The more I think about it, the more excited I am about the fact that our top 24 will be down to a top 12 by tonight. No time for people to get attached to personalities rather than skill, after all. Yes, I’m talking to you “America”.
I had a few favorite girls before the opening strains of this episode came through my TV, but many of them I’ve only seen snippets of up until now. And a snippet does not a performer make!
But before we dive in, let’s talk for a second about the new judging panel, shall we? In order of their seating chart…
1. Steven Tyler. I admit. I wasn’t super excited about this judge jumping on board, but having spent these long weeks with him has given me an appreciation for his longevity in the business, his “come what may” philosophy of the process, and his willingness to sing with the contestants from his seat behind the panel (let’s bring singalongs back!). And let’s be honest, his interaction with Chris Medina’s fiance was tear-inducing. At the core, you can tell he’s got the rock star thing goin’ but he has a genuine desire to see the contestants succeed and I think he’s a fun (and sometimes wacky) addition.
2. Jennifer Lopez (J. Lo). J-Lo is a perfect choice as an idol judge. As a triple threat with years in the biz she clearly knows how to keep her head about her, make smart choices in her career (and wardrobe), and no one can doubt that she cares about each and every person in the competition and hates to squash dreams. I think it’s refreshing to have someone who isn’t calloused to the process. For her, it’s not about creating zingers that come across as excellent TV sound-bytes but really suck if you’re a human being receiving them…it’s about finding new talent and guiding them to success.
3. Randy Jackson. The Dawg has been around the block for 10 seasons. That’s a LOT of blocks. And mostly, alongside Paula/Simon/Kara his comments didn’t carry much weight. In fact, the recycled phrases he used every season became somewhat of a joke (at least in my head). I mean, we loved the sweaters, but c’mon! Give the kids some constructive criticism already!
But I have to say that if Steven and Jennifer can’t snap out of “camp counselor” mode soon I’m going to have to send some strongly worded letters into the Idol-verse. Because really? You can’t hear pitch problems? You can’t see that they aren’t being original? You are not helping these youngsters by lightening up on critique. Trust me! America is a much harsher judge and you’re trying to help them gain America’s vote! Also, it is FREAKING ME OUT that I’m agreeing with Randy more and more. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I call it like I see it and if I see eye to eye with the Randmeister, I guess I’m going to have to swallow that bitter pill, aren’t I?
Song Choice: “Only Girl (in the World)” by Rihanna
I do NOT for the life of me understand how she cracked the top 24. I also do not understand the judges love affair with her. Her screamy, pitchy version of this song confirmed every bad thing I’ve ever said about her. Plus, I don’t know about you but I don’t like watching a performance on pins and needles hoping that a “wardrobe malfunction” is avoided. Seriously, girl. You are on national television. Show some self-respect. You know, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Aretha knew what was up!
So what was with the judges? I cannot be the only person that is hearing this crap. Can I?!? Help a sista’ out.
Maybe it’s just jealousy because the color yellow makes me look like death warmed over. Or maybe it’s the fact that Naima insists on dressing like a flamenco dancer each and every time we see her. But that dress that she designed? Pretty hideous in my estimation. Anyone out there really like it?
Song Choice: “Summertime” by Billie Holiday
But as Randy so sagely told us, this is a SINGING competition. So, let’s get down to the singing which was…spot on, actually. The pitch was there, the vocal was large and in charge, and the arrangement was just different enough to catch my ear but just the same enough to recognize the song.
Now, I could do without her little swami dance moves throughout. After all, this IS a singing competition and not a snake charming competition! And at times, it was really clear that she’s not quite comfortable on the big stage yet. But her voice is very comfortable in this competition, so I hope she makes it through.
Song Choice: “Impossible” Christina Aguilera
Well, Kendra didn’t have to trot across the expanse of the stage in order to make her presence on it known. She filled up the stage with her presence and confidence and the sheer force of her voice. You could feel the emotion behind the song and the range and dynamics were perfectly suited to her.
Now if only SteTy would have restrained himself from commenting on her fashion.
Song Choice: “Criminal” by Fiona Apple
I really like Rachel so I was all geared up to hear her performance tonight. But this began the streak of really weird song choices. I’d never heard the song before and I agree with the judges…it was too Broadway for this particular stage. It also felt to me like she was overreaching. She didn’t own the song, it took her for a little bit of a run. It didn’t show her range or anything. (insert sad, pouty face here).
One thing I think we can all agree on though is the fact that she has Juilanna Marguiles eyebrows. Oh, and powerful pipes. Those notes seemed effortless from her and the tone of her voice is SO textured and interesting. I hope her endearing relationship with Ryan and her “comeback kid” story as well as her previous performances make America keep her.
Song Choice: “Hero” by Mariah Carey
I don’t know Karen. I want to become best friends with her hair stylist, but I don’t know Karen. But it seems like she’s the mothering type, doesn’t she? Like she fills the mother hen role with her fellow contestants. Anyhoo.
She gave the song a Spanish infusion, which struck a chord with J. Lo. And I’m all for being yourself and singing in your own language (I always do!) but the judges are smoking crack if they think that just because she sang Spanish lyrics for half the song and did NOTHING AT ALL to the melody that she put “her own spin on it”. She sang it well and I like her in general. But there wasn’t anything special about this except the fact that she hit all the notes without messing them up.
Oh, and I covet her eye make-up. And her smiley eyes.
Song Choice: “Seven Day Fool” by Etta James/Jully Black
Weird song choice, right? Maybe I’m just a philistine but I’d never heard this song either. And Lauren came at the tune with some angst which should have made it interesting (at the very least) but she was a little difficult to watch. I loved listening to her with my eyes closed. I feel a little weird putting that in here, because I think she’s a pretty girl and did a fair job with her stage persona (though I think J. Lo was right in her critique to not hold back).
Side Rant: Randy is TRIPPIN’ if he thinks there was any Florence + the Machine in that!
Song Choice: “Love Over Me” by Monica
It seems to me that Ashton’s lot in life is to perform as Diana Ross in a made for TV movie (which, btw, I said before Randy stole my comparison).
Seriously. Seriously. Where are they finding these songs? I didn’t like the song choice at all and part of that was the extreme repetitiveness of the melody and lyrics. Her dynamics were all at one level – loud. And some of those notes she just barely hang on to the pitch. She’s got talent but I’m not a fan yet. Also, can we just comment about all the crazy hair this season? How do I get me some of that??
Julie Zorrilla – yes, lots
Aka Stepford Contestant. The vibe I get from her is that she’s like one of those high school girls that is pretty, popular, and a good student and gets away with murder because she’s got all the teachers wrapped around her little finger. Not to be petty and superficial, but I couldn’t help but feel like she was headed to the prom.
Song Choice: “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
She just seems plastic! J. Lo is right, she doesn’t connect with the emotions of the song. Her arrangement was hokey and lacked the depth of Kelly’s version. Plus, she spent a bit of time out of the proper key…both sharp and flat if my ears doesn’t deceive me. A couple of steps up on the scale would have made her voice shine much more brightly. And I have to differ with my new BFF, RaJax…she did try to make it her own, it just wasn’t good.
Song Choice: “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys
Ah, the song choice that has been oft sang but rarely done justice. I think Haley managed to make the song work for her and gave it some new life. Girl needs some lessons on stage presence but her vocal was the first that I got excited about. Plus, she kept her mumbling ways to herself on this one. I really like her. Let’s keep her around!
Steven Tyler to Randy’s poor evaluation of Haley’s performance: “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.” Love it!
Song Choice: “Out Here On My Own” from Fame
The song felt too old for her, but chickster knew how to command the A capella intro and end on key after a whole phrase without the music. That takes skill. And, the dynamics were also locked in and well done. What I missed was the more quirky tone of her voice…well, a song that I actually cared about. I think she’s more interesting than that song showed.
But on the upside? I liked the skirt of her dress. 🙂
Doesn’t she look like Candice Cameron in this picture??
Song Choice: “Turn On the Radio” by Reba McEntire
Oh, Lauren Alaina. How I love you…let me count the ways:
1. Because you chose a fun, uptempo number in a sea of sappy ballads
2. Because you dared to not look like you were headed to a formal of some kind.
3. Because you nicknamed Ryan “Peaches”
4. Because your movement on stage was organic and easy, breezy (beautiful, Cover Girl).
5. Because your tone makes me want to listen to you for hours on end
6. Because you. are. awesome.
Song Choice: “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders
I’m a little stuck on this one. Her rendition of the song was beautiful and well-executed. The judges raved, the audience stood, tears were shed, and there was quite a moment at the end. At first, I compared it to Carrie Underwood’s version in my memory and found it wanting. But then I actually re-listened to Carrie’s version and felt that Pia sang it better.
Me? I wasn’t that moved. I think she threw her hat in the ring and upped the ante for the competition and was one of the best of the nigh. But for me? It wasn’t groundbreaking.
And now, sponsored by…well…me (drumrollllll)
A Lesson in Stage Presence by The American Idol Top 12 Girls:
Recommended/used by 11 out of 12 female contestants: the patented arm out toward the audience with a palm up or palm down. The slower speed of the arm going up or down is designed to build the greatest level of anticipation. Just FYI.
Acceptable variances include :
- Jabbing your finger toward the general direction of the audience with gusto
- Raising your hand up as if you have no control over where the music takes it. This is powerful when combined with a closed, scrunched eye.
- Also endorsed is the patented “horsey kick for emphasis” move. This one-legged stomp is most effective when used at a particularly loud or angry part of the song.
NOT recommended moves:
- Throwing off a cape and putting your arms up as if you are being tortured in a chinese prison.
- Clomping across the stage as if you have no control over your feet
- The “if I can’t see you, you can’t see me” move. Otherwise known as the “I’m too emotionally involved in my song to look at the camera/audience”.
- There now. I hope you can take some of these tips and use them in your own performances this week or…not.
I’d like to see these girls make the top 5
1. Lauren Alaina
2. Thia Megia
3. Kendra Chantelle
4. Haley Reinhart
5. Rachel Zevita
I think these are going to be the top 5
1. Lauren Alaina
2. Rachel Zevita
3. Pia Toscano
4. Naima Adedepo
5. Ashton Jones