'American Idol' Season 15 Recap/Review: Top 10 Takes Shape with Wildcards, OK Performances
American Idol's top 10 is starting to take shape. On Wednesday night (Feb. 24), the show's producers and judges bucked tradition by throwing in four wildcard picks... before America could vote? This move is presumably to get the best singers actually into the race to guarantee an interesting and assorted live roster, but it feels like the thing that made American Idol a hit to begin with - allowing fans to pick the next superstar - a false promise.
So, the judges gave an easy pass to the competition's easy standouts: La'Porsha Renae, Olivia Rox, Dalton Rapattoni and Trent Harmon. Likely, these four wouldn't need much help to get into this spot, so why the mix-up... who knows.
But, taking some of the money performers out of the show made for a night of mostly middling songs. And, while America can choose six of these 10, is the choice really ours? While we ponder those big questions, let's see who performed the best (and worst) in the race for the top 10.
10. Manny Torres, "Master Blaster": Manny Torres opened up the show, which can always be a bit of a tough spot. He decided to revisit his cover of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster," and just like the first time he performed this song, this was just as underwhelming as his first go-around. This song just doesn't offer up all that much to do, and an already relatively bland Manny didn't exercise as any gymnastics as maybe he should have.
09. Thomas Stringfellow, "Story of My Life": PRAISE HARRY! Both Styles for being an originator on this One Direction hit and Connick Jr. for FINALLY calling out the way that Thomas Stringfellow clips every note at the end of every phrase. Every time Thomas "hiccups" at the end of every phrase, I cringe, and OH MY GOSH! It's such a relief a judge finally said something. Other than that horrific vocal habit, Thomas knew what he was doing with this song choice. He mugged for the camera with that million dollar lopsided smile, easily earning the heart of every Directioner/Idol fan out there.
08. Lee Jean, "Make It Rain": I know that this round is a redo of a favorite Idol moment thus far this season, but goodness, did we need to hear Lee Jean do Ed Sheeran yet again? We get it... he has his discography down pat. Because he's clearly so comfortable with this material, he did well enough on this from a connection standpoint, though nerves clearly got the best of him. Because of a little dose of inexperience and stage fright, Lee's vocals faltered and he may be sent back out into the rain.
07. Avalon Young, "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)": Yo, Avalon Young, you have naturally one of the most capable voices in this competition, so why are you trying to hide? Chris Brown's "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" may have that laidback vibe that you embody, but it doesn't have anything else to offer; there are no interesting dynamics, notes or textures to be offered here. Avalon performed fourth of 10, and she needed to standout to get votes. Did she offer up a decent performance? Absolutely. Will people remember it enough in time to vote? The jury is out on that one. This is a competition, and Avalon needs to step her game up.
06. Jeneve Rose Mitchell, "Ring of Fire": As Harry Connick Jr. pointed out, Jeneve Rose Mitchell's whole... thing can be a little bit polarizing. Though she totally stunned with her performance of "Angel" last week, it was a little too soon for her to revisit it, so she reached into this take on Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The arrangement itself was totally off - the guitars just did not mesh with the vocal interpretation of this country classic and the resulting song was just really, really messy. Jeneve could be a well of talent, this just didn't show it off.
05. Gianna Isabella, "I Put a Spell on You": The thing about a song like "I Put a Spell on You" is that it is simple enough in its structure that you can do endless vocal tricks and interpretations on this - which Gianna Isabella did before on this classic track and did again here. What was, once again, missing was the guts, the grit and the passion. We get it, you have a major range and can do some huge runs, but it wasn't totally gripping.
04. Tristan McIntosh, "What Hurts the Most": Tristan McIntosh wants to occupy the unfortunately small space as a woman of color in country music. I don't always buy her country accent - her voice seems better suited to the sort of Alicia Keys music that Jennifer Lopez cited in her audition. But, as we learned from Hollywood Week, Tristan has a major connection to this song and that shined in this performance. While her vocals fell short of expectations at time, you cannot doubt her passion.
03. Sonika Vaid, "I Surrender": Sonika Vaid may have sang "I Surrender," but once again, she didn't let herself full go and surrender into the emotion and the music. As Jennifer Lopez pointed out, her voice really is a "gift from God." Sonika's tone, ability to control a dynamic and range are beyond natural. You just can't teach raw ability. What she needs, however, is to really pay attention to lyrics, pull from her life experiences and sing like she's a human, not some melodic cyborg. Sonika could be unstoppable in this competition, but she just needs to channel Celine Dion and surrender to the music.
02. Jenn Blosil, "True Colors": Jenn Blosil can really connect with a lyric, as Harry Connick Jr. pointed out, and she did that flawlessly on her revisit of this Cyndi Lauper classic. Her signature throaty, hushed voice was as enchanting as ever, and while her few squeaks were a little bit distracting, they came off more charming than, say, Thomas Stringfellow. In an episode where a lot of competitors failed to sing like an artist, Jenn has that nailed down.
01. MacKenzie Bourg, "Roses": MacKenzie Bourg got the money spot this week, with a closing performance. He made the most of this exposure by showing off his original song, "Roses." And, boy, did he make the most of this time. MacKenzie's comfort level with this song was apparent and he dipped into the subtleties of this song like a very well seasoned performer. His vocals were flawless, his engagement was flawless and it was hard to take your eyes off of this one. MacKenzie may not have been a judge's pick, but he'll certainly win over America.