American Idol is inching ever closer to its weekly live shows and the talent is getting more raw and more undeniable. Last week started Hollywood off right with some instant solo cuts and the always insane group rounds, so tonight's episode (Feb. 12) cut straight to the chase with solo performances and the first round of Top 30 announcements.
One thing worth noting before the Top 5 performances: With new producers and a few new tweaks, this episode had a new Idol feature. Three pairs of singers entered the final judging room together. Jessica Meuse and Jessie Roach, Andrina Brogden and Leah Guerrero, and Casey Thrasher and C.J. Harris were all paired up to visit Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. In all cases, only one singer was moving on to the next round of the competition.
Meuse and Roach as well as Thrasher and Harris had to take place in a surprise a cappella sing off. There's no denying that the classic rock chicks and the two versatile Alabama country guys had a lot in common, but this plot seemed mostly incorporated for drama. In the Jessie/Jessica case, it's Meuse moving on to Hollywood. The country crooners, in some nice cliffhanger drama, will be decided at the top of Thursday's episode.
As for Brogden and Guerrero... I guess they're just similar-ish? That was a weird decision.
Regardless of that, let's take a look at who made the cut, who didn't and the Top 5 performances of the night.
5. Jordan Brisbane: There's something undeniably likable about this newly 16-year-old singer. Packing a soulful punch that more seasoned performers could never dream of attaining, Brisbane absolutely slayed his final solo audition with Beyoncé's "Halo." His voice still has a total element of youthfulness to it, which can be simultaneously distracting and charming. Either way, he's a sweet ball of energy, and I just wanna pinch dem cheeks. He was an easy choice for the boy's Top 15 and rightfully secured that spot tonight.
4. Bria Anai Johnson: First off, Bria Anai Johnson has an incredible lipstick collection. Luckily, she has a voice to match those sparkly red smackers. She took on the classic R&B track "It's A Man's World" and sang the ever-loving crap out of it. Like, we're talking Christina Aguilera levels of power. Anyone who can manage to be that loud, bombastic, soulful and yet restrained deserves a spot in Idol's Top 30, which she easily slipped into with some solid praises from the judges.
3. George Lovett: Until tonight, we hadn't heard much from George Lovett, but this Atlanta auditions contestant can sang. The R&B crooner took on Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" in a rather straightforward fashion, holding back some of his stronger influences while still maintaining a lot of vocal power. Hell, the Idol producers dug it so much they used it as backing music while other, less fortunate singers were sent home.
2. Sam Woolf: Singers who chose to tackle original, acoustic songs were notably less fortunate than their band backed, popular song counterparts, a risk 17-year-old Sam Woolf noted before his performance. However, a personal song was the absolute right choice for Woolf. His song "I Try" is about his mother who moved away, and his performance was so full of raw emotional pain that it was nearly impossible to not be overcome with emotion. Alongside his solid vocal turn, it was clear this kid was moving on to the Top 30.
1. Emily Piriz: American Idol likes to start strong and end with some sort of cliffhanger. We got the C.J./Casey drama at the end of this episode, but that was nothing compared to the pure, unadulterated power of Emily Piriz's solo Hollywood performance. She tackled the crazy power ballad "Stars" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and absolutely nailed it, sounding not unlike Ms. Potter herself. The emotion was there, the soaring vocals, the sweet personality. Piriz was an obvious choice for the female Top 15, and crescendoed her way right to the top.
American Idol will wrap up Hollywood tomorrow night (Feb. 13) with the final Top 30 announcements. Until then, who else made it? Check out the list here.