Semifinals – second 12 perform

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Shelbie Z “Work Hard, Play Harder” – Gretchen Wilson: B-

shelbieHarry was fine with it but the other judges dunned her for singing in too low a key … my take is that the key was ok, she just didn’t have as much power as she normally has. She mucked up her first up-scale run, and I think she sang a little scared after that. The song choice was right in Shelbie’s wheelhouse, so she really should have been more impressive, but she was still pretty good.

Many Torres “Adventure of a Lifetime” – Coldplay: C

mannyHe was mostly in tune … ish … his tone was off, like he was hanging on the notes but not centered on the notes. I listened to it with my eyes closed and it sounded like an amateur singing with no monitors. Shelbie had trouble too, and a few of the contestants last week – I’m starting to wonder if the sound on that stage is all screwed up. These kids are good singers, and they are usually right on the tuning fork.

Manny bores me almost as much as he excites J-Lo, and he was extra boring tonight. He spent the whole song in a range of less than a half-octave.

Kory Wheeler “Let it Go” – James Bay: C-

koryHe reminded me of Mick Jagger singing “Fool to Cry” in the mid-seventies, with the weird way he cut off the ends of each phrase, how he sort of tossed his voice at the notes and moved on as if he didn’t care if he actually hit any of them. That’s fine if you are Mick Jagger, but not so much if you a minister without portfolio in a singing competition.

I have Kory as a longshot as it is, and this ain’t going to help. Incidentally, where do they get their pianos? The big stage shows in the past featured monstrous grand pianos; Kory was playing a spinet that looks like the one I have in my living room.

Amelia Eisenhauer “Wake me Up” – Avicii: B

ameliaThe judges were lukewarm but I liked it. The transition to tempo was weird – I had to listen back twice and I’m still not sure which tail was wagging which dog there – and Amelia’s voice isn’t a powerhouse like most of the others in the competition, but I thought she pulled off a nice, Tanya Tucker-ish rendition of the song and she carried plenty of energy – and she was in tune.

Jenn Blosil “Sorry” – Justin Beiber: B

jennIf you didn’t watch the show Jenn made a point to tell everyone in her pre-performance blurb that she doesn’t drink or do drugs. Funny girl, that Jenn. The performance was , well … it was Jenn. If you like her you liked it, and if you don’t you didn’t. I thought the light crew did a bang-up job setting the stage lighting up, all the blue hues, even down to the microphone and the piano. Maybe in another 30 years or so Jenn’s hair will be blue, too.

It was a pretty tight performance, with only a little low range growling at the beginning of the song to complain about. Harry exaggerated the problems early in the song.

CJ Johnson “I’ll Be” – Edwin McCain: C

cj johnsonThe song was too big for CJ’s voice. He has four-banger power and an average tone, and this song is a hill that needs a V-8 to climb it. CJ’s best shot on Idol is to sing high energy songs that don’t make him hold notes. I don’t think he was as out of tune as Manny was, but like Manny and a couple of others he seemed like he was riding the melody, not commanding it.

Lee Jean “Runaway” – Ed Sheeran: B-

lee jeanLee has a neat tone, like  – I keep saying this – he learned how to sing with one of those auto-tune microphones. He should do some DeBarge or maybe Sting; he hits the blue notes really well. His falsetto is a work in progress and he gets overwhelmed by complicated rhythms, but that sweet tone might be enough to get him through.

Trent Harmon “What are you Listening To” – Chris Stapelton: B+

trentIt was pretty obvious, after following several comparatively weak-voiced singers, how strong Trent’s voice is. Two things kept him from delivering the first A performance of the semifinals: first, he should put the guitar away and never even look at it again. He sings better without it and he doesn’t play with a pick. Some people can get away with playing with their fingers but Trent ain’t one of ’em. Second, he makes a lot of bad faces. It doesn’t matter as much when he’s moving around, but he stood still in the center of the stage where it was impossible to look away.

Tristan McIntosh “Good Girl” – Carrie Underwood: C+

tristanIf I graded her just on the quality of her voice she would rate a little higher, but even her voice is a mix of really good and not so good. In her upper range, where all the money is made, Tristan is a racehorse. In her lower range, where experience shows, Tristan is weak as hell.

I might have given her a B- or even a B, but the arrangement was terrible. She should have started the accapella breakdown halfway through the song and worked the crowd into a frenzy, but instead she sang a bunch of low notes, where she is weak, then right before the song was over she kicked it into a higher level of intensity – but then she ended it before anyone could get in time with her. Missed opportunity; she’l be back next week, but she needs someone to help her block out her arrangements better.

Adam Lasher “Black and Gold” – Sam Sparrow: C-

adam lasherI don’t know what the hell was going on there … he would be sailing along, sounding fine, then every time he tried to do anything dynamic he would lose it and have to find his way back. It was as if he got the script changes five minutes before he went on stage – or the band did. He gave them a look at the end that makes me wonder if they screwed something up.

Dalton Rapattoni “Rebel Yell” – Billy Idol: A-

daltonFolks gonna love it, folks gonna hate it … but his arrangement was daring, it was original (I couldn’t find anyone else doing it that way), and it was tightly performed. Dalton is going to be this year’s seat-of-your-pants original contestant.

Olivia Rox (Hill) “Confident” – Demi Lovato: B+

olivia roxIf Dalton is going to be the creative force, Olivia is going to be the athletic force. Nobody has her fearlessness – hell, kamikaze pilots on beta blockers aren’t as fearless as Olivia – and nobody has her massive bag of tricks. Dalton is still the favorite, but Olivia has been performing under pressure since before she could talk. She won’t scare, and she’ll bring it every single time. It’s going to be fun, watching them try to one-up each other.

Olivia needs to be careful not to over-reach with her upper range – one of these times she’s going to pull a Gokey, thinking she nailed a high note but what the audience heard was the painful scream of a hyena being tortured. Harry hit her up about her rhythm, but I think he was just picking up on how gawky she is, having grown several inches since her audition. Teenagers have enough trouble being graceful as it is.