Over the course of the three pre-taped episodes of “American Idol” that started April 1, the three judges — pop princess Katy Perry, country superstar Luke Bryan and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie — will be seen winnowing the Top 20 down to just 14 artists. It is that Top 14 who will get sing on the first live show on April 14.
Last Monday, we saw this score of would-be winners of season 17 of “American Idol” singing solos as they competed for places in the Top 14. On Sunday and Monday, each of these 20 contestants will been seen taking to the stage once more. This time each will be paired with a celebrity to sing a duet. Often they will be harmonize on a song associated with this famous musical act.
Once the live playoffs of “American Idol” season 17 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.
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Below, follow along with all the action on our recap of the Night 10 episode of “American Idol,” which features the Top 20 Group 1 duets with big-name talents. (We’ve unearthed the names of the Group 1 contestants, the celebrities and the songs they sing.)
8:00 p.m. – Who will shine brightest in tonight’s celebrity duets? Ten of the Top 20 will perform with some of music’s biggest superstars and by the end of the episode, three “Idol” hopefuls will be sent packing. The pressure is on, so let’s get started!
8:10 p.m. – First up tonight, Walker Burroughs will collaborate with pop/rock singer Jason Mraz on the hit-maker’s single “Have it All.” Walker has looked up to Mraz his entire life and actually performed this song when he was just a kid during one of his first performances. Mraz advised Walker to just be himself rather than try too hard to be “cool.” As they hit the stage, the pair show an instant display of chemistry. This song isn’t a vocal juggernaut, but it has technical lyrics and takes personality to pull off. Walker sounds great, but more importantly he’s showing off his charisma and has Lionel grinning from ear to ear. Following the performance, the judges are on their feet and Mraz comments, “He can croon, he can rap, and he can wale. He has it all.” Luke says Walker never lets them down, Lionel says he makes wearing glasses “sexy,” and Katy called it “so much fun.”
8:20 p.m. – Next on tonight’s set list is Kate Barnette, who has the privilege of teaming up with legendary rockers Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo on the classic rock anthem, “Heartbreaker.” Barnette confesses that growing up she wasn’t allowed to listen to any music other than gospel music and Disney soundtracks, so she hadn’t heard Benatar’s music until she played the “Rock Band” video game. Benatar tells Kate not to hold back and just “burn it,” while Giraldo convinced her to play a guitar solo. During the performance, Kate looks like a star but her voice can’t hold a candle to the rock legend’s. In fact, Kate nearly disappeared on stage next to Benatar. Her guitar solo was fun, but didn’t seem natural. While I didn’t care for Kate on this, it was fantastic to see Benatar. Also, to Kate’s credit, she’s not exactly a hard rocker and this song not her sweet spot. Benatar calls Kate a “doll” and a “hard worker.” Katy says Kate grew up with that song, Luke thought it took her out of her comfort zone and Lionel advised her to learn from Benatar’s stage presence.
8:30 p.m. – Singing her first duet ever, Riley Thompson is paired up with country heartthrob Brett Young, singing his song “Like I Loved You.” Riley will need to tap into the emotion, since at age 16 she hasn’t likely gone through the experience. Young also shows her how to sing harmonies and she appears to be nailing them. When they hit the stage, Riley walks out looking like a star in a glittering floral dress. I think it’s a little pervy watching this teenage girl sing a love song with a grown man and I just can’t get over it. Also, I just don’t think they sound very good. Towards the end of the song, Riley hit some good notes and I definitely think she has huge star potential, but I thought this performance was just okay. Young calls Riley “incredible.” Lionel compliments Riley’s growth, Katy was impressed with her vocals and Luke called it her “best performance.”
8:40 p.m. – I am super excited for this next duet, which I’m convinced will either be a hot mess or the highlight of my night: Uche’ and Shaggy singing “I Need Your Love.” Uche’ is starstruck and excited to see Shaggy all swagged out in jewelry. Shaggy told Uche’ to forget about his falsetto because it’s not working on the song. When they hit the stage, Shaggy is smooth as always and I was happy to see Uche’ calm down enough to at least deliver the vocals. This song is all about having fun and I think they’ve achieved that for the audience. Following the performance, the audience went absolutely wild. Katy thought it was “such a vibe” and Luke says Uche’ brings a natural energy of excitement.
8:50 p.m. – Madison VanDenburg is the second artist of the night to team up with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. They’ll be singing Benetar’s hit “We Belong” and it will be hard not to compare Madison’s chemistry with the rock legend to Kate’s. I can’t believe how amazing Benatar looks! Honestly, the rock duo seems a little more impressed with Madison than they did Kate because they complimented her vocals throughout the package and Giraldo even commented, “I think she can win.” When the performance begins, Madison giving us all her Kelly Clarkson realness but Benatar still owns this! All hail the queen! That being said, Madison is not a rock singer and she sounds great, but her stage presence needs so much work. Following the performance, Luke compliments Madison’s ability to go toe-to-toe with a legend, Lionel appreciated her ability to stay calm and Katy calls her voice a “Ferrari.”
9:00 p.m. – At the halfway point of tonight’s episode, Shawn Robinson is joining forces with pop singer Elle King for a cover of “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Shawn is hoping to work on his stage presence and Elle tells him to just fake it until he makes it. Shawn isn’t thrilled with the song choice, but Elle is convinced Shawn can sing anything. 30 minutes before showtime, Elle advises the band that they need to slow the song down and sing a real duet. Shawn is nervous, and I’m annoyed by all of his insecurities right now. He didn’t like the original version they were doing and now he’s complaining about the change. Go home then! This is show business. Elle is cool as a cucumber and seems determined to draw any ounce of showmanship she can out of Shawn, but the man has no swag. There was a definite misstep in the middle of the song and I’m not sure whose fault it was, but this didn’t go great. Lionel says Shawn’s voice was on point and appreciates his ability to recover, Katy loves Shawn’s silky voice and Luke was impressed with his final run at the end. I think Shawn performs like a scared kitten and it makes me uncomfortable. He’s not ready.
9:15 p.m. – Jason Mraz is back for the second time tonight, this time with Ashley Hess, singing the Grammy-nominated hit “I’m Yours.” Mraz relates to Ashley’s slower path to a music career, realizing later in life that she can’t live without music. Ashley is concerned he won’t like her arrangement of his song, but he loves it. The performance begins with Ashley singing at the piano and she sounds great. I love this slowed-down version. Mraz walks out and stands next to the piano and croons along with her, working through harmonies until the tempo picks up to the original reggae vibe. I like this collaboration because it feels natural, relaxed and they have nice chemistry…but I have yet to be floored by anyone tonight. Katy loves Ashley’s vibe and her fresh take on the song, Luke thinks it felt “right,” and Lionel calls her voice “pristine.”
9:25 p.m. – Two unique voices are next on stage, with Shaggy returning for a performance of “Angel” with Bumbly. She’s thrilled to be singing the international hit with a reggae vibe and Shaggy seems to enjoy Bumbly’s personality and he tells her to believe in herself. He loves when she integrates Spanish into the song and he’s excited to perform. When the hit the stage, Bumbly looks gorgeous and I love her tone. We have barely got to see Bumbly perform throughout the season and she seems like a lot of fun. I love the chemistry between these two on stage and you can tell they’re genuinely having fun with the song. I also love when Shaggy raps, “She Bumbly, she Bumbly.” Following the performance, Shaggy calls Bumbly “amazing.” Luke says it was a great vocal, Katy loves the sound of Bumbly’s voice and Lionel loves what she did.
9:35 p.m. – It’s about to get real country on stage as Laci Kaye Booth meets up with Brett Young to prepare their performance of “Mercy.” She’s fan-girling a bit in his presence and is worried about singing on stage without her guitar. Young tells her to just get lost in the song and she’ll be okay. He also loves her smoky tone and thinks she’ll be going way past the Top 20 this year. For the performance, both are seated on stools, keeping it simple and singing towards each other. Young sings first, and I have to say, when Laci steps in to sing, she completely takes over the song. Her tone is so rich, sexy and captivating. They definitely sold the heartbreak of the song and this was my favorite duet of the night. Following the performance, Lionel called it “incredible” and “believable,” Katy says Laci sprinkles stardust everywhere when she walks on stage, and Luke says when she sings it “hits you right in the heart.”
9:50 p.m. – Wrapping things up tonight will be Laine Hardy teaming up with Elle King for a cover of “The Weight” by The Band. Laine’s a bit nervous and Elle calls him a “sweet, shy country boy,” but she loves the growl that comes through in his voice. Laine is having flashbacks to last year when he was sent home at this stage of the competition and doesn’t want it to slip through his fingers again. When they hit the stage, Laine is rocking his new signature look: a suit jacket and slicked back hair, which I love. Laine isn’t connecting with Elle, but at least he sounds good. I feel like she keeps looking over at him to sell the performance and he kind of stares forward or at the ground. Vocally, it’s very good and the crowd loves him. Katy says Laine looks and sounds like a rock star, Luke is excited to see what songs find him in the future, and Lionel says he “has really, really stepped up.”
9:59 p.m. – The focus now shifts to the judges, who must decide which three artists are leaving the competition. Will your favorite be sent home early? Or will the judges get it right? Below are the seven singers who advanced and the three that were eliminated. On Tuesday, the second group of 10 will perform and three more will be eliminated.
Advancing to Top 14: Laci Kaye Booth, Ashley Hess, Walker Burroughs, Madison VanDenburg, Uche’, Riley Thompson and Laine Hardy.
Eliminated: Bumbly, Kate Barnette and Shawn Robinson.