And then there were 50. The American Idol
reboot premiered back on March 11, and just 22 days later, the new judges have already whittled thousands of hopefuls down to our season 16 Top 50.
And now the 26 men and 24 women (or 25 and 25, depending on how you classify Ada Vox) who have bested the competition will compete in front of a live audience before the field is cut in half to the Top 24.
The Actual Price of the Showcase Is...
Idol introduced the showcase round back in season 14 as a way to test how the singers handled a crowd, and it was initially two episodes. But as they've pushed America's entry into the voting process further down the line -- we didn't chime in until choosing the final two of the Top 10 in season 15 -- it's been less important for us to know everyone and all their works prior to the live shows.
And as such, it's been condensed down to one two-hour show -- much like most of this season -- meaning there's simply no way we can see or evaluate everyone. Heck, we didn't even know that the singers responsible for some of the best auditions (including Amalia Watty, Brandon Diaz and Carly Moffa) had even made the trip out west in the first place until Idol tweeted out the Top 50
It means that our viewing experience is determined by those who already know the results, so nothing is organic. But on the bright side, the presence of a packed house is the X-factor because it separates those who are energized by a live audience from anyone lacking star power.
Stage presence can sometimes compensate for a poor performance, while amazing vocals can make up for the mundane. But having both can produce a moment, while too little of either usually signals the end of the line. Let's see who's ready for the big time.
The Price is Right
With Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan watching from the balcony high above, 16-year-old Layla Spring is the first featured act. The performances are juxtaposed with the dreaded Green Mile walk as the singers learn their individual fates, so we'll find out quickly who has made it and who is headed home.
The teenager first captured our attention by bringing her little sister, Dyxie, along for her audition, and her showcase song is Tina Turner's "Proud Mary." It's pitchy and reminds me of good karaoke, but the judges appreciate the rip-roaring start to the night and her ability to take criticism. Verdict: Top 24, and after seeing her stand next to the judges, there's a chance she's 4-foot-9. She comes up to Ryan Seacrest's shoulder.
Next up is Michael J. Woodard, and I've never been a huge fan. The judges loved his show tune from Cabaret, which didn't feel relevant to me. He's taking a huge risk with Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," and it's weird and uncomfortable. He just kinda stands there and broods, but he's too nice to pull off brooding. So, naturally, the judges think he's a star. Verdict: Top 24.
Construction worker and Katy Perry man-crush Trevor Holmes channels his sex appeal into Niall Horan's "Slow Hands," and it's fine. At least it's applicable, after he tried the same "f*** me" eyes on Phillip Phillips' "Home" in the solo round. Verdict: Eliminated, but there's hope after his videos were among the most viewed of the season thus far.
Two Down, 22 to Go
Gabby Barrett got shot down when she attempted to audition with Carrie Underwood's "Church Bells," so she's bringing it back for the showcase. She believes it shows diversity, even though she's literally trying to be the next Carrie Underwood. That said, she crushes it after a shaky start and is an early favorite. Verdict: Top 24. I really, really want to judge people professionally. Quick, how can we make me famous enough?
Thaddeus Johnson was eliminated in this exact spot in season 9, and he's trying to compensate for history with Jill Scott's "Hate on Me." His crowd work is great and the vocals are solid. Well done, sir. Verdict: Eliminated. Katy Perry feels he's lacking grit. C'mon, this was way better than Alanis. You win, Thaddeus. They got this wrong.
Michelle Sussett only learned English a few years ago, but she's always been more energy than technique. She dances around the stage in thigh-high boots and a see-through top on Bruno Mars' "24K Magic," and the judges think she may be the next big thing. Verdict: Top 24.
Cue the rapid fire results, and five spots go to Dominique, Trevor McBane, Maddie Poppe, Ron Bultongez and Alyssa Raghu.
Rolling Right Along
The wonderfully eccentric Catie Turner is losing her mind with nerves, even though her rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is off the chain -- goofy but off the chain. Verdict: Top 24, even though Katy finds her showcase shaky.
Then there's the quick eliminations of Milo Sposato, Les Greene, Britney Holmes and William Casanova because it can't end happy for everyone.
Army wife Jurnee has been hit or miss, but her partner is in the house for her rendition of Loren Allred's "Never Enough." It's a great performance, though I'm still not sure of her star potential. Verdict: Top 24.
11 Spots Claimed with Six Eliminations
Shannon O'Hara is the nanny helping out her out-of-work dad pay the bills, and she's toning it down for a heartfelt rendition of Katy Perry's "Unconditionally." There's some legit goosebumps, which is always my ultimate litmus test, mixed in with Katy Perry tears. Verdict: Top 24.
Also hearing good news with sneak peeks at their performances are Kay Kay ("Brokenhearted" by Karmin), Amalia Hammer Harris ("Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones) and Brandon Diaz ("Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye).
Unfortunately, it's not the same result for Noah Davis, who is off-key on a rather wretched performance of Lady Gaga's "You and I." The judges are especially upset that he didn't heed their advice and stay in his wheelhouse. Verdict: Eliminated.
We're also saying goodbye to Harper Grace, Carly Moffa, Samothias, Lee Vasi and Idol baby Victoria McQeen. Harper and Carly especially are surprises.
9 Spots Left for 23 Singers
The judges are worried that Adam Sanders, performing as Ada Vox, will be, well, too drag queeny with her huge voice. But her rendition of Radiohead's "Creep" hits all the right (and giant) notes, and it's going to be up to America to decide how long she's right for the competition. Verdict: Top 24. He shows up for judgment as Adam, to face the music without the crutch that is his alter ego. It will be interesting to see who performs going forward.
Jonny Brenns finally got his dad on board after Hollywood Week, and even though he struggled in the solo round, he gets back in his comfort zone with Sam Smith's "Lay Me Down." It's not perfect, but the ladies are screaming and the judges are on their feet. Verdict: Top 24. And pops Leo is finally proud of him.
America's Got Talent alum Mara Justine is the youngest remaining competitor at 15. And, c'mon, she made the Top 12 of AGT and saved her best for last in the process. Her voice is gigantic on Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me," and she's developed some stage presence since we last saw her at age 12 -- and by that, I mean she's actually moving around some, but she could chill a bit with the prancing and hair flips. The spunk surprises the judges, even though Katy thinks she needs to tone it down some. Verdict: Top 24.
Laine Hardy, Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Garrett Jacobs are grouped together because they're all country heartthrobs to some degree. Caleb is the least dreamy but has the best voice, and he keeps up his trademark consistency on Chris Stapleton's "I Was Wrong." Verdict: Top 24, but Katy cautions him against becoming a one-dimensional caricature.
Laine and Garrett are forced to face the music together, after the latter rocks the house and showed off some endearingly clumsy dance moves on Eddie Floyd's "Knock on Wood" (with Nana Honey in attendance). Laine tackles "The Ballad of Curtis Loew," by Lynyrd Skynyrd, but he's a bit too young and green to sound authentic on it. Verdict: Garrett is in the Top 24, but Laine is going home.
Cade Foehner's roots are in "country cool," and while we didn't see him until Hollywood, he's impressed ever since. It's no different on Kaleo's "No Good," and his rocker potential is up there with the David Cooks and Daughtrys of the world. His song choices will be crucial during the live shows, but I'd be shocked if he's not around in the Top 5. Verdict: Top 24.
The Final Countdown
It's down to Marcus' best friend Maddie Zahm and Effie Passero for the final ladies' spot, but the results are telltale when we see Maddie's off-key rendition of Pink's "What About Us." Effie's pick is Garth Brooks' "The Dance," and it's heartfelt even if she doesn't kill it. Verdict: Effie is in the Top 24, but Maddie is eliminated.
The final guys' spot comes down to Marcio Donaldson and Dennis Lorenzo, which makes sense because they're essentially the same person. But we can also do basic math and know that only 22 have been sent through so far. Marcio is pitchy as hell on Stevie Wonder's "If You Really Love Me," while Dennis exudes smooth style on Leon Russel's "A Song for You."
It's not the correct result because it should only be one, but Verdict: Both Marcio and Dennis are in the Top 24.
The Island of Misfit Toys
Speaking of simple math, there's a whopping 12 singers who reached the Top 50 that Idol didn't even have the courtesy to mention in this episode. Most noticeable is Amalia Watty, who provided one of the most memorable auditions before a complete dearth of screen time. If you're going to present greatness, at least show me how that greatness faltered.
The list of other no-shows include Julia Cole (Who? Where have all the cowboys gone?), Ephraim Bugumba (double who?), Stephen Quinn and Justin Ray (triple and quadruple who?), and Taylor Williams (completing the quintet of who?).
Then there are those who got a bit of screen time, including Christina Jones, Kassy Levels, Kaitlann Runnels, Kourtney Smith, Ricky Manning and Cody Martin. They -- and we -- deserved more.
Two Dozen Contenders
The American Idol season 16 Top 24 is set, and there are reasons to be excited. But it's hard for me to fully invest myself at this point when I have so many unanswered questions about who I didn't see. There were some serious favorites in this mix, and with next to zero time in Hollywood and beyond, I don't know why I've been deprived of their potential.
With the exceptions of Layla Spring, Michael J. Woodard and Marcio Donaldson -- and, to a lesser extent, Effie Passero -- I agree with all those who advanced, at least from what we've heard thus far. But Thaddeus Johnson definitely should have made it over Woodard, and the other surprises come while being denied the performance that ultimately decided their fates.
The notable eliminations that I would've liked to have heard, simply for peace of mind, are Britney Holmes, Harper Grace, Carly Moffa, Amalia Watty, Ricky Manning and Cody Martin. But I guess we'll have to take the judges' word for them.
Groups of 12 hit the stage next time for solo performances, even though it's still unclear at what point viewers will get to chime in. But warm up those voting fingers, America. We'll need you soon enough.
Are you on board with the picks? Who should've made it but didn't and who should've gone home but lives to sing another day? Who in the Top 24 are you most excited about and who definitely has his or her work cut out for them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of ABC)