Recap – Top 12 Ladies.
Mandisa chose a rock song, “Never” originally by Heart. She’s one of the best singers out of the 12 girls. She delivers a song with confidence and her vocals are strong. She’s a big, beautiful girl with a ton of style who commands the stage–there’s nothing tentative about her. She definitely “tricked” out some Heart, just like she promised. The judges were unanimous in their praise. Mandisa is a good bet for the final 12.
Kellie Pickler sang “How Far” – originally by Martina McBride. Her vocals were average–she has a tendency to go sharp and shout on the high notes. The judges mentioned this in passing, but their comments mostly revolved around her “likability” rather than her singing. Simon said that she had a “potentially” good voice. This is key–Kellie has been cast as the sad little girl with big dreams. She’ll spend the rest of the series overcoming adversity and realizing her “potential.” When she performs in the final two (my prediction), the tears will never stop. Don’t expect her to go anywhere soon.
Becky O’Donohue performed the great rock classic, “Because the Night – Originally by the Patti Smith Group, covered by 10, 000 Maniacs. Both Randy and Simon said Becky’s vocals were better than they expected. The judges put her in the Top 24–shouldn’t they expect her to sing well? After all, these are the best singers they could find, right? Maybe not. Randy came right out and said that a great-looking girl like Becky didn’t need to have great vocals, and indeed her vocals were not good. Becky is a sweet, beautiful girl–but she should not advance to the Top 12.
Ayla Brown’s privilege and background will keep her from achieving the underdog status necessary to win this thing, but don’t count her out. She’s excelled in competitive sports and comes from a family of achievers. The girl definitely had her game face on as she performed “Reflection” – originally by Christina Aguilara. It was an ambitious choice that paid off. She had a few problems with the high notes, but other than that, it was a good performance. And like Simon said, she didn’t sound “robotic.” Ayla has a good chance to make the Top 12.
Could Paris Bennett be any cuter? When she speaks with that little squeak of a voice, who could imagine how mature her sound is when she performs? She sang “Midnight Train to Georgia” – originally by Gladys Knight and the Pips. It was a perfect song choice for her–she does sound a little like Gladys without being derivative. While, I think her dancing inhibited her vocals a bit, she still sang like an old pro. After she makes the Top 12, she’ll definitely place in the Top 5.
Stevie Scott has trained in opera since she was 11 years old. She performed “To Where You Are” – originally by Josh Groban without any of the power one would expect from an opera singer. She has a unique style for sure–but her style is very niche and not really suited to Idol. She hasn’t developed the confidence yet to compete in such an intense environment. Her vocals were weak and pitchy and she seemed way in over her head. She does haven an interesting, ethereal quality to her voice though. In a different setting, she might do really well–just not the Top 12.
Brenna Gethers is a lot of things–but boring? Only when she sings. Brenna spends the whole time off stage mugging for the camera, and personally, I’d rather see her personality when she performs. But maybe that’s just me. Her performance of “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – originally by Stevie Wonder was pretty lackluster. The judges called her on it. Simon said, “You’re like a wild little cat, and someone’s put gloves on you.” At this rate, I don’t see her lasting much longer.
Heather Cox laid an egg with “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”. It’s an odd song choice to begin with–it debuted on AI4 as a group number. Later in the season, Vonzell Solomon performed it. Heather was flat pretty much through the entire song. Randy mentioned that she had laryngitis during Hollywood, but advanced anyway, because they “remembered all of her performances.” Other than Hollywood, wouldn’t that be just one performance? Her initial audition? He said he expected her to “slay”–but why?–since he’s barely heard her sing. Needless to say, she did not “slay” here, and unless she’s got something we haven’t seen yet, she’s not going to advance much further.
Poor, unpimped Melissa McGhee got to finally strut her stuff on the Idol stage. She performed ” When The Lights Go Down” originally by Faith Hill in a husky vocal suited to country or pop. She didn’t quite knock it out of the park, unfortunately, but if she gets more time and manages a “wow” performance, she may be able to advance. When Simon told her she was unmemorable, she told him in the nicest way possible that tonight was the first time that America heard her sing. For that reason alone, I hope she gets to stick around for at least a little while longer.
Lisa Tucker performed “I’m Changing” – originally by Jennifer Holiday like the young pro that she is. She’s got some pitch problems, but other than that a lovely voice that’s refreshingly uncluttered with vocal runs. Plus, she’s got an incredible smile that lights up her face. Nothing surprising from the judges–they raved. I see Lisa taking her talent very far in this competition.
Kinnik Sky’s performance of “Get Here” – Originally by Oleta Adams was powerful and really didn’t deserve the criticism she got from the judges. Yes, there were a few off notes–but no more than Lisa Tucker, who’s vocal problems were barely mentioned. Simon said, “It was a very cabaret performance that we’ve heard a million times across American Idol, ” which is one of his pat critiques used primarily to reverse-pimp a contestant. He compared her unfavorably to the younger contestants and it was almost as if he were telling her she was over the hill. Really, I think this was the most unfair critique of the night. They appear to be holding Kinnik back in order to make sure the young talent–Lisa and Paris–advance.
Katharine McPhee closes the show in the pimp spot. She performs “Since I Fell For You” – an old standard. She knows the Barbra Streisand version. Katharine is a singer who really knows how to move on stage and work the camera. And she’s expert at selling a song in 1:30. This was definitely her best performance yet, but I’m still not convinced she’s a very versatile singer. And it’s hard to imagine her as a pop singer–which is what Idol manufactures. But so far, the judges are in love with her. She’s definitely headed to the Top 12.