American Idol

Ranking American Idol’s top performances in Hollywood

Haven Madison talking about her challenge round performance on American Idol. (ABC Photo)

Haven Madison talking about her challenge round performance on American Idol. (ABC Photo)


As usual, American Idol used its first Hollywood Week episode to reintroduce us to top contestants we met during the audition episodes, including some we hadn’t seen on our TV screens for more than a month.

That said, I did have to chuckle a bit when the lead-in talked about all the “undiscovered” talent Idol had uncovered for Season 21.

I mean, the two hours that followed featured impressive performances by We Ani (formerly We McDonald), Marybeth Byrd and Megan Danielle, all of whom got lots of airtime as contestants on The Voice.

And the show used a leaked performance by Nutsa (Buzaladze) to promote Sunday episode. A native of Georgia — the country, not the state — she’s appeared in a number of televised competitions, just not in the U.S.

That said, the talent on display Sunday night was undoubtedly impressive, so I’ve ranked my favorite performances of the night at follows.

First, though, Sunday’s episode wasn’t all good news. The Idol judges cut several contestants we’d met during the auditions, including MaKayla Stacey, daughter of former Idol standout Phil Stacey from Season 6.

Others getting the axe included Ashley Tankard, Kamron Lawson, Danny Epp, Owen Eckhardt, Keelin, Ophrah Kablan and Lyric Medeiros.

Then there was Sarah Beth, the 25-year-old mother of three who created a bit of a social media stir by suggesting Katy Perry made comments that amounted to mom-shaming during her audition.

Right after completing her performance challenge, Sarah Beth announced she was leaving the competition to return to her children.

Katy encouraged her to continue the competition. The judges advanced her to the next round. Sarah Beth still opted to leave. Hmm.

On to my picks for the night’s best.

1. Haven Madison, “Still Need You” (an original): Haven auditioned with a magnificent original called “15,” which she has already released. She performed another “Still Need You” in the performance round. Her emotional performance, featuring the natural cry in her voice, had fellow contestants in tears. Then drew a standing ovation from the judges and her audience. That’s powerful. And coming from a young woman who’s only 16. By the way, “Still Need You” is also on streaming sites.

2. Wé Ani, “Good For” (an original): We all know Wé can sing. After all, she finished third on The Voice Season 11. But for the performance round, she showed up with an original she wrote, performed it with passion and attitude (while playing guitar, nonetheless). That earned her a standing ovation as well. And the song was so catchy, the contestants sang it back to her while she was backstage.

3. Marybeth Byrd, “Something in Orange” by Zach Bryan: This might not have been an original, but Marybeth sure performed it as though it was. She delivered emotion and stellar vocals. For those who don’t remember, Marybeth was Top 8 on Season 17 of The Voice. And she sounded even better than I remembered on this cover.

4. Mariah Faith, “Hope You’re Happy Now” by Lee Brice and Carly Pearce: Mariah slowed down the country duet, then added an extra dose of angst and emotion. The result was magic, thanks largely to her unique, raspy vocals. The female singer-songwriter group on Idol is deep and talented, but Mariah Faith is one of the best.

5. Kya Monee’, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls: Kya was Willie Spence’s duet partner two years ago. She’s going to make a name for herself if she keeps turning in performances as powerful as this one. She changed up the song just enough to keep it interesting, because it’s been done to death, then dazzled us with her vocal skill. Surprisingly, Idol posted neither video nor a short of that performance.

6. Colin Stough, “Stone” by Whiskey Myers: Nope, I didn’t forget the guys. It’s just that the ladies stole the show Sunday night. That said, Stough stood out and reminds me a lot of Season 20 champ Noah Thompson with his natural rasp and country tone. In fact, I’ve been more impressed with Colin two performances in than I was with Noah this time a year ago.

7. Tongi, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt: Tongi got to close the show. I guess that’s what happens with your audition video is viewed 11 million times, 8 million more than anyone else on the show. Tongi didn’t quite accomplish his goal of singing the song with eyes wide open, but he displayed unique, pitch perfect vocals again.

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