American Idol Top 24 Live: A Closer Look At Each Contestant

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX.
On Wednesday’s hour-long fizzle reel of The Great American Idol Burn Off, 12 of the Top 24 contestants “dished out solos” for the judges, who are really only interested in gluten-free chocolate so like… shut up, kids. Most of the crammed-in performances at a snazzy yet soulless purple-hued church setting (the Vibiana in Los Angeles) were mediocre at best and mind-numbing at worst. Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez were content as usual to grimace and play along, but Harry Connick Jr. refused to lead anyone on, keeping a perfectly straight face as he told one guitar hero, “A performance that emotional and powerful would be even stronger if it were in tune.” The honesty is refreshing!

Here’s my ranking of the hopefuls, from cringe-y to confident:

Manny Torres, Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime” Jerking around the stage like Chris Martin is just not a good look for… well, probably anyone, but certainly not this cheese ball lothario whose cockiness seemed wildly disproportionate with his top-of-the-show placement and barely alive crowd. The song did nothing for his vocal range either. This will be a running theme.

C.J. Johnson, Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” Much of this treacherously overdone Idol anthem was out of tune, and I hated all of the contrived moves: blowing a kiss, wavering in the middle of a word for no reason, GRABBING A RANDOM HAND (shudder). I did feel that warm, familiar surge of Idol possibility when C.J. hit a big note, but it was overshadowed by the irony of pleading “I’ll be better when I’m older” to teen-hungry producers at age 29. Get off the stage, grandpa!

Kory Wheeler, James Bay’s “Let It Go” If there had never been a David Cook and it was still 2008, then sure, Idol might have gotten behind this wistful 27-year-old barista and his wide-eyed expressiveness, at least for a few more weeks. Now? Hell to the no. J.Lo whipped up some delicious cream topping for Kory and Keith lauded his mix of confidence and vulnerability, but Harry just wasn’t having it: “I don’t think it was great because it wasn’t particularly special.”
Lee Jean, Ed Sheeran’s “Runaway” This is the kid who was dumb enough to shush the audience twice during Hollywood Week, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get past that. “Runaway” was rather lifeless, and as Harry pointed out, Lee can’t quite sing and play guitar at the same time so… maybe work on that? But like only if you have time, brah. We cool. You young. We cool. J.Lo wasn’t about to let a 16-year-old Southerner slip between her heartstrings: “Next week America starts voting, so we need you around for that,” she all but confirmed Lee’s advancement to the Top 14.

Tristan McIntosh, Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” This 15-year-old looks at least 22, and the adult nature of the song had nothing on Tristan’s ripped-to-the-thighs jeans. I think her maturity is actually what makes her so awkward in a fun-driven setting. If she moves on, I’ll have no choice but to suspect Idol engineered her in a closed capsule from the start and is releasing her early — despite obvious flash-forwarding glitches — just in time for the life-imitates-lab 2016 flameout.

Amelia Eisenhauer, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” Her slow-motion first verse was sublime, but then she had to go and charge around the stage and ruin everything by going up-tempo. Teens! They’re crazy! Simply delivered yet emotionally intense songs are what will work for this (brace yourselves, trigger word ahead) quirky redhead. On charm alone, she’s still one of my favorites.

Jenn Blosil, Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” I’m not sorry for giving out another free pass here — although this was an out-of-tune nightmare, Jenn’s vocal quality and musical connection are undeniable. There’s no one I’d rather see claw her way out of a Bieber-y web of lies for a dramatic comeback Thursday than this alien with zero shame and absurdly voluminous hair.

Adam Lasher, Sam Sparro’s “Black and Gold” The judges mostly pooh-poohed his song choice (Mr. Harry Quite Contrary went so far as to consider it as a compliment because these are the team colors of his treasured New Orleans Saints), but overall this was one of the more competent plays of the night and no way am I gonna dock the guy who made a well-known tune his own just because he’s a grizzled age 28.

Shelbie Z., Gretchen Wilson’s “Work Hard, Play Harder” This was so underwhelming at the top of the show, but once my standards had been squelched by the rest of the snooze-fests, and I gave her a re-watch, the girl with the sparkly mic tails sounded amazing! How sad is that?!
Trent Harmon, Chris Stapleton’s “What Are You Listening To?” I still think the reason Trent’s here is because he caught mono before Hollywood Week and that made him “interesting,” but the country-tinged hat-lover somehow made his patient sheep’s bleat very appealing on a song that I didn’t know. His face was sweating; his eyes were hungry; his guitar was in tune. What more can one ask for as the bell tolls for Idol? Maybe he’ll even go viral. Hah. No.

Dalton Rapattoni, Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” The 23-year-old, a spitting image of Ellen DeGeneres with more dramatic eye makeup, continues his streak of smudging up classic ‘80s pop tunes until they’re “Daltonized.” Not only does this totally work for him, but the little self-effacing twerp is probably gonna win. I’m fully on board, if only for the laughs at his absurd spray tan and the thought of J.Lo actually squeezing his cute wittle face come late March. I hope he covers hits from her as well as former judges Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj and makes them as long-winded and/or annoying as possible.

Olivia Rox, Demi Lovato’s “Confident” “And the show starts… now!” Keith raved following the 17-year-old’s spotlight-bathed final flourish. J.Lo wanted more ease in her dance moves, but by tall girl standards, Olivia’s a natural just for not falling over. She’s got plenty of time to improve. There are weeks left. Too bad Olivia and Dalton’s performances — the last two of the night — were the only old Idol-worthy ones by a landslide.

Haley Reinhart and other significant wannabes return Thursday night!

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