The Return of Paula!!

“I would kill for a pep talk from Paula Abdul. That’s like my dream in life”, said an ecstatic My Daughter Diandra (MDD) during Paula’s closing exhortation to The Unvoted for Group of Five Idolists near the end of Monday night’s proceedings. While I’m still upset that I wasn’t picked to sub for COVID-positive Luke, it was great to see Paula return especially in a season that recalls the talent levels of Idol’s earlier years that she once judged. Paula is practically a religious figure in our household. She also brought in her own delightful way, some critical judge energy that this panel badly needs.

The good old days.

America did a good job voting in the primaries Idol’s first round seeing as my four Gots-to-Go’s (Madison, Beane, Colin and Graham) fell into the Unvoted for Group of Five along with Alanis. But how did the Idolists do tonight? Did any of the Gots-to-Go’s redeem themselves? Was that last question foreshadowing?

In preparation for switching over to my traditional letter grades this Sunday (they’re are more refined and descriptive), I broke my no half-point-rule because there were some subtle differences between somewhat similar performance levels tonight.

6 points out of 5

  • Willie

He hit it out of the park again on Diamonds. That said, I know he can sing big with feeling. I’d like to hear something small with feeling. How about Stevie Wonder’s All Is Fair In Love?

5 points

  • Casey
  • Chayce
  • Ava

Paula talked about this group having Grammy Best New Artist potential – OK, that’s a stretch – but all three gave The Grammys show type performances. Casey had an amazing heavy and dark Black Sabbath-y arrangement – shout-out to musical director Kristopher Pooley – for House of the Rising Sun. This was light-years better than her hot mess of this song earlier this season. Chayce gave his best, i.e. most dynamic story-telling performance. And Ava brought her vocal and artistic artistry to Queen’s Love of My Life. How is she just 15 years-old?

4.5 points

  • Beane

He started out nervously (see Random Musings below) after getting the news that he was a member of The Unvoted for Group of Five but righted himself on a perfect song choice for him, Ben Platt’s Grow As We Go. He deserved to be saved.

3.75 points (yeah, I’m really trashing my scoring system)

  • Madison

MDD and I diverged here. She screamed, “NOOOOOOOOOO.” Vocally Madison did have her rough moments (see Random Musings below) but I thought her R&B arrangement of Hot Line Bling – again shout-out to musical director Kristopher Pooley – was really, really cool.

3.5 points

  • Deshawn
  • Caleb
  • Grace
  • Graham (eliminated)

Deshawn’s vocal was technically flawless but his delivery of Stevie’s Higher Ground completely missed the spirituality of the lyrics. Grace’s vocal was technically flawless but her delivery of Dangerous Woman, especially in the chorus, lacked Ariana’s sexiness. Caleb’s vocal delivery of his original song wasn’t that great but any time you get Lionel Ritchie commenting on your songwriting skill, that’s a really good thing.

3.0 points

  • Colin (eliminated)
  • Alyssa

Alyssa. So much charisma. So much stage presence. So much raw talent. So much over-singing. MDD gave me the idea that she’s more Tina Turner than Whitney and she’s absolutely right. She needs to study the R&B queens with some growl in their voice. Off the top of my head, I’d add Patti LaBelle and 80s Aretha to the list. I’d love to hear her sing Freeway of Love.

2.5 points

  • Cassandra
  • Hunter

Cassandra picked a perfect song (Light On) but made a big mistake by singing it like Maggie Rogers[1] instead of in her own style. Hunter’s voice may fit a lot of broken-hearted love songs but Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me isn’t one of them.

2.0 points

  • Alanis

She’s so adorable and looked like a young pop star tonight. Unfortunately, she’s been overshadowed by Ava and Casey and she was awful tonight. I wish the judges chose her over Madison but when Paula is giving you criticism, you know you’re in trouble.


Wyatt – Uh what? Ryan announced Wyatt’s leaving the competition so casually as if this sort of thing happens all the time. But the rest of be like:

At the time of this writing, the interweb has not uncovered the reason for Wyatt’s leaving. Where are you Reality Steve? Seriously, let’s hope for the best.

With three more cuts coming live on Sunday, surely Madison and Beane are in continued jeopardy. Whether that is true or not, we’re at the point in this season of generous talent that we are going to lose someone really good starting on Sunday. This is when the season starts to get fun and painful.

Random Musings

I swear the evil genius producers of The Bachelor franchise have been talking to their counterparts at Idol. First, we get Chris Harrison-speak from Ryan:

“We have some H-UGE news to share about our INCREDIBLE, two-night event next week . . . On Monday, the BIGGEST shakeup in Idol history . . . bringing on the most UNIQUE Final 10 we’ve EVER had.”

Second is the latter concept of bringing contestants from a prior season back for the current season after the current season has started. This is such a Bachelor franchise move[2].

Rocker Chick Casey got some love from Loudwire an online magazine that covers hard rock and heavy metal music for her cover of Black Hole Sun. Yahoo’s Lyndsey Parker noted that it was the first cover of Soundgarden in Idol history.

Let’s talk nerves. It has to be extraordinarily difficult to be called up randomly and asked to sing on the spot in a nationally televised competition. This was especially true tonight when you’ve just been given the news about your fate – good or bad. The past two nights were very different for the Idolists than knowing where you are in the order and not having to deal with in-the-moment emotions. Therefore, I’ve been giving some leeway for occasional wonky notes and minor missteps.

[1] MDD and I are massive Maggie Rogers fans. I think she is an important new artist.

[2] The entirety of Bachelor in Paradise is based on this concept.

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