Rants from an Idol Addict: The Importance of Song Choice for Viewer Votes

devin velezImage source: AmericanIdol.com

This we know about the land of American Idol and the road to the finalists:  Some great voices have sunk their own chances with self-indulgent or obscure song choices.

Welcome to the 2013 top 20 semi-finals sing off.  Pull up a beanbag, get comfy and see who has the odds in their favor.

The Ramble of the Girls

You Deserve a Platinum Mic

Angela Miller (“Never Gone”) – Okay she is one of my “ones to watch.”  And I still love the pureness of the tone and power in her voice, BUT she sings a Colton Dixon song.  Readers of last season’s rant posts will know the level of my angst every moment I watched him.  Please, world of Idol, do not bring anything about him back up to me.  From her talent, camera time, winning song choices in earlier rounds and judges’ love, she should be fine making it to the top five girls.  My concern is if all the attention will eventually cause voters to turn on her.  Hate for those crowned too early as winners is a real thing in the Idol universe.

Kree Harrison (“Stronger”) – I want her in the finals.  Her vocal talent is BAM in the face of most of the other contestants and she brings a genuine vibe to everything she does.  I believe I called her voice “stunning” a few weeks ago.  I stand by that.  She’s the “country” voice that needs to move on.

Candice Glover (“Ordinary People”) – Remember how much you loved that song when you first heard it, then how it was overplayed on the airways drove you to drink?  Well Candice makes it fresh again.  She does her add-in a billion runs thing, but this time it works more for me.  I felt like her transitions last week were pushed loud and slid off pitch.  This week she is smooth and pleasant.  I do wonder if she’s starting to drink her own praise, which is a dangerous thing in Idol land.

Passable to Sing Another Day

Breanna Steer (“Flaws & All”) – Ding, ding, ding.  We’ve got our first winner with obscure song choices.  I loved her vibe and the character of her voice last week.  She is a vocalist I’d be happy to hear on an album and the radio.  However, this song choice is both slow and an unfamiliar one for the majority of the audience.  Part of the strategy for song choice goes into selecting something that can serve as a highlight for your voice and can connect to and engage the audience.  Songs people are more familiar with do that.  Plus singing earlier in the show makes this a bit forgettable, which is too bad.

Aubrey Cleland (“Big Girls Don’t Cry”) – Um, since Fergie isn’t one of the strongest singers out there, it is understandable that her songs are crafted in a way to fit her capabilities.  That makes them limited in range and not great choices for someone trying to win Idol.  From last week’s fawning, we get that Aubrey is pretty.  It isn’t enough.  I’m a bit bored.  Her lack of earlier round camera time will hurt as well.

Amber Holcomb (“I Believe In You and Me”)I don’t believe you should have opted for a Whitney song.  It isn’t awful.  I just don’t agree with the judges listing the result as “exquisite.”  Amber is a technically good singer with a nice tone.  Maybe I’m too underwhelmed by the lacking talent around her to think straight.

Get Off the Stage

Zoanette Johnson (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”) – Idol giveth and Idol taketh away.  Just last week she screamed us out, with Lion King madness, in the show ending, “pimp spot.”  This week she’s dealt the kiss of death show opener.  Is the awful level of her performances now clear?  Let’s hope so and that voters run from the room and not to start dialing on their phones.

Janelle Arthur (“If I Can Dream”) – We were told last week that this is like her third try for Idol stardom.  She is just another bland country female singer for me.  Off pitch, one level and coming off as desperate.  Next.  What?  The judges are fawning again and calling her a sweetheart.  Stop it.

Tenna Torres (“Lost”) – Funny how song titles can sum up performances.  This is a bit of a hot nasal mess for me.  Something about her doesn’t ring authentic.

Adriana Latonio (“Stand Up for Love”) – Bingo again.  Here’s another talented singer with an obscure song.  Young Adriana has turned the corner and lost the emotional connection to the music that was on display a few weeks ago.  Unlike Breanna, she is not able to pull out anything remarkable in her stage presence to make us pay attention.  Good singer with a boring choice.  Her near end of the show spot might be the saving grace to garner some votes.

The Rumble of the Boys

You Deserve a Platinum Mic

Devin Velez (“It’s Impossible”) – He looks like a candy cane in white pants, red sweater, striped shirt and bow tie.  I had to get that out.  I realize that his delving into Spanish mid-song will get old if he does it every week.  Right now, it still feels authentic.  He is my favorite voice so far tonight.  Dare I go ahead and call it that he’ll be the best of the night?  That boy can SANG.

Passable to Sing Another Day

Nick Boddington (“Iris”) – He gives yet another understated performance while playing the piano.  What else can I say?  Beautiful tone and pleasant to listen to, but it doesn’t move me to vote or pay full attention.  The notes rest above the keys and linger there alone.

Burnell Taylor (“I’m Here”) – He takes a risk and repeats his initial audition song.  The issue comes in if he doesn’t hit and move the judges as he did day one.  If he doesn’t do something different with the vocals, arrangement or both, we’ll be left making the comparison.  The judges seem pleased with what he offers.  It is middle of the road okay for me.  Plus his excessive, fluttering fingers hand motions are driving me batty.

Paul Jolley (“I’m Just a Fool”) – Here is another okay male voice, but nothing spectacular.  I’m not saying he isn’t capable of it.  It is that he isn’t pushing himself to break out.  Keith touched upon it as not trusting himself or even losing a bit of authenticity from a blend of artists he’s yearning to emulate.  Paul wants to be “pop country,” but is coming off cheesy cabaret with a desperate “I’ll be whoever you want me to be” vibe.

Curtis Finch, Jr. (“I Believe I Can Fly”) – I’m not an R. Kelly fan.  Not any element of him.  This song is overdone at talent pageants, on reality singing shows and by some church-singing folks.  Curtis can sing, but so can a bunch of other people with church backgrounds.  I’m having trouble taking Curtis seriously or believing an ounce of “God fearing” generous spirit in his performances because of the hateful venom he spewed in the Hollywood rounds.  That mean, self-centered man is in direct contrast to what he is showing us now.

Get Off the Stage

Elijah Liu (“Stay”) – He is too much of nasally mess for me.  Nicki is pointing out how marketable he is again.  Judges, don’t spin him into the second coming of Bieber.

Cortez Shaw (“Locked Out of Heaven”) – I love, love, LOVE this song.  Like Bruno Mars is a sexy, genius songwriter, amazing vocalist to me.  Cortez?  Not so much.  He is tragically flying off pitch and, like Elijah before him, tends to lean to a nasal sound, but Cortez loves to strain for high notes just as much as he likes to do funky body movement.  I agree with Keith that this is not a good song choice to highlight the positive elements of Cortez’ s voice.

Charlie Askew (“Mama”) – Tonight Charlie drills down further into the bad karaoke realm.  This is awkward, no longer in a good way, and just subpar.  So now he’s a rocker?  Keith hits it by calling the performance “disingenuous.”  Yes!  Charlie is in a tie-dyed tank shirt with a ponytail and dangle-circle earring with feathers.  It isn’t him.  His angry stare of death as the judges provide negative critique isn’t going to win him any votes either.

Whoa.  Okay—no more jokes.  We need a psychologist intervention.  When Ryan comes over to ask Charlie what has been the thinking behind his style evolution, he begins to tear up and says that he did the song so he could vent.  He then says that he smiles because he has to, not because he is happy on the inside.  It feels like we are watching a live cry for help.

Ryan gives him a pep talk and states that he is among friends and that it is okay to share the words he just did about what he is feeling.  Charlie then starts crying and leaves stage before we can head into break.  I’m concerned about the end results if he doesn’t make it through as well as if he does.  I give Ryan, who has been a sometimes irritating constant through the years, major gold stars for his instant catch and right choice of words to salvage the situation.

Lazaro Arbos (“Feeling Good”) – I’m not a fan of this arrangement as it makes the song stay in one place and hammer us over the head with the chorus.  His voice isn’t sounding as special as it did from the first audition.  I’m also not hearing any stutter tonight when he briefly speaks to the judges and Ryan.  Previously his speech impediment was obvious on each word so this change is huge.  Twitter is lighting up with others wondering where the stutter went as well.  The conspiracy theorists are getting ready to pounce.

Vincent Powell (“End of the Road”) – This is a case of someone breathing in their own press.  He’s put in the pimp spot to show off what the judges have fawned about.  He doesn’t take advantage and bring it.  He starts skewed high and off pitch.  The rest of the song meanders and never lands in a solid spot.  This is a bad impression to leave with voters.  Pair that with no previous camera time in the earlier rounds and you have another contestant sinking their own battleship.

My take on who makes it to the finals:


If I was the judge:  Angela, Kree, Candice, Breanna and Adriana.  I toss in the last one because of her past performance tackling an Aretha song.  If there is a wild card, I’d give it to Amber.

Voters will pick:  Angela, Janelle (from the pimping), Candice, Amber and Adriana?  That last one feels like a toss-up.


If I was the judge:  Devin, Burnell and Paul.  What?  I have to take two more?  Ugh.  Um, hand me Nick and Lazaro.

Voters will pick:  Devin, Burnell, Paul, Lazaro and Curtis.  I’m worried about Devin capturing enough votes.  I hope someone with more “marketable” in the judges fawning, like Cortez or Elijah, don’t edge him out.

I admit some of these are mad stabs in the dark.



Girls: Janelle, Candice, Angela, Amber and Kree (squee!).  I’m quite “meh” on Janelle making it through.  Amber needs lay off the Whitney covers.  Candice and Kree sing their “victory” songs the best.

Guys:  Paul, Burnell, Curtis, Devin (woot woot!) and Lazaro.  I called it for the voter picks and that included the three I wanted.  I’d rather listen to Nick versus Curtis, but get that Nick didn’t do enough to motivate votes.  Kudos to Burnell and Devin for singing killer “victory” songs tonight.  Devin even has a little swagger in his steps.  Go, Devin. 🙂

It is rarely a straight top 10 anymore.  The rules are bent or flat-out changed to allow for judges’ faves to squeak in via wild card choices or sing-for-your-life moments.  So I’m quite shocked that Ryan waved those who didn’t make it off the stage.  We’ll see what next week brings.

Are you happy with the finalists?  Do you think we are in for some standout performances this year?

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5 Responses to Rants from an Idol Addict: The Importance of Song Choice for Viewer Votes

  1. Will you come to my house and watch with me? I think you are spot-on and I love your take on all the singers, their voices as well as their song-picks. You’ve made me a better listener. Thanks for the update!

    • Now that would be fun, Kate! As long as you don’t mind my talking to the screen. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my take. There are some good singers in the top 10 so there is potential for some star performances.

  2. Good calls, Judge Barbara! I’m going to go with you to Kate’s to watch Idol together!

  3. Pingback: Rants from an Idol Addict: Hello…This is a Competition | Barbara McDowell's Blog

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