Did Nigel’s big tweak of the American Idol semi-finals work? Yes and No. Although I really appreciate the opportunity to see each and every one of the Top 40 sing before they are whittled down to the Top 20, I did not enjoy watching the judges highly manipulative eliminations.
Up until season 12, this phase of the competition was hidden from view. We’d catch snatches of the performers singing here and there, but we were mostly spared the judges critiquing the performances. And for a really good reason. At this stage, the producers are making decisions based on all sorts of factors–demographics, backstory, likeability, the need for fodder–it’s a continuation of the casting process and singing ability is one of many factors.
So, setting up performances as if the judges will be making decisions based on how they sing at that particular time? Well, it just feels false. The judges reactions felt mostly canned and it seemed obvious that they were just going through the motions–the decisions about who would or would not go through already made in some back room somewhere. I’ve been watching Idol forever, and I totally realize that it’s a reality show first and foremost, but I still felt uncomfortable watching what amounted to a rigged trial unfolding in front of me.
Tonight, for instance. Did Lazaro Arbos and Cortez Shaw really deserve to go through over David Willis or Bryant Tadeo? I don’t think so. And If I’m being perfectly honest, I think Gurpreet Singh sang better than Nick Boddington tonight.
I will not argue with Burnell Taylor and Vincent Powell making it through. Both are extraordinary singers. So, hooray for that.
Next week, the Top 20 sing for YOUR VOTES. Only 10 will survive. And I have a feeling Uncle Nigel may have a trick or two up his sleeve…
I’ll be live blogging the Top 40 in Las Vegas as the last 10 guys sing for their lives. By the end of the night, 5 contestants will be sent home.
Mathenee Treco – “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley – This is a terrible song choice for Mathenee. He’s got a great voice, but there is no way to sing this song and make it seem current or anything other than a lounge song. Mathenee certainly gives it his all. He’s got terrific vocal prowess and is a very energetic performer. Keith admires his vocal range and power. He tells him not to underestimate his ability to connect. Nicki was dismissive. She felt he was trying to please the judges, resulting in a performance that was seemed “chaisy” and karaoke. She said most of this in a British accent. Ryan hated the song choice. Mathenee says he loves classic rock. Mariah likes that he’s down to earth. Oh. She didn’t know the song? Really. Mariah continues to blather on without saying much. Folks who were in the house reported that Mathenee told Randy the song was not his first choice. See, the producers actually choose the song from 5 the contestants submit. Interesting that bit was edited.
Gurpreet Singh – “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” by James Morrison – THE TURBINATOR! The turb definitely has soul. I’m not agreeing with the judges pile on, at all. I may be in the minority, but on second listen, I have to say I liked this performance. Gurpreet has a very soothing warm tone, nice phrasing and is very confident on stage. Methinks the judges minds were already made up on poor turby. Keith likes his voice, but prefers him playing the guitar. He didn’t like the song choice. Nicki also thinks he should have played the guitar. Really? What’s the sudden obsession with the guitar? She says he shouldn’t have messed with what worked. Randy thought it was TERRIBLE. It wasn’t terrible. Mariah wanted to hear his softer voice. Whatever.
Vincent Powell – “‘Cause I Love You” by Lenny Williams – Woah. Vincent bringing some old-style R&B to the stage. This is a fantastic vocal performance. ZOANETTE IS LOSING HER MIND IN THE AUDIENCE. He started off sweet, sexy and slow and by the end of the song, he done took it to chuch. He kinda shows off unnecessarily with an overlong note, but for the most part, the performance NEVER sounded overwrought. Keith loved it. LOVED IT. “You better work with your old soul,” says Nicki. “I could envision a bunch of 40 and 50 year olds throwing their panties at you.” Has she been reading Vote for the Worst? I do think Nicki may be a closet Worster. Randy felt like the show started right here. Again with Randy calling someone the whole complete package. He namechecks Frank Ocean. “HE’S IN IT TO WIN IT.” Shut up Randy. Mariah has one word: “Finally.” OMG Ryan grabs Zoanette for her opinion and she yells, “GET IT PAPA SMURF.” Calm down, child.
Nick Boddington – “Say Something Now” by James Morrison – This performance is super pitchy and shrill. Not one of Nick’s best performances. I like his falsetto and some of his phrasing is very nice. But the judges mentioned a lack of connection in his performance, and I have to agree, there was something missing. Keith likes the timbre in his voice. But Keith didn’t feel a connection. Nicki likes the warmth in his voice. But she liked his past performances better. Randy agrees. Didn’t feel it was the right song choice. He was waiting for a moment. Mariah thought he had some moments! That next to the last ad lib! But she also felt he had a connection problem.
Josh Holiday – An Original Song – He’s sitting at a piano performing a song he wrote. The lyrics are cliched. But the melody is pretty. I would say it’s a very big risk to sing an original song at this point. If a contestant takes that plunge, they better have a damn good song. I would say this is not it. How is it that the high notes seem a little out of his range? Keith wishes he would cut loose. He felt the tune was a little too controlled. More heart and passion. Nicki wanted him to stay on the piano. Nicki is threatening the people who are booing her. She felt he was too eager to please when he left the piano. Randy thought the song was OK, but he wasn’t wowed by it. Mariah loves that he showcased his singer/songwriter side. She would have liked him to stay at the piano too. He wrote that song recently…in a day…right after Hollywood.
David Oliver Willis – “Fever” by Peggy Lee – He grew up in a foster home with “a ton of kids.” BLACK GUY WITH GUITAR DEAD AHEAD. Well, this is an interesting arrangement. David turns “Fever” into a bayou blues thing. I’m not sure this highlights his vocal as well another song might have, but the arrangement is unique. I am paying attention, and I want to see more. Keith felt he had a moment at the end, but did not feel the song was right. Nicki wants to know where his wife is. *eyes roll*. She compared his performance to getting a guitar for Christmas and playing it in his living room for family. Ouch. Randy appreciates that he’s a little bit different. Mariah wanted more from him vocally.
Bryant Tadeo – “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel – Bryant has a beautiful tone. I wish Nicki would have elaborated on what it was she thought was so terrible. Maybe that it wasn’t a current or relative performance? That’s true, but I’ll give Bryant some props for a beautifully phrased performance. I’m on Team Keith here. He thought the song choice was great and that HE MADE A CONNECTION. Nicki loved the last note. But did not like anything else. Whoa. Nicki is HARSH TONIGHT. Randy was waiting for it to go somewhere. Mariah loves his tone, but thought he got lost a couple of times. Bryant got a standing o from the audience, by the way.
Burnell Taylor – “This Time” by John Legend – Admittedly, this was not a perfect performance, but Burnell so obviously has something special. He sounds like no one else, and really knows how to portray the emotion in a song. As Keith would say, he “connects.” I expect him to make it to the finals. Keith really liked the performance. He calls him “strikingly original” and “here to stay.” Nicki would pay to see him sing. OH THERE SHE GOES OVER IDENTIFYING. HE DESERVES TO LEAVE THE HOOD. SHE KNOWS WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE. HE WAS THE BEST TONIGHT. YOU HEAR THAT? Randy was captivated, but not ready to smother him in kisses. That’s pretty much the way I feel. And Mariah agrees. She thought it was fantastic, though.
Lazaro Arbos – “Tonight I Wanna Cry” by Keith Urban – I am distracted by….the massive SWEAT on his brow. Bet you didn’t think I’d say that, did you. Ha. This is NOT a good performance. Lazaro is shaky and off pitch. I imagine him falling apart on the stage weekly, but fans voting him through anyway because he plucks their mommy strings. Sigh. This is the worst vocal performance of the night so far, but he’ll skate by on his backstory. “Gosh, that’s a beautiful song,” says Keith, jokingly, of his own tune. But, although he loves his spirit, he doesn’t think it was a great song for him. Nicki says he played it safe, but in a good way: “You always give us you. Don’t change nothing.” Huh? Do you play it safe Nicki? That’s terrible advice. Randy loved when he hit the sweet spot in the chorus. Mariah felt his emotion. She loves his purity and his simplicity. So, basically, the judges admit his performance was not good, but they don’t care. Not at all.
Cortez Shaw – “Titanium” by David Guetta & Sia – PITCHY MCPITCHSTER! Whoa. Let me amend. THIS is the worst performance of the night. Yikes. This is not a pleasant. PLEASE STOP CATERWAULING AT ME I BEG YOU. But the crowd seems to like it. Alrighty. Keith says to the audience, rather snarkily, “You guys love the big notes.” He called the song choice a bold and brave move. But he notes his pitch problems and inconsistency. But, he feels there was redemption at the end of the song. Uh. No there wasn’t. Nicki is all turned on. She doesn’t critique him AT ALL. “I’m just going to talk about the singing if you don’t mind,” snarks Randy. Please do. Oh. Randy loved the big notes. Uh…THE BIG NOTES WERE TERRIBLE. Randy doesn’t care, because he’s a current artist. Mariah had no problems whatsoever with that performance. OK if no one else will say it. I WILL. THAT PERFORMANCE SUCKED FROM BEGINNING TO END.
David Willis is first. Mariah delivers the bad news. He’s going home. Bryant Tadeo is next. Keith also has some bad news to deliver. Keith liked him, but the others didn’t. He’s going home. BOOING! Vincent Powell is up. And of course it’s a yes, so sayeth Nicki. She doesn’t even try to punk him. Mathenee is next. Randy tells him…he’s going home. It’s Lazaro’s turn. Mariah has good news. He’s going through. Cortez is next. Keith delivers good news. Despite sucking, he’s going through. IT’S A KANGAROO COURT.
After the break, it’s Josh’s turn. Nicki tells him he’s going home. Burnell is next, homeboy Randy tells him he’s going through. Nick and Gurpreet remain. And it just so happens they have formed a strong friendship. Mariah is upset that she has to do “the two person thing.” Gurpreet is going home, Nick is going through.
Going through to the Top 20
- Vincent Powell
- Lazaro Arbos
- Cortez Shaw
- Burnell Taylor
- Nick Boddington
- David Willis
- Bryant Tadeo
- Mathenee Treco
- Josh Holiday
- Gurpreet Singh