Over the course of the 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 seen winnowing the Top 24 down to the 14 artists who will sing on the first live show on April 22. Last week (April 8, 9), we saw the first half of these would-be winners of “American Idol” competing for places in the Top 14.
This week, it is the turn of the remaining 12 artists, who form Group 2. On Sunday’s show, they sang solo while Monday will see them partnered with celebrities for duets. At the end of the episode, we will learn which seven contestants will join those from Group 1 (Gabby Barrett, Jonny Brenns, Cade Foehner, Dennis Lorenzo, Michelle Sussett, Catie Turner and Michael J. Woodard) in the Top 14.
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 16 episode of “American Idol.”
8:05 p.m. – The first artist to sing with a superstar duet partner is Caleb Lee Hutchinson. He has an unconventional partner in chart-topper in Bebe Rexha who recently struck gold with Florida Georgia Line on the pop-country crossover hit “Meant to Be.” Caleb’s voice fits perfectly with the band as he belts out the first chorus. When Bebe walks on stage, it does in fact look like a superstar singing with someone in a high school talent show. But Caleb’s voice is what matters and on that front he’s hitting all the right notes. What Caleb lacks in stage presence he makes up for in raw talent and I don’t think he will struggle to advance to the next round. The judges felt his performance was “endearing, fantastic and solid.”
8:15 p.m. – Clutch your pearls! Drag Queen Ada Vox is about to sing a Broadway show tune with Lea Michele. “Defying Gravity” is about being brave in the moment, which hits home for the Idol hopeful. Lea kicked off the song like the Broadway veteran she is. When Ada joins in, he fits in and is able to match Lea halfway. That is what I’m looking for in these duets. Who is overshadowed by a superstar and who can rise to their level? Ada and Lea feed off each other magically although I feel like Ada is bringing in the harmony instead of going for the money note. While this was good, it felt like it was “paint by the numbers” and missed an opportunity to be a show-stopper. Regardless, Lionel said a star was born in Ada and there is no denying her presence and voice.
8:20 p.m. – Next up Maddie Poppe is joining forces with an American Idol reject: Colbie Caillat. That’s right! The singer tried out for “American Idol” twice and was rejected both times. It just goes to show that you can never stop chasing your dreams. The pair is teaming up for Colbie’s hit song “Bubbly.” Honestly, the two sound identical and I can barely tell the difference when they sing. On one hand, Maddie sounds like someone with a hit record. On the other, does she have a unique voice? Not really. I still am hopeful this girl advances to the next round. I love her earthy vibe and she has one of the most natural voices in the competition. The judges though the performance was “beautiful, mature and respectful.”
8:30 p.m. – Up next Ron Bultongez is a paired up with Banners, who is blown away by the contestant but isn’t sure why. There’s something about Ron that seems to strike the same cord with everyone. He’s awkward, he has no charisma, he has an average voice….but I can’t take my eyes off him! In their duet “Someone To You,” Ron was able to hold his own, but I still maintain he doesn’t know how to properly work the stage. It’s like a karaoke performance, but I think Ron is the person the judges have taken as a project for the season. Who can they take from zero to 100? Katy said she loved it and “perfection is boring.” I don’t know what it is, but I agree with the judges. Ron for the Top 14!
8:40 p.m. – Amelia Hammer Harris is the next contestant to join forces with Bebe Rexha. In the early rounds, Amelia was one of my favorite contestants but her performance last night left much to be desired. I hope she makes me a believer again tonight. More trivia: Bebe is another “American Idol” reject! Wow! Do they know what they’re doing at all? The pair is teaming up for Bebe’s hit “Me, Myself & I,” and this seems like it is right in Amelia’s wheelhouse. Amelia is holding her own, but in retrospect I’ve always been more intrigued by Amelia than blown away by her voice. She’s a star, I’m just not sure she’s a pop star. Someone cast this gorgeous in a movie ASAP! She’s giving me Dawson more than Alicia Keys and I wonder if she’s in the wrong lane of entertainment.
8:45 p.m. – Shannon O’Hara is trying her hand at country music by teaming up with “Burning House” singer Cam. After an average performance of an Adele song last night, I’m interested to hear Shannon’s take on country music. I can’t help but feel like Shannon might have more success in the country genre, but this duet is doing nothing to impress me. It’s understated and pretty, but I don’t see Shannon’s identity in it. Luke called the performance “mesmerizing” and Katy said she keeps forgetting that Shannon is only 17 years old. Lionel said Shannon delivered a great duet the way it is supposed to be done. Will Shannon move forward? I’m not sure. She’s so likable, but I have yet to be blown away by any performance from her.
8:55 p.m. – Next, Alyssa Raghu is paired with Banners on the Coldplay hit, “Yellow.” Alyssa is just 15 years old, but her duet partner has confidence in her as he named their partnership “Coldplay 2.” I know Katy has been a champion for Alyssa all season, but this girl just doesn’t know what she’s doing yet. This duet is going absolutely nowhere and Alyssa has not developed her stage presence. I have to give a hard pass on this performance. Katy tried hard to give a constructive critique, but clearly wasn’t feeling it either. Lionel said Alyssa’s performance didn’t give him what he wanted and the audience “Boo’d” him. I think that was the first audience “Boo” this season! Congrats Lionel! It was worth it on this performance. Alyssa isn’t ready.
9:05 p.m. – One of the season’s most sentimental favorites, Marcio Donaldson, was supposed to duet with the legendary Toni Braxton. At the last minute, she called in sick. How disappointing! Luckily Allen Stone stepped up last minute to help him out. They will be singing “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. First of all, I love how Allen fangirls out over these contestants. He doesn’t see himself as the superstar collaborator and it’s refreshing to see someone like him on the stage. Both of these guys sound fantastic on this duet. It’s a typical R&B jam and I can’t say that I’m blown away, but this combined with Marcio’s last performance should put him through. I’m just glad Marcio didn’t burst into tears at the end. Save it for the live vote! It works. The judges agree Marcio has grown leaps and bounds since his initial audition. Katy said “You’re meant to be here!.”
9:15 p.m. – Next up, a star-struck Jurnee is joining forces with Lea Michele on the superstar’s song “Run To You.” What sets Jurnee apart from other contestants is her incredible star power. Unlike most of the others, Jurnee looks like she’s been doing this for years and looks every bit the star Lea does. The two went toe to toe on the power notes and harmonized beautifully. WOW! Lea had nothing but complimentary things to say about Jurnee, including that she just wants to stay surrounded in her talent. The judges said they cannot wait to see her continue. Obviously Jurnee’s journey will continue.
9:25 p.m. – Garrett Jacobs is thrilled to be singing “Lucky” with Colbie Caillat, who originally recorded this song with Jason Mraz. I would describe Garret’s performance last night as a borderline train wreck, so he needs to step it up if he wants to move forward. Two things stand out to me. Garret sounds so much more calm, cool and collected than he has before. Secondly, the way he raises one eyebrow? Swoon! I have to say this was a huge step forward from last night, but I’m not sure it was enough to make the top seven. Katy called it “beautiful” and thought he appeared more comfortable than yesterday. Lionel said Garrett just needs to continue to grow. But does he have time? We will find out at the end of the hour. At the last second, Garrett’s girlfriend surprised him in the audience. That girl just destroyed half his fan base. Poor Garrett.
9:35 p.m. – Mara Justine is the youngest contestant in the competition and feels “Fight Song” is the perfect number for her to sing. Luckily the originator of the hit, Rachel Platten, is here to duet with her. Rachel was so sweet in telling Mara that “you’re perfect as you are.” For the performance, Rachel is playing piano while Mara sings alongside her. This song is such a better fit for Mara than the Whitney Houston she attempted last night. The pair of them sound great together and Rachel puts any ego aside to let Mara be the one who shines. That’s a star! Kudos to Rachel for letting a young hopeful shine. The judges all enjoyed the performance as much as me. I just became a Rachel Platten fan.
9:45 p.m. – The last performance of the night is Effie Passero’s collaboration with Cam. She was originally supposed to sing with Jessie J, but Jessie called in sick. Instead, Effie and Cam are teaming up with the latter’s hit “Diane.” They kicked things off with a powerful harmonization that left Katy gobsmacked. As they segued into the verses, things became less interesting, but as soon as they hit the chorus again I was ALL IN. Effie is not a country singer. This is a girl who sang Heart last night. Kudos to her! Effie mentioned she only had 15 minutes to learn the song after the Jessie J cancellation, so even more props to her. The judges seemed thrilled with her performance and I fully expect her to advance.
9:59 p.m. It is time to find out which seven will move forward and which five will go home. Advancing to the next round are: Mara Justine, Jurnee, Maddie Poppe, Ada Vox. Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Garrett Jacobs and Marcio Donaldson. Phew! I thought Marcio was about to be cut. That means it is the end of the road for Amelia Hammer Harris, Ron Bultongez, Shannon O’Hara, Alyssa Raghu and Effie Passero. But as Katy reminded them, two superstars named Bebe Rexha and Colbie Caillat were once rejected by “Idol.” Next week, it’s time for America to decide who moves on!