'American Idol' 5th Judge Top 14: America Votes as Katy Perry and Luke Bryan Are Reduced to TearsApril 16, 2019
Only ten will move on after America’s first vote of the season and already we’ve got a problem — there are twelve amazing performers here!
Only ten of the Top 14 finalists will survive the week as "American Idol" turns some of its power over to the viewers, but not all of it.
America will chose the Top 7, leaving the judges a little room to fix any mistakes producers apparently feel confident you’re going to make. Considering the history of good singers going home too soon on this show, they’re not wrong to be concerned.
But here’s the real problem we’re facing this season, and it’s both good and terrifying. There are more than ten great singers in this Top 14. And after watching tonight’s performances, we’re only confident in sending two of them home. The rest are going to cause a real problem for the judges.
Tonight’s songs offer some interesting and unexpected turns from the contestants — including country crooner Laci Kay doing Blink-182 — and a rare misfire from one of the season’s front-runners.
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.
Only ten will survive the night, so we’re going to rank the Top 14 from bottom to top to see which four didn’t make our cut and see if you agree with us, i.e. get it right.
"Bennie and the Jets," Elton John
The problem with taking on Elton John is his incredible range and how much more difficult even his uptempo stuff is than it seems. Eddie is the right type of personality to embrace Elton’s outlandish persona, but he fell short of the reaches of this song, and his rearrangement didn’t work as well as he might have hoped. Instead, it left his range exposed and parts of the performance actually looking like a fun time at the karaoke bar.
"The Middle," Jimmy Eat World
While her voice was interesting in the verses and breakdown, it didn’t quite have the energy or power needed to pull off the chorus. Her stage presence was awkward as well, but the biggest disservice to her chances on the show has to be the song choice. She has a really interesting voice with a breathy, lower quality but that does apparently limit what she can sing effectively. This wasn’t in her wheelhouse throughout in equal measure.
"Suds in the Bucket," Sara Evans
Riley did not miss out on her IPN (Idol Power Note) to close out the song, but she didn’t need it. She actually gave a mostly confident performance on a song that’s all about how it’s performed. There’s a lot of attitude and longing in this song about growing up and she nailed most of the spirit of it pretty well. She definitely needs to work on her stage confidence in body movement and overall, as you could hear the nerves in her voice from time to time as well. But she has the tools for a good run here with a solid country core.
"That’s All Right," Elvis Presley
Laine seems to have been more inspired by his new buttoned-down look in choosing his song than in anything else. It was a very safe song and a very safe performance, but unfortunately it also turned into a somewhat boring one, too. He went first and we feel pretty confident that no one will remember this by the end of the night. He’ll probably survive from previous songs, but if this is the direction he’s going in, he won’t last long. Don’t get us wrong, he sounds great, but he just didn’t stand out on that.
"One Dance," Drake
We’re all for Alejandro showing us more sides of himself, but we’re not sure this was the right time for it. This is America’s first time to vote and of all the performances we’ve seen, this was easily the least dynamic or exciting. It was interesting, for sure, and had his signature melodic tone, but the piano mixing didn’t translate as well through the screen as his guitar and straight piano playing.
"Perfect," Ed Sheeran
He already has one of the biggest voices on the show, and Dimitrius just showed yet another side to him. The most versatile performer has yet to settle into a singular style or voice and yet he’s so good at so many of them it’s not hurting him yet. Who knows what kind of artist he is or wants to be and maybe that’s the point. Maybe he’s all artists from all times wrapped in this one body. His voice is undeniably polished and his take on the song was fresh and exciting.
"Finesse," Bruno Mars
Uche kicked off a ’90s R&B dance party so powerful he got the judges out of their seats. This Bruno Mars jam was almost unrecognizable after he filtered it through his wayback machine to bring that Uche unique vibe to it. Parts of it worked better than others, and we always worry that Uche is just too much muchness for "Idol" audiences, but there’s no denying the quality of his tones and the variety of voice he brings to each performance. It’s something we haven’t seen on this show before, for sure.
Laci Kaye Booth
"I Miss You," Blink-182
We were disappointed that she repeated the chorus twice only because we wanted more of her ethereal, haunted interpretation of this pop-punk modern classic. It was such a bizarre song choice but Laci made it her own and made herself stand out with the choice and her interpretation of it. She not only made the song her own but she turned it into something completely different in a way that made it brand new. Her voice has been stronger, but her artistry was through the roof here.
"Climb Ev’ry Mountain," "The Sound of Music"
What a random song choice but Walker just laid it out. He needed to build to a powerful crescendo to close this one out — we know we hate the IPN (Idol Power Note) but this song demanded it — and he absolutely nailed it. He found heart and emotion in a song from a musical decades before his time. A slow burner but wow is his voice a gift.
"Fix You," Coldplay
Just a simple melody and a beautiful performance, Ashley didn’t overdo it nor did she step out of her comfort zone behind the piano. But she didn’t need to for this as she drew us in with her. It also helped that producers put her face up on the video screen so we could feel more connected with her. Ashley is just better behind the piano. Is it a crutch? Yes. Should she grow out of it? Sure, but maybe not this particular week when four people are going home. She’s just so good back there.
"Trouble," Ray LaMontagne
That song was right in Wade’s wheelhouse and he mostly nailed this performance. There were a couple of notes he could have held onto longer but there’s no one who could have done that song justice the way Wade did tonight. His rasp is undeniably unique, no matter how he got it, and he knows how to pour his heart and soul into his performances. This wasn’t as connected as we’ve seen him before, mostly in the early going, but it was still a strong performance from one of the show’s most unique artists.
"She Used to Be Mine," Sara Bareilles
Alyssa resisted the urge to oversing any part of that song and instead turned in a sublime vocal performance that belied her age and sounded as if she’d written the song herself from her own experiences. It was absolutely beautiful and the most connected we’ve seen her to a lyric yet. She interpreted this song rather than just sing it and that made all the difference, immediately pushing her toward the front of the pack. The instrument is there, it was everything else that was waiting to mature. In this moment, it came together.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon
"We All Fall in Love Sometimes," Elton John
Jeremiah has a voice filled with such soul and passion he just emotes effortlessly. He didn’t so much perform this song as he felt it for us and took us on this journey with him. It wasn’t the most exciting performance, but it was heartfelt and he’s such a genuine soul. There was a simple beauty to what he poured onto the stage as evidenced by the tears he pulled out of both Katy Perry and Luke Bryan.
"Fallin’," Alicia Keys
Where has this girl been the whole competition? The judges have been all about Madison for weeks, so apparently it’s time to eat crow because she absolutely brought it tonight. This is the strongest she’s been on a song that is damned near impossible for anyone not named Alicia Keys to perform and perform well. A signature song and Madison took it to new places to make it her own. Her stage presence was fantastic and she looked like we were at her concert rather than watching her compete on a television show.
The judges and Ryan Seacrest talked a lot about this being the most talented group we’ve ever seen at this stage and after tonight, we’re kind of going to have to agree. How crazy is it that it’s not easy to pick out the Top 10 from this group.
Our ranking above is based on tonight and we don’t believe the votes will line up that way. Riley and Laine are surely going to make it into that Top 10, but who has to go? Dimitrius has yet to define himself while Laci seems to have her detractors. Is Uche’s muchness too muche? Was Walker too old-fashioned with that choice? Did Alejandro blow it? Was Ashley too safe behind the piano?
If we have to make a choice … and we’ve decided we do … we’re going to say that Eddie, Evelyn, Dimitrius and Uche aren’t going to make the cut with the "American Idol" audience and we’ll hope that we’re wrong.
But this is clearly going to be brutal every week if we’re struggling already and there’s multiple people getting the boot every single week. It’s times like this we miss when "Idol" wasn’t a two-and-a-half-month rush job of a show and only one person went home each week.
With so many solid and different contestants, we’re just going to have to prepare to be shocked and disappointed every week because where is the chaff? We usually have so much at this stage.
"American Idol" airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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