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‘American Idol’ Recap: Starry Duets and Swift Exits

On Monday night’s (April 9) “American Idol,” celebrity duets brought together hopefuls with their mentors — Andy Grammer, Bishop Briggs, Luis Fonsi, Pat Monahan, Aloe Blacc, Allen Stone and Sugarland, among them — and several of the contestants more than held their own.

“I don’t know how to critique anymore,” Katy Perry said just a half hour into the show. “Everybody is arriving and showing up.” Except, of course, for the five singers who would be leaving the competition.

The show started with a bang as Catie Turner teamed up with Grammer, gushing “OMG, you could be my uncle or something!” There’s something quite endearing about how Turner doesn’t give a damn, even after Grammer warned her about nerves. Their duet of “Good to be Alive (Hallelujah)” was exuberant and fun, earning praise from judge Lionel Richie, who told her, “You killed it.”

Up next was long-haired beauty Cade Foehner, who not only turned judge Katy Perry into a gushing fan girl the night before (April 8), but charmed Briggs as well who was captivated by his “sparkly green eyes” and Southern manners. Their duet of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart” was sexy and captivating, and Perry is still very much a fan, telling Foehner, “You really have something special.”

Equally impressive was 16-year old Layla Spring, who managed to charm Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, holding her own vocally as they sang the bubbly “Stuck Like Glue.” Spring is “springing full of joy” on stage, according to Perry, and Richie, who once performed with Nettles, praised her bravery. Judge Luke Bryan was impressed with the teen’s ability to keep up with Nettles.

Aloe Blacc was an excellent duet partner, and said he feels a kinship with Dominique, focused on helping him break out of his desk job to a performer. Their duet of “Wake Me Up” was a very good step in that direction, as Richie noted of his rising to the occasion.

Brandon Diaz had a taller order, pairing with Luis Fonsi for a duet of “Despacitio.” Diaz admits that Spanish isn’t his first language, despite singing to his “Abuelo.” Although Perry was “sold,” the song may have been a tad out of Diaz’s reach.

Train’s Pat Monahan and Kay Kay had some trouble in rehearsal, with the 18-year old struggling to hear herself, revealing that she had never sang with another person before and isn’t used to being accompanied by a band. Still, she managed to get through “Drive-By” (not an easy song), and Richie complimented how she “took care of business.”

Briggs — who is the breakout star of the evening NOT in the competition — drew out the character in Trevor McBane on “River,” who struggled with his lower register.  Briggs tells McBane he is “destined for greatness,” while Perry complements—Briggs. This does not bode well.

Michelle Sussett remains an interesting contestant, as her duet with Fonsi (and their intricate conversation about her family in Venezuela) was captivating before either even took a microphone. Perry is right to point ouf Sussett’s star quality and future as a possible actress. Their coupling on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” showed real chemistry. “I didn’t want it to end,” said Bryan.

The weirdest advice of the night was doled out to Jonny Brenns, as Perry suggested stealth “ballet classes” as an aid to get him into the top five. Brenns was a bit stiff, despite Grammer’s suggestion that he just enjoy himself on “Back Home.”

One of the most gorgeous moments of the night was the pairing of Dennis Lorenzo and Allen Stone, who compared Lorenzo’s voice to a “flock of beautiful doves.” Their duet of “Unaware” was worthy of an awards show, even though Lorenzo brought his guitar with the hole in it. “That was spectacular,” said Richie.

Michael J. Woodward then paired with Pat Monahan for a bit of a strange duet of “Angel in Blue Jeans”—a love song. Monahan says that the two just “make as much eye contact.” Woodward, however, is a ray of sunshine, and his growth since his audition is astounding.

Finally, Gabby Bryant sat down with Nettles for mentoring on the song, “Stay.” Nettles gives her great advice to tell the story, and find a way to connect to the lyrics.  It worked. “I can tell you aren’t getting comfortable,” Perry said. “That’s the key to success.”

Although all did their best, Perry laments in her best Highlander impression that there can only be one American Idol. Spring, McBane, Dominque, Kay Kay, and Diaz were all let loose as Bryan wished them well on their journey.

Through to the next round—Foehner, Sussette, Lorenzo, Barrett, Breens, Woodward, and Turner.

Next week, another twelve will perform with five more eliminated.

American Idol airs Sunday and Monday nights, 8 p.m. on ABC.

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