It almost never goes well when a contestant decides to ignore all the advice given to them because they think they know better — and that’s exactly what happened here. Will it work this time, though?
We understand that it can be hard to try and compromise who you think you are, and there are stories of artists ignoring advice to great success — but that’s not what happened this week on “American Idol.”
Of course, the big news is that Platinum Ticket winner and one of this season’s frontrunners, Kenedi, bowed out of the competition after these Top 24 episodes were recorded. Producers made an interesting choice in how to deal with her performance on the show.
First, they aired it without any warning ahead of time that she had quit the show. It was only afterward that Ryan Seacrest filled us in. And then, they didn’t put her performance online, even though they’d made the decision to have it be part of the show. We also didn’t get to see the judges’ comments, which seems like an arbitrary decision.
We still don’t know why Kenedi opted out, but we’re getting mixed signals from the show. Are they upset with her, thus we didn’t get to hear the judges praise her, or did they just not think it was worth taking the time? We had no performance from guest mentor Bebe Rexha — and Jimmie Allen performed Sunday — so there was time.
Or are they not upset at all, and thus they did still share with us her performance? We’re so confused, and we’re so sad to see her go because she really is a rare talent. We hope whatever the situation is works out positively for her and she has a chance to continue pursuing a career in music, because she definitely has what it takes.
On the opposite end of that is this week’s young contestant who decided to ignore every bit of Bebe Rexha’s advice, as well as previous advice from the judges, to just go up there and deliver whatever the hell he wanted and it was a chaotic, disjointed, frantic, frustratingly exhausting mess to watch from top to bottom. Sometimes guidance is there for a reason!
Fair warning, since I’m safe at home, I’m probably going to be a little harsher than my colleagues Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. But I might be nicer, too. Maybe.
And just for fun, I’m going to rank the performances from worst to first to see who my favorites are. That way I can see who’s the best and then see if you get it right with your votes — i.e., agree with me.
(“Bad Moon Rising,” Creedence Clearwater Revival – 18, Kamloops, BC) Bebe had good advice for Cameron because his manic energy is often too much when it comes time to perform. Unfortunately, he ignored all of it and came out running in place, shouting to the audience, doing a back flip and grinning his way through this song from the beginning. It’s a shame because we really do like his voice, but even that was faltering because you can’t sing with as much heart and lungs when you’re also running around at top speed. He never slowed down for a second, and therefore the entire song was at an eleven. So there was no progression, no connection with the lyrics, no build, nothing but wall-to-wall exhaustion — and that was from those of us watching. “He didn’t listen to any of my advice,” Bebe lamented on the sidelines while Katy just clutched her face. It was a bit of a trainwreck all around.
(“Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood – 25, Tuskegee, AL) We love that Lady K was looking to challenge herself as a performer and an artist with this track, finally deciding on it after juggling it with a Fantasia piece. This one helped her show a different side and it was mostly a successful experiment. We actually needed a little more oomph and anger in that chorus, or at least triumphant self-satisfaction. She was giving us some attitude, but not enough in those lines. On the verses, the softer parts and those closing lines, she gave us everything. It didn’t help that she missed a partial line at one point and seemed to forget to jump right back in at another, suggesting nerves or forgetting the song just enough to shake her. It was still strong, but she’s been better.
(“Breakeven,” The Script – 18, Chicago, IL) There were parts of this performance that were very compelling, but they weren’t enough of the parts to overcome all the times it wasn’t reaching us. The opening softness didn’t work at all — it was far more effective and emotionally raw later — and some of the falsettos didn’t quite ring as sharp. This is a painful song with a natural cry in the original. We wanted to hear the pain in Blayke’s voice to believe that this story is as real for him as he said it was. It was there at times, but inconsistently so, which was unfortunate. He’s putting it together and showing more sides to himself, but he’s not complete as an artist yet.
(“Adore You,” Harry Styles – 18, St. John, USVI) Allegra came more and more alive as the song progressed to where by the time we reached the end it, it felt like she was finally settled down and fully confident on that stage. Her late falsetto and the quality of her voice was stronger, too. You could tell she’s still a bit of a novice when it comes to stage presence, as she wasn’t fully connecting with the audience, but she’s figuring it out and it looks like she’s doing it in a hurry. We also love the natural quality of her voice, there’s an unexpected depth in her tone that sets her apart and grabs your attention. That’s a special quality to have.
(“Blue Side of the Mountain,“ The SteelDrivers – 19, Louisa, KY) Noah is Kentucky through and through and you can hear it in the scratch of his voice, the wail in his voice. This was definitely authentically country and we were so stoked as he kicked it off. He was in great voice and it was exciting to listen to. But then it stayed at that same level throughout the performance. He did it great, but we’d have enjoyed a little more variance, a little more of an emotional and vocal journey that we could hang our hearts on and remember him by. He’s one of the best country vocalists of this season for sure, but he needs to remember that country is at its best when its telling stories that mean something to us.
(“Leave the Door Open,” Silk Sonic – 21, Patchogue, NY) Christian does have an incredible falsetto, as Bebe noted, and he has perfect control in that headspace. He’s also got a lot of swag on a very funky track, but we actually needed a little less from him during some of those sexy verses. He needs to discover, or more utilize, his more breathy whispering singing voice than this full-throated approach he takes to everything. It worked at parts, but at other parts we were looking for more playful nuance and he just wasn’t delivering. This is a minor criticism, though, as he’s incredible at what he does. We’re just wanting him to push himself a little more and see what else is in there … because we believe it is in there.
(“Tell Me Something Good,” Rufus & Chaka Khan – 20, Los Angeles, CA) Ava has always had a little grit in her voice, but she put so much gristle and stank on this vocal we found ourselves frowning as she performed, and in a good way. This was a command performance that she managed to inject with her own personality. We’re not sure Bebe’s stage directions really helped, though, as they weren’t natural on Ava. Yeah, she could get down and dirty a bit more with her movements, but that Freddie Mercury arm up thing Bebe has now advised two contestants to do is a bit much. We kind of think Bebe is overemphasizing stage choreo (not dancing, per se, but choreographed movement) and that doesn’t work with every performance or artist.
(“Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” Etta James – 18, Muscle Shoals, AL) Still a little calculated on the stage as Bebe noted, but we can appreciate that Cadence is trying up there. She needs to work on feeling more natural so her movements will just happen. There’s literally nothing, though, we can say about that vocal performance. She came out with strength and power on a track that demands nothing less. We loved how she commanded the band as it went along. It was as if almost all of the pieces are just perfect in this package, and the last piece is coming along nicely. She could be a dark horse in this one.
(“Blame It on the Boogie,” Mick Jackson – 23, Baltimore, MD) We’ve seen a lot of sides to Katyrah on this journey, and this time she showed that you can do an uptempo dance track on this stage and still manage to stand out, show off your vocal abilities and get the crowd moving and grooving. This is a performance we’ll remember because she had stage presence paired perfectly with solid and consistent vocals. There is a natural character in her voice, with just a hint of her gospel background to punch it up a smidge. She also chose a few moments to stretch her voice and show off a bit. She’ll definitely be able to stand out for this performance as no one is doing what she just did, and certainly not as well.
(“Human,” Christina Perri – 17, Crozet, VA) With the most visible sunburn of all the contestants, Kenedi brought the heat with this performance as well. Her voice is so powerful and otherworldly, she effortlessly soared in the chorus of this, while bringing it down with so much heart and conviction. She barely moved up there, but she didn’t need to. This was a vocal showcase and she showed everything she has. There’s a reason Kenedi scored the Platinum Ticket; she’s one of the biggest natural talents the show has ever found. Her journey is well on its way to stardom.
Or at least it was. In a truly shocking moment, after airing this performance, Ryan Seacrest shared with the viewers at home that Kenedi had actually left the competition after the Top 24 round in Hawaii, offering up nothing more than “personal reasons.” Kenedi spoke a little bit more about her decision in an Instagram post following the broadcast. Hopefully, she can find a way back to the show next season or otherwise gets a shot at the industry because she shines too bright to dim or go out now!
(“Call Me,” Blondie – 20, Normal, IL) We’re with Bebe, Leah knows how to arrange a song. This was such an exciting interpretation of a classic hit that we were mesmerized at every line as if we’d never heard it before. In fact, in some ways, it did feel like we were hearing the lyrics anew. She definitely has her own style as an artist, and she pushed her vocals forward, as Katy had suggested, giving us a lot of power and nuance and diversity in presentation. This was a very exciting performance and easily one of the most memorable of the night. It was even kind of perfect at the end when her phone flew out of her pocket on a song entitled, “Call Me.” Call me, vote for me, the symbolism is all there — and she definitely deserves the votes.
(“Waves,” Dean Lewis – 28, Dansville, MI) Fritz is giving us Alejandro Aranda vibes, not in musical style because he’s more like Phillip Phillips in that regard, but in his individuality and artistry. On top of that, he seems to have the same kind of humility about him> What’s remarkable, though, is that every time he hits the stage, you know exactly who he is as an artist and that he’s going to deliver. This was another stellar performance and another notch on his belt. At this point and with consistently incredible moments like that, it’s hard to imagine him not making the finale.
We think Cameron Whitcomb’s performance was an absolute mess, but we can see people appreciating that he stuck to his guns and stayed true to himself. There were glimpses of his vocal talent inside the chaos, but it wasn’t enough for us. We think it will be for America.
With Kenedi out, Ryan didn’t specifically say that only one person from this group will be eliminated, but that’s going to be our speculation going in. So if we don’t think it’s going to be Cameron, then who?
For us, it comes down to either Lady K, Allegra Miles, or Sir Blayke. Yes, they’re the other ones rounding out our bottom, but we also think they’re the ones that won’t connect as much with audiences. As this is the first vote of America, it’s also hard to get a sense of what they’re looking for this season.
In past seasons, we’ve seen them give passes to male singers and dump stronger females, but we’ve also had seasons where the pretty ones advance. Last season, it seemed to be pretty authentically about the best performers and singers, so we’ll hope for that.
In that case, we’re going to give the edge to both Sir Blayke and Lady K for bringing a little more overall stage presence, as well as their compelling stories (which matter to voters), which spells bad news for Allegra. It also helps that the other two are in their own lanes, whereas Allegra is doing something similar to several other artists.
So that’s our final answer, Allegra Miles gets voted out. And it should be Cameron Whitcomb.
“American Idol” airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.