Over the course of four pre-taped episodes of “American Idol” that started April 8, the three judges — pop princess Katy Perry, country superstar Luke Bryan and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie — are considering the merits of the Top 24 artists still in the contest. As with the FOX version that ran for 15 seasons, this revival on ABC showcases these two dozen would-be winners in both solo performances and celebrity duets.
On the April 8 episode, the first group of 12 contestants sang solo. These same dozen artists will duet with celebrities on the April 9 episode. At the end of that installment, host Ryan Seacrest will reveal which seven of these artists made the cut and will be in the Top 14 artists to contend on the live shows that kick off on April 22.
Once these live playoffs of “American Idol” season 16 begin, you will be able to predict the outcome of each episode in our predictions center. You can already make forecasts for the outcomes on such reality TV shows as “Survivor,” plus the winners of the Academy of Country Music Awards and both the daytime and primetime Emmy Awards.
Below, follow along with all the action on the April 9 episode of “American Idol.”
8:00 p.m. – For the next two weeks, 24 aspiring artists will compete for the chance to sing for America’s vote. Last night the first 12 artists performed solo and tonight they will be joined by a celebrity duet partner. The guest mentor for this round of the competition is radio personality Bobby Bones. Following tonight’s performances, five artists will be eliminated from the competition. Let’s get started!
8:10 p.m. – Earlier this week the contestants got some advice from their celebrity partners. What happened when Andy Grammar met Catie Turner? The pair of them hit it off and Catie feels like Grammar is like her “cool uncle.” Andy told her that nerves will rob her of the fun, so if she gets nervous, just look at him. As they hit the stage, Lionel already comments, “I just love her.” They are singing “Good to Be Alive,” an uptempo number written by Grammar. The duo is having fun on stage and Catie appears to have squashed any nerves she may have been feeling. Nothing about this performance showed her vocal potential, but I think the goal was to show she can have fun on stage and is easy to collaborate with. I’d say she succeeded on that point. Following the performance Grammar said Catie is amazing to work with. The judges gushed over her performance and Lionel summed things up with, “You killed it!”
8:15 p.m. – Up next Cade Foehner is teaming up with Bishop Briggs for a cover of the INXS song “Never Tear Us Apart.” Honestly, I have no idea who Bishop is, but she seems like a lot of fun and has a great voice. In an interesting twist, Cade actually was teaching his mentor a thing or two about singing this song. They hit the stage with Cade on guitar, which comes so naturally for him. It’s a ballad and Cade sounds fantastic opening up the song. Bishop joins to add a strong female voice to this collaboration. These two sound incredible together! I don’t love this song, but these two have great chemistry as a duo. Following the performance, Luke invited Cade to come on tour with him. Katy said that he really has something special and basically said she hopes his head doesn’t get too big.
8:20 p.m. – It’s about to get real country up in here! Kentucky native Layla Spring is teaming up with Sugarland for their hit song “Stuck on You.” Jennifer Nettles was impressed with Layla’s voice and was shocked to learn she was Layla’s first duet partner. Nettles opened up the song and just seconds later Layla chimed in with her signature country twang. Similar to Catie’s performance earlier, this song does nothing to show Layla as a vocalist. In fact, I think this was a terrible song choice. Layla has such a fun, likable personality but she’s just being held down in this performance. Her follow-up interview was more entertaining. Luke said Layla can’t even begin to understand how hard it is to go toe to toe with Jennifer Nettles. Katy said Layla has the makings of a star. Lionel said Layla handled herself on stage as if she has been there forever.
8:30 p.m. – Hoping to his secure his spot in the Top 14, Dominique will be working with Aloe Blacc on the latter’s massive hit “Wake Me Up.” Dominique expressed nerves about singing in front of Blacc and struggled through rehearsals. His mentor instructed him to study the lyrics and focus on which ones apply to him. Hitting the stage, Blacc sang first. WOW his voice just cuts through the room. As Dominique makes his way across the stage, he is able hold his pitch together and remembers the lyrics! What I’m noticing is how clearly it looks like a superstar singing with a fan. Dominique’s star power isn’t holding a candle to Blacc, who is effortlessly going through the motions. My concern for Dominique has always been that I don’t feel “star power” from him and this reinforced that opinion. Despite my feelings, Blacc enthusiastically pronounced, “This is an American Idol right here!” Katy said she didn’t know how to critique anymore. Well, she better figure it out because this season is just getting started and she’s getting $25 million. Lionel loved that Dominique rose to the occasion and Luke complimented his ability to sing anything.
8:40 p.m. – Up next Brandon Diaz is teaming up with Luis Fonsi on a song that became the most watched YouTube video of all time: “Despacito.” Diaz is thrilled to sing with the biggest Latin pop star on the planet. He is concerned that Spanish is not his first language and “Despacito” is a very wordy song. Fonsi instructed him to make his voice dance with the music and believes Diaz can go very far in the competition. It didn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement. Diaz opened up the song in Spanish, wearing a leather jacket and rocking a serious man bun. The judges look impressed that they will be singing entirely in Spanish. None of this Justin Bieber business! The duo was successful in their goal of getting the judges dancing, but Luis is vocally slaughtering Diaz. I don’t expect these newcomers to compete with seasoned superstars at the juncture, but if one is able to it would really be saying something. Lionel was impressed that Diaz had Latin pop in his arsenal. Luke was sold on the performance and Katy thought he beautifully held his own.
8:50 p.m. – Kay Kay is pairing up with Pat Monahan of the band Train to sing his hit “Drive By.” Kay Kay struggled through rehearsals because she can’t hear herself on stage. She’s uncertain if she is singing in the correct key, so Monahan tells her just to trust herself. This is yet another uptempo number that does nothing for Kay Kay’s voice. She can rest easy with the fact that at least she’s in key and she looks beautiful in a simple jean jacket. This performance was fun and I’d argue it was a step up from her solo round last night. Luke felt the song was outside of her comfort zone but the energy was fun. Katy thought she blended well with Monahan and Lionel applauded Kay Kay for that being her first duet. If I’m trying to predict things based on feedback, I’d say Kay Kay is in trouble tonight and will likely be eliminated.
8:55 p.m. – With her second performance of the night, Bishop Briggs is pairing up with Trevor McBane. Trevor feels like their voices were made for each other and is excited to perform her song “River.” He has had a rough life and relates to the lyrics. Originally I didn’t know who Bishop was, but I definitely know this song. Bishop opened up the performance and Trevor quickly joined as harmony. This pairing had great chemistry and although Trevor wasn’t one of my favorite solo performances last night, this is definitely one of the better duets! Bishop believes Trevor is destined for greatness, but what do the judges think? Katy said it was amazing to see Trevor come out of his shell. Lionel said Trevor “ran up on the Bishop” but hasn’t quite mastered “entertaining.”
9:05 p.m. – Up next, Venezuela native Michelle Sussett is teaming up with Luis Fonsi for his second performance of the evening. Luis is going to bring out the sensitive side of the fiery performer by assigning “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt as their duet. I’m glad he is pushing her in this direction because I have yet to be impressed by her vocals and I am hoping she can win me over with this performance. As they begin to sing, I notice Michelle has a bit of a rock edge to her voice that would be interesting to explore. While I agree with the judges that Michelle does have a bit of that X factor they look for, I still just can’t get into her voice. The duo do have great chemistry though and Luis even asked if he could stay in the competition when they finished. He might have a bit of a crush! Luke said he didn’t want the performance to end. Lionel loved their chemistry. Katy said she is a believer in Michelle whether she is an actress or a singer. She’s a star.
9:15 p.m. – Next up is the fresh-faced Jonny Brenns who is teaming up with Andy Grammar on the song “Back Home.” Grammar feels encouraged to tell Jonny you can be just a normal, nice guy and have success in the business. Fortunately for Jonny, this song seems to be right in his wheelhouse and I imagine he’d record something like this for his album. Jonny is awkwardly uncharismatic, yet mysteriously magnetic to watch at the same time. I can’t put my finger on it, but I can’t help but wonder if he would be better placed within a boy band. Luke was pleased to see Jonny branch out and do something more upbeat but believes he needs to work on his stage presence. Lionel said it was the first time he looked to be having fun with a performance. Katy suggested Jonny take a couple ballet classes in the DL to improve his movement. Jonny said if it guarantees he will make the top five, he will do anything it takes.
9:25 p.m. – Dennis Lorenzo is absolutely mind-blown to be singing the very song he auditioned with, Allen Stone’s “Unaware.” The songwriter is incredibly humbled by Dennis and thinks Dennis could outsing him any day. I love the way their duet is set up like a low-key jam session. It has a “MTV Unplugged” vibe and they both sound fantastic ad libbing and harmonizing. But then something happened. Something I’ve waited for all night while watching these contestants. Dennis took control of the song rather than acting like a fan singing with a superstar. I wasn’t impressed with Dennis last night, but this by FAR is the best duet so far. Stone said he would probably never sing that song by himself ever again. Katy loved that Dennis is still playing his guitar with a hole in it. I hadn’t even noticed that! Lionel loved their chemistry and Dennis’ ability to spar with his duet partner. Luke described Dennis as the “Little Engine That Could” and said he looked completely natural on stage with a seasoned artist.
9:40 p.m. – Up next is my early favorite to win it all, Michael J. Woodard. Will he continue to impress me? He’s teaming up with Pat Monahan of Train and the pair instantly hit it off. They’re singing Monahan’s song “Angel in Blue Jeans,” which is about Monahan’s, making for a potentially awkward moment on stage. Monahan kicked off the song and Woodard joined in sounding every bit as good. I love how Michael fidgets around the stage. It’s somehow more endearing than awkward. Like Dennis earlier, Michael has risen to the occasion and matched his duet partner note for note. The judges were just shaking their heads at how effortless the performance seemed. It’s official, Michael is still my favorite this season! Lionel is impressed at how Michael has risen to the occasion and told him to enjoy the ride. Luke said he can’t take his eyes off of everything Michael does on stage. Katy called him a beautiful chameleon.
9:50 p.m. – The final performance of the night teams up aspiring country singer Gabby Barrett with Sugarland. Gabby is gobsmacked at the sight of Jennifer Nettles and is excited to sing her hit “Stay.” Nettles thinks Gabby is a fantastic singer. Gabby relates to pain in the song because of the financial hardships her family has dealt with over the years. Nettles started off the ballad before Gabby walked on stage to join in. Gabby looks like a superstar and sounds better than I’ve heard so far this season. Katy’s jaw almost hit the floor when the duo began to harmonize. These two nailed it! I think Gabby just stamped her ticket to the Top 14! Luke said “I don’t know if we’ve seen somebody today nail it from top to bottom. You didn’t miss one thing.” Lionel and Katy agreed and gave the singer a standing ovation. The power is now in the judges’ hands. The Idol journey is about to come to an end for five singers.
9:59 p.m. – Things are tense as we begin the first results of the season. “Dim the lights!” The seven singers advancing to perform for America’s votes are: Cade Foehner, Michelle Sussett, Dennis Lorenzo, Gabby Barrett, Jonny Brenns, Michael J. Woodard and Catie Turner. Sadly, Dominique, Layla Spring, Trevor McBane, Kay Kay and Brandon Diaz were eliminated from the competition. Little Layla appeared to be the most upset and couldn’t hide the disappointment in her face. Next week 12 more hopefuls will compete for the last seven spots.