"American Idol" had another lightning … er … "showcase" round on Wednesday night, in which 12 members of the Season 15 Top 24 did their best to prove their worth with solo performances. It was a swift show, swinging speedily from singer to singer as it packed a dozen performances — along with the judges' quick critiques — into a single hour.
On Thursday, the performers will team up with six "Idol" alums — Chris Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, Constantine Maroulis, Kellie Pickler, Haley Reinhart and David Cook — to perform duets, but if last week's performances were any indication, it's the solo round that will determine these singers' fates. Like last week, seven contestants will stick around to join next week's Top 14 for the final season's first live show, and five will go home. Next week, the audience will have its first opportunity this season to vote and help determine the last "American Idol" Top 10.
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So how did this week's 12 contenders do? Eh, not so fab. But maybe not quite as poorly as the judges — particularly Harry Connick Jr., who seemed to be in an especially nit-picking mood — would have had us believe.
Here's how the solo performances went down:
Shelbie Z, 23-year-old country-singing hairdresser and "The Voice" veteran, showed off her powerful pipes with Gretchen Wilson's "Work Hard, Play Harder," but Keith Urban felt she'd hampered her performance by choosing a key that allowed her to shine only at the end. Jennifer Lopez also believed Shelbie Z hadn't found her vocal "sweet" spot, but she commended her on her energy. Connick called the performance "solid," but said he'd reserve judgment until he heard how Shelbie Z would "stack up" against the others.
Manny Torres, a 21-year-old worship leader from Michigan, grooved his way through Coldplay's "Adventure of a Lifetime," and while Lopez said she "loved" his voice and thought it had been a good song choice, she felt he could have "connected" to the audience a bit more. Connick called the performance "piecemeal." Urban admired the way Torres worked the camera, adding that he didn't think the song did much vocally for Torres, but did feel it suited his "spirit" well.
Kory Wheeler, a 27-year-old Nashville barista and returning contestant from Season 14, played piano, made eyes at the camera and earned a split opinion from the judges for his take on James Bay's "Let It Go." Connick said it was "pretty good," but not "great" — neither "particularly special" nor "incredibly moving" — but Lopez said it was the "most comfortable" she'd seen Wheeler onstage and showed the young man's potential. Urban thought Wheeler had displayed a combo of "confidence and vulnerability," making it a "perfect song choice."
Nashville 16-year-old Ameila Eisenhauer tackled Avicii's "Wake Me Up," which Urban didn't think was the perfect song for her. He did, however, give Eisenhauer credit for "trying things." Lopez also wasn't sure about the song choice, but declared Eisenhauer to be a "special girl" with a "special voice." Connick urged the redheaded teen to pick songs that were "a little bit quirky," as she is.
Speaking of quirky, Brooklyn, N.Y., 23-year-old Jenn Blosil attempted to put her own unusual spin on Justin Bieber's "Sorry," and although it was original and emotional and got better vocally as it went along, not all the judges were pleased. At first, Connick seemed to be offering Blosil praise, calling her a "breath of fresh air," but then he stuck it to her, kind of hard, for singing "out of tune." Urban enjoyed Blosil's "originality" and the sense that she was trying to do something different with the song. And Lopez said that the singer's "shaky" beginning "didn't kill" the end for her. Once the song got going, she said, Blosil's take was "very beautiful."
CJ Johnson, the 29-year-old Memphis musician, took on Edwin McCain's "I'll Be" and also was deemed by Connick to be singing out of tune. Urban, though, gushed that it had been the "perfect song," "perfect range" and "perfect key" for him. Lopez called it a "great performance" and said she felt he'd been singing the song right to her.
Sixteen-year-old South Carolina cutie Lee Jean performed Ed Sheeran's "Runaway" in sort of a throwaway performance, leaving the judges with little to say. Urban called Jean's voice "so real," but both he and Lopez warned about the effects of uninteresting song choices. Connick advised the teen to practice playing the guitar and singing at the same time, but said he believed he'd turned in one of the "better performances of the night."
Apparently recovered from his bout with mononucleosis, Mississippi 25-year-old Trent Harmon distinguished himself with a sweet, sincere performance of Chris Stapleton's "What Are You Listening to" — and earned a healthy heap of praise from the judges. Lopez said that when Harmon sang, "it really gets to my heart," and she complimented him on his tone, saying he had "something that I feel like is going to be in the competition for a long time." Connick called Harmon "one of the most gifted vocalists" in the competition, but didn't seem wowed by the song choice. Urban, on the other hand, said he "thought it was a tremendous song choice," and that Harmon had sung it "really well."
Tristan McIntosh, just 15, got better as she went along on Carrie Underwood's "Good Girl." Lopez noted that she'd "picked up steam" toward the end. Connick congratulated the teen on "singing loud." And Urban predicted that, once McIntosh picked the right song, she would "kill it."
Adam Lasher, a 28-year-old musician from California who is Carlos Santana's nephew, failed to impress with a one-dimensional take on Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold." Connick declared that he'd been distracted by Lasher's "shuffle," which he found to be "wishy-washy." Urban declared himself to be "baffled" by Lasher's decision to sing that song. Lopez said she hadn't even been able to "get into the melody," advising Lasher to "make sure people are going to go along on that ride with you."
Dalton Rapattoni, a 20-year-old vocal coach from Dallas who, we learned this week, can control the movement of his eyes "independently of each other" (ick), blew the judges away with his dramatic take on Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell." "I don't care about anything except that made me feel some … thing," Lopez gushed, adding that Rapattoni was "pretty as can be" — with "a little face" she wanted to "squeeze" — and calling it a "great performance" that had given her "goosies." Connick finally got with the praise program, calling the performance "absolutely … phenomenal," a "great interpretation" and "powerful." Urban said Rapattoni never disappointed.
The 17-year-old daughter of a musician, Olivia Rox once earned Aretha Franklin's encouragement, and on Wednesday, she earned the judges' love with her super-confident take on Demi Lovato's "Confident." Urban gave her a standing ovation. Connick called her performance "very, very strong." Lopex urged Rox to channel her "inner rock chick." Urban exclaimed, "And the show starts now!" He told Rox she was a "lucky girl" with an "amazing gift."
On Thursday, we'll hear the duets and learn who will stay and who will go.