Round 1 – Songs Performed at Woodstock ‘69

Madison Vandenburg – “Piece of My Heart” (Janis Joplin) – Judges’ Take: Katy – “You flung your pony. You’re not a stereotypical pop star. I don’t want you to be second, I want you win this thing. Keep showing your teeth.” Luke – “You’re doing what you’re asking every week. Great job.” Lionel – “You’re not just a pretty face. Your talent is showing all over the place.”

Janis Joplin was a woman possessed. A truly one-of-a-kind firebrand. Madison offers a pleasant personality and a showy voice. It takes more to have what they used to call “a moment” on Idol. Technically accurate, but lacking in spirit. Grade: B-

Laine Hardy – “I Don’t Need No Doctor” (Ashford & Simpson; based on Joe Cocker) Judges’ Take: – Luke – “You continue week after week to pick the right songs for you. Your voice has a lane, it has that certain sweet spot.” Lionel – “You are taking it to the core of who you are. You have an identity now.” Katy – “I think you figured this chess game out. Now’s the time to scare yourself. Push yourself a little more past the point you don’t think you can go.”

Right… the anointed one. Laine never needs to vary his approach. Much like Scotty McCreery years back, Laine just keeps on doing what he does and the judges lap it up week after week. The voting viewers, too, apparently. Much like Madison, Laine it too relaxed and casual here to make this work. Plus he doesn’t have Madison’s vocal chops. Grade: C

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon – “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” (traditional; based on Joan Baez) Judges’ Take – Lionel – “Your vocals are absolutely amazing. I don’t even know what the top of your range is.” Katy – “It was really good. Thank you for showing off again. You were born the same day as John Lennon. I think you’re chosen.” Luke – “I think that was one of the most solid performances I’ve seen from you. It was a professional performance.”

Brave choice. Perhaps too brave, as mainstream viewers might be thrown by a traditional gospel tune. Such a great voice, but difficult to connect with a potentially polarizing song choice. Grade: B-

Laci Kaye Booth- “To Love Somebody” (Bee Gees; based on Janis Joplin) Judges’ take – Katy – “Your voice is so spectacular. I think you’re a full-on superstar. I want to see a little more movement.” Luke – “Your voice can really get buried, but that time you really, really dug in and you stood out. Always put your voice out there like you did on that song. The whole thing was really cool.” Lionel – “How beautiful are you tonight? Remember there’s a crowd right in front of you. Play them. You sounded great.”

Pretty bland — but that’s kind of been Laci’s MO since day one. Grade: C

Alejandro Aranda – “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane) Judges’ take – Luke – “That really embodied the spirit of Woodstock. It was really…like a Pink Floyd type of deal. That was something we’ve never seen from you before.” Lionel – “First of all the, the jacket is on fire. It reminds me of those days. Play to the
microphone, make love to it.” Katy – “That was a fantastic performance. I saw you dig in for a hot second. That was such a unique performance. You pushed yourself.”

Pink Floyd type of deal? Really, Luke?? I don’t know what goes through these judges’ heads, honestly. This whole goth cover version felt forced. And again, when you take on great iconic singers like Joplin, Cocker, and here Grace Slick, you better bring it. Alejandro did not. Grade: C-

Wade Cota – “With a Little Help From My Friends” (Beatles based on Joe Cocker) – Lionel – “That’s about as close to a sixties performance…you have more movement than Joe Cocker. It’s the perfect song for you. You knocked it out of the park.” Katy – “That was the best performance I’ve seen tonight.” Luke – “You lit up the whole room. I hope America felt that.”

Okay, Wade did in fact bring it with this one. While he didn’t exactly add any new dimension to Joe Cocker’s definitive reading of the Beatles’ classic, he imbued it with great spirit and passion. This one wins the night (and probably another week for Wade). Grade: B+

Guest performance – Gabby Barrett performs her new single, “I Hope”

Say whaaaat? Pimping new product by last year’s second runner-up when the winner and first runner-up had to settle for a cheese-imbued rendition of “A Whole New World” and absolutely ZERO post-performance discussion with Ryan?? No wonder Maddie Poppe is reportedly fuming mad at Idol.

Round 2 – Show Stoppers with mentor Lauren Daigle

Madison Vandenburg – “I Surrender” (Celine Dion) Judges’ take – Katy – “I could really see and hear when you felt it.” Luke – “You finally gave us a cry in there, where we could feel what you were talking about. You’re one of the best singers on Earth.” Lionel – “Your vocals are far beyond your age. You’re in another zone to the point where you’re owning it. You didn’t do Celine, you did that song in a Madison style.”

Firstly, it must be pointed out that Ms. Daigle should have mentored the contestants every week as she is the first one who actually shares actual advice and constructive commentary.

As for Madison doing Celine, it’s precisely what one would expect—the voice is there, the presence isn’t quite, and the whole thing is certainly acceptable but lacking in any truly remarkable element. Competent, though. Grade: B

Alejandro Aranda – “Poison” (original) – Luke – “This is the best you’ve sang in this competition. Your previous performance and this one, it was amazing.” Lionel – “Watching you sing your songs is everything. It’s instant identity. Your star has already gone to the top.” Katy – “That was the best you have ever sang on this show. How wonderfully interesting will it be when you change American Idol by winning American Idol.”

He’s a musician, not a singer. And this is a singing competition. He’s also a songwriter, but based on the originals he has offered, not a very good one. But his musicianship is impressive and that’s why he is still around. Grade: B-

Laci Kaye Booth – “Open Arms” (Journey) Judges’ take – Lionel – “The delivery was fantastic. One of your great deliveries. You’re controlling those vocals to a T.” Katy – “Vote now America. That last note, that was exactly what I was asking for. You’re a unique multi-dimensional talent.” Luke – “We’re so proud of how
far you’ve come.”

An old Idol standby, Laci brings next to nothing to the table with this unadventurous retread. Grade: C-

Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon – “Somewhere” (Barbara Streisand) Judges’ take – Katy – “I was locked in every single word,
every single syllable.” Luke – “You started a little unsure, but half way through the song to the end was incredible.” Lionel – “You can not study mesmerizing. You killed it tonight.”

Where would Jeremiah fit into a contemporary pop landscape? His song choices tonight make it very hard for him to connect to mainstream viewers. Especially anyone under, say, 60. But wow, what an incredible voice. Grade: B

Wade Cota – “Through the Valley” (Shawn James) Judges’ take – Luke – “It feels like a total Johnny Cash moment. You’ve got your voice down, your character.” Lionel – “You have sold it to us. We are believers.” Katy – “You may be 27, but that voice is a thousand years old. You started finally believing in yourself.”

Wade brought his A game tonight. No “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” B.M.’s in sight. This was just as good as he previous one tonight. Grade: B+

Laine Hardy – “Johnny B. Goode” (Chuck Berry) – Lionel – “That was the perfect song, the perfect attitude. I’m in love with what you’re doing.” Katy – “I’m scared. It was so good.” Luke – “I have nothing left to say.”

Laine’s pretty cool, but what are these judges carrying on about? First of all, faking like you’re playing the Chuck Berry licks isn’t cool (the lighting and camera work made it seem like he was; Laine probably could’ve insisted they not do that). Alejandro probably could whip those off no problem, Laine’s a power chord-strummer and he shouldn’t pretend to be anything else.

And there’s absolutely zero challenge in the singing the “melody” of “Johnny B. Goode.” Classic early rock tune, yes. But Laine doesn’t have the true rock spirit to pull it off. Like 99% of what Laine does, this is perfectly acceptable bar band rock and roll. But the judges are like Laine is Chuck Berry. Grade: C

Bottom two – Jeremiah and Laci

Judges save: Laci

What a crock. Jeremiah has one of the greatest voices ever heard on Idol. But what do you expect from Moe, Larry, and Curley? A good decision on the save?

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