Hollywood Nights: American Idol finds the final 51 as producers do something right and pigs take flight

Can't tell which guy is a potential Idol Top 24 guy and who plays the Riddler on Gotham.

Can’t tell which guy is a potential Idol Top 24 guy and who plays the Riddler on Gotham.

That wasn’t boring.

Dumping on American Idol producers is pretty easy to do when the product gets watered down with imaginary drama, mystery illnesses, forced confrontation and rules being made up on the fly (like when Trent Harmon was allowed to perform solo but Dalton Rapattoni and Kassy Levels needed to find a third or they’d be kicked off the show). Then they come out and have an episode like Wednesday to make me believe this is the year they turn things around and give us what we really want – a musical competition show based around the music.

In a one-hour Wednesday show, Idol managed to give us a peek at 22 contestants. None of the performances were especially long, but they all served a purpose. Some, like Thomas Stringfellow or Shelbie Z or Jenn Blosil, were a subtle reminder that these contestants are really, really good and you’ll want to keep an eye on them. There was Kory Wheeler and Stephany Negrete, shown to remind people that they’re good but they may or may not have their hearts broken Thursday; there was John Wayne Shulz and Joshua Wicker, shown as the strong contestants who missed out in the final cut; and there was someone like Mionne Destiny (who better pronounce her name My Own Destiny) who we got to see because we haven’t seen a second of her this season and they need to make sure all the Top 24 contestants make an appearance before Thursday’s cut.

Everything came so fast and furious it’s tough to tell who has a chance at making the cut. The producers did a devilishly good job of reminding us 51 of 75 made it through to the next round but didn’t explain why Room 1 had 23, Room 3 had 28 and Room 2 had 24. Why 51 and not an even 50?

Because there isn’t an even amount of guys and girls.

Seventeen guys made it through and 34 girls got to the next round, which is about right. I’ve been saying all season the girls have more depth while the guys are more top heavy (talking about the sexes it’s the other way around, amirite?) and the cut number proved it. If you’re wondering why there aren’t more guys it’s because after the Top 10 or 12 guys things go right down Mediocre Road.

It’s not that big of a deal, but it’s still infuriating Idol won’t make a Top 51 list public. Luckily, you can read it hereand don’t worry – there’s no potential for spoilers. I keep them off the site because I hate them as much as everyone else.

Onto the recaps as I search for pineapples, because mangos are gross even when J-Lo eats them:

Stephany Negrete
“Set Fire To The Rain,” Adele

My No. 1 rule for song selection is don’t pick a song by an artist who has a monster voice unless you’re going to rework to the point where it doesn’t sound like theirs. Adele certainly falls into that category. Stephany wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have a wow moment. I don’t think she’s in the Top 24, but if there’s a positive there it’s that I’m truly awful at figuring out female vocalists.

Thomas Stringfellow
“A Thousand Years,” Christina Perri
Tommy String getting all concerned about his performance was hysterical. “I messed up?” Yeah bro, you did such a horrible job with your perfectly tuned voice that seems to crack at just the right time. He’s got the sound that people kill for and it came in a messed up performance. The Stringfellow-MacKenzie Bourg battle for a Top 12 spot is gonna be intense.

Avalon Young
“One Last Time,” Ariana Grande
Her voice is good and the performance was solid, but Wednesday’s wardrobe choice confused me. She wore clothes that fit, which was a plus, but I don’t get the Cosby Sweater or the black leggins with Timbs. There’s a good chance this is because I’m an old.

Olivia Rox
“Some Original BS,” Herself
I hate originals. I watch Idol for covers. This isn’t just for Olivia, it’s really for everyone who sings originals. Drives me nuts. That said, she was great. I don’t know if she’s a Top 12 lock, but being a good-looking 16-year old who can play and sing certainly doesn’t hurt her chances.

John Wayne Shulz
“John 3:16,” Keith Urban

Super pumped to watch John Wayne Shulz star in American Boner Idol, walking around auditions rooms and asking girls if they’ve seen his big black cowboy hat before the bass kicks in and the scene begins. Despite my disdain for country music, I was surprised he ended up cut especially since he rocked the Nick Fradiani schmedium T-shirt that made him look like he should be suiting up playing middle linebacker for the Broncos on Sunday.

MacKenzie Bourg
“I Hate Originals,” Himself

I quickly ignored the fact MacKenzie was singing an original because I was furiously trying to find out the actor who plays The Riddler on Gotham because the dudes are twins. Was there any doubt he was on to the next level? Dude is too good. Top 24, here he comes.

Shelbie Z
“Alone,” Heart
Um, was that the second-best performance of “Alone” in Idol history? When she hit the “Til Now” at the start it was chills. Chills. Don’t think the dukes were a terrific look, but she crushed it. Totally a voice to be afraid of and the best singer of the country chicks. Top 24 lock.

Kory Wheeler
“The Lights Will Guide You Home” Colplay
Something happened to Kory’s voice because it’s remarkably better than it was last year and I’m not just saying that because I’m probably gonna be the best man at his wedding (or at least invited. Twitter bros do stuff like that for one another). Curious to see how he’ll end up because while we’ve had WGWGs, we haven’t had a pure 100 percent hipster make the Top 24, unless you count that guy with the beard who got saved that I couldn’t stand.

James XIII
“Wicked Game” Chris Isaak
His voice isn’t amazingly powerful, but it’s good. James XIII just needs to work on not looking like he’s taking a dump while he sings. That left eye looks like he’s pushing one out and for someone with my maturity level, I laugh instead of listen. I’m 12, sorry. That last big note – right after his last dump face – was strong. Showed some real promise. With the right song choices, he could Casey James himself this season.

Tristan MacIntosh
“What Hurts the Most,” Rascal Flatts

There was no chance someone wasn’t going to volunteer this song to Tristan, but there was also no chance Tristan wasn’t keeping her backstory to it as an ace up her sleeve. Glad to see Malie Delgado stepped up and – as we learned later – the Idol gods paid her back with a boatload of karma when she delivered on a song despite being sick. Tristan’s performance was great. You could feel the emotion and, I can’t believe I’m saying this about another girl, but she’s so damn good I don’t know how she doesn’t make Top 24. I’d also keep the hair down, because tied back made me think I was looking at someone I’d never seen before.

Sonika Vaid
“One Last Time,” Ariana Grande
I don’t want to heap too much praise on Sonika because she came off really bad during the Group Night fiasco and I usually root against those people. I also don’t want to heap too much praise because my ability to recognize female soloists is not good. Sounded great. How far can it take her vs. Chicks with Guitars? No idea.

Lee Jean Jr
“Stitches,” Shawn Mendes
I’m not gonna root against a kid who sings a song my 4-year old loves. Just won’t do it. LJ2’s voice is good as long as he’s playing soft-rock hits, but if he could have gone a little bigger during this performance he might have won Season 15 right there. He’s got star written all over him, but I don’t know if the voice is big enough to win Idol this year.

Sara Strum
“Somewhere Only We Know,” Keane
Didn’t think this was a good song choice or performance for Sara. She hit some pretty big, deep notes in previous auditions and I don’t think a slightly uptempo pop song is in her wheelhouse. Put her on stage for Motown Week? Home run. Considering what she’s already put on screen, can’t write her off. A huge solo Thursday might push her to the lead of the pack. Worst case, her and Lee Jr can get together, get married in 15 years and have insanely talented kids.

Jenn Blosil
“True Colors,” Cydni Lauper
Don’t know if there’s a more perfect song for Jenn Blosil. I love her 80s Sitcom Mom style and her 80s Airhead Sitcom Friend attitude, but her voice is amazing. She should be Top 24, but Idol judges have a thing with putting the raspy chicks too deep in the show. I don’t know if anyone’s had as many hits as Blosil has during auditions, but she’s my clear No. 2 girl on the show.

Emily Brooke
“What Hurts the Most,” Rascal Flatts
This is why Blosil is No. 2. Emily Brooke is the goods. She’s the perfect Idol contestant. She’s Taylor Swift Jr. and did nothing to disprove that tonight. I don’t know if it was her best performance but it was still really damn good and I don’t think there’s another country/teen/WGWG that you’d put above her based on the total package. She’s probably a 30-1 shot to win the whole thing and if you can find a site that accepts such wagers, throw a couple bucks down and see if she hits.

Malie Delgado
“Stitches,” Shawn Mendes
After giving up her song to Tristan, karma should have kicked in and the Idol gods should have given the beauty queen her voice back. Instead the effed her in the A – or so it appeared. Clearly her voice sounded like she smoked all the cigarettes in Hollywood while battling strep, but it prevented her from chasing notes that might have taken away from the tempo of the arrangement. Her tone came off better and added some sensitivity to the audition. Don’t say karma doesn’t exist. Sometimes it just works in funny ways.

Mionne Destiny
“Chains,” Nick Jonas
Who are you? Are they showing you to us because you’re a surprise Top 24 candidate or because you were legit sick? So confused. Song selection was fire tho.

Jessica Cabral
“Up To The Mountain,” Patty Griffin
And just like that a blues singer showed up. You do not mess around with a chick with a bluesy voice like that. Those types of contestants do very, very well because that sound plays well with the voting audience. You get a bluesy voice and all sorts of feels come through. You get the pain and the love and the pain – lotta pain involved in the blues – and inevitably a chick like Jessica does a performance in the Top 10 and I end up crying. Pretend I didn’t say that.

Joshua Wicker
“A Thousand Miles,” Christina Perri
I’d love to hear the reason why he didn’t make the cut. It’s clear he’s not a soloist. I’m not going to sit here and say this was his best because it wasn’t but that’s because he’s not that type of performer. He’s not a pop guy. He’s not going to stand up with a mic and dance and strut. He’s going to sit down with a guitar, play a song, make chicks cry and make dudes pretend they aren’t. If Scott Borchetta is smart, he signs this dude and lets him do him. He’s got that voice you can’t replicate and he’s the kind of singer that ends up making it with some monster song on a big movie soundtrack that leads to a hit album.

CJ Johnson
“Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac
Seems like CJ has paid attention to Idol because he’s got the playbook on “How To Win American Idol” down. Pick songs people like, play the hell out of them, walk off stage to raucous applause. If he makes Top 24 all the moms who were Team Fradiani are gonna hop right on the CJ Express all the way to the Top 3.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell
“Danny’s Song,” Kenny Loggins
Seeing her and hearing her voice scrambles my brain. If you close your eyes when she performs you’re expecting to see a 20-something blonde country girl and instead you get a little girl who looks like she’s playing Cowboys and Indians. She’s good. Real good. But I don’t think there’s room for Amelia Eisenhauer – who we didn’t see – and Jeneve in the Top 24 which means one of them is going home in tears Thursday which means I’ll be drunkenly crying too.

Dalton Rapattoni
“Hopelessly Devoted to You,” Olivia Newton-John

So what did he need a guitar for there? He’s the best dressed on the show, I’m still not 100 percent sure if he wears eye makeup or if he’s just got eyelashes chicks would kill for. He’s Top 24. He’s Top 12. He’s probably Top 6. With the arsenal he’s shown he might be the most versatile of the guys. Is there a genre he can’t play? Would be crazy irony if it was “Green Day Week” and he bombed.

Thursday night’s eliminations are going to be tough, especially with 22 girls getting cut. I’m still assuming they’re going to go 12 guys, 12 girls, but who knows with how Idol works. Tomorrow around noon EST I’ll have my predictions for the Top 24 and we’ll see if I know what I’m doing or if I’m a moron or, and this is more likely, I’m right but the judges/producers screwed up.

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