Grading the All Star Duets and Solos, Pt. 1

Welcome to American Idol’s relief plan for performing artists looking for a paying gig during COVID. 24 songs in two hours? Whew! So much going on and all so quickly, it felt like the first week of The Bachelor. Actually, I did like the structure of having each Idolist do their solo and duet back-to-back so we could get an immediate sense of them.

On Sunday night I graded performances for the first time. Since they were doing two performances, I opted to assign each song a score on a scale of 1-5 with a 5 meaning the vocals were objectively excellent and the stage presence was subjectively appealing. A score of 3 is average. I used no half-points in order to force myself to decide whether the performance deserved the higher number or lower number – no 3.5 for example, i.e. either it was average and gets a 3 or above average and deserved a 4. No half steppin’! And then I added up the scores from both performances.

Because of how many songs we had, I will cite details or make comments on Idolists only when I have a specific point to make.

Kieren. Dim the lights!

Best of the Night

  • Alyssa Wray (5+5)
  • Andrea Valles (5+5)

Alyssa was a complete and total WOW! She took on two BIG voices – Carrie Underwood and Whitney – and passed both tests with confidence and swagger. She is on track for My Girl status. Andrea was a very pleasant surprise sounding gorgeous in Spanish doing the Billie Eilish/Rosalia song Lo Vas A Olivida. And then she performed the classic Careless Whisper with a still soulful Brian McKnight as if it were their original song. Very impressive.

Above Average

  • Wyatt Pike (4+5)
  • Alanis Sophia (3+5)
  • Willie Spence (3+5)

Wyatt continues to impress me with his self-knowing style. I was worried about him doing the Tate McRae song Rubberband but he made it work. And I thought he was better than Ben Rector in their duet. Alanis struggled a bit with Sia’s Alive – who wouldn’t – but she was fabulous partnering with Jimmie Allen on Shallow. I turned to My Daughter Diandra (MDD) and said, “She’s really good.” I agree with Katy that song choice is everything for Willie. Wind Beneath My Wings didn’t allow him to showcase his voice as much as him channeling Andrea Bocelli on The Prayer in his duet with Katherine McPhee[1].


  • Cassandra Coleman (2+4)
  • Anilee List (3+3)
  • Deshawn Goncalves (3+3)
  • Grace Kinstler (2+4)

Cassandra and Grace were disappointments. It seems that Cassandra will likely never grow into the confidence she needs to stand out. The Birdy song Find Me should have been prefect for her but she was a nervous, pitchy mess throughout the whole thing. She was much better in her duet with Ryan Tedder (Apologize) just as she was really good in her Hollywood duet with fellow Idolist Wyatt Pike. Maybe she needs to find someone to partner with rather than be a solo act.

Grace should never have picked a Jessie J song – any Jessie J song. Jessie is a pop singer albeit with some R&B sensibilities. Grace is not a pop singer. Joss Stone[2] helped a lot in their duet by restraining Grace’s tendency to find a run in every verse. She got Grace to tell the story of the song (Midnight Train to Georgia) and save the fireworks for the emotional end. That worked. But as good a singer she is, I don’t have any sense of what she is artistically.  

Deshawn has a lovely voice but no stage presence. As to Anilee, she was just OK for me vocally, dawg, and she got swallowed up by Joss during their duet on Rufus’ Tell Me Something Good[3]. Anilee didn’t have near enough funk for that.

Below Average

  • Alana (2+3)
  • Graham DeFranco (2+2)
  • Cecil Ray (1+2)

Alana was a letdown – My Girl Dua Lipa’s Blow Your Mind (Mwah) was a mess. Graham was meh. Cecil should not have still been in the competition and tonight proved it. Of course, he’ll probably get voted through over someone more deserving.

Random Musings

Joss Stone can feel free to record a version of Tell Me Something Good any time. I’m here for it.

MDD said I need Brian McKnight’s sweat suit and I couldn’t agree more.

Luke facial expression when he’s not enjoying a performance is comical. Then hearing him struggle to say something nice adds to the comedy as it comes out so innocuous: “Your voice is so listenable”.


Since eight are going through, here are the Idolists I voted for in proportion to my grades: Alyssa, Andrea, Wyatt, Alanis, Willie, Cassandra, Grace, and Alana.

Public Service Announcement

Expect me to be delayed with the blog for the Monday night show. There’s a little thing I like to call the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship happening that night, too, and I will be very engaged with it all the way until the broadcast ends with Luther Vandross singing One Shining Moment.

[1] It’s still a mystery how she finished second in Season 5 beating out Daughtry and Elliott Yamin. In her duets Sunday night, she was badly outclassed by both Alyssa and Willie. That said, I enjoyed her in the TV show Smash which ran for two seasons in 2012-2013.

[2] MDD: “She looks great.” I agreed. I was a big Joss fan back in the day and then she kind of disappeared.

[3] Written by Stevie Wonder. I always wish he had recorded a version of it.

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