Meet the 'American Idol' contestant Katy Perry calls 'the male Beyoncé'
On Monday, 10 more American Idol Season 17 semifinalists teamed with celebrities for all-star duets in front of a live audience, with mixed results. Some contestants struggled, understandably intimidated to share a stage with the likes of Julia Michaels or Cynthia Erivio. But others rose to the occasion. And no one rose higher than Dimitrius Graham — whose exquisite, elastic voice on his “Love Someone” duet with Lukas Graham actually had stunned judge Katy Perry declaring him “the ‘male Beyoncé.”
The two Grahams may have seemed from different worlds — Dimitrius raised on the mean streets of Baltimore, Lukas a Grammy-nominated pop singer from Denmark — but they bonded during rehearsals, and their fast friendship translated to the stage. Lukas was a generous partner, allowing Dimitrius to truly shine by handing him all the big power notes. And Dimitrius — who actually sang some opera last week — was up for the challenge.
“That’s how it’s done right there. … You’re one of the best singers I’ve ever heard,” raved judge Luke Bryan. Katy proclaimed, “I’m going to go so far as to say that was the best-sounding duet I have heard today.” And Lionel Richie called this duet “fabulous” and “perfectly executed.”
Dimitrius hasn’t received as much screentime as some other contestants this season, but with this performance he set himself apart. A proud Lukas attested that Dimitrius has enough to go all the way, and the judges seemed to agree. But Monday featured fantastic performances from several other formidable contenders, which you can check out below. (And don’t adjust your computer screen; Monday marked regular host Ryan Seacrest’s first “sick day” in the history of the series, so Idol mentor and Seacrest doppelgänger Bobby Bones filled in.)
Alyssa Raghu with Julia Michaels, “Issues”
Returning to balladry was a smart move for Alyssa, but I still wasn’t feeling much chemistry here. Alyssa and Julia spent much of their time apart, on opposite ends of the stage, playing to the crowd instead of to each other. Vocally, however, it was a good match. Katy in particular was impressed by Alyssa’s alternative melodies and praised the 16-year-old singer for being brave enough to attempt that with the artist who’d actually written the tune.
Eddie Island with Lukas Graham, “7 Years”
“7 Years” is a somber, serious song about regret and mortality, so I had my doubts that the class clown of Season 17 could pull it off. Lukas himself expressed concerns that Eddie would be afraid to show a vulnerable side. And some of those doubts/concerns were warranted. Eddie’s leg-hopping entrance was corny and shticky, and he clowned and mugged throughout in a way that felt inappropriate and even disrespectful to Lukas. The vocal was solid enough, but this didn’t work for me. However, Luke thought this performance had just the right amount of “Eddie Island mojo,” and Katy though Eddie’s energy was “infectious.”
Wade Cota with lovelytheband, “Broken”
Wade’s husky, anguished voice — a “voice to be reckoned with,” as Lionel put it — could have worked for this song’s lyrics that touch on mental health and outsiderism. I just wish they had done a different, darker, more stripped-down arrangement, rather than just an unimaginative run-through of the poppy original. This was a missed opportunity. But Katy called Wade a “rock star” and Luke said he “blossomed right in front of our eyes,” so Wade’s not going anywhere just yet.
Ryan Hammond with Cynthia Ervio, “Hold On, I’m Coming”
Ryan was unable to ditch his cheesiness, so he still seemed like a cruise ship crooner. But this wasn’t too shabby for someone who didn’t know the Sam & Dave song and was paired with dynamite Broadway diva Cynthia, probably the most daunting duet partner of the night. Ryan’s main issue was his tentative and stiff physicality, which had to do with his recent massive weight loss. “You just gotta shake it out. … Your voice will take you so far. … Just get your body moving,” advised Luke. “Your voice is on its way to stardom; just relax and enjoy this ride,” said Lionel. But Ryan’s ride ended Monday, and he was cut.
Evelyn Cormier with Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game”
“Wicked Game” is the song Evelyn auditioned with, and she’d named Chris as the No. 1 dream duet partner. When her dream came true, she remained calm, but maybe a little too calm — I wanted to feel more onstage heat between these two. That being said, Evelyn’s solo vocals were smoldering. Luke said he felt like he had “front-row seat to a really special moment.” Katy called the performance “so sophisticated and sultry and intimate.” And the highest praise came from Chris himself, who said, “She’s got it. She’s got what it takes.” Considering that this was the only duet Chris signed up for, that was a real ringing endorsement.
Logan Johnson with Julia Michaels, “What a Time”
Logan seemed like a pop star filling in for Niall Horan. He was supremely confident, and he made his cute little crush on Julia work for the love song. The chemistry was believable. But this wasn’t the best showcase for him, since it took a really long time for him to even get a solo, and when he finally did, it was anticlimactic. Luke thought Logan needed to push his vocals more, but thought the vibe was “solid.” Logan simply wasn’t the best singer in a season packed with great singers, so this wasn’t enough — so he too was sent home.
Raquel Trinidad with lovelytheband, “Tiny Dancer”
Raquel, a self-proclaimed hippie chick, should have been immediately disqualified for not knowing this Elton John classic. Has she never seen Almost Famous? Even after lovelytheband frontman Mitchy Collins tried to explain the lyrics to her, she still seemed clueless. Perhaps as a result, the performance was stilted, and her weird dragging out of the goaty notes didn’t help matters. Despite Katy’s bizarre praise of Raquel’s “heavy0hitting notes” and Luke claiming to have heard a “new dimension” to Raquel’s voice, this was total karaoke to me. She was the third and final eliminated singer of the night. I guess she is almost famous now.
Alejandro Aranda with Ben Harper, “There Will Be a Light”
Ben was the other celebrity who only sang one song Monday, and he did it especially for his homeboy Alejandro. (“I don’t have time for this s***, but I heard the kid and I was in. He got my ass up off the couch,” Ben amusingly confessed.) As it turns out, Ben remembered hearing Alejandro the virtuoso — who hails from the same Inland Empire area of Southern California as Ben — jamming in his family’s musical instruments store. This was not a powerhouse duet, but the intricacies and subtleties of this tasteful performance, which Katy said “embodies the word authenticity,” drew everyone in. “When you can take an unruly crowd like this and turn them into listeners… it’s a magical moment in American Idol history,” said Lionel. “I’m about to be not the most famous person from my hometown,” added Ben.
Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon with Cynthia Ervio, “Time After Time”
Jeremiah, one of my favorites this season and a master of sad, sentimental balladry, had no problem holding his own alongside Cynthia on this heartrending Cyndi Lauper classic — especially when Cynthia backed off to let Jeremiah shine on that final money note, and then Jeremiah followed Cynthia’s lead as the two paused for dramatic effect. This felt like a Grammy-night duet. “It was like your guys’ souls were singing to each other. … It was a spiritual moment for me,” said Katy. “I was wanting roses to throw onstage,” said Luke. “That was a glorious, masterful performance,” Lionel summed up.