American Idol brought back six fan favorites to duet with 12 of the current hopefuls, and not only did that up the TV competition's already major nostalgia factor (the last season will do that to an iconic show), but the pairings also helped show who's ready for primetime and who still has a lot to learn.
Even though Scotty McCreery was the alum of the hour (well, two -- this is Idol), both of his performances paled in comparison to another Idol favorite, Fantasia, whose duet with La'Porsha Renae was a perfect fit. After the judges lost their minds over La'Porsha on Wednesday night, the pressure was high, but the duo stunned with a near-perfect cover of Ella Fitzgerald's "Summertime." Judge Keith Urban even jumped back in his chair in the middle of the song, clearly stunned by both Fantasia and La'Porsha's runs, and gave them a personal standing O at the end.
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It was the sixth performance of the night, and Keith called it the "first one I've seen that was so beautifully matched. It was like an unstoppable force met an immovable object." The only thing this performance was missing was a duel mic drop. We did, however, get a completely aww-inducing moment when La'Porsha gave her baby son a hug after her performance. If that didn’t warm your heart, nothing will.
Neither of Scotty's performances made an impact like Fantasia's did. His first duet partner, Jenna Renae, admitted she was "feeling pressure because America loves Scotty," and, unfortunately for her, she came off as a fangirl as Scotty dominated his own song, "See You Tonight." "It was tricky for you, because it's Scotty's song, and it's not what you would do," Keith pointed out. Even though Harry Connick, Jr. said it looked like Jenna was having a blast and didn't "get knocked out of your lane," fellow judge Jennifer Lopez wasn’t as impressed, uttering, "You did the best you could."
Then there was poor Jeneve Rose Mitchell. It felt like watching a bad karaoke performance, with the judges looking dumbfounded throughout, and even Jeneve threw her hands up at the end. "It was bizarre," Keith said. "I have no idea why you got saddled with that song." The Australian country singer said he was going to forget the performance, and it’s probably best if we all follow suit.
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Gianna Isabella did a far better job of singing a tune with its original performer -- in this case, last year's winner, Nick Frandini -- but it helps that "Beautiful Life" is exactly the type of song a 15-year-old would be excited to sing. Even though she has arguably the least amount of experience of the bunch, you wouldn't know it from the way she jumped around on stage and belted the big tune with Nick. "It was the perfect song," J.Lo said, explaining that it was "a nice song for the two of you to sing together." Gianna even raised the roof at the end, which came off as completely adorable.
But it was Avalon Young, who sang Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings" with the Velvet Teddy Bear, that impressed the judges the most. Jennifer called their "incredible" performance the first one that felt like a duet -- which says a lot, as that was three quarters of the way through the show. "It was very equally matched… They were actually singing together and feeling it together," Jennifer explained.
We've got goosies! Such a soulful performance by Ruben Studdard and Avalon.Posted by American Idol on Thursday, February 11, 2016
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It was an incredibly composed performance, especially compared to Sonika Vaid. Her nerves were evident even as she slayed "Skyfall" -- not an easy feat, seeing as it’s an Adele tune and her duet partner was the high-energy rocker, Caleb Johnson, who won Idol's 13th season. While she sounded great with Caleb, Keith admitted he would've been happy to hear Sonika sing the song himself. But the judge she really seemed to win over was Harry. "The reason I'm giggling is because I think you're nervous and this is new for you, and it's adorable," he admitted, after explaining why he could be seen laughing during her performance.
While the duets were fun and made for interesting TV, they came at the detriment to any young competitor not named Gianna, like 17-year-olds Emily Brooke and Thomas Stringfellow. Emily showed her age as she was overpowered by her partner, Lauren Alaina, while singing Carrie Underwood's "Flat on the Floor." Then there was Thomas, who took on Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" alongside last year’s winner, Nick Fradiani, and required at least half of the performance to stop looking like a deer in headlights. J.Lo pointed out that the tune just 'didn't feel natural" for Thomas, especially after his strong, original take on Radiohead's "Creep" just one night earlier.
Quite a performance from Nick Fradiani and Thomas Stringfellow!Posted by American Idol on Thursday, February 11, 2016
Mackenzie may have even helped Keith get his best one-liner of the night: "I love what you do with songs -- more than your hair," the judge joked.
In the end, five people had to go home. It was no surprise that the first name called safe was La'Porsha. She was joined by Sonoika, Avalon, Gianna, Thomas, McKenzie, and, after despite tonight's very odd performance, Jeneve, as the seven to move on to the next round.
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There's still one more round of solos and duets to get us to the final 14, and Thursday night may end up feeling like a warm-up, with David Cook, Jordin Sparks and Kellie Pickler returning to the Idol stage next week.
Do you think the judges picked the right names to make it to the next round? Share your thoughts in the comments below!