The madness and uselessness of American Idol‘s Hollywood Week is behind us, and we’re onto, I  think, solo and duet performances. These are live, right? Ryan is looking more and more vampire-ish, and is he gaining weight? I also couldn’t stop looking at his neck. He’s the guy who looks at his smart phone extended out in front of him rather than looking down so as to avoid what’s known as Blackberry neck. And yet, he has Blackberry neck. Poor guy. Well, not “poor”, but …I know a little bit about vanity, so I feel for the guy. His worst fears are coming true.

Since I haven’t recapped in two weeks, you might’ve thought I’d given up on Idol, or maybe I gave it up for Lent. Well, you’d be wrong. Mostly, it was an emotional couple of weeks in my personal life and when I watched Idol and the Hollywood episodes, I watched to turn my brain off. Thanks for those who reached out and wondered what was up. I’m good. I’m happy to be back.

We’re lookin’ at two nights, this week. Twelve contestants will perform over two nights. Night one, they’ll perform a solo, and night two they’ll perform with a former Idol winner or top-10 finalist. I like this twist. I guess it can only be done on the final season, but I’ll take it.

Here’s the rundown of the solo performances.

Stephenay Negrete – She took on something by Jessie J, which is damn risky, because every song Jessie J sings is pretty much written so everyone can see how loud Jessie J can sing. I was surprised. I haven’t been a fan of Stephany, so far. Last night, I couldn’t ignore she’s a big, big voice and super sexy. Super sexy isn’t usually an ingredient needed on Idol, anymore, but it can’t hurt. The only mark against her was that she wasn’t connected to the song – at least that’s what J Lo and Harry thought.

Mackenzie Bourg – He sang “Say Something” and did nothing unique with it. I kinda dug his retro Members Only jacket. He’s got cool hair. Um. What else? See, I can’t think of anything because he’s kinda …blah. Boring. And he’s not handsome. I guess he’s kinda charming. Maybe a little cute. Sorry. I don’t get the appeal. J Lo said he “did what Mackenzie does” which, after 5 weeks, can we really identify what “Mackenzie does” and what he’s known for. He might get lucky, because he was one of the only quality male performances.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell – She’s the mountain girl who plugs in a generator once a week during American Idol season to watch, and this girl has some raw, uninhibited, unspoiled, brilliant talent. Nobody should dare sing Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” and in a rare moment, Harry was wrong to criticize anything about her performance and harp playing. I wanna see more of Jeneve.

Jenna Renae – Everyone in this top-24 can sing. Jenna is no exception and she was OK with her rendition of “My Church” and Keith Urban pumped his fist when she started, but she’s missing that thing I’d want to pay money and see in concert. Harry told her she sounded like she was shouting. Compare it to the mountain girl before and how you (well, me) didn’t want her to stop and would’ve liked to hear something else.

James VIII – Seriously, dude. What’s your real last name? How does he get away with calling himself “the eighth?” I’m Don the Twelfth, then. He tried to be clever with a sing-songy version of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” and if they’re voting and judging on how good a guy looks in a hipster winter hat (in California), he was top of the list. But as for performing and singing and wow’ing, well, he might’ve been the worst of the night.

Sonika Vaid – Her Taylor Swift offering was my favorite of the night (pay no attention to how I talk about Gianna) – maybe because she’s my favorite. So, so, so smart to pick a Taylor Swift song that didn’t make the Top-10. My wife and I both didn’t even know what song it was, so for us, it’s like an original. The judges have previously pointed out she doesn’t “perform”, and I don’t know what she’s supposed to do. Walk around and touch hands in the audience. Yawn. Cliche. Last night she stood and sang into a mic on a stand and I thought that was a good choice.

Gianna Isabella – The daughter of Brenda K. Starr (whose name should be Gianna Starr, then, right …oh, wait, maybe it’s a stage name, or there was a Brenda K. Divorce) sang Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You” and is that really an Annie Lennox original? Anyone? Can someone Google that? Thanks. One thing you don’t have to Google is this …”who’s the amazingest voice on this season’s American Idol?” Google will say, “Gianna” and even if you hit “I’m Feelin’ Lucky.”

Emily Brooke – Poor, poor thing. You had this one big shot, a second chance, and you picked a song with a quiet, whisperlike opening in “I’m Invincible” on a stage with an audience like  you’ve never experienced and, yeesh. It was really bad. It’s OK if this is your song and you’ve sung it a 1,000 times in concert and you have a voicetrack helping you out, but when you have this big stage and you gotta blow everyone away, this will spell her doom (unless the judges keep considering her past work).

Avalon Young – No make-up and loose, unstylish clothes are her drawbacks, and while my wife and daughters don’t like her, I think she’s fantastically different and doesn’t seem like he’s trying. But, she should’ve tried last night and not picked a poppy Justin Bieber song, a song everyone loves right now, but also a song that doesn’t blow anyone away. It’s like singing John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”. Everyone loves that song. But anyone can sing it.

Jordan Sasser – I’ve compared him to Michael Bolton. And I’m right. And his belting out of “All By Myself” was quite good, but here’s my theory …if Michael Bolton himself came on this show, he wouldn’t win. I’ve compared Jordan Sasser to Journey’s Steve Perry. But Steve Perry couldn’t win American Idol. Jordan’s problem is he’s forgettable. Oh, and Harry thought it was show-offy. Maybe, maybe not. But it was boring and forgettable.

Thomas Stringfellow – He went with cool, odd sounding version of Radiohead’s “Creep” and it was great. It was different enough it sounded like his own. It was a song old enough that doesn’t get played on Classic Rock stations or Adult Contemporary and Easy Listening stations, so I’ll bet more than a few people had never heard the song or heard of Radiohead. Maybe I don’t give the Idol audience enough credit. Harry agreed with me.

La’Porsha Renae – Did her version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and I’ll say this …she should go straight to New York and get into a Broadway musical and she’ll have a stage and music career for the next 30 years and maybe …maybe …she’ll get cast in a movie musical or a movie, because she’s like a living cartoon character full of charisma and stage presence, and I say all that not as a slight, but as a compliment. I wish I had the options she has in front of her. However, if her goal is to be the next Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, or Fantasia, it ain’t never gonna happen. Oooooh. I’m controversial like Donald Trump.

That’s it. Now what? Tomorrow everyone performs a duet with some Idol legend (and I use the word “legend” loosely). Then the judges boot five. I’d send home Jenna Renae, James #8, La’Porsha, Jordan Sasser, and Emily Brooke. Poor, poor Emily.

Looking forward to tomorrow night. See you then. Thanks for reading.

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