American Idol

Song by song grades for American Idol’s Top 20, Part 2

Ryan Seacrest with Nutsa, following her performance on American Idol Sunday night (ABC Photo)

Ryan Seacrest with Nutsa, following her performance on American Idol Sunday night (ABC Photo)


Gotta say, the second group of American Idol contestants seemed to grasp the moment more than the first group Sunday night.

Six singers went home Sunday night. That pales in comparison to what’s going to happen Monday when eight — 40 percent of those remaining — are eliminated.

So if ever there was a time to make a big impression, it was during Sunday’s Top 20 performances.

Those eliminated Sunday night from this group included Elijah McCormick, Malik Heard and Dawson Wayne.

I wasn’t surprised to see Malik or Dawson head home. They weren’t among the top performers last week and they hadn’t gotten as much screen time as many of their colleagues.

But the elimination of Elijah — who also underperformed last week — means three of the four platinum ticket winners have been cut. Only Tyson Venegas remains.

Here are song by song grades for the second group to perform Sunday.

Hannah Nicolaisen, “Somebody to Love” by Queen — Interesting song choice. Hey, and Hannah is doing a really nice job. She’s nailing impressive notes, getting the crowd involved and delivering an all-around fun performance. That was really, really impressive. My favorite Hannah performance to date. Grade: A–

Olivia Soli, “I Surrender” by Celine Dion — I have to say, Olivia is fearless when it comes to song choices. Wow, and she’s in full voice in a heartbeat. Group 2 came to battle, that’s for sure. That was one big note after another after another. Lionel called it “incredible.” Katy thinks she should sing Celine every week. Grade: B+

Marybeth Byrd, “People Pleaser” by Marybeth Byrd — Yet another original. Kudos to American Idol for giving the artists a chance to perform their own music. I really liked that song, and the emotion Marybeth poured into that performance. Lionel called it “superstar” material. Katy said that song transformed her into a star. Grade: A–

Michael Williams, “Lose You to Love Me” by Selena Gomez — Following three superb performances to the stage, Michael got off to a slow start on this song. But from the minute he hit the chorus, he picked up momentum, showing off his nice range and delivering a nice ending. Shame most of the post-song talk about about the fact that he cut his hair. Grade: B

Paige Anne, “Say Something” by A Great Big World — Look at that, she was an alternate into the Top 26, turned in a brilliant performance and is now in the Top 20. I’m not loving this arrangement of the song. But kudos for Paige Anne for taking a risk. And damn does this young lady have a great and big voice. Paige Anne is in tears by the time the song ends. I’ll be interested to see how she does after that performance. Grade: B

Nutsa, “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton — Oh, no, rather than cutting loose on stage, she’s going to take Katy Perry’s advice and stand behind the mic and sing a balld. This isn’t Nutsa’s strength. The showwoman Nutsa delivers something other Idol contestants aren’t as opposed to belting a power ballad like Olivia. That said, the second half of that was pretty darn impressive. Grade: B–

Tyson Venegas,“180” by Tyson Venegas — He’s the first platinum ticket winner to perform tonight since two of the four have already been eliminated. And he’s delivering one of the finest performances we’ve seen from a male contestant tonight. Yep, there are guys in the Top 20 who can deliver big vocals too, folks. Tyson just proved that with a really fine original. Lionel called his original a damn good song. Grade: B+

Megan Danielle, “Holy Water” by — Megan’s turned from country music to gospel and that’s what she’s going to serve up tonight. But she’s still blessed with that wonderful country-like rasp. She’s delivering another solid performance. Folks, this second group of American Idol contestants is fire. Luke and Katy called it her best performance so far. Grade: B+

Colin Stough, “Pretty Heart” by Parker McCollum — I’m predicting that Colin will advance because Idol fans love male country singers. That said, I thought he sounded more unique and confident in his early performances than he has in the last two. This, in particular, just didn’t compare well to what we’ve heard from the second group. Grade: C

We Ani, “Skyfall” — It would have been criminal for We not to advance as good as she’s been on Season 21. And she’s going to slay this, because that’s what We does. Oh, my word, that glory note near the end. She seemed to hold that note forever. Another amazing performance from We, who remains the top of the class on American Idol Season 21. Katy calls herself “shook.” Grade: A

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