Rants from an American Idol Addict – Finding the Finalists and a Wild Card Wander

 Oh it was a busy performance week in American Idol world.  The boys kicked it off on Tuesday, the girls hopped into the fray on Wednesday and we got the results tonight.  There were a few standout performances.  The rest?  Yeah.  I’m going to start the ranting with an overview of what I thought of each contestant’s performance quality, strategy and placement. 

My placements are easy:

  • “I’d listen again” means it was good stuff.
  • “Meh” means it was average drool.
  • “Here’s your door prize” means they should be toast.

Reed Grimm (“Moves Like Jagger”) – I’ve stated earlier my lack of understanding for Reed.  I’m not a fan.  His hyper wiggle dance, eyeball the camera, then go beat drums performance didn’t help.  His intro video basically detailed a strategy to be “that guy” who is put on quirky.  It feels calculated and too much.  Like he is so deep into the experience of what this is that you have to get to that other level to wrap your conscience around it.  Here’s your door prize, Reed.

Adam Brock (“Think”) – In his intro video, Adam said he thought he had a “black woman” trapped inside him.  Really, dude?  He then sings “Think” with a typical karaoke spin.  He needed to pick a song that would better showcase his voice than this throwaway fun number.  Here’s your door prize.

DeAndre Brackensick (“Reasons”) – I was so looking forward to what DeAndre would craft with his voice.  I saw he was a contestant that could really sing last season so I’m glad he returned.  This year, he is one of the strongest male vocalists.  Technically, he handled the full falsetto like a pro.  Strategically, I don’t feel it was the best song choice.  He hasn’t had a ton of screen time singing so I’d have preferred a song sung in his lower register that allowed him to just highlight that he can hit the high parts.  His nerves also showed in his performance translating to way too many bouts of hair tossing.  Stop it.  I’d listen again.

Colton Dixon (“Decode”) – Give Colton a star for coming in the door with some strategy.  He channeled some full on emo rocker vibe, climbed up on the piano for emphasis and stared down the camera like it was prey.  That said, this was not a strong vocal and I’m not sure who Colton is as an artist.  I get who he’s dressing himself up to be to try to win, but it rings inauthentic.  And that hair.  Meh.

Jeremy Rosado (“Gravity”) – What a cute kid.  He just seems so nice and at peace with the world. Beautiful voice and emotional connection.  He will need to work a bit on stage presentation.  He also might be in trouble because of his limited camera time in earlier episodes.  I don’t feel like I know anything about him.  I’d listen again.

Aaron Marcellus (“Never Can Say Goodbye”) – It is too bad that Aaron picked this song.  He is one of the stronger singers, but this song did nothing to show that.  The fact that he is also another person with limited footage doesn’t help either.  Meh.

Chase Likens – (“Storm Warning”) – Why did they put him through?  Jeremy Keyser should have made it out of Hollywood in his place.  Here’s your door prize.

Creighton Fraker – (“True Colors”) – So far, I haven’t been a fan of Creighton’s over-the-top style as a soloist.  He gets a bucket of stars for toning it down to simply sing this song.  Historically, top 24 (25) performances can both propel contestants into the finals and carry on good vibes that resonate in safety for weeks afterwards.  Tonight, he won me over a tad.  I’d listen again.

Phillip Phillips (“In the Air Tonight”) – Why?  Was he even singing a melody?  Here’s your door prize.

Eben Franckewitz (“Set Fire to the Rain”) – Eben is a voice that is pretty, but not yet ready for Idol competition.  I figure the judges kept putting him through rounds due to a cuteness factor.  America, please don’t continue this.  Eben gets a star for picking an extremely current song that people will recognize.  That said, he had no emotional connection or content understanding of what he was singing about.  Here’s your door prize.

Heejun Han (“Angel”) – I’m a little sad that now we are to the full performance phase of the competition, we won’t get to see turns of Heejun’s humor.  He was okay here, yet nothing to make me raise my head and really pay attention.  I figure his extensive camera time will carry him through.  Meh.

Joshua Ledet (“You Pulled Me Through”) – I admit I’ve been a bit iffy about Joshua in the same way I have about Creighton.  They have the type of stylized voices that can either work a song like magic or sail so far up and over the mountain that you don’t want to endure another pimped note.  This week, Joshua made magic.  He’s been nicknamed in the online world as “Mantasia,” a reference back to how Fantasia, the third Idol winner, had a way of taking people to church with her voice when she was “on.”  I’d listen again.

Jermaine Jones (“Dance with My Father”) – Really, producers?  You bring him back as the lucky 13th contestant?  His deep voice is church choir singer and nothing more.  Here’s your door prize.

Chelsea Sorrell (“Cowboy Casanova”) – Forgettable country singer Chelsea got the not-so-lucky, kiss of death placement by going first for the girls.  She deserved it.  Here’s your door prize.

Erika Van Pelt (“What About Love”) – Erika is an admitted early favorite of mine so I’m disappointed on her performance effort because it felt tired.  I kept waiting for the song to grow and for her to hit the high notes, and she never did.  She has the power to sing a Heart song.  I think she also has the technique and capability for emotional connection.  This one she phoned in.  Meh.

Jen Hirsh (“One and Only”) – I still don’t get all the raving about Jen’s voice.  Yes, I hear the jazz-infused turns and phrasing.  She has some technical skill.  It is just her voice itself is unmemorable and at times a bit breathy.  Meh.

Brielle Von Hugel (“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”) – Brielle is another returning contestant from last season.  During Hollywood group week, she’d been in Pia Toscano’s group and not made it further.  Her song choice was throw away, her long-sundress choice for outfit was distracting and she comes across as having an attitude from the group footage shown during Hollywood round and back in her hometown.  The stage mother factor just nails the coffin.  Here’s your door prize.

Hallie Day (“Feelin’ Good”) – I think the compelling push of her back story has wandered away.  This was another poor song choice and one that is overdone on performance shows and bores the audience.  She then brought nothing enlightened to it, choosing to stalk the stage and scream bits.  It felt disconnected.  And what was she wearing?  Distracting.  Here’s your door prize.

Skylar Laine (“Stay with Me”) – I’m not a fan yet of her rough country-rock vibe.  I will give her credit for having spunk and stage presence in spades.  I think she has an interesting voice… maybe even a pretty one, but she pushes so hard and loud that I can’t hear enough to enjoy it.   I do think that there are people that love her already and she’ll be put through.  Meh.

Baylie Brown (“Amazed”) – Oh, Baylie.  Thou hast let me down.  I noted that I wanted to hear more from her after the first audition.  Now I don’t.  Lauren Gray should have been here in her place.  If Baylie gets some votes for beauty and benefiting from extra camera time, she might make it through.  Here’s your door prize.

Hollie Cavanaugh (“Reflection”) – I stand by my statement last week that Hollie is a one to watch.  Easily one of the best of the night with both great power and control displayed in her vocal.  Her song choice is a doozy to sing.  I did hear nerves quivering a bit in the background, but well done.  I’d listen again.

Haley Johnson (“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Halfway in, I started humming myself to a safe place and plugged my ears.  Brutal.  So brutal that even Randy Jackson said it was a “nightmare.”  When Randy stops tossing empty platitudes your way, you know your performance sucked rocks.  Here’s your door prize.

Shannon Magrane (“Go Light Your World”) – Like with Jen, I’m not getting what is oh so great about Shannon.  She over sings with fake pageant emotion.  Cue this week with a flowing white dress that looked like she was heading into an evening gown competition.  And zero points for song choice.  I get the sense that she’s totally unaware of who she wants to be as an artist and is singing things given to her versus reasoned and selected herself.  Here’s your door prize.

Jessica Sanchez (“Love You I Do”) – You go girl.  In her stool interview prior to singing, Ryan explained how she’d been having vocal problems all week to the point of having swollen vocal cords.  Rest that voice and use proper techniques so you can keep singing, Jessica.  She made a fantastic song choice for the melody and opportunity to showcase the vocals.  Excellent stage presence and connection.  I’d listen again.

Elise Testone (“One and Only”) – Yes, she sang the same song as Jen… and sang it better.  Elise is another one I was impressed with from last week’s sing for your life final Vegas solos.  Elise has the same deep, mature tone as Erika, but connected far better with her material.  She hasn’t gotten a ton of camera time so I hope she gets a shot to move forward and wow us in future weeks.  I’d listen again.

Whew!  That’s a lot of people.  Comparing the seasons, I think this top 24 (25) week was one of the better ones.  Longtime fans will remember some of the earlier seasons where there were top 24ers and even finalists that wouldn’t make it to Hollywood now.  The night was not as great as it could have been and we can blame that on song choices and nerves that made the good singers in the bunch not do their best.

If I could pick, I’d put through Jessica, Hollie, Elise, Erika and Skylar for the girls.  Then Joshua, DeAndre, Creighton, Jeremy and Heejun for the guys.  I’ll be a super sad gal if DeAndre, Jessica or Hollie don’t make it.  I get that my selections don’t include some judges’ faves.  So to cover those bases, let’s include Jen, Colton and a toss-up of Reed or Phillip from the available wild card count.

Results rumble:

  • Girls voted in are: Jessica, Hollie, Elise, Shannon and Skylar
  • Guys voted in are: Joshua, Phillip, Jermaine, Colton and Heejun

Wild Card Wander:

  • For the wild card round—or what Ryan likes to call “sing for your life”—the judges pick Jen, Jeremy, Brielle, DeAndre, Erika and Reed to sing again.
  • Brielle was a wasted choice that should have gone to Creighton or Aaron based on their vocal talent.  She was so bad that the judges flagged it right after she was done, basically dusting her dreams right there.
  • Them giving second shots to Jen and Reed were a given because they’ve been pimped by the producers and judges since first audition.
  • The wild card winners are: Erika, Jeremy and DeAndre.  Squee!  Each are good singers.  And a finals group without Reed?  Priceless.

What did you think of the judges’ comments?  Too hard/soft?  Is anyone striking you as an early contender to win?  Who do you think will surprise us in upcoming rounds?

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8 Responses to Rants from an American Idol Addict – Finding the Finalists and a Wild Card Wander

  1. Barb! Whenever I watch Idol now I can just feel you taking it all in and writing up your views of the whole thing. They should make you one of the judges … seriously! I agree with your take on everyone except Heejun. I mean he seems to be a sweet guy with an interesting voice but definitely not Idol material. He’ll be gone early and someone more talented could have had his spot … like Creighton. Onward!

    • Heh, heh. I’d so love to be a guest judge. Just give me a seat in the audience and a mic. I loved Jimmy Iovine’s commentary clips last night. He was dead honest and that is the reality they need. It isn’t enough to have a nice voice. It is strategy, styling, song choice, connection, etc. And today I can say I’m with you on Heejun, Patricia. I would trade him out for Creighton. I wasn’t a fan, but his performance really deserved a wild card shot and it is a shame they didn’t give that to him. I would even take Creighton in there in place of Jermaine. Jermaine, like Heejun, will get boring quick.

  2. I cannot believe and am totally amazed by the time and effort you put into this blog. My goodness. that having been said, i did watch the results show and thought of you as I watched, wondering what you’d have to say today. well done.

    • It is actually pretty quick and fun, Louise. I multitask during Idol, mainly doing some social media things. I work on other stuff and jot down some quick sentences with the contestant’s name, song and my thoughts. Many times, I only glance up to see what they are wearing and starting out for stage presence. It takes a great performance to make me stop and watch.

  3. Wow, Barbara, I officially nominate you the Idol Queen 🙂

  4. Pingback: Rants from American Idol Addict: Legends and Top Two Finale Recap | Barbara McDowell's Blog

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