Hollywood First Round

Tonight’s show was focused primarily on the contestants who were aired in the previous eight shows, so I’ll go with the wind and focus on them myself. There were a couple of new faces, new voices, so I’ll add them to the mix when they come up. They didn’t show everyone from the early auditions, not even close, so some of the singers that were listed in my power rankings might simply disappear without a trace by the end of the Hollywood week shows. I’ll search the faces and try to find the ones that made it and the ones that didn’t, but it’s not easy to recognize them. It’s been several months since the audition stage, and at least a couple of the performers that I did recognize have gained a significant amount of weight. Hairstyles changed as well. I’ll do my best.

Katie Stevens– She moved on, and she was fairly impressive. I won’t call her odds on for the semis, but she has a decent shot. She is so young that I believe that she is jumping the gun a bit. Her voice is special, but not special enough that she won’t need to add some tricks to her performance arsenal if she wants to stand out in this tough of a crowd. I would dismiss her as a contender, but she is getting just an insane amount of attention from the producers.

Skiboski- Went home. Sometimes a contestant can get some love elsewhere if he’s memorable, but Skiboski was just irritating. He’ll try hard and you never know, but I wouldn’t expect to hear from him ever again in any positive way.

Andrew Garcia– Played guitar and sang a unique and very sweet version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up”. I loved it, and I didn’t think that it was anything over and above what he will be able to do effortlessly. He is for real, and a contender for the title. The only rat in the cellar was that his Stevie Wonder-like high notes weren’t there this time. He was good at the top end of his range, but not as memorable as he was at the audition.

Vanessa Woolf– Her performance didn’t stand out enough to overcome her obvious lack of experience. Some dreams are realized simply by making it toHollywood. The most likely future for this very loveable and sweetly human girl: She’ll be telling her grandkids about her trip to the big city some day, while she strums her guitar and sings for her loved ones next to the campfire. “Somebody fetch Grandma a beer, and for chrissakes don’t let the ribs burn…..”

Tasha Layton– Her audition wasn’t aired, but she made it through. I have her as a contender, so this is encouraging.

Megan Wright (giggly blonde), Amedeo DiRocco (big, happy Italian guy) and Cornelius (guy who split his pants) are done. I liked Megan a lot, and she played the piano and her short segment was emotional, but they said that she was all over the place. Inexperience…

Janelle Wheeler– I dismissed her, and I am still not high on her. She is a real musician and she can play her guitar, but her voice is shaky and just not all that strong. It takes some musicianship to make it deep. This kid has that. It also takes a national quality voice. I don’t hear it. She is 24, too old to crap out a stronger voice all of a sudden. She is what she is. For her sake I’ll root for her because she obviously works on her craft. I was very down on her in her audition because it was so obvious that they aired her and passed her because of her legs. This performance was so much better than I would have expected that I wanted to mention that. She wasn’t all about her legs tonight, and she made it. She deserves credit for that.

Haeley Vaughn– She was much stronger than she was in her audition, mostly because she was so synched up with her guitar. Having her good friend the guitar in her hands relaxed her, and put her in the comfort zone that she needed so that she could be her natural self. My quibbles were small ones, and all of them were about the soft spots in her delivery of the song vocally. All of them can be laid at the feet of her lack of experience. Inexperienced singers will hesitate in places where an experienced singer will be on auto-pilot and thinking about the glory note. A good “inexperienced” singer like Haeley will nail her glory notes. It’s the ones in between that will give her fits.

This kid is only 16 years old, and while she is talented she is years from being ready to contend for the Idol title. Idol’s underage contestants are treated fairly (meaning that they are treated just like everyone else), but in some cases (like this one) it would be a good idea to have some kind of developmental program in place.

If there is one thing that I advocate as an addition to this show, it’s to have an Idol “D” league; like major sports have minor leagues. They can make money on it by doing tours, and the cache that Idol enjoys would make it easy to fill the seats. They can set up several production companies to record them, and those production companies can come from another pool of young talent. I am sure that it would be easy to set up a competition for that area of the business as well.

This would prevent Idol from missing out on talent that is special, but not ready. This would also prevent this young talent from falling by the wayside. It’s a tough world. These kids need someone like Idol to help them get in the business. Idol can turn a profit. We get to listen to these talented kids, produced by the best of the young, talented producers and singing songs by the best young writers. Everybody wins. Why not?

Mary Powers– The rocker chick. She sang well, and moved on. I am still on the fence. She looks like Pat Benetar, but Benetar got a degree in music and sang opera before she came on the scene. It’s a tall order to be a rocker chick on Idol, and this kid needs to show something more to be a serious contender.

Todrick Hall (Fantasia tour) and Charity Vance (Mindy McCready lookalike) also made it, as well as top female contender Ashley Rodriguez. In all 46 made it through on day one. We heard 5, so we are still miles and miles from knowing anything.

The Minister with the kids walked off, not sure if he made it. Clair, tank top girl, made it through.

Day 2-

Jay Stone– See you at the finale, my man, with your beatbox.

Lilly Scott– She’s a new one. She is fantastic on the guitar, and she can really sing. Are there blonde Goths? She looks almost albino, she is so light skinned. Her voice can be put on the radio any time. Norah Jones comes to mind, but Lilly has a somewhat stronger voice. Huge, huge contender.

Michael Lynch– He nailed his high notes this time, and his rhythm was very good on the guitar. I’ll be moving him up some in my power rankings but I still think that he’ll fall short of the final 12. He should make it to the semis unless he irritates someone.

Justin Williams– Surprisingly, he didn’t make it. So much for youtube as an indicator, and that is a relief. His aired performance was kind of all over the place, though I did like his dynamics on the piano. I think that his previous experience on Idol hurt his chances. He’s good.

Tim Urban– New one. Simon just loves him, but I don’t see him as that strong. He makes too many mistakes and his voice is not good enough to overcome that.

Paige DeChausse and Erica Rhodes (Barney girl) didn’t make it. The lost Kardashian sisters also went home. I was kinda bummed about Paige, I really liked her, but she isn’t experienced enough yet.

Maddy Curtis– She isn’t ready yet, but I can really see potential in her voice and she has an almost angelic stage presence. She didn’t make it. Hell, she has years and years to figure it out, she’s 16 and a good, good kid. Can they get her in the ‘D’ league?

I think that I saw Dawntoya Thomason (sang “Blue”, 17th in my power rankings) in the group that made it to the next show, but I am not sure that it was her.

Casey James– He was fantastic, and he moved on. I feel vindicated by this one. I was scared of Simon’s rejection and torked that they didn’t seem to even listen to his audition. He is a serious contender, and he should be able to keep his shirt on.

Didi Benami– This kid sings like Manny Ramirez hits; she is just a natural. She looks like Gwyneth Paltrow, who is a very good singer in her own right. At the audition she got a lot of comparisons to Megan Corkery. After tonight she’ll get comparisons to Brook White, season 7’s fourth place finisher. She is better than Brooke. She has more range, better dynamics and a more unique voice. I don’t want to get ahead of things, but how good is this kid? I already want to buy her CD, just because I love to hear her voice and those weird pronunciations. She is just so natural….

Her worry will be, to the end, her nerves. Can she get more confident? The chops are all there, and I was very relieved to get my own opinion of her backed up by this amazing performance. She slid into and out of her falsetto very, very well despite the nerves. Simon made an ironic reference to a waitress coming onto the show and succeeding. Nobody seemed to get it. If you don’t get it, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood were waitresses. This means that Simon is on her side, finally. What took you, my man? Didi was already my #1 contender among the females. She moves up to #3 overall, behind John Park and Andrew Garcia, with a bullet. She can win it all.

Chrystal Bowersox– She has a ton of soul and huge, huge pipes. Where did I have her ranked? I remember her name….

I found her. I dismissed her because her rhythm sucked in her audition. I said “good voice, terrible phrasing. Fodder in all likelihood, but never underestimate the power of the chick with the guitar. She has good pipes, and the phrasing might have been nerves. I’ve heard tons of singers use crappy phrasing before and none of them ever fix it.”

My only defense is that her audition was one of those 5 second ones. I tried to read too much into it and I was miles off. It won’t be the last time. This kid will move way up in the power rankings, maybe as high as #2 behind Didi and ahead of the mythical read haired girl that I still haven’t heard. I expect her to make it to the semis. Hell, I expect her to make the tour.