American Idol

Song by song grades for American Idol’s Top 20, Part 1

Mariah Faith with Ryan Seacrest after her performance on American Idol Sunday night. (ABC Photo)

Mariah Faith with Ryan Seacrest after her performance on American Idol Sunday night. (ABC Photo)


American Idol revealed its Top 20 Sunday night, splitting the singers up into the groups they performed with last week.

That means three singers went home from each group.

From group one, the eliminated singers were Elise Kristine, Emma Busse and PJAE.

Of the three, I was most disappointed — but not all that surprised — to see Elise go home.

She has a fabulous voice and displays a smart sense of humor on her social media, something that never really came through on the show.

But Season 21 is jam packed with talented female singers, and Elise really didn’t get as much screen time as some of the others.

Here’s song-by-song grades for those who advanced.

Zachariah Smith, “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner — Zachariah has dialed down the energy for this song. Wise choice? Not sure, that’s been his calling card to date. He’s got a big powerful voice, but some nerves showed on that opening and he’s not nailing all these big notes. Grade: C+

Matt Wilson, “Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur — Nice, smooth vocal from Matt, though the staging sure seems a little sparce, doesn’t it. He displays nice range and stage presence in a heartfelt performance, but a bit more emotional would have helped. And that final note seemed to stray on him a bit though. Grade: B–

Nailyah Serenity, “Baby Love” by Mother’s Finest — Looking remarkably stylish, Nailyah delivers a sassy version of this song. It got a bit shouty here and there, but there’s no doubt this young lady can belt when she needs to. All that said, will it be memorable enough to get her into the Top 12? I’m not sure because she hasn’t gotten as much screen time as many of her colleagues. Grade: B

Warren Peay, “Up There Down Here” by Zach Williams — Do these contestants realize eight singers go home tomorrow night? I ask because some of these song choices don’t seem to reflect that urgency. Warren gets to show off his Chris Stapleton like rasp and country soul on this song, but it’s not going to make a lasting impression. Okay, perhaps except for that ending, which was quite good. Grade: B–

Kaeyra, “Bruises” by Lewis Capaldi — Looking very much like a star, Kaeyra slips behind the piano, shows off her unique vocal tone, complete with rasp. She’s delivering a passionate cover of the song, showing off her powerful vocals to great effect. Katy liked the fact that Kaeyra, who’s been rocking out on the show, showed a different side of herself this time around. Grade: B+

Mariah Faith, “”Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke — Mariah’s another of the females on the show with a signature style. She’s turned in a solid vocal tonight, full of rasp and soul and looked completely comfortable on stage. Lionel compliments her on a “great job.” Just wondering if she might have chosen a song that created a bigger moment. Grade: B

Iam Tongi, “The Winner Takes It All” by — Back to playing the guitar his late father gave him, Tongi does what he does best. Which means strumming that guitar and delivering an impassioned cover of a classic song. He’s headed to the Top 12. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Listen to the reaction he’s getting from the crowd. Grade: A–

Haven Madison, “Mean Girls” by Leanna Crawford — Okay, this is one of Haven’s best vocals on a song she didn’t write. Perhaps because it sounds very much like a song that high school student could have written. Give us emotion, Haven, not huge notes. Well, she didn’t exactly follow that advice, but she earned a standing ovation from the coaches. Katy said she has a newfound “refined sparkle.” Grade: B+

Oliver Steele, “Too Soon,” an original — Wow, look at this, Oliver has decided to perform an original on a night when 40 percent of the contestants won’t survive. It started a little slowly, but Oliver picked up the passion over the last 30 to 45 seconds of that performance. Luke gave him “10 out of 10.” Lionel says he’s “on fire.” Grade: B

Lucy Love, “Boulders,” an original — Hey, and here comes Lucy with her own original. This young woman is fierce. She says this song just poured out one day when she was having a tough time. And she ends the first half of tonight’s show in rousing fashion. That was powerful. Luke says she captured his heart with a tremendous peformance. Grade: A–

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