American Idol

Song by song grades for American Idol’s Top 20


Three singers head home and the Top 20 perform tonight on American Idol.

And tonight’s performance will come with the highest stakes yet in Season 20.

That’s because six more singers will head home Monday night, based in part on fan voting.

the Top 10 vote-getters from the Top 20 round will automatically advance.

Then the judges will select four wild card recipients during Monday’s show to round out a Top 14.

But first come those Top 20 performances. I’ll be doling out song by song grades in a live blog throughout tonight’s show, so feel free to keep checking back once the show begins.

See also …
Song by song grades for the Top 24, Night 1
Song by song grades for the Top 24, Night 2

Emyrson Flora, 16, Cleveland, Ohio, “Tell Me You Love Me” — Like the fact that Emyrson is going upbeat tonight. She displays a unique tone. The big chorus fell a bit flat. And I’d like to see her cut loose just a bit more on stage. Katy says she might be Idol’s youngest, but she’s also one of the most talented. Luke calls her a “superstar in the making.” Grade: B-

Mike Parker, 27, Wsrrenton, Va., “Chasing After You” — Truth be told Mike’s vocal last week was very shaky and he’s lucky to have made it through. Tonight’s he’s off to a much better start. But Idol also has more distinctive country voices in Season 20. A fine performance, but it didn’t scream Top 14. Luke says the time is right for Mike in country music. Grade: B

Tristen Gressett, 17, Pell City, Ala., “Sacrifice” — Okay, I think Tristen is one of this season’s top contestants. But I did not like that song choice — too much pop, too little soul and rock — or that vocal. Tristen does show off his trademark showmanship. But he did much, much better on Top 24 night. Lionel Richie calls the dynamics of his presentation “incredible.” Grade: C+

Sage, 21, Burbank, Calif., “Rhiannon” — Wow, that song choice. But Sage starts off delivering easily that night’s strongest vocal we’ve heard. Sage closes the song with a nice strong glory note. But she didn’t go to the possessed place Stevie does with that song, so I wound up being a bit disappointed. Katy called her performance “awesome” with a dash of Janice Joplin thrown in. Grade: B

Jay Copeland, 23, Salisbury, Md., “You Know I’m No Good” — Hmm, Katy commented on Jay’s muscles last week. This week, we’re treated to a clip of his working out. As for this performance, Jay’s showing off incredible range and just served up a dynamic ending. But he sang a “bad girl” song wearing a golden suit and smiling from ear to ear. I wanted more attitude to match the lyrics. But the judges loved it and Lionel said Jay lived up to his potential. It was, so far, the best performance of the night. Grade: B+

Nicolina Bozzo, 18, Toronto, “Edge of Seventeen” — Another Stevie song. An unexpected song choice. And she’s bringing the intensity I was missing from Sage’s performance. This girl is on fire as an American Idol contestant. She’s been the best on the show so far this season. And that was again, the best of the night so far. She did a great job of building the song’s dynamics and exploding near the end. Grade: A

Jacob Moran, 28, Dansville, Mich., “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” — Jacob is showing off crazy range on this song and delivering a fine vocal, if a bit too frill-filled for my taste. And a very nice glory note ended the performance. I wasn’t crazy about the song choice, which had no emotional impact on a night when 30 percent of the singers are going home. Katy suggests he might be the best singer on the show. Grade: B+

HunterGirl, 23, Winchester, Tenn., “Heartbreak Down” — Hooray, HunterGirl is singing an original. HunterGirl sounded so great on the small acoustic interlude in the middle of that song that I wish the entire song had been done without the backing band. Sometimes the band drowned out her singing. As for the original, thumbs up! Luke says she has “that magic sound” and called it “a great original.” Luke gave her an A+ on the original. Grade: B

Elli Rowe, 20, Nashville, “Somewhere Only We Know” — There’s a certain ethereal quality to Elli’s voice that helps set her apart. Her performance brings the judges to their feet. Luke calls her voice angelic and the performance “beautiful.” Elli says she could scream about making the Top 20. Ryan offers her the opportunity. She lets out a tiny whoop. Unfortunately, that’s how the performance came across to me. Grade: C+

Dan Marshall, 24, Chesapeake, Va., “Friends in Low Place” — Dan needs a big comeback performance. Nerves sabotaged him on Top 24 night. He’s doing much better tonight, and that deep country voice and handsome smile just might get him into the Top 14. Nice turn around for Dan, helping justify that fans’ decision to put him in the Top 20. Grade: B

Dan advancing means the elimination of Danielle Finn and Scarlet Ayliz. Really sorry to see Scarlet go home. She brought tons of pop pizzazz to a show sorely in need of it.

Only one more artist will be cut tonight because Kenedi Anderson dropped out of the competition. She performance on Night 2 of the Top 24.

Ava Maybee, 21, Los Angeles, “Anyone” — Wow, Ava. Great song choice. Great look. Great vocal. That was by far Ava’s best performance on the show. Love the way her voice exploded, then came back down for an pitch-perfect and emotional ending. Katy compliments her for reinventing the song. Luke called it a great performance. Grade: A–

Allegra Miles, 19, West Palm Beach, Fla., “Free Fallin'” — Damn, Allegra. Really nice song choice to show off her unique vocals. This is shaping up to be one of my favorite vocals of the night. And she does a nice job of changing up the middle of the song without messing with it too much. Outstanding. And she brings the judges to their feet. Luke calls it his favorite performance of the night and the opening breathtaking. Lionel loved it too. Grade: A

Noah Thompson, 19, Louisa, Ky., “Falling” — Nice start by Noah, who shows impressive composure for someone with so little experience. He’s also delivering the unexpected song choice — Harry Styles for the country artist? — with emotion. Unfortunately, with all the emotion, his voice didn’t seem quite up to tackling the bigger parts of the chorus. Luke likes his aw shucks persona and the growth he’s showing in the competition. Grade: B–

Leah Marlene, 20, Normal, Ill., “Heal” — Okay, after the first half of tonight’s show, I was wondering if Nicolina Bozzo was going to run away with Season 20. The second half is proving she might have some competition after all. That was another excellent vocal from Leah, delivered with tons of emotion and intensity and a glory note that lasted forever. A great performance. Way to go, Leah. Lionel called it spiritual and crazy good. He’s right. Grade: A

Christian Guardino, 21, Patchogue, N.Y., “Imagine” — I’m not a big fan of Christian. Was there a single line of that song delivered without a run of some other sort of embellishment? That said, that was the best vocal we’ve heard tonight from a male performer. But the song is powerful enough without all the embellishments, and the performance would have been more powerful with about half as many. Grade: B+

Fritz Hager, 22, Tyler, Texas, “When the Party’s Over” — Superb song choice by Fritz. And he keeps suggesting he can’t hit the crazy notes other contestants do, then steps on the stage and performs with an endearing vulnerability few of them are matching. Lionel calls it an incredibly touching performance. Wow, he certainly moved Katy. That was my favorite male performance of the night. And that’s two great performances in a row from Fritz. Grade: A–

Katyrah Love, 23, Baltimore, Md., “Dream” — That performance didn’t carry the emotional wallop of some we’ve seen in the second half of tonight’s show. But it was another pro performance from Katyrah, who continues to look absolutely at home on the stage. And she once again reminded us that she’s one of the best female singers on the show. Grade: B+

Cameron Whitcomb, 19 British Columbia, “Changes” — Cameron vows to get an American Idol tattoo if he makes the Top 10. After all, his brother got one, on his butt. Cameron tries a more serious approach at the start of tonight’s song. He can’t maintain that persona for the entire performance, but he turns in one of his better vocals. And he obliges Ryan with one of his patented backflips. Grade: B–

Cadence Baker, 19, Muscle Shoals, “Train Wreck:” Enunciate, Cadence, enunciate, because I had trouble making out the opening lines of that song. Cadence has a unique tone, and she’s delivering this with lots of passion. But it’s also turning very shouty. She gets the judges to their feet though. Luke calls it a great performance. Katy calls it one of her best performances. Grade: C

Lady K, 25, Tuskegee, Ala., “Love on the Brain” — And Lady K is going to provide a fiery end to tonight’s show with a saucy version of a Rihanna classic. Loved that little growl she unleashed midway through the song. She delivered a nice ending too. I would have liked even a bit more attitude. But that might have been Lady K’s strongest performance of the competition. Luke complimented her on not over-singing and all three judges loved the performance. Grade: B

Lady K getting the final spot among the second group of singers meant the elimination of Sir Blayke. He joins Scarlet Ayliz and Danielle Finn as artists eliminated tonight.

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