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American Idol Red Wine Recap: And the cream shall rise to the solo rounds top (Arthur Gunn)

Arthur Gunn plays his guitar and sings on American Idol Hollywood Week stage
Arthur Gunn’s Idol star is definitely on the rise after Solo Rounds, Hollywood Week. Pic credit: ABC

Monsters & Critics columnist Liz Long recaps American Idol Season 18, Episode 8, with a little help from a glass of pinot (or two)…

It’s solo rounds on Idol my friends, which means it’s time to weed out the undesirables and see which ones are in it to win it. And because the cream shall rise to the top, it’s only fitting that I insert one name here at the top: Arthur Gunn.

Arthur Gunn rises to the Solo Rounds top in Hollywood Week

Ah yes. For those of you following along, you know I picked this fella as my favorite the first night of auditions. And he just keeps proving my point more and more every time he graces our TVs with his stand-out voice, adorable accent, and humble-but-I-know-what-I’m-doing attitude.

He has all the ingredients for the Idol crown — so much so, that his genius arrangement of CCR’s Have you Ever Seen the Rain proved too much for the experienced band.

The band tells Arthur Gunn they are not worthy
Gunn in action. Pic credit: ABC

He ended up flying solo with nothing but a voice and a guitar. And I want that version. I NEED that version. Like, now.

Okay, we need to discuss the rest. Since the solos mean business as they dictate our top 40, I am just going to get down to it. Now fetch me my specs and vino at once, I say! I don’t know who I’m talking to here, but it felt right. Now let me read over my copious notes here…

dressed up man in glasses
Pic credit: Giphy

Ah yes… a bunch of names I haven’t heard of… mmm-hmmm, mmm-hmmmm.

Idol original risk-takers

And lookie here. Those who fell just a cream-layer short of Arthur Gunn are those who chose original songs. No, we can’t all be Alejandros and, by golly, the judges this season are determined to work his name into every episode (minus one). Yes. I’ve been counting.

And, true, some botched their originals, even to the point of forgetting their own original song’s name …

Idol contestant Julia Gargano looks confused and admits she forgot the name of her original song
I’m looking at you, Julia Gargano! Pic credit: ABC

But to me. Those who can do an original (and succeed at it), tell me a lot about the artist they are. In other words, they KNOW who they are and are not destined for cookie-cutter mediocrity.

So let’s see who we have here …

Oh wow. Johnny West? Is that you rising to the top of my recap? Well I’ll be!

girl drinking tea
Pic credit: Giphy

For those keeping up, Johnny West hasn’t been my favorite and that is simply because he is guilty by Margie Mays association (Okay, that’s kinda mean. But it’s just been one scrunchie too many for me. And I’ll just say it now — the girl is technically great. But there has been no connection with her. Like who is she as a person? For crying out loud, even the judges laughed after she sang what was supposed to be a sad song! SPOILER ALERT: She went home tonight).

Johnny moved on. Yeah. We didn’t see that separation coming since audition weeks now did we. Kudos to Johnny’s interesting phrasing, cool original, and ability to connect.

Also a great original tonight: Lauren Mascitti, who I continue to like.

Idol contestant Lauren Mascitti sings an original with her guitar
Idol country-girl Lauren Mascitti dedicates an adorable original to her adorable Nanna. Pic credit: ABC

Lauren brings her adorable Nanna (rocking the Sally Jesse red glasses), and dedicates an original song titled “God Made a Woman” to her.

I absolutely loved the words to this simplistically beautiful song: “a boy was a little down so God made a woman…” Well deserved standing-O, Lauren. I’m sure your man, Shawn, would be proud (Hey, do you think she gets her songwriting ability from him? He did pen Two Pina Coladas after all. Hmmm…).

Jimmy Levy and Robert  Taylor also sang originals, but they were somewhat depressing. So there’s that (By the way, I still like Jimmy’s voice and am rooting for him. His voice is not only reminiscent of Kaleo, but I realized also a bit of Alt J. Yes. I said Alt J. YouTube them).

The good but unoriginal

On the other hand, there was quite the unoriginality tonight, including four people who chose to sing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Shamefully, not one of them sang the slower version.

a woman drinks wine and rolls her eyes
Pic credit: Giphy

Frankly, none of them really stood out and that’s probably why the producers blended all four into one three-minute segment.

For those who care, the four were Olivia (whose dance moves didn’t carry the day), YZ (?), Geena (I guess she’s already huge that she goes by one name — only Just Sam is the exception here Geena!), and Cyniah (who is staying in her Whitney lane).

Those who weren’t so hot tonight

Beautiful people Makayla Phillips and Nick Merico are the poster children of this category tonight.

Makayla chose Lizzo’s “Cause I Love You” because …

Idol contestant Makayla Phillips says she chose a song because it's playful
Makayla on American Idol. Pic credit: ABC

Ironically, Lizzo’s other two songs “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” are her actual playful songs and “Because I Love You” is the more serious one. Regardless, the playfulness didn’t land on Katy…

Katy Perry has a mad look and says worst song choice
Katy Perry judging American Idol. Pic credit: ABC

Truth hurts, Makayla.

So I’m not quite as harsh on Makayla as Katy tonight, but I will say, I have had the most critical eye (or ear, rather) on Makayla — really listening to her voice so I’m not distracted by her looks. And, yes, she has a strong voice. But is she just technically good? I might be missing an instant vocal identity with her … we shall see.

As for Nick Merico, yeah, he botched “Heaven.” But I spied him in one of the holding rooms who went through to top 40 (like we also didn’t see that one coming).

Also in the Idol holding rooms that made top 40:

Poor Room 2 had Margie Mayes, the Chicken Wing duet group, and a bunch of others who barely got any screen-time until tonight (you know, just so we could be in some sort of suspense with this room).

On to Hawaii folks, where the Idol hopefuls will sing for their lives! Only to have an anti-climactic hold on Live Rounds! But you know I’ll be there next week for another two-night event! See you then my Idol-Addicts!

American Idol airs Sunday and Monday at 8/7c on ABC.


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