Just duet? Although this week's batch of 12 singers fared worse than last week's during the solo section of the "showcase" round on Wednesday, they made up for it with their duet performances on Thursday night.
As a dozen members of the Top 24 had last week, each singer in the second half of the Top 24 took the stage with an "American Idol" veteran, hoping to impress the judges enough to be selected for the Top 14. In many cases, the "Idol" vets — Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, Season 4 contestant Constantine Maroulis, Season 7 winner David Cook, Season 5's Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, and Season 10 third-place-finisher Haley Reinhart — seemed to pull better performances out of the Season 15 hopefuls with whom they worked. It was heartening to see, and the judges seemed pleased too.
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Still, after all the singers had performed — as had host Ryan Seacrest, who froze when the judges tried to pressure him to sing and then cut loose with a rap song and a booty shake (ah, the treats of the final season) — the judges had to make their cuts, waving seven singers through and sending five home, based on both Wednesday's solo and Thursday's duet performances.
The choices didn't seem all that surprising.
Lee Jean, whose duet on Daughtry's "Home" with Daughtry himself left Jennifer Lopez "speechless." Harry Connick Jr. called the performance "passionate but controlled." Keith Urban commended Jean on the "storyteller quality" he brought to the song.
Manny Torres, whose duet with Sparks on her "No Air" was met with a blast of praise from the judges. Urban shared that the height difference between Torres and Sparks reminded him of being on the red carpet with his wife, Nicole Kidman, and then called Torres' performance "terrific." Lopez thought the pairing "couldn't have been more perfect." Connick said the fact that Torres had held his attention alongside Sparks was a "real testament" to his "charisma."
Olivia Rox, who showed off her potent vocals while dueting with Cook on his "Light On," prompting Cook and the judges to predict she'd stick around for a while. Lopez gushed that Rox's voice was "phenomenal," and Connick said she sang "like someone who knows music" and declared that "Idol" was "lucky to have" her. Urban posited that the 17-year-old singer's "tour T-shirts" would read, "Olivia Rox. Yes, she does." Cute.
Dalton Rapattoni, who yet again pleased the judges when he teamed up with Daughtry to sing Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Well, maybe Connick wasn't so thrilled, telling Rapattoni that, with the backing of the "Idol" band, pretty much anyone — even Seacrest — "could have sounded good on that one." Urban and Lopez were kinder and more appreciative. The latter described Rapattoni as a "dark horse" emerging "at the right time … with those amazing blue eyes."
Jenn Blosil, who'd had a rough night with the judges on Wednesday, but whose duet with Maroulis on Frank Sinatra's "My Funny Valentine" earned a standing ovation from Urban. He said he "fricking loved it," adding that Blosil had "weighted and dominated the whole thing" and calling the performance "fantastic." Lopez also gave the duet high praise, saying it was "kind of the embodiment of the perfect duet." Connick, though, was altogether unimpressed, contending that Blosil and Maroulis had turned the song into a "shouting match." Ouch.
Tristan McIntosh, the talented teen whom the judges felt had shown her age and inexperience during her duet with Pickler on Pickler's "Best Days of Your Life" (Connick felt she'd been "wandering" around the stage a bit), but whom Lopez had called one of the "special ones," with "such an amazing voice."
Trent Harmon, who judiciously employed his vibrato and continued to charm in his duet with Sparks on the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" — and then basked in love from the judges. Urban said Sparks had "pulled things out of" Harmon stylistically and vocally. Connick called it a "really great, great job" and said both Sparks and Harmon should release the song as singles — or a duet.
Those who were sent home were:
Amelia Eisenhauer, despite having dueted well with Pickler on Sara Evans' "Suds in the Bucket." "Absolutely terrific," Connick had called the performance.
Kory Wheeler, whose performance with Reinhart of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets" was dubbed by Connick as "really terrific."
CJ Johnson, who had dueted with Cook as adequately as possible on "The World I Know" by Collective Soul.
Shelbie Z, whose duet with Maroulis on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" had been given the final performance slot of the evening, but whose charms the judges felt had gotten lost in the song.
Adam Lasher, whose duet with Reinhart on Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" had pleased Lopez and Connick well enough, but had failed to impress Urban, who rightly labeled Lasher "stiff."
Next week: The Top 14, the first audience vote and Kelly Clarkson.