‘American Idol’: The Show’s All-Star Duets and Solos Opens With First 12 Hopefuls (RECAP)

Grace Kinstler
ABC/Eric McCandless

There’s something comforting about Ryan Seacrest welcoming us to American Idol from an actual stage and not via Zoom. The Top 24 of the season performed before an in-person, yet socially distanced, audience of super fans to kick off the “All-Star Duets and Solos” round.

And of course judges Katy Perry,Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan were there to lend their critiques. However, narrowing down the field from two dozen to 16 is not up to them. It’s up to viewers’ votes, with results from the two nights of performances — the second half airs Monday, April 5 — to be revealed during the April 11 show.

The first 12 do not make things easy. First they go it alone before being joined by a celebrity mentor for their second performances. Let’s take a look at which Idol hopefuls bring it for night one.

Feeling Alive

Nineteen-year-old Alanis Sophia kicks off the evening with a performance of “Alive” by Sia. She’s then joined by Jimmie Allen, who was part of season 10 of Idol 2011, for “Shallow.” Katy enjoys the solo performance and feels she was in control, but is a little overwhelmed performing with Jimmie. Luke and Lionel encourage her to own the stage more and not let the nerves get the better of her.

No Need to Apologize

Katy Perry is feeling Cassandra Coleman’s performance of “Find Me” by Sigma featuring Birdy. For her second act, the 24-year-old links up with monster producer and hit writer Ryan Tedder. Cassandra revisits her audition song, which happens to be “Apologize” by Tedder’s band OneRepublic. Lionel calls it a great performance. Katy finds listening to her voice is a spiritual experience. She somehow segues into revealing that, as a new mother, she’s quit shaving her legs. Katy Perry gives no Fs, and we love her for it.

Must Be Something in the Water

Alyssa Wray slays with “Something in the Water” by Carrie Underwood to kick off a one-two punch. She then joins Idol finalist Katharine McPhee. The two deliver on “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston. Lionel feels the two complement each other. Katy gives her props as the first singer of the night to hold it together alongside their star. Luke sees star sparkle.

The Secret Sauce

Wyatt Pike comes out of the gate with “rubberband” by Canada’s Tate McRae, which gets a standing ovation from Luke and Katy. Singer-songwriter Ben Rector then joins Wyatt, who put down the guitar for his song “Brand New.” Wyatt reveals he performed one of Ben’s songs during his high school graduation. The judges stands up in appreciation of their efforts. Katy feels his authenticity and says he’s stepped into his stardom. Luke is emotional watching. Lionel compliments his stage presence.

Someone to Count on

The judges can see strong stage presence and attitude from Alana’s take on “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” by Dua Lipa. She sits under the learning tree of R&B royalty in Brian McKnight, with whom she sings “Back at One.” McKnight says it’s the first time he’ll sing the hit as a duet. No pressure. Luke sees great energy in the solo and says Alana comes into her own with McKnight. Lionel wants more attitude though, saying it’s the secret to her success. Katy feels she embodies entertainment and encourages her to take some risks in her notes.

Something Good

Anilee List goes with “my future” by Billie Eilish for her first song. Joss Stone brings a little funk with Anilee for “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus & Chaka Khan. Joss recalls singing the song last with John Legend and coming in at the wrong key. The judges ends up loving their collaboration. Lionel wants Anilee to use Joss as an example of how to relax and concentrate. Katy feels she’s been taken to church. Luke says she’s so close to next level greatness.

Living It Up

DeShawn Goncalves chooses to start with a standout rendition of “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan. Ryan Tedder returns to duet with DeShawn for OneRepublic “I Lived,” channeling their mutual life experiences. Katy feels he has a top 3 unique voice in the competition, but says he’s too stiff. Luke agrees. Lionel wants him to enjoy the stage.

Flying High

Pilot Graham DeFranco lays down his smooth vocals for John Splithoff’s “Raye.” Mentor Ben Rector actually came in contact with Graham years ago for a little show at a high school cafeteria. Small world. The two perform Ben’s beautiful tune “Love Like This” together. Luke finds Graham’s voice very listenable. Lionel adds he has a great story-telling voice. Katy thinks his first song was vibe based, but the second is where he draws her in.

Eye of the Tiger

Andrea Valles, rocking a bedazzled eye patch, brings some hot Latin flavor to the competition with Billie Eilish and Rosalía “Lo Vas A Olvidar.” She tells McKnight the eye patch was less fashion statement and more due to surgery for a detached eye retinal. It wasn’t hard to see Andrea’s talent in their duet for George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” Lionel is amazed by their voices. Katy thinks she did a good job and finds her eye patch fashionable.

The Underdog

Cecil Ray sticks to his country roots for his cover of Tracy Lawrence’s “Paint Me a Birmingham.” He feels e immediately connects with his mentor and fellow dad Jimmie Allen. Cecil plays the part of Brad Paisley on this rendition of Jimmie’s “Freedom Was A Highway.” Katy thinks Cecil is the underdog who needs to start rolling the dice. Luke hears pitch problems. Lionel needs more attitude from him.

‘Willie Pavarotti’

Willie Spence flies high on Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Anyone else getting Ruben Studdard vibes? He dedicates his next performance of “The Prayer” (Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli) with McPhee to his granddad, who recently passed. Katharine is touched and decides to do the same for her late dad. The powerful duet earns a standing ovation from the judges. Luke is in love with him and his talent. Lionel refers to him as “Willie Pavarotti.” Katy says it was goosebumps central and to win it’s about song choice. This is a good one.

Grace Kinstler finishes the night on a high note. She starts with a self-love anthem in “Queen” by Jessie J, then shines alongside Stone on “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips. The judges are wowed. Lionel describes her as a winning package. Katy says she was soaring and classifies the duet as timeless. Luke is excited to watch her grow as an artist and performer.

American Idol All Star Duets and Solos Round Part 2, April 4, 8/7c, ABC