Vegas and some hard cuts

Ok, I’m live again. The contestants are forming back into groups and singing songs from the late 1950’s. 28 of the 70 remaining contestants will go home tonight, leaving 42 contestants to sing for their lives next Wednesday. 18 of those will go home, leaving us with our semifinalists. As they did last year, a few will be announced on Wednesday before the live show rosters are set on Thursday night.

Notes on the performances:

Day One

Hey, did anyone else know that Debra Byrd (one of Idol’s vocal coaches, the nice one with the dreadlocks) was part of Lady Flash, Barry Manilow’s backing vocal group? I heard him say, years ago, that he wanted to call them the Oreos but he didn’t want people picketing out front during his shows.

Group One, “Dedicated to the One I Love” (Shirrells):

Skylar really blew it up, Colton was Colton, and Carrie was strangely weak (and was the only one tossed). I really liked Carrie on Group Night, when her voice just soared over the turkeys that she was singing with. The fourth of the group, Chase Likens, was passed through. I would have tossed him myself, and kept Carrie, or just tossed them both. He doesn’t have a strong voice.

Group Two, “Rockin’ Robin” (Bobby Day):

This is the exact same group that sang Mercy on Group Night. Ariel Sprague is only 16, but she is a contender. Her tone is soaringly beautiful, and her intonation was effortlessly perfect. She is cute as a button too, which can’t hurt. Jeremy and little David both have a really strong shot at the live shows, but I don’t believe Gabi does. She just doesn’t have enough voice, though she tries mightily.

Group Three, “Great Balls of Fire”(Jerry Lee Lewis):

That was a tougher performance than they made it look like it was. All four of them nailed it, and they all made it through: Fat Gokey, Erica (who looked fantastic, so much for frumpy), Betty Boop and new contender Shelby Lynn Tweten. Shelby sounds like she might be a bluesy type, but that’s just a guess. She has some style, that’s for sure. All of them do. Erica and Adam are short odds for the live shows, while Betty Boop is probably a long shot.Shelby, I have no idea. It’s a tough crowd again this season.

Group Four, “Why do Fools Fall in Love” (Frankie Lymon)

The spoiler was wrong. Schyler made it through, as she sure as hell should have after this performance. The group sounded fantastic on the harmonies. Molly Hunt, who I’ve mentioned several times is a terrific songwriter, wasn’t aired singing solo and was tossed. I’ll find a link for her, now that she’s off the show and qualifies as a ‘former Idol contestant’. Brielle sounded terrific, better than I’ve heard her sing before.

Interlude, some eliminations:

Ashley Robles was number two in my rankings, but now that I see that she was tossed I remember her name in the spoiler. She was the one that everyone was raving about in the chat line on the spoiler site, mad that she got tossed without us getting to hear her again. I wasn’t sure who it was before, though I had a sneaking worry that it was her. Her entire group kind of got screwed; singing a tired, draggy ballad after so many others got cool, easily recognizable songs to sing.

The only other tossed contestant that I’d heard of (before tonight) was Janelle Arthur, who had her audition aired last season. She didn’t get one note of airtime this year; all she got was a shot of her walking out. It’s hard to edit a show like this, I guess. No matter how you slice it, some contestants just won’t get their fair share of airtime. It’s a bummer, though. It’s such an impressive achievement to make it this deep on Idol. It seems like they should all get at least one shot on national TV.

Maybe they can leave out a couple of long, drawn out segments about somebody throwing up, or calling their mother, or crying about how “this is EVERYTHING TO ME!!!!”. We feel for you if you are sick, or homesick, but we don’t need to see it on TV. Lots of people are sick, lots of people are homesick. We know you care, but we don’t need you to be the 500th one to tell us. Seriously, do you think you are the only one who cares? The other 300 contestants are just here, waiting for a bus?

Actually that would be pretty cool… Some contestant gets interviewed late on Group Night, dead tired, and tells Ryan “I’m so tired that I can hardly see straight, but this is NOTHING TO ME and if I go get plenty of sleep and accidentally sound good tomorrow I’ll just die. Die. I’m staying up until I know, with full confidence, that I’ll be hallucinating about vampires and screaming like a loon from lack of sleep during my performance tomorrow. Do you hear me,America? This is NOT MY DREAM!!!!”

Naw, won’t happen. Probably a good thing….

Group Five, “The Night has a Thousand Eyes” (Bobby Vee)

This was Idol’s first real moment this year. It’s about time.

Reed Grimm…what do they do with him? The guy doesn’t have any more voice than tens of thousands of the hopefuls who didn’t even make it in front of the judges have, but he has a magical something that few, if any, have ever had on Idol. He oozes musicality even more than Casey Abrams does, and he has Casey’s sense of theater without (so far, at least) Casey’s tendency to start screaming at us like he’s having a fit. Everything he touches will always be signature; he makes a mockery of the whole “be true to yourself” demand that the judges go to constantly. I’m not sure that he is aware that he can be anyone other than himself. Let’s just hope that he isn’t actually insane; that he’s just eccentric. We can live with that, to get the sheer seat of your pants anticipation that comes from never knowing what in the hell he is going to do next.

Elise has some serious chops, though she still squeaks when she overdoes it. She needs to deal with that if she wants to make the tour. ‘Jacee Redaux’ Eben is growing on me, and I’m think he’s going to make the live shows. The kid can growl, even high up in his little kid voice. I’m impressed. We also got us a newbie in Haley Johnsen, who I’m of two minds about. She sounded weak and wimpy early in the song, but she was confident and dominating at the end, and the entire time she was right in there spiritually. My best guess is that she was inspired by Reed (as were the other two), and delivered her absolute best. We’ll see how she delivers next time, without Reed to get her adrenaline going.

Group Six, “Make it Easy on yourself” (Burt Bacharach)

Richie is really getting the diva edit, but I’m not sure that it’s fair to him. I’ve seen some video outside of Idol that shows him as a real musician, who knows what he’s talking about. Jermaine was fantastic, somewhere between Barry White and Luther Vandross. That bass tone of his is very special.

Interlude, some advancements:

Hallie Day, Baylie Brown and Chelsea Sorrell advanced. I was particularly impressed with Chelsea. I’d never heard her do anything but fairly weak Carrie Underwood impressions before tonight, and she was kind of chubby, frumpy and bleached blonde-y last year. She looks amazing now, and she sounds impressive. Hallie has plenty of voice, but I wonder whether she can light up a room like she’ll need to. She is reserved, rather than effervescent. She should probably be more of a singer/songwriter type with a huge voice than a diva. Baylie remains a comparatively weak doppelganger version of Lauren Alaina.

Group Seven, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (Buddy Holly)

All this song needed was a thick group harmony at the end to be another moment. I have no idea where Jessica Sanchez came from, or whether this was just the performance of her career, but she was fantastic. I love her already. Deandre is just warming up for his run on the live shows, and new singer Candice Glover has a sweet tone, if not the most powerful voice. Terrific arrangement, terrific performance. I’ll go back and watch this again, probably for years.

Psyche? Safe, but not really safe?

The judges told everyone from day one that they are going to have to make some additional cuts after day two. Ok, now maybe Schlyer is going to get dumped to prove the spoiler is true. What a punch to the gut that would be.

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Day Two

Group One, “Jailhouse Rock” (Elvis):

My kingdom for some harmony, and some soul. Scotty, Adam and Clayton made it through; Curtis got tossed. Scotty is the famous Dangerfield that is more the stuff of legend than the stuff that will be legend. Adam is Adam Decker, Clayton is Clayton Farhat. I know little about them tonight, but I’ll dig something up on them by the weekend.

Group Two, “Burning Love” (Elvis)

Terrific performance I think; they really fragmented it. Caleb Johnson is back from last year, and he sounds more refined. He’s a total belter. Joshua Sanders I’ve never seen before; he sounded a lot like Caleb on this song, but that’s about all I know about him. Blaire Sieber is the chick. Her tone reminds me of Mama Cass, but that’s based on just a few notes. River St. James was the token black guy (just kidding). I don’t know how to handicap his chances based on three notes, but I liked what he did. It’s a good sign that they all sailed through to the next round, but I have a hunch that Blaire might get the “not so fast” treatment once they have to pare it down again at the end of the night.

Group Three, “Blue Suede Shoes” (Elvis):

Is this Elvis night? Joshua and Shannon cruised through, while a couple of contestants that I had never heard of didn’t.

Group Four, “Keep Me Hanging On”(Supremes):

The edit made them sound like they were arrogant, but I didn’t see it that way. They are all professional singers, and it was reasonable that they worked it out without the band. Their harmonies weren’t lacking, they were terrific. Britnee Kellogg, I don’t get what they see in her but she’s moving on. Courtney Williams has a really cool tone, as long as she doesn’t overdo it. I doubt that either one of them will make the live shows and they might even get tossed at the end of the show. They were both fairly weak passes, considering that they tossed Jessica.

Group Five, “Will you still love me tomorrow”(Carole King):

Am I the only one who has no use for the mean vocal coach? There is a huge difference between tough love and being a self indulgent bitch. Simon is gone, get over it. Walk your pet rat somewhere else.

I won’t call it a moment because it wasn’t GREAT, but it was pretty great. I laughed when Mathenee took the high harmony part. Two girls and a dude, and the dude takes the high part? Priceless. Lauren was shaky at first, but once she kicked it into gear she was terrific. I love her tone. LOVE her tone. Wendy Taylor was the redhead on the right. She is 29 years old and she kind of looks older than that, but she has a tremendous voice and even better command. She won’t lose because she can’t sing. Mathenee got tossed, which surprised me, but truthfully he was never able to capture the magic that he has when he sings with his partner outside of Idol. He just never sounded that good, despite his obvious talent.

Group Six, “I Only Have Eyes for You”(Flamingos):

They all made it through. It wasn’t a terrific group performance, but the song allowed them all to show themselves. Heejun was kind of weak, but J-Lo loves him. Deneco Pittman was the surprising standout of this group. His voice is soooo sweet, and he has some power and range. He looks like the other kid on “Fresh Prince” but he sounds like a softer, sweeter version of Stefano from last year. Jairon is my guy, so you know I’m happy to see him keep advancing. He has a sweet tone too, and he has some serious high range.

Phil Squared advanced as well. I’m still not sold, but he seems to be able to hit the notes, or at least make you believe that he hit the notes. Paul McDonald? Maybe that’s a good comp, it’s not fair to Paul. Paul has ten times the voice that Phil-Phil has, and his biggest weakness was that he didn’t have any voice. Love the guitar, though….

Group Seven, “Sealed With a Kiss”(Brian Hyland):

Outstanding group performance. Nick got tossed, but I have to at least mention that he nailed a note in this performance that I thought might keep him in, going octave up with some style, ala Sha-Von. They have to toss someone, and his case for being the next American Idol was already on borrowed time after Group Night, when he was carried along by the others in the group. Jen, Aaron and Creighton are all strong candidates for the semis. If I had to pick one to fall, it would be Jen. Her intonation is weak, and only her over the top, ‘every performance is the Super Bowl’ passion is overpowering her weaknesses and keeping her in the mix.

Endgame:

They have to make a few more cuts. How excruciating is this? You survived every cut, and now you have to put your head back on the chopping block, and you don’t get to sing for your life. The talent is really deep this year, which makes the cuts even more brutal. Ok, deep breath, here we go….

Gabi got cut, which didn’t surprise me once I knew that they were going to have to make additional cuts. I thought that she was going to be cut after her performance…. Chase survived. That surprised me. He was really weak….. Schyler, as the spoiler said, didn’t make it. She was really good, she is still only 16, and she just missed. I think we’ll see her again, and I think she will be terrific……. Betty Boop got the back side cut after they took so long to pass her through….. Candice Glover, with the sweet tone but not the strongest voice….. Johnny Keyser and Jairon Jackson both got tossed. I understand Keyser, he’s a butthole, but Jairon? I don’t get it. Britnee Kellogg got tossed, no big surprise. Jairon, though…. Seriously?

That last round of cuts was brutal, but it’s starting to look like Idol has another deep group of contestants. I’m not sure there is a real stud in there, but there are plenty of strong singers left. It’s going to be a good year.