Before we get to the singing, a little stage setting…
- The contestants all waved to the crowd like they knew each other, which seemed strange at first but I had forgotten that there is a dress rehearsal before the show, with the same crowd. They did know each other.
- The four fast-passes were my ‘big two’ – Dalton and Olivia – along with Trent for his voice, and La’ Porsha for her personality. I was mildly surprised they didn’t take Sonika over Trent, but Sonika shouldn’t have any trouble getting the vote out while Trent might have, so I’m glad they chose the way they did.
- It’s too bad La’Porsha didn’t get to perform, she is having a great hair day.
- The singers tonight will be reprising songs from earlier in the year, which makes me wonder how much effort the show is putting into getting them a variety of songs to choose from. I understand that it’s the last season and they aren’t drawing 30 million viewers anymore, but they have made a FORTUNE over the last 15 years. Spend a few bucks and get the kids some new songs, ok?
- The big stage has swallowed up its share of singers over the years and the first big stage performances are always an intonational nightmare – so don’t expect anyone to have perfect pitch tonight.
- Kymberly Willoughby, who could show these kids a thing or two about singing herself, is guest-judging with me tonight. Her takes on each performance will be underneath mine, and I’ll mark ‘em clearly so you know it’s her.
Ok, let’s have it, guys. The singers, the songs:
Manny Torres, “Master Blaster”
Manny bores the hell out of me. He doesn’t have any high range, and he always looks to me like he’s posing, like a Chippendale dancer. I hate it when the judges tell singers to ‘connect with the song’ – mostly because the phrase is one of their favorite smart-assy ways of saying “sing better” – but Manny didn’t even get close to the song. He needed to sing way better. He didn’t look comfortable up there.
Judges: Keith gave the obligatory ‘way to open the show’ speech, then said “sing better.” Not in so many words, but that was what he meant.
Kym: “Manny has a lot of charisma and energy, but not a great song choice for him tonight IMO. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance….but he’s shown us enough in previous weeks, I’m not totally convinced that he won’t make the top ten.”
Verdict: It’s the first dammed song, get off me. Seriously, Manny could be in trouble but then again this might be the best it gets. It’s the first song. He wasn’t very good, and I don’t know if he’s very popular.
Gianna Isabella, “I Put a Spell on You”
Gianna’s inexperience shows up in her phrasing as much as anywhere else – she sounds really amateurish whenever she has to do a complicated rhythm – plus she has that dreaded early adolescent upper range problem (she ain’t got none). She could have used that big note at the end, and she tried to find it but all she could manage was a harsh, sandpapery silhouette of a high note. All that said,though, I thought she was pretty good by her established standards tonight, and she’s getting better every week.
Judges: Jen gushed.
Kym: ”Gianna looks like she’s having the time of her life. I didn’t want to like her, because of her annoying mother but I have a soft spot for those that have fun on stage over those who sing flawlessly (probably from years of running Karaoke) not a mind blowing performance tonight, but I still like her.”
Verdict: Seeya next week.
Thomas Stringfellow, “Story of My Life”
T-String was in tune, which doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but that’s actually the part of his show with the highest degree of difficulty. For the baseball fans out there Tommy is a singing metaphor for the Robin Roberts, Catfish Hunter family of pitchers. He only has one pitch, one primary skill, but it’s one hell of a skill and he has such remarkable command of it that he can keep bringing it, over and over, without losing effectiveness.
Judges: Harry told him to stop throwing his pitch.
Kym: “Thomas has more fun on stage than anyone else I think. He’s quirky and unique but I’m not sold on his style.”
Verdict: Harry should know better than to tell him to change his vocal style right now. What a horrible piece of advice, like telling a NASCAR driver to keep his hands at 10 and 2 right before a green-white checker restart. Save that advice for the end of the season.
Tristan McIntosh, “What Hurts the Most”
The way she started, almost running out of breath at the end of her first phrase, I was worried that she was going to get sideways – but she got it together, took a deeeeeep breath for the next phrase, and blew the doors off the rest of the song. We may look back on this performance as a moment later, especially if Tristan makes it deep in the competition. She was brilliant once she got her feet set.
Judges: Keith gushed, Jen slobbered.
Kym: “Tristan has a lot of talent and she took some risks tonight, but so do a lot of other girls in this competition. I don’t know if she stands out enough.”
Verdict: Kym knows things about singing that I don’t know, which gives me pause, but my take is that Tristan is safe as hell.
Avalon Young, “Yo (Excuse Me Miss)”
Her stage presence feels forced to me, but she’s trying and I think she’ll loosen up and look a little less play-acty as she gets some reps. Her voice stands out – even following Tristan she sounded strong – and her tone is as cuddly as a care bear wrapped in a Fabreze scented dryer sheet.
Kym: “Avalon confuses me. I think she could sing the phone book, she is such a pretty girl, but her fashion choices don’t match her looks and vocal ability. Her song choice didn’t do it for me tonight. I like the song, but not on her. She could’ve done better.”
Verdict: Avalon wore makeup tonight, which I don’t think she had done before. She usually looks like a tomboy.
Jenn Blosil, “True Colors”
I had a hard time getting past the eyebrows, they looked like they were coated in sand. She probably should have stuck to the blue theme from last week. Vocally she was all over the place, even more than usual, though she did stick one great note. It might hurt her that she sang that song; she ain’t going to out-weird Cyndy Lauper. She should have done “Hanging Tree” from her showcase round; she was impressive that week.
Judges: Harry talked her up bigtime; he knows Jenn is important to the television show aspect.
Kym: “Jenn is another quirky and unique singer and if there is only room for one in the top ten I wouldn’t pick her. I didn’t love what she did with that Cyndi Lauper song tonight. It could’ve used a bit of polish.”
Verdict: We will find out what the voters think of Jenn this time around.
Lee Jean, “Make It Rain”
I had a weird Tracy Chapman flashback early in the song… Lee’s performance was split – the first half (and the end) were terrific, sweet and strong. The middle part, though, his nerve endings tensed up, almost like he was having nerve cramps, and he had to fight through it. He did, and I give the kid a lot of credit for it, but he was straining on notes he usually nails. Nerves have destroyed many, many Idols over the years … Lee struggled with nerves last week, too, so he’s going to have to find a way to relax or he ain’t going to last long.
Judges: Keith noted the nerves, too.
Kym: “Lee is adorable. I love everything about this kid. He’s got a voice like butter, just the right amount of charisma without being overly cocky. I want to put him in my pocket and carry him around with me.”
Verdict: chicks dig the cute boys – that has to be a good sign for Lee.
Sonika Vaid, “I Surrender”
Her first performance of this song is on her bio page, and if you listened to it you know she wasn’t nearly as good tonight. She nailed the higher register parts, but her phrasing was all over the place and her rhythm sense was so bad that I thought the band was going to have to stop and wait for her at one point. Her tone when she first came out gave it away: nerves, nerves, and more nerves. As she warmed up her beautiful tone came out, but she never really got the nerves tamped down. She needs to relax even more than Lee does.
Judges: Jen blathered like a vacuum cleaner salesman, making sure the voters knew who to vote for. Keep talking, keep selling, Jen. The show needs Sonika.
Kym: “Sonica couldn’t have a better stage name! Her voice is so clear pure. She can you pull you in with those big brown eyes.”
Verdict: She should be safe as hell, even with a rough performance.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell, “Ring of Fire”
I have no idea what to think about lil’ June Junior. I like her – hell, even Mikey from the old life cereal commercials likes her – but she has the weakest voice in the competition and she phrases as poorly as the other 15 year olds. Speaking of, how many 15 year olds are there? I think four out of the ten singing tonight were 15 when they auditioned. Jeneve’s chances are as live as any of ‘em.
Judges: “pay no attention to the shitty singing, please vote for our southern meal ticket”
Kym: “I don’t think she has the chops. She can play the $#&@ out of any instrument she picks up, but this IS a singing competition, right?”
Verdict: We’ll see. There are a lot of “we’ll see” singers, aren’t there? I think this is a good thing – Eclectic Idol – and Jeneve is as interesting and entertaining, all things considered, as any of them.
MacKenzie Bourg, “Roses”
I don’t remember him having breathing issues before; he ran out of breath in the middle of a couple of phrases, and a couple of his high notes could have been stronger…. But don’t get me wrong: This was a strong performance, right there with Tristan as the best of the night. MacKenzie wrote this song; if Idol was still pulling in 30 million viewers this song would get a million Youtube hits by the end of the season. Somebody remind me to check it later, to see how many it ends up with.
Kym: “MacKenzie looks like my cousin. His smile is infectious. He’s believable and brings his own thing to his performances. I’m not quite ready to let him go.”
Verdict: seeya next week.
Safe to in Danger –
Safe as hell
Wild Cards – who knows?
I thought Gianna would be in the safe group but they gave her a horrible, awful edit in the end-of-show reprisal of their performances; they found every bad note she hit. Of the ten, Gianna and Manny had the worst edits.
Jeneve and Jenn – my brain tells me that they are both gone, toast, dust … but they have had amazing staying power. Avalon deserves to advance, but it’s a numbers game. Did she stand out enough to get voters motivated for her? If it were up to me I would take my four safe singers plus the two Jens, just because they are the most interesting, but Tommy and Avalon probably deserve the final two spots based on their voices.
Kym’s safe to in danger:
If you have your own safe to in danger list email it to me or post it on one of my facebook entries. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding them, I’ve been shilling my blog like a friggin’ salad shooter for weeks.
Four go tomorrow night! Bloody! Messy! See you then!