American Idol 17 review: Ashley Hess, Walker Burroughs, duets & more

American IdolTonight on American Idol 17duet night is here! We’ve got great stars tonight including Jason Mraz, Brett Young, Shaggy, and many others, and of course, we’ve also got artists! There are ten contestants performing tonight and of them, seven will move forward to face America as a part of the top 14.

New video – At the bottom of this article, we talk about all of these performances fruther! If you liked this clip, remember to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube and also take a look at our official American Idol playlist

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Walker Burroughs with Jason Mraz, “Have It All” – Jason is a personal hero of Walker’s, so this sort of hero worship leads to Walker getting some good advice. We don’t actually think that this is a great duet song, so kudos to Walker for finding a way to stand out and making his part feeling meaningful rather than just being Featured Dude on a Mraz Track. Grade: B.

Kate Barnette with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, “Heartbreaker” – Talk about an intimidating duet — basically, you’re having to go in and try to stand out in an iconic song that almost everyone knows. Here’s what we wonder — do we praise Kate for the style and the power of this performance? It feels like so much of the awesomeness here was based mostly on Pat and Neil, and we couldn’t really even hear Kate all that much when she was singing. Grade: C+.

Riley Thompson with Brett Young, “Like I Loved You” – Riley’s the youngest person on this whole season, so it made some sense in theory for her to be especially intimidated over the idea of performing with a country-music superstar. But, she more than held her own! She actually felt more comfortable with Brett than she did separate and he brought a new confidence and passion out of her that we really wish that we’d seen for the better part of the season. Grade: B+.

Uche and Shaggy, “I Need Your Love” – There’s just something about the guy Uche is and the passion that he moves around the stage with. We’re not going to pretend that this was perfect vocally — it was ultimately all over the place in terms of intonation! Yet, the way that he danced and just created a big party atmosphere allowed him to cover up some of that and just have a good time up there. Grade: B-.

Madison Vanderburg and Benatar/Giraldo, “We Belong” – Madison’s been in the top-five pole position for all of the season, and what was interesting here is that she really wasn’t able to actually bust it out because she had to go in line with what Pat was doing in this song. This was still beautiful and a meaningful expression of one of the best rock hits out there. Madison gets it. She’s young but she’ll be in this industry for a while. Grade: A-.

Shawn Robinson and Elle King, “Proud Mary” – Shawn jumped in a little bit early during the performance and it was noticeable. We do think that Shawn has a really good sound and he just sings with a lot of swagger. Is he almost too confident? We just aren’t connecting with him as a performer; that doesn’t hurt him now, but it could hurt him in the live rounds when America is voting. Grade: C+.

Ashley Hess and Mraz, “I’m Yours” – One of the greatest songs of the past ten or fifteen years — we remember first hearing at a concert before it was an album track and feeling super cool about it. This was a fantastic arrangement to a really familiar song and Ashley brought things home in a way that actually injected some new emotion into the song. We don’t even think that American Idol has shown as of yet just how good Ashley is. Grade: A-.

Bumbly and Shaggy, “Angel” – We’re pretty sure that we haven’t heard this song in at least fifteen years. Yet, at least Bumbly is old enough to still remember when it first came out and she’s not one of those 16-year old contestants who is looking at this song with total confusion. This was a fun performance, one that felt like a celebratory cover of the song’s legacy … but we’re not actually sure that Bumbly added another news that we haven’t heard before. Grade: B-.

Laci Kaye Booth and Brett, “Mercy” – Apparently, “bringing out the stools” is now some sort of code for a performance going to the next level. Laci’s got a great natural sound to her voice and she emotes really well with just about anything that she does. This was probably one of the best duets of the night in terms of just the pure connection between the person and their duet partner. Grade: B+.

Laine Hardy and Elle, “The Weight” – Laine’s come very far on American Idol over the years and with his new, slicked-back style, he really does feel like he could be a proper pop-rock star in the industry now. We feel like this was as good of a performance as he could given when you think about the musical limitations of the song choice. Grade: B.

The results

The lights were dimmed and this was so dramatic you’d think that someone was getting killed off. The seven announced as advancing were Laci, Ashley, Walker, Madison, Uche, Riley, and Laine. This means that Kate, Shawn, and Bumbly were all sent home tonight.

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