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Andrew is a staff writer at the “The Hudsucker”. He is a 28 year old lawyer living in Ottawa. Besides legal jargon, his brain capacity is taken up by reality show trivia, video game walk-throughs and room escape strategies. Andrew is also happily in a long-term, long-distance relationship. Follow him on Twitter as @sublymonal.

American Idol XV: Hollywood Week Concludes

Last week, we saw some of our favorite contestants from the auditions rise and fall when asked to sing in lines of ten with other contestants and in groups. This week, Hollywood Week reached its climax as the contestants performed twice more: once before the infamous division of them into three rooms with one of those rooms heading home entirely and the other in front of a live audience to give the judges a taste of what they could do with that kind of a feedback.

In the end, the judges had the undesirable task of “breaking up” with all but 24 of them, as J.Lo put it. Thirteen girls and 11 guys made the cut and I talk about each of them to give you a sense of why the judges may have picked them and address any questionable decisions in the process:

First up, The Girls:

ameliaAmelia Eisenhauer – This young red-head is talented, no doubt, and her ever-present violin makes for an interesting twist in her performances but I remain unconvinced that she’s figured out how to use her unusually low range to her advantage. Most Similar to: Season 8 Underdog Allison Iraheta.

avalonAvalon Young – The tomboy of the group lived up to Harry’s declaration that she brings something unique to the table. No other girl could sing and bring that little bit of urban swagger that she has, but will she be overpowered by bigger, more traditional voices? Most Similar to: Actually, no one. I don’t think Idol has ever had anyone quite like her, which could be a good thing.

Emilyemily Brooke – This likable returnee still has to find a way to sculpt the edges of her voice. It’s sort of like having a beautiful head of hair that needs a trim. Often she overshoots what she’s capable of and the results aren’t as good as they could be. Hopefully a good mentor will help her find her vocal sweet spot. Most Similar to: Season 7’s Brooke White.

Gianna_Isabella_2Gianna Isabella – Hard to tell if the daughter of one-hit-wonder Brenda K. Starr and friend to JLo made it on that connection alone.Gianna is often reckless with the melodies of the songs she choose to sing. I would recommend sticking to a straight forward cover of a classic and leave it to her voice to shine.  Most Similar to: Season 6 Winner Jordin Sparks.

jeneveJeneve Mitchell – The off-the-grid cello player has found her niché. Unlike some of her equally young competition, she knows her voice and does it justice in the songs she picks. There’s always the excitement that she’ll bring the funk with her cello, but her voice is pretty enough to leave it at home every now and then if she so chooses. Most Similar to: Last season’s accordian-wielding master of quirk Joey Cook.

jennJenn Blosil – No less weird than when we first saw her in her glazed-over, airy audition but her stage personality is all professional and her cover of The Hunger Games “The Hanging Tree” showed she can mix it up a little and forge her own path. Most Similar to: Season 13 Runner-Up Jena Irene.

jennaJenna Renae – No less down-to-earth than when we first met her and her voice remains one of the more pleasant, if understated, instruments in the competition. She’s going to need to have a breakthrough moment next week though in order to be one of the seven in her group advancing. Most Similar to: Season 11’s Elise Testone.

laporshaLa’Porsha Renae – If La’Porsha was an actress, she’d be Jennifer Lawrence: Hollywood’s darling, rarely a misstep and so likable you sometimes wonder if it’s just a by-product of good editing. But this girl has delivered a string of solid performances since landing in Hollywood and shown she’s compassionate to her fellow competitors. That’s a recipe for success that we’ve sampled before. Most Similar to: Season 3 Winner Fantasia.

oliviaOlivia Rox – In the grand scheme of young competitors who aren’t quite ready for the big time, Olivia eclipses them all. Her voice displays tone beyond her years without ever making her seem like she’s trying to be older than she is. She might be a dark horse in all this. Most Similar to: Last season’s 3rd place contestant JAX.

shelbieShelbie Zora – Since her time on the voice, Shelbie has shown she’s got more than just her tough, country girl exterior and that mix of experience working the stage and new-found likability might be enough to sneak her past a few of the girls who have gotten more screentime. Most Similar to: Season 11’s tough country girl with a big heart Skylar Laine.

sonikaSonika Vaid – On the spectrum of youthful inexperience versus prodigy, Sonika teeters in the middle. Her pure, sweet voice has yet to truly fail her, but her penchant for sounding like a watered-down Ariana Grande might limit her when it comes to the live shows. I’m hoping for the emotional connection we saw in her last performance without a compromise to her pitch like so many contestants before her. Most Similar to: Season 5’s Smash-hit Katharine McPhee.

stephanyStephany Negrete – Her cover of Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” finally let this pageant-pretty contestant spread her wings a little and her “don’t take off those shoes” bit with JLo made her more human, but I’m still waiting for her to shed her pristine exterior for a more authentic version of herself. Most Similar to: Season 9 Alum and MTV’s Faking It star Katie Stevens.

tristanTristan McIntosh – I’m aching for that moment when Tristan finds the right song for her and really owns up to the husky tone of her voice, but it hasn’t happened yet. She’s going to need some heavy mentoring from next week’s Idol alum to start her down the path of other young Idol success stories that the show seems so desperate to sell us on. Most similar to: Season 10 Runner-Up Lauren Alaina.

And now, The Guys:

adamAdam Lasher – Another triumphant returnee desperate to prove himself but so far he’s been flying under the radar. He’s going to have to carve out a space for himself among this stacked group, but I think he’s capable of it. Most similar to: Season 7’s late rocker with a soulful edge Michael Johns (RIP, buddy).

cjC.J. Johnson – His final performance painted him in a new light, one that showed he’s capable of putting on a show and that he got a bit of scrappiness in him. Could that authenticity and experience be all he needs to win over a few of Idol‘s older fans? Most similar to: Season 5’s biggest star Chris Daughtry.

daltonDalton Rapattoni – Maybe the most polarizing member of this year’s group of finalists, but those who like his uniquely punk rock takes on well-known songs like them a lot. Hopefully his creativity won’t be stifled from here on out. Most similar to: Season 10’s resident rocker James Durbin.

jamesJames VIII – His girlfriend may have gotten all the attention in their shared audition, but James’s funky brand of old-school blues caught the judges’ eyes too and he’s been riding that wave ever since. One well-chosen song could put him into the finals next week and, from there, there’s really no one quite like him. Most similar to: Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips.

jordanJordan Sasser – When it came down to the last spot for the guys and it was between him and ex-drug addict Kayce, I was on Team Kayce. That said, Jordan’s version of OneRepublic’s “Love Runs Out” displayed more poise and a better handle on his voice than we’ve seen all season. If he can maintain that kind of composure, he might impress me yet. Most similar to: Season 2 Runner-Up Clay Aiken.

koryKory Wheeler – Of the talented guitar-wielding male finalists, Kory might be the one we’ve seen the least, but he’s also been here before and that experience and his penchant for safe but solid performances might give him a leg up on his younger competition. Most similar to: Last season’s winner Nick Fradiani.

leeLee Jean – As adorable as Lee is, the judges were right when they said that his inexperience showed when he shushed the audience during his performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Make It Rain.” Hopefully some time with one of the Idol alum next week will help him find a balance between being endearing and taking his talent seriously. Most similar to: Season 14’s token youth Daniel Seavey.

mackenzieMacKenzie Bourg – The cast’s second Voice alum found what works for him and kept the ball rolling with a solid cover of Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” The question is whether the audience will enjoy his affected tone just as much in two or three weeks time and if he’s creative enough to bring something fresh every week. Most similar to: Season 8 Champ Kris Allen.

mannyManny Torres – After finish Idol‘s audition tour, Manny continued to improve on that showing, but based on what we were shown before he advanced on Thursday night, his strong footing slipped and his powerful, raspy voice got the better of him. He needs to latch on to his charisma and tone it down a little so he can focus on what works for him. Most similar to: Season 10 R&B balladeer Stefano Langone.

thomasThomas Stringfellow – Thomas is playing the game well: tell a sad story about how your girlfriend broke up with you then sing a One Direction tune about said girl (or perhaps a new girl?). He’s stuck his hooks in the tween vote and he isn’t letting go, but I hope he’s got more meat than One Direction and Ed Sheeran songs in his repertoire in time for next week. Most similar to: Season 13 tween heartthrob Sam Woolf.

trentTrent Harmon – Like La’Porsha on the girl’s side, it’s hard to deny that Trent is the most technically talented of his gender. Even with mono, he managed to steal the show three times in Hollywood Week and come out as humble and committed to his craft. I would only caution him to ditch the dramatic face-pulling when he sings so he doesn’t run the risk of seeming too over-the-top. Most similar to: Last season’s soulful vocal technician Clark Beckham.

There were, of course, some questionable cuts on the part of the judges. On top of last guy standing Kayce, it also felt like a blow to lose vocal powerhouse Lindita despite gaining La’Porsha. Perhaps we could have swapped someone younger and more inexperienced for her? And speaking of girls who were cut with little-to-no explanation: Jessica Cabral. Unlike red-head nanny Colette Lush, who didn’t fair so well her in her final performance so her “just didn’t live up to your potential” critiques from the judges felt warranted, Jessica’s final performance wasn’t even shown so based on everything we had seen from her, her trip back home felt like an unexpected slap to the face.

That said, I can get behind at least three-quarters of the finalists we do have, which is all well and good because after next week, only fourteen of them will be left standing with the judges making even more cuts. Fortunately we’ll see them mentored and duet with some of Idol’s best alum, like Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Chris Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, Kellie Pickler, David Cook, and Nick Fradiani, which should be fun and hopefully churn out some memorable performances before the doors close on the final season.

I’ll therefore forego a nostalgic look back at Idol’s tenth season until next week, but before then, sound off in the comments and polls below on who your favorite finalists are and whether you think all of them deserved their spots. I’ll see you next Friday with my recap of Idol’s first group of fourteen performances and the eliminations!

(Credit for all images to FOX Entertainment)
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2 Comments on “American Idol XV: Hollywood Week Concludes”

  1. Lily March 3, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    I disagree with most of your “similar to’s” Also I don’t find Mackenzie’s tone affected. There are people here who sing in an affected way though, which you did not mention. Other than this, great job!

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  1. American Idol XV: Top 24, Group 1 Show | The Hudsucker - February 12, 2016

    […] Young – As I said during my breakdown of the Top 24 last week, Avalon is in a lane of her own and her take on Bieber’s “Love Yourself” showed […]

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