American Idol kicked off its “Rush Week” on Tuesday night, with 10 of the 15 girls who reached the top 30 performing live for the first time. The other five were eliminated.
Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr. determined which ladies would get the chance to sing after reviewing rehearsal footage. The five girls who did not make the cut: Jillian Jensen, Andrina Brogden, Brandy Neelly, Kenzie Hall and Austin Wolfe.
Throughout the show, we saw the female contestants working with judge-turned-mentor Randy Jackson and a team of advisors, including Idol alumni Adam Lambert and Chris Daughtry, the show's musical director Rickey Minor, vocal coaches and stylists. There were even spiritual advisors on hand.
The top 15 boys didn’t appear on stage. They will have their turn on Wednesday night. That includes Ben Briley, who won America's vote for the final spot in the group over Neco Starr.
Here’s a rundown of what happened on Tuesday night’s show:
Majesty Rose York was the first female contestant to take the stage. She performed a semi-acoustic version of Pharrell Williams’ hit, “Happy.” J-Lo said it was a great way to start the show, and that Majesty is “ready for showtime.” Keith complimented her on her “easy and breezy” vibe.
Kristen O'Connor did an admirable job with Adele’s "Turning Tables.” Harry told her he was proud of her, having had to follow Majesty’s strong performance. Keith detected that Kristen was nervous early on, but she overcame it and entered a zone.
Briana Oakley tackled “Warrior,” by Demi Lovato. Jennifer warned Briana that she needs to improve on performance quality and her connection to her song. Harry added that she shouldn’t reach for high notes simply to earn applause from the studio audience.
Jena Ascuitto, who apparently is now competing under the name Jena Irene, covered The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” J-Lo called her one of her favorites. Harry asked her what she thought the song is about. Jena gave a vague answer, after which Harry said she couldn’t figure out what the intention was behind the song choice.
Bria Anai chose Melanie Fiona’s "Wrong Side of a Love Song.” Harry earned the first live boos of the new season from the studio audience by telling Bria that she shouted the tune, rather than sang it. Keith seemed to agree to some extent, saying she was "overshooting the runway." Jennifer encouraged Bria by declaring she has star power written all over her.
Marrialle Sellars chose “Roar,” by Katy Perry. Toward the end, she lost her shoe. She improvised by holding the red high heel to her ear. Keith didn’t think it was the best song selection, nor her best showing. J-Lo would’ve liked to have seen her perform the song on the guitar. Harry suggested the giant production number was a step in the wrong direction. The panel did compliment her for her handling of the shoe incident.
Jessica Meuse performed Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer” with a guitar. Jennifer said that underneath Jessica’s anxiety, she has a softness that J-Lo could connect with. Harry said he couldn’t feel what she was singing about, though he chalked that up to her nervousness. Keith said he felt a disconnect because Jessica was smiling while singing lyrics about losing someone special.
Teenager Emily Piriz went with “Paris (Ooh La La),” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. Randy pointed out to her that the judges weren’t crazy about contestants picking that song during the auditions round, due to its sexually-charged lyrics. Sure enough, Harry raised his concerns after Emily was finished singing. J-Lo didn’t seem too bothered by the song choice; she said Emily delivered one of the most relaxed performances of the night.
MK Nobilette, the first openly-gay contestant in American Idol history, sang John Legend’s “All of Me.” She received a prolonged ovation from the studio audience afterward. Keith said MK made the perfect song choice, and praised her for the simplicity and transparency in the way she performs. Jennifer said MK expressed true sentiment on stage. Harry added that for the first time, MK didn’t project a defeatist attitude. Harry declared that she showed she belongs on the show.
The 10th and final girl to take the stage was Malaya Watson. She delivered a rendition of Ray Charles’ "Hard Times." Jennifer said Malaya is an amazing talent who hopefully will stick around for a while. Harry said Malaya brought “to-the-wall” energy. Keith made her smile by saying she makes glasses and braces look so cool.
The top boys will be on display Wednesday night. The fun begins on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
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