American Idol brought back favorites from years’ past to perform duets with the current contestants. They want to see how they handle that type of environment because more and more these kinds of collaborations are occurring.
Lauren Alaina and Emily Brooke were paired together. They chose “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood. I was at that finale with Lauren and Scotty battling it out for the title that year. Well, the results show at least. She has changed so much in those 5 years. Lauren sounds FABULOUS!! Emily sounded better than she did last night, but Lauren blew her out of the water and revealed all the vulnerabilities in her voice. Not that this was a competition, but Lauren carried her in this performance. Harry said he could hear the difference in age in their performance just because Lauren’s been doing it a little bit longer but hung pretty well with her. Keith agreed. That she has another lane with the thing she does. Jennifer said she has the makings of something that will grow into something like Lauren at some point.
Thomas Stringfellow sang “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson with last year’s winner Nick Fradiani. He gave him some great tips about singing in the mirror and seeing habits you didn’t realize you had (I remember him working on that last year). Nick went back to some bad habits with his eyes in the interim. Thomas was digging singing with Nick. It was enjoyable. Keith thought he was struggling since it wasn’t really in his lane. Jennifer said it didn’t feel quite right for him. Harry is grateful for his performance last night because it was extremely strong. He is willing to bypass this because last night was phenomenal.
Alumni Ruben Studdard was paired with Stephany Negrete. During rehearsal Ruben felt he needed to get more emotion from her. Michael felt like she needed to look at him more versus closing her eyes. They chose “Superstar” by The Carpenters. The velvet teddy bear still has it. She has a beautiful voice but even with Ruben’s mentoring she looked a little stiff. It sounded beautiful, but she definitely keeps holding back (but so did Nick last year until something clicked for him). Jennifer said it brought tears to her eyes. She thought their voices sounded super beautiful together. Harry thought it was strong even though there were some note issues. Keith thought it was just beautiful. He thought Ruben brought out the best in her.
In quite the odd pairing, they put Sonika Vaid and Caleb Johnson together. Ugh, yet another ballad for her even though it is with Caleb. I would love for Caleb to have chosen an upbeat song for her. The song is “Skyfall” by Adele. It was a great duet, but Sonika didn’t move too much. It made me want to yawn. She did seem to take notes about her performance level and that is a good sign though. Harry enjoyed it a lot but he is giggling a lot because he thinks she is just nervous because this is so new for her. He finds it adorable. He felt she held her own with it. Keith felt it was a great song and they were great together. It was a really great performance. Jennifer said it was a well-suited song. Jennifer basically said she needs to push past her nerves because the sky is the limit with that voice of hers.
The next performance paired Scotty McCreery and Jenna Renae. Scotty has grown up since I saw him at the finale. They sang Scotty’s song “See You Tonight.” I didn’t know Scotty was a songwriter. That was a fun revelation. He sounds a lot better than the year he won. Wow. They sounded terrific tonight. It’s a big compliment from me (because I hate country music) to say that was a wonderful song and a wonderful performance. It was a little flat at the end, but that didn’t matter. And it was NOT a ballad. So refreshing. Keith said it was very hard to critique that song and he added that she has a lovely voice. Jennifer said the song was suited well for the two and she did the best she could on it (not sure what that means). Harry was as entertaining as it was a solid performance. He said it looked like she had a blast doing it.
La’Porsha Renae and Fantasia re-created Fantasia’s performance “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald. I think La’Porsha showed up Fantasia. La’Porsha is going to win American Idol. I’m saying it now. This was the best duet over the past two nights. MAJOR goosebumps. Keith was on his feet (guess he loved it). Jennifer thought it was mind-blowing; La’Porsha did a fantastic job. Harry said it reminded him of an old cutting contest. It wasn’t so much about “Summertime” but a battle of runs and they both killed it. Keith said it was an unstoppable force meets a moveable object. It was a great job.
Lauren Alaina was paired with Mackenzie Bourg to do “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. It was a strange pairing, but it was nice both of them could keep their style of singing. There was nice chemistry between them as well. Harry wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing talent that has come through American Idol. Harry thought this was sweet, but he was thankful for his solo performance of “Say Something” because that set the bar. Keith said that was the first time she had seen Alaina blush. Sparks were flying up there. They were all joking how she was reaching for his elbow and he just didn’t even notice and they were screaming to themselves “hold her hand buddy.” Keith loves the way Mackenzie does things. Jennifer said it felt really nice, mismatched but still nice together.
Nick Fradiani and Gianna Isabella sang Nick’s song “Beautiful Life.” Gianna looked uncomfortable with the performance part of the song even though her voice sounded great in the song. Keith thought it was good. Jennifer said it was a nice song to sing together. Harry said he is still trying to figure her out. It’s like she is this goofy young kid or… (and she piped in a little bit of both).
Ruben Studdard and Avalon Young were paired to sing Ruben’s song “Flying Without Wings.” She started off rough but by the end she let go and did so much better. It was really beautiful. Jennifer thought it was incredible, it was very equally matched. Out of all the duets she had seen, she felt like they were actually doing a duet, not just singing it together, but feeling it together. Harry said that there is something that is so incredibly likeable about her. She has an incredible instrument. Keith said she is just so real. When she was standing next to Ruben she didn’t look at all intimidated. That was an incredible performance.
Caleb and James VIII chose “Gimme Shelter” by Rolling Stones. I like it when the former Idols let the new contestant start the song first. That was the first time I have seen James really let it go. He had the best time up there. Keith let out an “oooo.” Harry thought it did a pretty darn good job hanging with Caleb. Keith said he did a good job hanging with the big man. He liked the way he performed and he gave it up for the crowd. Jennifer said they complimented each other and it made for a really good performance.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell and Scotty McCreery picked some Montgomery Gentry music “Gone.” She looked really awkward in her movements but out of all the country music ladies in the competition, I think she is the best. Keith said it was bizarre. She doesn’t know how she got saddled with that song. He liked the song but it did nothing for her. Keith is just going to forget that performance. Harry said she is unique out of all the competitors of all the seasons of idol. She is extraordinarily musical. Last night’s performance was better and he agrees with Keith that the performance was just bizarre. Jennifer said the solo performance won her over, but today it was reinforced even though the performance was really out there.
Jordan Sasser and Fantasia performed her song “I Believe.” Fantasia gave him some good advice about making contact with the audience instead of looking elsewhere when he is hitting those notes. Wow. Take me to church. Fantastic pairing. This redeems his performance from last night. The one mistake he made was crossing in front of her to reach out and shake a fan’s hand. She looked a little perturbed. Jennifer said her voice brings tears to her eyes. He did a good job; he held his own; it was no easy task. Harry can’t add anything to that other than be careful not to try to upstage the person you are on stage with. He pointed that moment I described out as well. Keith said he felt he was shooting up all over the place to try to be on par with her. He didn’t need to do that. He would have believed it more if he reigned and centered it more. In essence, he didn’t need to try so hard.
Staying: La’Porsha Renae; Sonika Vaid; Avalon Young; Gianna Isabella; Thomas Stringfellow; Mackenzie Bourg. At this point I am pretty sure it is going to be Stephany. And I am totally shocked. Jeneve Rose Mitchell
Going home: Emily Brooke; Stephany Negrete; Jenna Renae; James VIII; and Jordan Sasser.