One contestant loses their cool entirely, storms off and disappears after their partner cannot remember the lyrics — to a song they chose!
The most challenging and mind-draining night and day of Hollywood Week were upon the “American Idol” contestants as it was time to partner up and bring their all to the Duets Round.
This is the week we’ve seen so many incredible artists crash and burn in seasons past, so could our favorites rise to the occasion? And could the Platinum Ticket holders take advantage of their power to choose their partners to set up a great performance?
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Once again, we saw contestants snapping at one another, forgetting their lyrics on stage and having to say farewell before they should have. But we also saw beautiful moments of triumph and unexpected partnership.
Probably the most unlikely partnership came in the pairing of a small-town girl with zero confidence and belief in herself with a former Miss America. This mismatched duo could either bring out the best in themselves, or crash and burn together.
The judges made lots of strategic pairings like that, such as when they put this season’s two pregnant contestants in a duo together because who better to understand the added stress and exhaustion than someone who’s going through the exact same thing.
Probably the most tense moment of the night came when one duet partner could not remember the lyrics — of a song they chose — sending their partner into a stress breakdown. Ultimately, they had to walk away, putting the entire performance in jeopardy. Did they show up? And did they get it together?
Who did enough to make it to Monday night’s Showstoppers round, and who had to stand there and look happy for their duet partner next to them, knowing that they were going home. Yeah, it gets awkward at times, but that’s Hollywood, baby!
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. For this round, they are ranked by overall duet performance, which means a bad half can pull the whole down, and vice-versa. That way I can see who’s the best and then see how they fare as the season progresses.
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Allegra Miles & Taylor Fagins [Satin Soul]
(“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars) This was a mutual admiration duo between the singer-songwriters who brought original music to their auditions. Now, they needed to take their artistic vision into a duet and a cover song — which can be very challenging. Taylor was worried about overpowering Allegra in sheer volume. He reined it in, but still their harmonies were a bit of a mess throughout. And by withholding, Taylor came across as a nice cover artist, but with none of his artistry. Allegra had a nice opening, but got lost after that in the miasma this duet became.
Results: Allegra Advances
Haley Slaton & Sam Moss [The Watermelon Smugglers]
(“Dancing on My Own,” Robyn [as performed by Callum Scott]) Sam is our contestant who auditioned twice this season, advancing her second time through. She also discovered she was pregnant before Hollywood Week, which makes her a logical pairing with Haley, They can certainly understand the specific challenges the other is facing trying to carry a child and compete in a competition. This is a beautifully haunting song, but there was inconsistency from both women in their solo portions. We heard a lot that we liked, but at times it was as if they weren’t connected to one another. Sam had more dynamic range in her voice, but Haley’s had that haunted quality that suits the song better. Both were on-the-fence performances.
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Douglas Mills Jr. & Scarlet [Mixed Match]
(“Rewrite the Stars” from “The Greatest Showman,” Zac Efron & Zendaya) Scarlet made it very clear that this was Douglas’ song choice, and yet he was struggling with the lyrics and totally getting into his head during rehearsals. Meanwhile, Scarlet said she was getting embarrassed that they didn’t have it down sooner. She got so fed up, she had to storm off in frustration. She was right to be worried, because he did botch those opening lines, but he powered through and came together for her in the chorus. Unfortunately, you could also feel that hanging tension between them in the performance, which is never good. They need to leave that offstage and be all in once the music starts. Douglas has a stronger and more compelling vocal, but Scarlet sounded great on her parts through most of it, so we’d give both of them a pass, with a warning to not let nerves and frustration impact what happens on the stage.
Noah Thompson & Olivia Faye [Kentucky Idol]
(“July,” Noah Cyrus) Noah and Olivia practiced “Lean on Me,” only to be shut down immediately at the coaching rehearsal telling them they were making a mistake straying from country. The performance that finally came together was a bit of a mess and clearly the result of abject exhaustion. Noah perked up as it went along and gave us glimpses of that great sound in his voice that we first fell in love with, while Olivia didn’t quite have that spark. She sounded competent and has a solid country voice, but it felt like a flat performance overall from her. It wasn’t their best performance, but we’d argue Noah did enough … barely. There’s potential yet in that well.
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Cole Hallman & Cadence Baker [C Major]
(“How Sweet It Is,” James Taylor) Cole and Cadence connected through their love and connection to their families, which means they were both struggling being away from them. Cole was compromising the arrangement to accommodate a tired voice, but would that hurt what happens on stage? What happened is that they both sounded as exhausted as they were, which isn’t the best way to sell a performance. Cadence woke up toward the end and brought a little fire, while Cole stuck to just accompaniment. We love the tone of his voice, but he didn’t really give us anything to hang on to and say we need him.
Results: Cadence Advances
Jay & Morgan Gruber [M&J]
(“Shallow,” Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga) As a Platinum Ticket holder, Jay got to choose his partner, and he found himself mesmerized by the way Morgan owned her spotlight. She immediately chose their song, which is more of a showcase for the female singer on paper. With a glimpse into their rehearsal, we saw incredible coaching that really pushed them. That led Morgan to telling Jay the story behind the song. She was definitely more comfortable in the lyrics, but he did a great job of keeping it together and getting through it while showcasing his ability. It wasn’t as strong as his audition, but he showed who he is through that.
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Kevin Gullage & Yoli Major [The Dysfunctional Duo]
(“Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” Ethel Merman & Ray Middleton) Once again, Kevin gave us a beautiful fake out — this time with Yoli — to set up the faux fight at the heart of this song. It was just beautifully realized and a whole helluva lot of fun. Yoli has such a great grit in her voice, and she was perfectly cast in this role of the frustrated woman trying to have her voice heard. We’d have liked to hear a little more of the vocals Kevin gave (lost in the edit, we believe), but what we heard from both we adored.
Huntergirl & Cole Ritter [Backwood Mac]
(“Dreams,” Fleetwood Mac) They didn’t nail every harmony, but Huntergirl made a good choice in choosing her partner, as a Platinum Ticket holder. She and Cole played off each other very well, and singing alongside her appears to have elevated his game a bit. Huntergirl showed more sides to her voice on a non-country track, without giving up that storyteller vibe she has. We hear some power in there, as well as some beautiful falsetto. She’s definitely an interesting and memorable artist, and more versatile than even we knew.
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Jordan & Kenedi [Hot Mess]
(“Lean on Me,” Bill Withers) As a Platinum Ticket holder, it was up to Kenedi who her partner would be, and she said she found herself drawn to Jordan and as the first round wore on, she kept coming back to him. “I am obsessed with his voice,” she admitted. They both struggled with nerves heading into this performance, with Jordan wanting to step up to Kenedi’s Platinum status and her wanting to live up to it. Once they hit the stage, though, it all went into a stellar and singular interpretation of a stone-cold classic. The middle chorus was probably the least interesting because they played it so straight. For the rest of it, they played with the melody and almost everything else, but in a jazzy, interesting way that had us mesmerized the whole way through.
Fritz Hager & Leah Marlene [Team Green]
(“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars) We love that this quirky duo wound up paired together. It shows the judges were really putting some thought into what partnerships might really bring out the best in one another. And it worked to perfection here, with Fritz reaching new heights and clearly looking relaxed, while Leah put a little more stank in her delivery. Even better, they were beautiful in harmony, but never did they lose their unique individuality as solo artists.
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Christian Guardino & Nicolina [Cantante Forte]
(“The Prayer,” Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli) Nicolina soared a little stronger on this incredibly challenging song choice, but that only takes away slightly from what Christian did even trying to go where Bocelli went. Their harmonies were outstanding, and the choices they made throughout the song beautifully showcased their individual range and power. Christian moves up and down his register beautifully, and while the song didn’t quite fit, he managed to show off a lot with it. Nicolina, though, appeared effortless throughout, which is a testament to the power of her instrument. Together they made magic.
Tristen Gressett & Cameron Whitcomb [Both Crazy]
(“Have You Ever Seen the Rain?,” Creedence Clearwater Revival) Both of these goofballs are bundles of energy, but Cameron’s nerves were starting to take over. His first time performing on stage was the first round in Hollywood and that inexperienced had him doubting himself. Tristen, meanwhile, has to continue to prove to the judges he can calm it all down and deliver art. In the end, they both really delivered. That breakdown they put in the middle where the tempo shifted and it was like a whole new song was a perfect place for each to stand out and show what they had. Cameron really stepped up and surprised us with a very cool sound in his vocal, while Tristen continues to impress. That was just solid artistry from top to bottom.
Kelsie Dolin & Betty Maxwell [Mining for Peaches]
(“Just Give Me a Reason,” P!nk) What an interesting pairing, a former Miss America with all the confidence in the world who’s traveled and experienced a lot partnered with a small-town country girl who has no idea how incredible she is. Can Betty bring Kelsie out of her shell a bit? Can Kelsie help Betty hone in on truth and authenticity in her performance? They both could benefit from one another, if open to it. Kelsie was incredibly self-conscious through rehearsals and admitted over and over again she just doesn’t believe in herself. Vocally, the final performance was sublimely beautiful, and even better than that, we could see Kelsie just starting to eke out of her shell. Even incremental growth is growth. Once she ever learns how incredible she could be, she’s going to be even better than that. Betty was a bit sharp at one point, but she really brought a lot to this showcase, and was incredibly gracious in helping make sure Kelsie shined as bright as she did. This was an emotional and beautiful moment. If nothing else, we hope this is the start of a sweet friendship, because we loved to see it.
“American Idol” airs Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.