Fan-favorites return home as “American Idol” begins its Top 24 Round

The final "American Idol" Top 24 pose together before they got to meet their "Idol" mentors. (Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia & 19 Entertainment)

The final “American Idol” Top 24 pose together before they got to meet their “Idol” mentors. (Photo property of FOX, FremantleMedia & 19 Entertainment)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

Last week, the American Idol judges (Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban) picked out the final Top 24!

Tonight, 12 singers (MacKenzie Bourg, Jordan Sasser, La’Porsha Renae, James VIII, Sonika Vaid, Gianna Isabella, Jeneve Rose Mitchell, Jenna Renae, Emily Brooke, Thomas Stringfellow, Stephany Negrete and Avalon Young) sang for a spot in the Top 14!

With the stakes so high, the contestants received some much-needed help from several people who have been in their shoes before…Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, Caleb Johnson and Nick Fradiani.  Each of these alumni made it to their season’s finale and know what it takes to go the distance in this competition.

Which contestants followed their mentors’ advice and might head into the Top 10?  Read on to find out…

(Breaking news! From now until the end of the competition, I will be giving out letter grades to the artists for their performances.) 

After an inspiring speech from longtime host Ryan Seacrest, it was time for the solo rounds to begin! Up first, Stephany Negrete tackled Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best.” I liked her vocal delivery, but Keith stated before she went onstage that song choice will matter if they want to make it to the Top 14. This song has been sung so many times on the Idol stage that it feels like it was jammed down our throats. B

MacKenzie Bourg chose to go with A Great Big World’s “Say Something,” a song made popular by The Voice’s Christina Aguilera. While he made A Great Big World and his former Voice coaches proud with his acoustic version of the Grammy-winning duet, I thought that there were parts of the tunes that were rushed. Otherwise, it was a sound track. B+

The show went a little bit country when Jeneve Rose Mitchell made her debut on the Idol stage. The Colorado virtuoso brought out her harp when she tackled Sarah Mclachlan’s “Angel.” This was a wonderful surprise and one of my favorite renditions of the song. I loved her performance, and if she does this type of performance every week, then I think we should start talking about her winning the show. A

Jenna Renae tackled Maren Morris’ “My Church” with roaring results. While Jenna took us to church, I thought that she should have picked a different song to impress the judges and the audience. I also wished she tackled a Wynonna or a Reba song instead of this hidden track. B-

My fellow Eagle Scout, James VIII, infused B.B. King’s famous blues licks into “Love Lockdown.” This performance left me scratching my head. While it was a superb arrangement and he had great stage presence, I was confounded by the song choice, and if I had the America’s Got Talent buzzer, I would buzz him! D

I have been a fan of Sonika Vaid since her Denver audition. When she covered Taylor Swift’s “Safe & Sound,” her voice gave me shades of Ariana and Christina.  Also, I loved how she brought her upper register into the performance. As Harry said, it was one of the more emotional performances of the night, and I think she would be a guaranteed lock to the Top 10. A-

My fellow bookworm, Gianna Isabella, tackled Annie Lennox’s version of “I Put A Spell on You.” Every word stabbed me in the gut and unlike a certain former Team Christina artist on Season Five of The Voice, she was able to give a show-stopping performance that we will not forget her when it comes to the Top 14. A

I am sorry, Emily Brooke! But, your cover of Cassadee Pope’s “I Am Invincible” was an utter disaster! She would receive a buzz from me! F

Over the past few weeks, Avalon Young has been flying under their radar and now she is starting to sparkle. Avalon’s cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” not only engaged the crowd but her vocals made me grin from ear-to-ear. I think we have a dark horse contender for the Idol crown. A

Turtle aficionado Jordan Sasser tackled Celine Dion’s “All By Myself.” I was a little surprised to see this very different Jordan from the one that rocked out during Hollywood Week. I found this performance very peculiar and at times…pitchy. If he wanted to shine, tackle a Chris Mann or Josh Groban track. D+

Thomas Stringfellow chose to tackle a song that was perfectly performed by two incredible voices who made this song their own: Ms. Kimberly Nichole & Ms. Haley Reinhart (who sang the song with Postmodern Jukebox). Throughout his performance, I thought his vocals were not only very weak and that squeak that was at the end of each verse gave the creeps. F

La’Porsha Renae closed the night with Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” This was the performance of the night! She made Tina Turner proud with this outstanding cover. I think La’Porsha will be running all the way to the end! A+

Tomorrow night, the “Idol” All-Stars return and the judges reveal the first seven singers that will go into the Top 14!

I don’t own any of the clips that are sprinkled in this article. Kimberly Nichole’s performance of “Creep” belongs to NBC & United Artists Media Group, while Haley’s performance belongs to Postmodern Jukebox.

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Copyright 2015 Jacob Elyachar