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'American Idol' notes: Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Kelly Clarkson, Ryan Seacrest


Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Watch out for Dallas resident Caleb Lee Hutchinson on "American Idol." He cruised through the early rounds of Hollywood. Now he faces the next two solo rounds and a hopeful spot in the top 24. He is expected to be seen and heard on the next two episodes Sunday and Monday.

Although there were five metro Atlantans who made it to Hollywood, only two showed upon air during the Hollywood round this past Monday: Caleb and East Point resident Victoria McQueen, who was born the day "Idol" debuted in 2002. Unfortunately for McQueen, her solo was edited out during her group performance, which doesn't bode well for her future.

Caleb, in an interview, said he was surprised how calm he looked on stage singing Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes" during the first round. The 1988 classic ballad was a favorite of his as a child and one of the first songs he had ever learned. So his comfort with it was evident.

He said when he saw Katy Perry early on feigning like he had taken her breath away, he said he had to turn away from the judges and look elsewhere. They were too distracting. And he had no idea when Katy joked to Luke Bryan that Caleb is gunning for him, he's that good.

"I thought that was hilarious," he said. "Made me feel good for sure."

We didn't see his group performance. He said there was little to no drama in his group, which is probably why it didn't get shown singing "Mama's Broken Heart' by Miranda Lambert. He did have potential top 10 rival Maddie Poppe in his group.

Hutchinson is moving through each round without looking too far down the road, just focusing on one good performance at a time.

"If this is my last thing, I want to be super proud of it," he said.

As for feedback, he said he's been compared to Whitley, Garth Brooks and Randy Travis. He notes that favorite artists of his such as Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson are "reminiscent of the past but have their own thing. I think that's what I want to do. I love old classic country but I also listen to so many other types of music."

He has built up an ability to learn songs quickly from taking requests. He said he can often learn a new song in 15 minutes, a skill that could be very useful on a show like "Idol."

Among his favorite artists is Eric Church, whose songs can make him cry. Ditto with Merle. "Put on the right Merle Haggard, it happens," he said. "When it hits you, it hits you."

He said he's had experienced heartbreak in relationships and friendships, along with family drama.

"I wasn't the most popular kid" in school, he said, noting that he was a lot bigger than other kids and felt out of place. "Little kids are mean," he noted. "I was trying to take everything I learned from Bible school and be nice to everybody. That helped me figure out how to relate things to my emotions." Ultimately, he added, "music became my identity."

Caleb enjoyed spending time with other musicians during Hollywood week. "Some of us are so similar. We speak a language not everybody else gets," he said.

***

During week three, "American Idol" ratings stabilized, essentially flat from week two.

On Sunday night, the overnight numbers were 7.5 million with  a 1.7 18-49 rating. On Monday, it was 7.8 million with the same 18-49 rating. We haven't seen the DVR usage numbers but it probably will be in the vicinity 10 million viewers with those included.

In 2018, those are good numbers, certainly good enough for renewal in 2019.

***

An eliminated gay "Voice contestant Molly Stevens recnetly called Kelly Clarkson's comments about her "small minded" because she compared her to two acts known to be gay: Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls.

"While I’m extremely honored to be in that category of talent, I do believe that comment did us all a disservice and only us into a labeling trap,” wrote Molly on a now deleted Instagram post, “It felt small minded to me and exactly what I feel we need to bring attention to the world. I don’t think Kelly Clarkson meant ANYTHING by this and even gave it any thought but clearly I did. I guess I’m just thinking in my head that I am a singer songwriter who happens to be gay…”

According to MJ's Big Blog, there was a backlash to her comments from Kelly's fans. And when Kelly heard, she wrote:

“Wow. This really bums me out. I need everyone 2 hear me & hear ALL OF THE WORDS I SAY. I compared Molly to MelissaEtheridge, Patty Griffin (a name that was left out conveniently), & the Indigo Girls purely because of the rasp in her voice & that she’s an amazing storyteller.”

Molly later backtracked:

I sincerely apologize for any hurt I may have caused with my words. This was not my intention at all. For the people who know me well, you know my heart well too. I strive to live in truth and light. @ kelly_clarkson I truly apologize for thinking differently. I look up to you.

Speaking of Kelly, she will be performing at the upcoming ACM Awards on CBS on April 15.

***

Ryan Seacrest's former personal hairstylist Suzie Hardy is still seeking an apology from Seacrest following years of alleged unwanted sexually charged behavior against her.

In a heated op-ed in the Hollywood Reporter, she said she won't be silenced and filed a police report with the LAPD to ensure a more thorough investigation. She felt E! did not do a good job looking into her accusations, basically tilting it in their employee's favor.

Among her allegations: he pushed her head into his crotch, he grabbed her in her privates, he rubbed up against her in his underwear. She said she never responded in kind. She tried to laugh it off because she needed the job. The minute she told E! HR in 2012 about it after six years of employment, she said she was let go, no explanation. (NBC said she was not terminated. When Seacrest's E! contract ended, so did her job.)

Seacrest has accused Hardy of trying to extort him for money, but she wrote that he has shown no proof of this. She said she is not seeking money.

"All I wanted was an apology, some validation and some real action to protect women in the workplace," she wrote. "What I got was NBC promising to do a thorough and confidential investigation of my claims. Sadly, NBC did not interview 10 of the witnesses I provided, including my therapist and my boyfriend at the time. After closing the books on its "inconclusive" investigation, NBC refused to provide me with any of its findings or even the HR reports from my 2012 claims."

She said she won't be intimidated and noted that Seacrest is using Harvey Weinstein's attorneys. She believes the reason he has kept his jobs with "Idol," "Live With Kelly and Ryan" and his E! red carpet specials with no blatant repercussions is because he's considered a "cash cow."

"Everyone in Hollywood who stands by Ryan now is choosing not to believe me," Hardy wrote. "Ryan is not a victim; he is the instigator and the assaulter."

Here is how Seacrest's attorney responded:

"After Mr. Seacrest denied each and every one of Ms. Hardy’s decade old claims, after Mr. Seacrest refused to pay Ms. Hardy any money whatsoever, and after an independent legal investigation did not support her claims, Ms. Hardy went to the press attacking the legitimacy of the investigation. Now, after being refused money and unhappy with the independent legal investigation, Ms. Hardy now claims to have spoken to the authorities. We will continue to cooperate and we remain confident that Mr. Seacrest will once again be cleared of any wrongdoing."

***

Clay Aiken Tweet of the week

He's being gracious about Scotty McCreery's latest achievements. Both now have five top 10 albums charted on Billboard, the most of any "Idol" male artist. McCreery's newest album debuted at No. 7 this week.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.