Olivia’s lack of charisma.

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Episode 14
In the next episode, the Idol alumni show up to pay it forward. Chris Daughtry (season 5), Jordin Sparks (season 6), Constantine Maroulis (season 4), David Cook (season 7), Kellie Pickler (season 5) and Haley Heinhart (season 10). Daughtry is paired with Lee Jean to sing his song ‘Home’, making the latter look like a baby. A baby who holds his own, because of his powerful voice. He does ‘Higher Ground’ by Stevie Wonder, together with Dalton Rapattoni. Not quite a daltonization this time. They’re jumping across the stage like two fireballs, nothing more. Kellie Pickler and Amelia Eisenhauer do a great version of ‘Suds in the Bucket’ by Sara Evans. There’s rhythm, flair and Amelia’s secret weapon; the violin. When Tristan McIntosh sings a duet with Pickler, it’s clear who the 15 year old is. The lack of experience is obvious. Could be due to the song choice, though. Pickler’s own ‘Best Days of your Life’ is just a godawful tune.

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The Alternative Rock Version of Simon & Garfunkel and the Perfect Tim Burton Couple
David Cook shares the stage with C.J. Johnson, singing Collective Soul’s ‘The World I Know’. It looks like they’ve been doing this for ages together, like an alternative rock version of Simon & Garfunkel. Cook also takes Olivia Rox under his wings. Their voices match each other perfectly, but there’s no show. Rox keeps on looking like a flower coming out of a concrete floor; lost on stage. Constantine Maroulis gets his quirk on (as if he needs any help with that) with Jenn Blosil, singing ‘My Funny Valentine’ by Frank Sinatra. They’re the perfect Tim Burton couple. The man in black and his white haired bride. It’s a ‘shouting match’, according to Harry, but Keith ‘loved it’. So did I. Maroulis goes even more theatrical when he and Shelbie Z take on Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. A 90 second version of the 6 minute classic? It’s possible. However, it lost more than just 4 and a half minutes. It lost the judges. Keith: ‘Nothing pulled me in.’ Harry: ‘You didn’t seem to have a point of view.’

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Bennie, Elvis, To Love Somebody
Haley Reinhart flew in to do one of my favorite cover songs of all time, her version of ‘Bennie and the Jets’. Unfortunately, Kory Wheeler doesn’t add anything to it. He’s just not a performer. He’s the guy in the corner of an office party. The shy nephew playing bass in a wedding band. Haley’s duet with Adam Lasher goes a lot better. Two voices, one guitar and an Elvis song; that’s all you really need. ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ is pretty, sweet, intimate, although Adam does stay a bit stiff. Jordin Sparks and Manny Torres sing ‘No Air’. Manny leaves his ‘fun side’ at the door, and tries to dig deep to put a little heartbreak into the song. He only half-succeeds. His eyes may feign hurt, his smile stays on. Best pair of the night: Jordin and Trent Harmon. Their ‘To Love Somebody’ by the Bee Gees is just amazing.

Safe
Just like last week, only 7 go through: Lee Jean. Olivia Rox. Jenn Blosil. Dalton Rapattoni. Manny Torres. Tristan McIntosh. Then, a long pause. The last one to continue in the competition… I swear, if Trent Harmon wasn’t picked, I would’ve stopped watching. Judging by the performances of Tristan and Amelia Eisenhauer, I would’ve chosen the last one. So do we have the final 10 now? Can we start the live shows already? Yes and no. We still have 4 contestants to eliminate. Next week, the public decides who’s going to pack their bags.

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