“American Idol” has thrown in a new wrinkle for the two episodes this week.
For the first time ever, the Top 24 contestants’ performances at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii will be judged by viewers at home. The voting began with episode 10 Sunday evening. Episode 11 is Monday.
There are three ways the audience can vote for Salisbury native Jeremiah “Jay” Copeland (who performed Sunday): at americanidol.com/vote, via the American Idol app, or text 1 to 21523. The limit is 10 votes per contestant per method. Voting for episode 10 closes at 6 a.m. Monday, April 11.
The Salisbury University alum set the tone Sunday’s episode by performing the first song of the evening: The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
Before hitting the stage, Copeland, sang the tune to Delaware country star Jimmie Allen, who made his debut on the show as a mentor Sunday.
“Jay, he is just someone that’s super talented. You doing things with your voice that I only wish I could do,” Allen said to Copeland.
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The 23-year-old “Idol” hopeful, who wore a sleeveless T-shirt on stage, began the song off by snapping his fingers, which proved infectious, as “Idol” judge Lionel Ritchie immediately began snapping away. Copeland’s upbeat set featured dancing, a spin move and lots of his pearly white teeth.
“You’ve got vocal rang that’s ridiculous,” Ritchie said after the set, before teasing Copeland about his fit physique. “But then he comes on stage with muscles.”
Ritchie continued by saying he wasn’t sure if “I Want You Back” was the right song for the Platinum Ticket holder to show off his skills, but he appreciated “the fact that you brought some energy to the stage. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.”
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Fellow judge Katy Perry chimed in and also praised Copeland’s sculpted arms. “Literally so many muscles,” she said.
Similar to Ritchie, however, Perry said she couldn’t put a finger on what the singer’s music style was quite yet. In the same breathe, she was impressed by the performance.
“It was great,” Perry added.
“American Idol” judge Luke Bryan was a little jealous of Copeland.
“You guys have never complimented me on muscles,” Bryan said to his peers.
The country star told the James M. Bennett and Salisbury University graduate that he has a lot of musical tools in his bag of tricks, and that he shouldn’t forget to use the ones that showcase his skills the best.
Bryan also pointed out that at the end of the song, he thought Copeland might have “over extended” himself when he sang a string of high notes.
The “Idol” judge explained he was critical of Copeland because he expects a lot from him.
“We’re critiquing you hard because we gave you the platinum ticket,” Bryan said. “We want to see you in the Top 5 and possibly win this thing.”
After hearing that, Copeland responded with a big grin and responded, “I’ve got lots to work on!”
Beauty of ‘vocal flaws’
On last Monday’s episode of “American Idol,” Perry told the singer that she wanted him to focus more on connecting with the audience than trying to sing a perfect song.
Multiplatinum singer Allen offered some perspective to Copeland about that.
“Passion and authenticity is something that always carries you. There’s character in vocal flaws,” Allen explained to him.
Allen auditioned for “American Idol” in 2011, but ultimately fell early in the competition. He continued to work hard and has since racked up a number of accolades, becoming one of the hottest stars in country music.
Not only did he return to “Idol” new and improved as a mentor Sunday but he also performed his new single “Down Home,” a tribute to his late father.
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Last weekend the Milton native was nominated for his first-ever Grammy for Best New Artist. He lost to 19-year-old singer Olivia Rodrigo.
Copeland told Allen that he selected The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” because he experienced turbulence with his significant other before flying to Hawaii. But now things are fine, he said.
Shout-outs from Maryland
Ahead of Sunday’s episode, Copeland received a number of shout-outs from his home state via a video on YouTube, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day and Salisbury University President Charles Wight.
“Jay I just wanted to say that we’re all so proud of you. Congratulations on earning a platinum ticket with your incredible singing,” the governor said.
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He continued, “I want you to know you have the entire state of Maryland rooting for you. And we wish you the best of luck as you go on to compete in Hollywood to become the next ‘American Idol.’ ”
Wight added, “I wish you well on your ‘American Idol’ adventure. Everyone at SU is 100% behind you and we’re all ready to vote.”
On Copeland’s Facebook page, additional supporters showed the singer love, while encouraging folks to vote.
“He’s so talented and deserves to keep going forward! The energy he brings is just beautiful!” a supporter wrote.
“Show my good friend Jay Copeland some love and vote for him! He’s contestant 1 tonight, and he KILLED IT!!” another loved one wrote.
“Got the whole state on your back bro let’s go!!” a person posted to Facebook.
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at email@example.com