Judges send home one of our Top 10 performances in just one of several headscratchers through the night — were they watching the same show?
More than half of the remaining contestants wouldn’t survive the night as “American Idol” finally revealed its Class of 2022 Top 24 — and along the way said goodbye to some sentimental favorites.
They also said goodbye to some of the best vocalists of the season, with two we’re ready to go to war for right now. Just like Katy earlier this season, we need our t-shirts printed up so we can wear them in protest during each of the next rounds.
Remarkably, one of the season’s strongest performers already stepped their game up even more and brought us to tears with what was easily one of the greatest performances of the entire season. Everyone else had better watch out if that’s a sign of things to come.
Overall, while we don’t agree with every decision our esteemed colleagues made over this Hollywood Week, we do think that overall this is a very strong Top 24. And we also think that it will get much stronger once America is able to start making its cuts. In the next two rounds we go from 24 to 20 to 14, which should thin out some of the chaff nicely.
Next week, the Top 24 will take the stage for America’s votes across two nights, but not live. 24 singers is just too much to wrangle in a live show, so instead they’re headed to Hawaii to enjoy the beaches and sing for our votes. Then things will start getting real.
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 how they fare as the season progresses.
Emyrson Flora & Ryleigh Madison
(“Honey,” Kehlani – 16, Cleveland, OH) There’s a sweetness to Emyrson’s voice she can’t seem to shake, but she also had a very sassy and playful delivery here. We’re not sure she’s found her signature sound or even herself as an artist, but this was definitely a fun performance that had a lot of things to enjoy about it. She’s spotlighting different styles and genres a bit to explore herself musically, to show herself off musically and prove that she’s got more potential in there. It might work if the judges want to roll the dice on potential.
(“Blue,” LeAnn Rimes – 16, Whiteville, NC) Ryleigh struggled in her Duet, which we didn’t see, and she had a few shaky moments in this performance as well, including a big missed note early on. This song has huge power moments, but Ryleigh didn’t take those opportunities. On top of that, she was under the band through most of it, muffling what she was doing. This was not the way to redeem a shaky Duet, which could spell her end. Paired against Emyrson, we suspect it will.
Results: Emyrson Top 24, Ryleigh Going Home
(“Before You Go,” Lewis Capaldi – 18, Boone County, WV) We were just given a snippet of her performance, and it was pitch-perfect as always. But she still sings like she’s just a little bit terrified. We love that she’s starting to come out of her shell as a person and a performer, but is it happening too slowly for this show? Could she hit enough live shows on her own before a Top 24 performance show to really know how to connect with an audience? She’s so sweet and likable, you find yourself wanting to root for her, but advancing her after this would be a huge risk. We wouldn’t have been able to take it, either.
(“It Ain’t Me Babe,” Bob Dylan – 18, Kamloops, British Columbia) It was a meet-cute we didn’t see until tonight, but Cameron and Ava Maybee became best friends during Hollywood Week, despite themselves, so they were double anxious going into the Final Judgment. Cameron has an affable charm and goofiness about him that is so likable. It’s infectious and gets under your skin, just as it did for Ava, but setting that aside, this wasn’t a standout vocal performance. It was fun, but it wasn’t a moment that had us on the edge of our seat, nor is it something we’re likely to remember tomorrow. We didn’t get a lot of this, but it felt like not enough for us.
(“Sex on Fire,” Kings of Leon – 21, Patchogue, NY) We’re not sure what Christian was thinking with this song choice, and then he tried to turn it into something with big sustained notes and runs, and that just takes the identity of the song right out. It also doesn’t help that he didn’t seem to understand the real meaning of the lyrics, meaning he was interpreting them some other way. This was a huge misfire for Christian, who has done really well to this point. Song choice is a testament that you understand yourself, so he clearly has work to do in this area.
(“She’s a Self Made Man,” Larkin Poe – 20, Normal, IL) This song made zero sense for Leah’s style or voice. It was a total mismatch, and felt like she was more performing for her dad’s sensibilities in the audience than her own. We lost everything that made her so remarkable and interesting to watch in the previous rounds. She’s still got a solid voice, but this was not the moment. Still, if there was room in the Top 24, we’d slot her in with encouragement to stick to her vision for who she is as an artist in the future.
(“The Story,” Brandi Carlile – 18, Muscle Shoals, AL) Still struggling with her father by her side, Cadence has not been herself in his absence. She definitely needs to work on her confidence, but we’re also wondering why she sang just about this entire song at an 11 when we’d have liked a little more intimacy. Is she shouting her story to the people in the next building over, or inviting this audience in to learn about her. You can have big moments, but they shouldn’t all be big moments or it starts to sound stale.
(“Inconsequential Love,” Fritz Hager – 22, Tyler, TX) Fritz’ sister is a huge piece of his life and their bond is so sweet. But he took a huge risk singing his first original song at this stage of the competition, though he took solace. Fortunately, it was written about her, so the heart and sincerity was baked in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly great song musically; the lyrics were stronger. It kept him at one level throughout, and somehow didn’t have any emotional resonance that carried through the mic to the audience. He’s still got a very cool voice, and managed to find a moment or two to shine, but he needs to make better choices, or connect more with his music so we can feel that, too. He’s a very cool artist who misfired a bit here.
(“Evergreen,” Yebba – 17, Los Angeles, CA) We just got a glimpse into this performance and we heard lots of bad notes. Katy called it “rough, the worst one she’s done.” Unfortunately, it’s hard to disagree, because it was rough. She just needs a lot more practice at her craft so she can hit the stage with consistent quality each and every time. We don’t think she’s there yet..
(“I Hate This,” Tenille Arts – 20, Burbank, CA) We only got a few moments of Sage’s performance as well, but she was definitely more in command of her instrument. She powered through a strong few lines. The only thing we were missing from her was a genuine connection with the audience. It was more “look what I can do” than “listen to what I have to say.” What she can do is impressive, so the next step is to make us feel it.
Results: Danielle Top 24, Sage Top 24
(“Hello,” Lionel Richie – 26, Maxton, NC) A bold move to take on this song in front of Lionel, but we really felt he captured the tenderness of the piece while also injecting it with a little more vocal oomph to try and stand out and show what he can do. You sometimes have to do that in a competition, and he definitely did that here. While the song was definitely recognizable, we also could hear who Dontrell is as an artist inside of it, which is what it’s supposed to be all about. Honestly, we’re not sure what else happened that we didn’t hear, because we don’t agree with this judgment. At all.
(“Falling,” Harry Styles – 20, Los Angeles, CA) It was a meet-cute we didn’t see until tonight, but Ava and Cameron Whitcomb became best friends during Hollywood Week, despite themselves, so they were double anxious going into the Final Judgment. Ava gave us everything we wanted in her performance, filled with genuine emotional connection that we could feel. There is a beautiful break in her voice that helped it ache in that big chorus. This song is all about resonating that pain and she gave it all to us. We also love that little edge to her voice that tells us she could rock out a bit, which helps her stand out from the pack.
(“Human,” rum.gold – 26, Miami, FL) We didn’t get her whole performance, but what we did get was bordering very closely to shrieky. She’s got a rock power voice, which apparently is why the judges paired her with Ava — heaven forbid the show have too many rock voices! In the Showstopper itself, we felt that Ava had a stronger connection to her song and the audience. We’d have given the edge to her, but the judges wanted a showdown.
Sing-Off: Ava took on a very jazzy version of The Police’s “Roxanne,” again giving us a lot of range and texture in her voice. Just a few beautiful moments, but it had us again just mesmerized. Yoli was stronger than on the stage taking on Kehlani’s “Honey,” making this a tighter race than we expected. But we still feel like Ava has more to offer overall for a competition like this.
Results: Ava Top 24, Yoli Going Home
Dan Marshall & Dakota Hayden
(“Hard Workin’ Man, “Brooks & Dunn – 24, Chesapeake, VA) This was good. But that’s also kind of the problem. This is the kind of performance where the guy walks into the small town honky-tonk and blows the roof off the place and everyone has a good time. But this isn’t that honky-tonk. This is the big stage, and that was not a big-stage performance. It was just missing the pizzazz that makes it undeniably star quality.
(“Pretty Heart, Parker McCollum – 17, Fordsville, KY) Dakota said he poured his emotions into the performance, but that didn’t necessarily come through. Instead, we could hear eager nerves. But they didn’t overwhelm the tenderness of his voice and that great natural sound quality he has in his voice. He’s someone who still needs to grow into his confidence so he can have those authentic moments on stage, but there’s no denying his talent as a vocalist. He gave us a lot of different levels to this performance, too, showing that he’s moving in the right direction.
Sing-Off: Dakota took on Kane Brown’s “Heaven” and again showed us that he’s so close to genuine connection with these lyrics. And we are absolutely mesmerized by that little bit of grit in his voice. That’s the magic stuff. If he can coalesce the rest around it, he’ll be made of the magic. Dan then tackled Chris Stapleton’s “What Are You Listening To?” Here he gave us all the things we were missing in his stage performance, with subtlety and passion. It was one of his strongest moments, and a reminder of his first audition. From the stage, Dakota had it, but Dan won this Sing-Off.
Results: Dan Top 24, Dakota Going Home
(“Come Together,” The Beatles – 17, Pell City, AL) We love that Tristen is an all-around performer, and we know the judges are in his head about being too much at times (which is fair), but it’s in the balance that he can find his greatness. This song doesn’t showcase a whole lot of vocal range or flair, but he still attacked it with strength and conviction. His voice is a natural fit for songs like this, with that slight rock grit in there. He’s still an incredibly entertaining force on stage who’s just finding himself. We’d love to see how that could blossom and grow on the show.
(“You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette – 18, Hartford, CT) Scarlet had a few shrill notes and missed notes but she was giving so much face and performance and attitude throughout, we can forgive them. This was one of the fullest performances of the whole night. She brought the anger, the frustration, everything the song demands into her performance. That was genuine connection and we could feel it and we believed it. That’s how you stand out in a sea of talented singers. You make a moment.
(“Cold,” Chris Stapleton – 21, Pensacola, FL) Still struggling with confidence on the inside, Jordan took on a huge challenge with a Chris Stapleton song. Nobody connects in modern music like Chris, and yet we could feel moments where Jordan was doing this song real justice. He’s got a great sound, he can handle this kind of complicated texture and delivery. He just needs to get out of his head and be in the moment full of belief that he deserves all of this and he could really become something special. This is one we definitely disagree with.
(“Jar of Hearts,” Christina Perri – 23, Salisbury, MD) In need of a big moment after a subpar duet, Jay really stepped it up for this cover. His vocal range was all over the place, showing off a solid falsetto and a lot of heart and vibrato and power. It was like a Broadway theatrical interpretation with pop sensibilities. We’re still not sure Jay has shown us how he’s going to really make a run for it in this competition, but this definitely feels like enough of a showcase to say that he has the tools … he just needs to use them right and connect more with us and his songs.
(“Talking to the Moon,” Bruno Mars – 17, Crozet, VA) It is incredible how full and sophisticated her voice sounds at such a young age. She has masterful control over it. We would have had her lean into her heartache a little more and off of the runs just a bit to let the song breathe a little more, but we get that she was really trying to prove something as a Platinum Ticket holder, But she doesn’t have to do that as she’s clearly got the goods. The voice is right there and it is sublime. The connection is coming.
(“Stay,” Rihanna f. Mikky Ekko – 19, Louisa, KY) We’d have loved his energy into the piece to stay to the end and give us a big moment, but we were into Noah’s unexpected interpretation of this. It felt authentically like a song this country crooner would sing. There was a rugged beauty to it that we didn’t expect. And we could feel it most of the way through, until those final two lines. Still, this is exactly the kind of unexpected and exciting moments we come to shows like this for. And we will remember this.
(“Rolling in the Deep,” Adele – 18, Toronto, Ontario) We have to agree that dropping the band for the chorus and then delivering it in a sweet falsetto was both bold and commanding. Nicolina knows how to put on a show. Her vocals weren’t spot-on throughout, but she is a born entertainer and she had us all eating out of the palm of her hands, as well as clapping and singing along. She was born to do this and hasn’t had a bad showing yet.
(“Sweet Thing,” Rufus & Chaka Khan – 23, Baltimore, MD) Really challenging herself with some extremely high notes to echo, Katyrah nailed them with almost perfect pitch and great confidence. The entire performance was all swagger from start to finish. She definitely knows what kind of artist she is, and taking on Chaka Khan is no small task for even the most seasoned R&B professional. Katyrah took to it like it was nothing, delivering a great performance that had us grooving right along with her. Katy thought she overdid it with the tricks a bit, but we were feeling those choices.
(“Is That Alright?” Lady Gaga – 28, Dansville, MI) His performance became the backdrop for a brief segment, but we could still feel how much passion and control Jacob had in this song and this moment. His voice was angelic as he soared effortlessly through such a high range. It was beautifully powerful stuff and we wish we could have seen the whole performance.
(“I’d Rather Go Blind,” Etta James – 25 Tuskegee, AL) That’s how you deliver a showstopping performance. Lady K gave everything in this moment. Some people can take the struggles of their lives and inject it into their music and that’s how you create emotionally powerful moments. Lady K did just that. This was masterfully confident, controlled and so very powerful. Every run was tastefully selected, it almost felt as if some of it was just her lost in the music. And we were lost right there with her not wanting it to stop.
(“Honesty, Pink Sweat$ – 18, Chicago, IL) Blayke looked like he was born to be on that stage. It was such a confident moment, yet humble in its elegance. His voice was on fire, yet with that same humility, as if he had no idea he was doing the things he was doing. There’s something endearing and almost disarming about that approach to music. He can draw you in without you even realizing the intricacies of what he’s doing. This was a great way to come out and make a statement that he’s ready for this. His time is definitely now.
(“Girl Goin’ Nowhere,” Ashley McBryde – 23, Winchester, TN) She got a Platinum Ticket the first time we heard her and she has gotten better every single time. That was a masterful performance, absolutely empowering and heartbreaking at the same time. Huntergirl is more than just the best country voice Luke has heard, she’s make a case for the biggest, most authentic and strongest voice — nay, artist on this show this year. This was almost beyond words, it was so damned good!
- Allegra Miles
- Elli Rowe
- Mike Parker
- Douglas Mills Jr.
- Sam Moss
- Betty Maxwell
“American Idol” airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.