It was definitely Ladies Night for the Top 24.
Now that we're past all the delusional people of the audition episodes and the manufactured drama of Hollywood Week, we are getting down to business, and I am kicking off my recaps.
Welcome to American Idol Season 9, and the Top 24.
Lilly Scott image courtesy Fox
Tuesday night was the debut of the Top 12 girls ... or women, as we like to call them out here in the real world. it was a good evening's entertainment, and here's the rundown:
1. Paige Miles, 24 years old, kicked it off with All Right Now by Free.
I definitely appreciated her tackling a rock song, trying to make the most of her full, throaty tone. Although she has what could become the annoying affectation of swallowing her consonants, she had a great comfort level on stage. For being the first one on the first night, she didn't betray the kind of nerves that were seen in large supply later during the two-night extravaganza. All that being said: Alright Now isn't exactly an exciting vocalist's song. And while she was comfortable, she wasn't exactly overflowing with spark or charisma. I think the word "serviceable" was invented to apply to this rendition.
Bottom line: I think she'll be safe, but only because a couple of divas had a very bad night. She needs to step up the spark.
2. Ashley Rodriguez, 22, sang Happy by Leona Lewis.
Have these contestants never watched the show? It is generally a bad, I repeat BAD, idea to cover the recent hit of someone that found fame via American Idol or Simon Cowell's other hit, The X Factor. Too recent and too remembered. I'm actually not all that familiar with this song, and now, thanks to Ashley, I never want to be. She could not pull this off at all. She was obviously highly nervous, and a surprising number of singers cannot sing in the lower part of their range when they're nervous. It was breathy and weak where it should have been pwoerful. And the high notes? Screamy.
Bottom line: She is at major risk tonight.
3. Janell Wheeler, 24, pulled out the old chestnut, What About Love by Heart.
Oh Janell. What made you think this was your song? You are a smooth and silky singer, not a big, bombastic rock goddess.She really lost in during the chorus, but really none of it was good.
Bottom line: This wasn't good, but I think she'll carry over residual good will from Hollywood Week and survive this week.
4. Lilly Scott, 20 (pictured above), sang Fixing a Hole by The Beatles.
Quite an unusual song choice, for a contestant determined to be unusual. She reminded me a bit of KT Tunstall, and she definitely showed off her quirkiness. Maybe too much so. This is one Beatles song I'm not that familiar with, so I wasn't bothered by her messing around with the melody. My S.O., on the other hand, was mightily annoyed. Luckily for Lilly, I don't think the AI audience is quite as up on their obscure Beatles as he is, so she probably didn't tick off too many people!
Bottom line: First woman who seemed totally safe.
5. Katelyn Epperly, 19, sang Oh Darlin' by the Beatles.
The bad news is that I could not picture her or this performance at all until I read my notes. The worse news is that my notes indicate that the '80s exploded all over her, that she is a Joss Stone wanna-be, and that I thought she was unexpressive, or worse, inappropriately expressive ... i.e., her facial expressions didn't match the content of the song. Ouch.
Bottom line: Her voice is good, and I think she'll be forgiven, at least for this week, for the John Hughes movie prom scene apparel.
6. Haeley Vaughn, 16, sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand by The Beatles.
It was the Beatles's big night here on American Idol, and this was the third Beatles song in a row. Haeley, like Lilly, did a quirky take, but on a much more familiar song. I actually liked her arrangement, and thought she showed some great vocal facility when moving in and out of falsetto. However, some of her top notes were screamed and unpleasant.
Bottom line: I think she's safe, but I wondering if she is going to grate on my nerves. What do you think?
7. Lacey Brown, 24, sang Landslide by Fleetwood Mac.
Oh. Dear. This, how shall I put it?, SUCKED. I love this song, and she ruined it. She has a Martha Wainwright kind of voice, but if Martha couldn't sing on key. Meanwhile, she sang the entire, poignant, ruminative song with a meaningly, soulless SMILE on her face. ARGH. I hated this with a hot fiery passion. I did love that Kara gave a shoutout to the Sundays, though.
Bottom line: I think this may do her in, unless people just feel totally sorry for her.
8. Michelle Delamor, 22, sang Fallin' by Alicia Keys.
Again: Has Michelle never watched this show? Don't. Do. Alicia. Keys. It will never measure up. Michelle has a very facile voice, so once she got going this got a lot better. She also didn't have any kind of annoying inappropriate smiling during the song so, you know, kudos for that. But no particular passion either. A pale imitation is all she was going to be on this one.
Bottom line: I do think she's safe, pale imitation or not.
9. Didi Benami, 23, sang The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson.
This is where I diverge significantly form the judges. I loved this performance. I loved her arrangement and her laid-back approach. This is the most memorable performance of the night for me, so obviously I couldn't disagree with Simon more ... and that usually doesn't happen. I think she found a great way to make this her own, both with the melody and the rhythm, without destroying the song. I considered this better than the original.
Bottom line: Well, I hope people listen to me, not Simon and voted her through.
10. Siobhan Magnus, 19, sang Wicked Game by Chris Isaak.
Oh yikes. This was a terrible version, really. She had some nice falsetto moments, but most of it was low and she came off sounding like she wanted to be Chrissie Hynde (vibrato-wise) but didn't really have the chops for it. Also? She looked pained and uncomfortable throughout. Making the whole thing unpleasant to watch.
Bottom line: At risk, but not the worst of the night.
11. Crystal Bowersox, 24, sang One Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morrisette.
I wanted to like this more than I did, if I'm being honest (as Simon would say). Too much harmonica, not enough singing and actually kind of boring.
Bottom line: Boring or not, she herself is really interesting, so I think she'll be around.
12. Katie Stevens, 17, sang Feeling Good... a la Michael Buble.
See that part where I say Katie is 17? Well, this performance was like a 14-year-old trying to act 40. APPALLING! And let me add: Dreadful and precocious. Hey she has vocal chops, but who cares?
Bottom line: Well, unfortunately, I think she'll be safe at least one more week, but man...it's a close one.
Now for the boys ... brace yourselves:
1. Todrick Hall, 24 years old, kicked it off with a funkified version of Since You've Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson.
He was very confident and commanding ... perhaps too much so. It definitely bordered on the indulgent. At first it was impressive, but it quickly got off-putting. And yes, the re-imagining of the song went just too far.
Bottom line: Nonetheless, I think he's safe. Mostly because so many others were SO bad.
2. Aaron Kelly, 16, sang Here Comes Goodbye by Rascal Flatts.
As with Katie, please review this boy's age. Then ask yourself: Why would he sing such an old, sad song? I have no answer, I just know it was a bad choice. He definitely has a nice tone, but this song was way too big and way too mature for him. It was extremely strained at the top range.
Bottom line: Again, amidst a series of bad-to-worse performances, this didn't rank among the worst. Which isn't saying much.
3. Jermaine Sellers, 27, screamed his way through Get Here by Oleta Adams.
From a shaky start to a screaming finish, this was horrendous. The nerves completely got the best of this poor guy. Does anyone remember that one season where there was a reality competition based on Fame, and the winner was this adorable little guy named, I think, Harlem Lee, who lied about his age, even though the show didn't have an age limit. He won at the age of 36, and one of his highlight performances was this song. Yeah. Jermaine is no Harlem, that's all I'll say.
Bottom line: Mucho mucho risk for Jermaine tonight.
4. Tim Urban, 20, sang Apologize by One Republic.
Dude. Don't pick a heavily falsetto-oriented song when you don't have a strong falsetto. Did no one tell him? This was nervous, dreary, and generally unpleasant to sit through.
Bottom line: Yup, his "adorableness" may indeed save his sorry falsetto-challenged butt tonight.
5. Joe Munoz, 20, sang You and I Both by Jason Mraz.
This was way better than I expected, and in the field form last night, that made this the best performance at that point in the evening. He had a slightly nervous vibrato going, but generally it sounded nice, easy and smooth. I didn't remember much about this guy from earlier in the season, so this was a good first impression to make.
Bottom line: I should think he's definitely safe.
6. Tyler Grady, 20, sang American Woman by The Guess Who.
Man, this guy bugs me. Such a poser. This performance was the equivalent of some guy screaming it at a karaoke bar, after having a couple too many beers.
Bottom line: One of many mediocre performances, but not bad enough to hit the bottom, probably.
7. Lee Dewyze, 23, sang Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.
I actually don't know what Simon was listening to on this one. To me, he was painfully off-key throughout way too much of it to praise his general tone or sound. Let's be on key first, OK? Yes, he has a nice tone. Yes, Kings of Leon was a great suggestion from randy. But he didn't sing Kings of Leon, he sang a crappy, overly-altered version of Snow Patrol.
Bottom line: Even so, I think he's safe. Because there were worse performances, even if his might have been the most consistently off-key.
8. John Park, 21, sang God Bless the Child by Billie Holliday.
Nice to hear a baritone, as I'm sure Shania Twain would agree, but yikes! Why pick this song? It was a cheesy arrangement, and he may love the song, but that didn't come through with any kind of passionate performance. Total side note: Did anyone else notice how heteronormative Ellen was with her constant reference to the little girls and how much they'd like the various adorable boys? Ellen, that's no way to represent!
Bottom line: I think John is at risk, big risk.
9. Michael Lynche, 26, sang This Love by Maroon 5.
OK, first things first: Dude, you barely touched that guitar...why bother? That was annoying me the entire way through the song. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, this was fine. It was a slightly funky version, and he has a nice voice. but why did I feel like I was watching a rehearsal? Oh, right. Because he was practically marking it. Especially the guitar playing.
Bottom line: Don't worry, though, he's safe.
10. Alex Lambert, 19, sang Wonderful World by James Morrison.
Oh, this poor little lamb. He and his mullet-tastic self did indeed look like he wished the floor would open up and swallow him whole.This was just so awkwardly performed. It's not that he has a bad voice, he actually has a good voice. And that may save him. From his uncomfortable, awkward, mullet-tastic self.
Bottom line: At risk, but the voice may save him.
11. Casey James, 27, sang Heaven by Bryan Adams.
Casey James image courtesy Fox.
Well, I'm not a big fan of this song, but Casey did a nice job of it. He did have a bit of the nervous vibrato action going, but on the other hand he had a nice laid-back vibe. Not sure how he managed to pull that off. He just seems like a cool, authentic guy...sort of the anti-version of the poser that Taylor seems to be.
Bottom line: Do I even need to say safe?
12. Andrew Garcia, 24, sang Sugar We're Going Down by Fall Out Boy.
Another one where I and the judges were in total disagreement. I loved his version of this song. His guitar playing was really good; I loved the slight reggae approach he took to his vocals, and being familiar with the original I thought this made it his own, without going too far.
Bottom line: I think he's safe, safe, safe, no matter what the judges think.
Bottom Line for the Bottom 3 out of the Top 12 Women:
It probably will (and should) be: Ashley, Lacey Brown and Katie. I'd save Lacey and give her one more shot, but it will probably be Katie being saved for one more week.
Bottom Line for the Bottom 3 out of the Top 12 Men:
It probably will (and should) be: Jermaine, John and Alex, with Alex being saved for another week, based on his voice ... and the sympathy vote.
What did you think? And are you encouraged for this season? Maybe I should just ask that about the women, eh?
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