6:31pm PT by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
'American Idol': Judges "Brutal Cuts" to Shape Top 48
"Tonight is the ultimate talent throwdown," the text onscreen reads at the beginning of American Idol Thursday. It's the final night of Hollywood Week — the solo round, when the 80 contestants who survived the high-stakes group round perform one last time, alone, fighting for those top 48 spots. "No more groups, no more excuses, just one final chance to face the judges," Ryan Seacrest says.
First up is Loren Lott, who sets the bar high with her performance of Adele's "Skyfall," a song she chooses because it makes her cry. Her rendition brought Jennifer Lopez to her feet in a standing ovation, and even though her fate isn't determined until a round of other performers, it's pretty clear that Lott is here to stay.
She is in fact part of the first group of contestants on to the top 48. She's joined by Daniel Seavey, whose performance of "I See Fire" by Ed Sheeran won over Keith Urban's heart and smile. At just 15-years-old and the youngest singer in the competition, Seavey has no business having such a sultry voice. Shi Scott also advances after the first round of cuts. Even though her nerves showed in her performance of "All I Could Do Was Cry" by Etta James, she has a strong voice, and the smart song choice played to her strengths and range, so the judges gave her another chance.
"Big" Ron Wilson and Adam Lasher, however, didn't make it past the first round of eliminations. The latter failed to bring spark to his take on "Free Fallin' " by Tom Petty. It's a fine performance, but there's nothing exciting here. Meanwhile, Wilson let his ego get the best of him. Let this be a lesson for other Idol hopefuls: Don't undermine band leader Rickey Minor. He knows what he's talking about.
Coasting comfortably into the top 48, country girl Maddie Walker and resident science geek Trevor Douglas both proved they've got a lot of talent for being just 16 years old. Quentin Alexander also advanced with an innovative take on Vance Joy's "Riptide." Jax Cole gave such a strong performance of "Let It Be" that the judges tell her on the spot that she's through. Shout out to that black sparkly jumper she rocks.
Just a day after her anxiety attack, Alexis Granville steps up to the mic and can't quite find her first note. After several seconds of a very pitchy performance of "You Light Up My Life" by Whitney Houston, Harry Connick Jr. finally stops her and asks her to restart. But when she sings the wrong notes again, he cuts her off. "One time is excusable; two times is not," Connick tells her frankly.
Nothing gets sugarcoated during Hollywood Week. "We're going to be making some really brutal cuts," Urban tells the contestants, and the seriousness of the judges never wavers over the course of the hour. Jess Lamb, Alex Shier, Naomi Tatsuoka and Piper Jones all pack their bags tonight. Katherine Skinner also says farewell when she once again fails to deliver a standout performance.
Michael Simeon, who Connick notes gets better every time, overcomes the pressure of solo round, along with older contestant Nick Fradiani, who impresses Urban by changing the phrasing of "Babylon" by David Gray to tell a story of his own.
In the impressive final batch of performances, Joey Cook tried not to forget her words again. Fortunately, she picked "Across The Universe," a song with a lot of repeated lyrics, and her voice carried her through. She's joined by Lovey James, Rayvon Owen and Riley Bria, who boldly sang one of Urban's own songs. Tyanna Jones, who has consistently stood out in the competition, even gave Lopez chills.
Exhaustion got to the best of a lot of the contestants tonight, but as Lopez pointed out, once the live shows begin, there are no breaks. In fact, there's only more work between extra rehearsals and press. Next week, the top 48 performers who made it out of the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles will compete in Showcase Week, singing in the legendary House Of Blues and vying for their shot to have America vote for them in the top 24. Who are your early favorites?