Much like Group Round of old, the new Duets are an important part of the job interview for the position of pop star. The ability to work with other people in a way that allows everybody to contribute at a high level to a shared outcome is essential. In Grammy Award speeches, each artist makes a point to thank their team.
But Monday night’s Hollywood Duets Round gave us insight into something else very important and that something is creativity. Typically groups have to work towards a middle ground. Duets can provide opportunities to play to extremes. The duets gave us a chance to see how inventive the Idolists are with a shared spotlight, how they’ll work together to stretch a song in imaginative ways, who’s willing to take chances – and succeed – and who’s content to play it safe. Pretty voices are everywhere. Voices that find ways to demand your attention are much rarer. The Duets gave us an opportunity to hear who’s worth paying attention to.
1. So Hollywood Duets are my first thing I Liked. They showed us some things that were much harder to see formerly when they put the Idolists in groups.
2. I Liked the sweet, subtle soulfulness of Kingdom Kids Deshawn Goncalves and Madison Watkins.
3. I Liked when Hannah Everheart said, “Who did this?” in response to finding out she had been paired with Claudia Conway. That’s a question that resonates at a LOT of levels. Just sayin’.
4. I Didn’t Like the pairing of Murphy aka blindboymusic and Lizzy Overy. This was an example of creative risks not paying off as they turned a Fleetwood Mac classic (Dreams) into a virtually unrecognizable, pitch-optional, hot buttered mess. They out-quirked themselves by being way too gimmicky and over-interpretive. Because I like him, I’m glad the judges put both through, though.
5. I Really Liked Wyatt and Cassandra. They sounded and looked like they were a real duet “opening for Johnnyswim or Maggie Rogers” per My Daughter Diandra (MDD). That said, I worry about Cassandra’s lack of confidence. In a competition like this, it will hold her back. I want her to realize how good she is. As it is, her voice gives me uncontrollable chills.
6. I Like the white lace Sunday go-to-meetin’ fits.
7. I Really Like Willie Spence and Chayce. I know they had duet partners but they continue to distinguish themselves as two of the best singers I’ve seen so far this season. Willie’s voice is next level. I’d love to be putting together an album for him right now. And want to hear Chayce on a rock song.
8. I Liked the duet of Althea Grace and Camille Lamb. This was exactly the kind of risk-taking creativity I was so glad to see happen. That arrangement of You Don’t Own Me should not have worked but not only did it compel you to listen to them sing, you also heard them individually go to places they could not have gotten to through solos. High risk = high return.
9. And of course, I LOVED Alyssa and Grace in The Glory Spot at the end. This was very satisfying as my journey this season began when my friend NE Facebooked me Alyssa’s audition video and my reply became my first blog of the season. She was incredible as was Grace – each individually and more importantly, as partners. We already know they are vocal powerhouses. We now know they can both sing with soul, nuance and restraint. I believe Alyssa has the higher ceiling but I’m looking forward to hearing more from both of them.
10. I Don’t Like this dude Beane. Why does he keep surviving?
P.S. After a totally unsatisfying season of The Bachelor, I could have used more of the budding romance between Chayce and Christina. Katy: “They’re in love and don’t even know it.” And Deshawn and Madison have that we’re-gonna-find-out-we’re-more-than-friends vibe, too. Just sayin’.
 I’m still using Bachelor language? Do I have to take a sip of my adult beverage now?