The singers, the songs:
Chelsea Sorrell, “Cowboy Casanova” (Carrie Underwood):
Chelseais basically a Carrie imitator, so I wasn’t surprised at her song selection. Her tone is really sweet, and she sounded good enough that she might have a shot, especially because the speed dialers will love how much she sounds like Carrie.
Ok, the bad stuff: She taps out weakly at the top and gets really tight in her throat. She has very little range, so she has to work at her edges way too much. Honestly, go to any decent karaoke bar and you will find someone who can sing as well asChelseacan. Most of the bars will have some middle aged bleached blonde drunk who can go up there and blow her away.
Randy called her out on all the Carrie covers, and the other judges took the opportunity to actually give some “sort of” criticism.Chelseahas no other move; all she does is sing Carrie Underwood covers. She sang a Carrie song at her audition, in round one, in round three, and in the sing for your life round.
Erika Van Pelt, “What About Love” (Heart):
Where were the big notes? If you are gonna cover Ann Wilson, you ain’t getting away with a safe melody. I love Erika’s tone, but I have to say that she is where Aaron is with the men: a true pro, but with no IT factor. She needed to go up and hit those big notes. It’s too bad. She has real talent, but she needs to get off her safe butt and go all out.
Jen Hirsch, “One and Only” (Adele):
Jen has a big voice already, but she makes it even bigger by how she uses it. She works constantly at the very edges of her control, wringing emotion and dynamic power out of it that wouldn’t be there without the extra push. In this way, conveniently, she is the opposite of Erika. Erika has more voice than Jen does but she works at 90% most of the time, giving up the max power for perfect intonation. Jen dams the torpedoes of perfect pitch, full speed ahead. Tonight she dodged the control problems (after a somewhat shaky start) and delivered a commanding performance.
Brielle Von Hugel, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding):
She sings a lot better than she did last year. Last year she sang the notes well, but she didn’t have any power behind them because she didn’t use her diaphragm. She has an interesting voice, and she has a brassy confidence that I kinda like. Oh, and she blocked out and pulled off a very cool and interesting arrangement of a fairly old, tired song. None of it’s going to matter, because she missed too many notes and her mother called her a diva in Hollywood. She is still only seventeen years old. She should have waited a couple more years.
Hallie Day, “Feeling Good” (Anthony Newley):
I would loved to have been Jimmy Iovine after Hallie’s first rehearsal. I would have added seven or eight melodic changes, all of them easily in Hallie’s range, and made this performance a moment. Instead, all we got was an impressive singer showing off her chops. Over and over my ears reached, but Hallie’ huge, fully capable voice didn’t go with me. Still, she showed off her powerful instrument and she looked much less froggy about everything. She moved, she smiled, she curled her hair. She didn’t look so thorazined. Baby steps.
Steven mentioned Adele, and that suits Hallie. She has the tone and the intonation to sing Adele stuff, and she can use her prodigious power to maybe even improve on the basic model. She needs to be much more creative, though, or get the right mentor. She sure as has the voice and the looks. All she needs is everything else.
Skylar Laine, “Stay with Me” (Faces/Rod Stewart):
If the southern voters can’t tell the difference between Chelsea and Skylar they should have their cell phones crunched under her feet. Skylar is the real deal. I listened to her song without looking, to try to hear any imperfections. There were dammed few for such an energetic performance, and she hit her high 7th note right smack on the tuning fork. Once I watched her it was all over. Moment? I say yes, this was a moment. I’ll be listening to it for years, and sending links to it so many times that you will beg me to stop. There is nothing to even talk about technically, is there? She has young Reba’s face and range, young Miranda’s style and attitude, and the energy of both combined. She is 18 years old, and just learning how to sing. Any other questions? Just send her toNashville, and let her get on with her career.
Baylie Brown, “Amazed” (Lonestar):
Following Skylar was the worst thing that could have happened to Baylie. Her comparatively weak voice sounded even weaker in comparison, and compared to Skylar’s insane stage energy she looked like she was in a coma. She missed a ton of notes, and she never seemed to get on top of the song. I love the song and I wanted to love Baylie singing it, but it was a train wreck.
Hollie Cavanagh, “Reflection” (Christina Aguilera)
No singer on Idol in several years has had the Whitney sound in her voice as much as this tiny little woodland creature does. Her intonation isn’t perfect and she doesn’t have any idea how to move on a stage, so she isn’t a finished product yet. That voice is something special, though.
Haley Johnsen, “Sweet Dreams” (Eurythmics):
Haley took a gamble, and ended up with an embarrassing train wreck. I have been saying for weeks that Haley has perfect intonation. She picked the perfect song, and blocked out the perfect arrangement to show her perfect intonation off – and completely screwed the pooch on her intonation. I agree with her going for it with a daring song choice (she was a long shot, so she needed to gamble), but Haley probably should have picked a song in a major key. She apparently doesn’t have a minor key ear at this point, and she should have known it. “Something to Talk About” would have been perfect. I’ve heard her sing it before, and she sang the holy crap out of it.
Haley can really sing, but she did the opposite of Erika did in taking the safe route. It’s tougher than it looks. Erika didn’t gamble enough, and Haley gambled too much. Just right isn’t easy to do, or singing competitions would be boring.
Shannon Magrane, “Go Light Your World” (Kathy Troccoli):
Her 16 year oldness shows up in her melodic choices a little bit. She tends to sing scales at times, instead of finding an interesting note outside the scale, but that’s a quibble at this point. It will matter if she’s still here in a month. I listened with my eyes closed the first time, and the only time she wasn’t on the tuning fork was when she tried to hit the blues third. I’m starting to see why the judges didn’t bother with a black female this year. Between Hollie, Jen and Shannon the gospel sensibility is well covered. Shannon is a 16 year old version of the 25 year old Jen Hirsch, with the caveat thatShannonis going to make Jen look like an amateur by the time she is 25.
Jessica Sanchez, “Love you I Do” (Jennifer Hudson):
She is scary good. Only the lack of low range, probably caused by her illness, kept this performance from being moment worthy. She won’t weigh 100 pounds until she is 9 months pregnant decades from now, but her tiny package is powerful as hell. Is it insulting to Idol that a reject fromAmerica’s Got Talent is their leading contender?
Elise Testone, “One and Only” (Adele):
Didn’t someone else sing this song already? Yes, Jen did. What’s up with that?
Squeaky McSqueaky reared its squeaky head again, but Elise moved past it and delivered a powerful performance. She reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on it. I’ll figure it out eventually. She was terrific, as good as she has been all year –and she’s been terrific all year.
Safe to in Danger:
The top five are fairly obvious:
Elise should either be in the top five or one of the wild cards, and if she’s in the top five the singer who is displaced should be a wild card. The other six females are most likely done, but I would like for at least one of them to get a shot at the extra wild card. Actually I would keep eight females, with Hallie, Brielle and Erika fighting for two spots. The guys aren’t all that great this year, so why give them any extra slots?