American Idol Season 15: February 24, 2016

Wild Card Round - February 24, 2016

In an unprecedented move, four of the Top 14 singers are advanced "unanimously" by the judges while the remaining 10 singers will compete for America's Votes (TM). Even the description of the show in the TV guide listing is different and more closely mirrors past seasons. So what happened? A last minute change? Tomorrow night, four singers will go home and the Top 10 of Season 15 will be solidified.

Manny Torres - "Master Blaster" (Stevie Wonder) B-
Manny reminds me A LOT of Season 10 contestant Stefano when it comes to stage presence. Manny is fun to watch in the sense that he looks comfortable and "at ease" when he performs - unlike some of the other younger contestants who look like the proverbial deer in headlights. The judges' stone cold reactions during Manny's performance might have sealed his fate. His vocals got a bit lost in the rapid-fire lyrics of this song (which I have always hated).

Gianna Isabella - "I Put A Spell On You" (Screamin' Jay Hawkins) B+/B
This was Gianna's best performance to date. I haven't changed my mind that she is way out of her league in this competition, however.. She is like a baby Mariah Carey impersonator - her resemblance is uncanny - but the voice isn't there. Gianna needs to watch her breath control, pace herself in the song so as not to lose her power, and work on the vague unpleasantness that her voice can take on.

Thomas Stringfellow - "Story Of My Life" (One Direction) D+
From the opening, Thomas's vocals seemed off with the music - like he was singing too slowly to keep pace with the beat. While Thomas might be a sweet kid, this performance was quite simply not good. Thomas confuses me because he sings with earnest sincerity and a forced affect at the same time. Finally he got the critique from Harry Connick Jr. that had been a long time coming: not to squeak at the end of every line. This performance was rough and I'll be shocked if he makes it through to the Top 10.

Tristan McInotsh - "What Hurts The Most" (Rascal Flatts) B/B-
Very pretty performance and one of her best. I'm worried for Tristan because she veers into a "Kermit the Frog"-esque tone in her voice often. It's never pleasant to the ear and it's for this reason that she isn't one of my favorite contestants in this competition. She kept that in check (mostly) in this performance. I liked her choices to go softer on certain parts of the song to make it slightly different from the original. I'm still predicting she'll finish 9th or 10th.

Avalon Young - "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" (Chris Brown) A-
I would love to grab a beer with Avalon - she is so much fun to watch and I love how at ease she is with herself. She moves with confidence and ease on stage. I can't help but get caught up in her performances. Avalon is definitely one of the most unique and original contestants left in this competition and I would love to see what she does in future weeks. It makes me wish Idol had stacked the deck with slightly older contestants rather than mostly 15 and 16 year olds.

Jenn Blosil - "True Colors" (Cyndi Lauper) A-
Even if Jenn's voice isn't your cup of tea, there's something fascinating about her. She put a lot of emotion into one of Cyndi Lauper's most famous songs, even though her voice wasn't perfect. The break in her voice was perfect to accentuate the lyrics. Aching and gorgeous.

Lee Jean - "Make It Rain" (Ed Sheeran) B+
I see such a potential for growth in Lee. He has passion and drive and is insanely likeable. Lee makes me smile everytime he sings. I would like to see him sing something unexpected, in the vein of Kris Allen and "Heartless", rather than just endless Ed Sheeran covers. While this was a solid performance, Lee is in danger of getting forgotten in favor of bolder, more showy voices.

Sonika Vaid - "I Surrender" (Celine Dion) B+
Sonika reminds me of early American Idol - the first 6 or so seasons maybe - the big voiced diva we used to vote through without blinking an eye. She is beautiful and has an equally gorgeous voice. But in the shifting landscape of Idol, the female belter has been on a downward trajectory. Sonika's problem is that while I think her voice sounds beautiful, in the way I know I should appreciate a wonderful singing voice, she doesn't make me feel anything.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell - "Ring Of Fire" (Johnny Cash) A

Jeneve is - HANDS DOWN - the most captivating contestant all season. While Sonika embodies the more traditional big voiced approach, Jeneve's voice is full of passion and emotion. She gives me chills which is something no other contestant has been able to do. She breaks my heart whenever she sings. I'm just concerned that she is too polarizing to make it much further this season. Someone who is bland and mild, inoffensive (see: Tristan) will go on in the competition over Jeneve because that type will appeal to a greater audience. It's the bell curve effect, sadly. I could listen to Jeneve all day and maybe I will.

Mackenzie Bourg - "Roses" (Original song by Mackenzie) A-
Mackenzie knows who he is; he isn't trying on personas to see what fits. His acoustic performance of his original song was wonderful. The judges often predict superstar level success for even the most tepid of contestants, but the reality is many of these contestants will play for loyal fans in 100 to 1,000 seat venues. They'll make their money touring, doing meet-and-greets, selling T-shirts and CDs at their shows. I can already see Mackenzie in that vein, with a solid post-Idol career - a true singer-songwriter. I would love to hear the full-length version of this song. Mackenzie is a lock for the Top

Best of the night: Jeneve, Mackenzie, Jenn
Worst of the night: Thomas