'American Idol' Alumni Return for All-Star Duets with Farewell Season Contestants

American Idol XV - Showcase Duets - H 2016
Courtesy of FOX

The showcase performances continued on American Idol tonight, with the contestants who sang solos last night performing duets with past Idol champions. They sang their duets in front of a live audience as well as judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. The judges noted that they will be looking for how the performers sing, but also how they work with other artists.

First up were Emily Brooke and Lauren Alaina, who both originally auditioned for Idol when they were 15-years-old and both consider themselves country singers. Together, they sang “Flat On The Floor” by Carrie Underwood. They sounded great together, and overall, Brooke had a better performance than her solo showcase last night. Brooke held her own with Alaina despite not having as much experience. The judges were impressed, but they still think Brooke has a lot of room to grow.

Last year’s Idol winner, Nick Fradiani, returned to sing “Man In The Mirror” with Thomas Stringfellow. It was definitely an odd song choice for both Fradiani and Stringfellow. They sounded good, but Stringfellow definitely didn’t seem as comfortable as he did with his solo performance of “Creep” last night, which was way more up his alley. Luckily, the solo was likely enough to keep him in the competition, because the judges see a lot of potential in him based on that performance.

Next, Stephany Negrete paired up with season two winner Ruben Studdard. They sang “Superstar” by The Carpenters. It was a gorgeous duet, and the two blended their harmonies together very well. Negrete seems like such a seasoned performer every time she takes the stage. There was magic to their duet, and it was one of the strongest of the night.

Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson was paired with Sonika Vaid, who was initially worried about the fact that they’re such different vocalists who tend to gravitate toward different genres. They sang “Skyfall” by Adele, which was a perfect fit for Vaid’s powerful, beautiful voice. In their rehearsals, Johnson stressed the importance of connecting to the emotions of the song, something Vaid has excelled at all season so far. The judges loved the performance and again stressed just how talented of a singer she is.

Up next, Jenna Renae and Scotty McCreery sang McCreery’s own song, “See You Tonight.” The judges thought her voice sounded good and that it was a strong song choice, but they had a little trouble parsing out exactly how they felt about it since it’s hard to compare someone so new to someone with so much experience.

La’Porsha Renae, who delivered one of the best solo performances of last night, paired up with third-season champion Fantasia Barrino for a duet of “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald. They sounded amazing together and both pulled off really incredible runs. Urban said it was a beautiful match. Renae again had one of the best performances of the night.

Alaina took the stage again for a duet with Mackenzie Bourg. They sang “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. The song choice was more suited for Alaina, but Bourg still sounded good. Still, the judges agreed that his solo performance from last night was more representative of him as an artist.

Fradiani was also paired up with Gianna Isabella. They sang Fradiani’s own single “Beautiful Life.” It was something very different for Isabella, and it was a little difficult for her to match Fradiani’s power, but it was a fun performance. It just wasn’t representative of Isabella’s general vibe.

Next up, Avalon Young sang Studdard’s own “Flying Without Wings” with Studdard. In their rehearsals, Young asked Studdard for advice about battling nerves. He told her to focus on the fun. The energetic duet brought Urban to his feet. The judges loved it and loved the way their voices blended. Lopez said it truly felt like a real duet. “There’s something about you that is so incredibly likable,” Connick said.

Johnson and James VIII got their rock on with “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. James played the guitar during the duet, which highlighted the strengths of both artists. James was definitely outsung by Johnson, but Connick noted that “he did a pretty darn good hanging with him.”

McCreery was also paired with Jeneve Rose Mitchell for a duet of “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry. It was definitely the right song choice for Mitchell. The judges, however, thought it was a bizarre performance. They were more impressed by her solo last night.

Jordan Sasser sang a duet of “I Believe” with fellow North Carolinian Barrino. It was the song Barrino sang when she won Idol, so the pressure was on Sasser to rise to her level. Barrino sang effortlessly, and Sasser definitely had to work really hard to not be outsung. He did a fine job, but his solo was definitely a better performance for him.

With the duets complete, the judges then deliberated. They had to eliminate five singers from this first half of the top 24, considering both their duet and solo performances. The first person who they advanced to the top 10 was La’Porsha Renae. She was followed by Vaid, Young, Isabella, Stringfellow and Bourg. The final contestant to make it through was Mitchell. Sasser, Brooke, Jenna Renae, James VIII and Negrete were eliminated.

Next week, the second half of the top 24 will perform. What was your favorite duet of the night?