‘American Idol’ recap: the top 24 are picked

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 24: Top row: Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Shelbie Z, CJ Johnson, La'Porsha Renae, James VIII, Jenn Blosil, Stephany Negrete, Adam Lasher, Sonika Vaid, Kory Wheeler, MacKenzie Bourg, Olivia Rox, Tristan McIntosh   Middle row: Jordan Sasser, Trent Harmon   Bottom row: Jenna Renae, Amelia Eisenhauer, Gianna Isabella, Lee Jean, Avalon Young, Dalton Rapattoni, Emily Brooke, Thomas Stringfellow, Manny Torres. © 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Becker / FOX

AMERICAN IDOL: Top 24: Top row:
Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Shelbie Z, CJ Johnson, La’Porsha Renae, James VIII, Jenn Blosil, Stephany Negrete, Adam Lasher, Sonika Vaid, Kory Wheeler, MacKenzie Bourg, Olivia Rox, Tristan McIntosh
Middle row:
Jordan Sasser, Trent Harmon
Bottom row:
Jenna Renae, Amelia Eisenhauer, Gianna Isabella, Lee Jean, Avalon Young, Dalton Rapattoni, Emily Brooke, Thomas Stringfellow, Manny Torres.
© 2016 FOX Broadcasting Co. Cr: Michael Becker / FOX

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Thursday, February 4, 2016

The top 24 are named and for the first time ever, it’s an uneven number in terms of gender. There are 13 women, 11 guys. Six of the women are teens. Seven of the guys are 23 or older. Thirteen of the 24 are from the South.

Is there a future Kelly Clarkson in the bunch? I doubt it but we keep watching and hoping.

Atlanta has only one representative and he is identified as coming from Raleigh: Jordan Sasser.

The big twist next week is the use of “Idol” alum to duet with the contestants. Unfortunately, America won’t be able to vote.

The next “Idol” is scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 for just one hour. To squeeze the first 12 performances in one hour, they can’t possibly do it live. The Thursday episode will be two hours long and be a results show. That’s when we’ll hear the duets as the 12 get trimmed to seven.

The 12 who are performing next week are MacKenzie Bourg, Emily Brooke, Gianna Isabella, James VIII, Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Stephany Negrete, Jenna Renae, La’Porsha Renae, Jordan Sasser, Thomas Stringfellow, Sonika Vaid and Avalon Young. Six former “Idols” will perform duets with them: Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Caleb Johnson and Nick Fradiani.

A week later, the next 12 semifinalist will go through the same routine: Jenn Blosil, Amelia Eisenhauer, Trent Harmon, Lee Jean, CJ Johnson, Adam Lasher, Tristan McIntosh, Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Manny Torres, Kory Wheeler and Shelbie Z. The six “Idol” duet partners: Constantine Maroulis, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Haley Reinhart.

The following week, on Wednesday, February 24, the judges will name the first eight semi-finalists to make it into the Top 10, leaving six to sing for America’s vote and the final two spots in this farewell season’s Top 10.

Those final two slots will be named on Thursday, February 25. The top 10 will then perform with Kelly Clarkson as guest judge.

That means likely double eliminations March 3, 10 and 17 to get to four. March 24 will get us to three. March 31 will get us down to the final two. And the winner will be named April 7. In other words, “Idol” has snipped about six weeks of live shows from the docket.

In early December, I happened to be in Los Angeles and found out the showcase round was happening at the time. So I went to the Dolby Theatre (formerly called the Kodak Theatre) and Fox allowed me to see half the show.

There were just four of us media folks there, including my long-time friend Fred Bronson of  Billboard magazine who has appeared on the show many times and is a huge fan. (Plus, he’s close personal friends with Diana DeGarmo, Snellville’s own from season three.) We sat about four rows back on the left side. I never made it on camera.

I was surprised how little time Ryan Seacrest spent on stage for the portion I saw. Two minutes, maybe? The hype guy named Chris had to work his darndest to keep us entertained during the lull moments. (It appears Ryan was in the waiting room shepherding the performers one by one.)

Each contestant in tonight’s episode sang maybe 90 seconds of a song with Rickey Minor and his six-piece band supporting, along with three back-up singers. Some went out of their way to create a concert atmosphere when introducing themselves and running around the stage before a few hundred extras, family members and friends. As usual, a couple of hundred young ‘uns were placed at the front standing. I was about 10 rows back to the left. I am fairly certain I will not be seen.

The judges were placed on the second level. I’d occasionally turn back to see what their reactions were.

The names in bold face are in the top 24.

Stephany Negrete (“Girl on Fire” Alicia Keys): She had a strong solo round and a spirited, fiery showcase performance with a great final note. She was someone I recalled did better than most that night. JLo said it was one of her favorite showcases. She’s first in!

Shelbie Z (“Barracuda” Heart) – She has a sass and serious vocal power. She’s a good addition to the top 24.

Michelle Marie (“Little Toy Guns”)) – The rather annoying teen is a super fan who really needs to move forward for her family. Unfortunately, she isn’t quite ready. She is no Carrie Underwood. I love her energy but her pitch is all over the place. She is the first no we see. She leaves with grace. “I’ve had the time of my life,” she said before she left.

Colette Lush (“I’m Gonna Love You” Meghan Trainor ) – She sounds a little weak and off pitch at moments. She didn’t bring it. And the judges agree. HCJ said he loved her initial audition but “something happened along the way. It’s slightly removed from connecting with us.”

Surprise! Jessica Cabral was cut. We never hear why. (I don’t recall if I saw her.) Other cuts: Jessica Clark, Ameet Kanon, Terrian.

MacKenzie Bourg (“I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” Elvis Presley) – I really like this kid, including his retro glasses. HCJ likes the arrangement. “Beautiful tone,” Keith said. He is clearly through.

Trent Harmon (“Tiny Dancer” Elton John) – I recall seeing him live. I had no idea he was so sick with mono. He tends to be overly theatrical with his vocals but I like his sound. He’s in. He’s unusual enough to merit a spot.

Others through: Jenna Renae, James VIII, Kory Wheeler, Adam Lasher.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell (“Ring of Fire” June Carter Cash) – She stood out live when I saw her. And it wasn’t just the cowboy gear. I was immediately drawn to her emotional beyond-her-years performance. I figured she was in for sure. Indeed, the judges had no choice but to place her in the top 24. “I feel a mixture of elation and hunger and sleepiness but mostly elation!” she said.

CJ Johnson (“Parachute” Chris Stapleton) – He strikes me a good street musician with genuine intensity but “American Idol”? I don’t think so. He didn’t blow me away live either. Then again, I thought the same with Lee DeWyze.

Amelia Eisenhauer (“New York State of Mind” Billy Joel) – This is the 16 year old with the sword. She is young but likable. Her voice has just enough sultriness to make this work. And throwing in the violin? I’m in! I wish I had seen her live but she was not part of the 24 I saw.

Lee Jean (“Make It Rain” Ed Sheeran) – Soulful singer songwriter who does a weird thing by sticking his finger up to his lips TWICE to quiet the crowd. I didn’t particularly like that. JLo didn’t either: “You have a real natural ability but your immaturity showed. Telling the crowd to be quiet two times. No! If they want to clap, let them clap!” He makes it anyway.

Avalon Young (“Yo Excuse Me Miss” Chris Brown) – The tomboy has impressed the judges up to the showcase. I really enjoyed her hip-hop vibe during the showcase. Keith: “You’re very niche.” But not in a bad way. She’s through!

More eliminations of folks “Idol” didn’t bother to focus on: Chynna Sherrod, Mary Williams, Zach Person

Dalton Rapattoni  (“It’s Gonna Be Me’  N’Sync) – His version of this song is so different, I had no idea what he was singing. (I had to check MJ’s recap!) I like his artistry, his emotive nature. HCJ says he is inconsistent but in a good way.

Manny Torres (“Master Blaster” Stevie Wonder) – He is more style than substance. But the relative paucity of male singing talent helped him through. HCJ likes his personality. He almost takes down Ryan Seacrest in his enthusiasm.

More gone: Laurel Wright, Anatalia Villeranda (from the group round drama), Isaac Cole (JLo cries), Jon Klaasen (who?), Kassy Levels, Andrew Nazarbekian (from group round drama)

Thomas Stringfellow (“Story of My Life” One Direction) – A producer favorite, he is heartbroken over a girlfriend dropping him. He doesn’t seem to have much range but he does bring some real emotion. “There are better singers in this competition,” HCJ said. But he has that special something that gets him in the top 24.

Sonika Vaid (“I Surrender’ Celine Dion) – She is one of the few singers who could pull off Celine Dion. And of course, she does. She has one of the best voices in the competition but lacks stage presence while singing. We’ll see if the latter problem may keep her out of the top 10.

Malie Delgado (“Little White Church” Little Big Town) – The radio DJ got her voice back and she sounds powerful. But competition is rough and tumble. She misses the cut.

Olivia Rox (“Love Somebody” Maroon 5) – She’s sick. But she sounds just fine. She’s sweet and brings charm to her performance. Keith gives her a standing o. She’s in.

Emily Brooke (“So Small” Carrie Underwood ) – They harp on how she didn’t make the top 24 last year. Will she make it this year? She strikes me as overrated. I’m not that taken by her. But the judges give her a shot. JLo says she has improved massively in one year.

Out: Sara Strum (Lee Jean hugs her), Jordyn Simone (did we ever see her?), Tiffane LeMay, Kayla Mickelson, Mionne Destiny

Gianna Isabella (“I Still Believe” Brenda K Starr) – Brenda K Starr plays stage mom, which annoys Rickey Minor. She feels very pageantry and too young for my taste no matter how good the vocals are. But the judges love her.  I just can’t see her in the top 10.

The weirdest person in the top 51 Jenn Blosil (“The Hanging Tree” Jennifer Lawrence). I don’t get her at all. But she’s in. Whatevs.

Others gone: Christian Eason (I heard his version of “Try a Little Tendersness” and Fred Bronson and I agreed it was the best we saw of the 24 we watched. Both JLo and Keith gave him a standing ovation. What happened????), Ariel Sprague, Kelsie Watts, Shevonne Philidor.

Tristan McIntosh (“Stronger” Faith Hill) – If anyone has been given a producer’s edit, it’s Tristan. She is better than Gianna, at least. And she does bring her all and sounds strong. Keith questions her consistency and her uniqueness. “Have we seen everything we’re going to see?” Keith said. But they give her a shot.

The final two guys compete for a male slot: Jordan Sasser (“Love Runs Out” OneRepublic) – Good vocalist but I don’t see any real star quality. Kayce Haynes (“”Hold On We’re Going Home” Drake) – He isn’t quite as good a singer as Jordan but has more stage power. I would have picked Kayce. But the judges choose Jordan.

The final two women for the female slot: La’Porsha Renae vs. Lindita Halimi. I find Lindita (“Bang Bang”  a showboat and a shouter. I’m glad they pick La’Porsha. I remember her bracing “House of the Rising Sun” live and she has a genuine presence on stage.

NEXT WEEK: Twelve of the contestants sing solos and duets with a former “American Idol.”

The 12 former “Idols” include seven of the winners: Scotty McCreery, Constantine Maroulis, Jordin Sparks, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, David Cook, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Lauren Alaina, Haley Reinhart, Nick Fradiani, Caleb Johnson.

But we the public will not get to vote. They have already eliminated five of the 12! What the…?

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