There were so many good performances tonight that I think the evil genius producers planned to make the last week before voting get us excited about voting. The mean judge, i.e. me, gave out an unusual number of good grades. That said, it seemed like every Idolist had a hard luck story they were only going to able to overcome through the Hallmark card inspirational wisdom from Bobby Bones. That all felt overdone for me. Anyway, on to the grades.
- Marcio Donaldson (Inseparable, Natalie Cole) That was downright Luther Vandross-ish. A remarkable performance from beginning to end. A
- Maddie Poppe (Brand New Key, Melanie) What a clever and brave song choice! The song and its delivery matched her infectious, quirky personality – kind of like Melanie, herself. A-
- Alyssa Raghu (Stay, Rihanna) My Daughter Cassandra and I have a sharp disagreement on this one. For me, her beautiful vocal tone, poised delivery and star-quality looks won me over. A-
- Jurnee (Flashlight, Jessie J) It was a solid, self-assured performance. And as good as it was, that’s the problem. First, the song choice allowed her to be solid and self-assured too easily. She’s talented but I find her a bit calculated. I agree with Katy that Jurnee has a lot more to give when she delivers from her heart and not just her head. A-
- Mara Justine (Run to You, Whitney) Count me surprised that this little girl could credibly sing Whitney. It got a little thin and shaky on the big, big “Whitney” notes – what do you expect? – but otherwise, she has a wonderful tone to her voice. B+
- Ada Vox (Feelin’ Good Nina Simone) Ada can flat out sing. She gave a killer performance but for me it felt very burlesque. I found it too over-sung and too over-emotive but that could be a matter of taste rather than a critique. B+
- Caleb Lee Hutchinson (some country song I never heard of) He has the Scotty McCreery soundalike voice but he needs to pick songs where he doesn’t sound as sleepy and low-energy as this performance was. B-
- Effie Pasero (Barracuda, Heart) This is an unbelievably hard song to sing. She hit the big notes in the song but those moments, while memorable, are few. The rest of the song stays in a narrow vocal range which depends on a punchy delivery to make it interesting. That, Effie didn’t do. C
- Amelia Hammer Harris (Believer, Imagine Dragons) Really bad song choice for a singing competition. And I just don’t find her to be a compelling singer. C
- Garrett Jacobs (Treat you Better, Shawn Mendes) I liked the slowed-down arrangement. I didn’t like his barely passable vocal performance. C-
- Shannon O’Hara (All I Ask, Adele) No, no, no more Adele! Somebody, PLEASE make these people stop!!! This performance provoked my first “cruise-shippy” comment of the season. And in response to the judges’ kind comments, My Daughter Cassandra said, “You did terribly and no one told you.” Preach. C-
- Ron Bultongez (Dancing on My Own, Robyn) I simply didn’t know what to do with him. His vocal delivery was so odd and his enunciation was so odd. I did detect some nerves at the start that he overcame – I think. It was certainly an emotional performance which is something that most of the other Idolists can learn from. But since he was saved for last, I was expecting something other than what I got and maybe that’s my problem. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the duets tomorrow to get a better fix on him. No grade
There was a lot of solo talent in this set of Idolists. That talent will be tested in the duets and I am really looking forward to seeing how that shakes out.
On another note, since country music fans make up a big (disproportionate?) part of Idol’s audience, I’ll be especially curious to see the ratings for tonight’s show given that the American Country Music Awards aired tonight. By the way, Idol Season 10 runner-up (to Scotty McCreery) My Girl Lauren Alaina took home the award for New Female Vocalist of the Year over ex-Voice contestants Danielle Bradbery (winner of Season 4) and Raelynn.
 From 1971 – talk about a blast from the past!!!
 And then there’s the fact that Adam Lambert spectacularly sang this on Idol and I admit that I have a hard time not unfavorably comparing anybody else to him.
 In a testament to Idol’s longevity, Whitney and Celine were once the untouchables that the wanna-be divas tried to sing. A decade later, it’s Adele.