Last week on “American Idol,” there were some horrific performances of some bad song choices. How long could it go on? Well, this week, that was answered, because the song choices AND the performances were far better. That was good for us and good for the judges, but when you think about it, not really fair to everyone that sang last night because now that middle round that went last week may water down the finalist talent. But it is what it is I guess. With that, here is our recap of the good, the bad and the in-between from last night’s semi-final round:
THE VERY GOOD
Quite frequenly on this show, the performers who sing last make the best impact on voters, but last night the final two who sang were just lights out anyway. The first was Jorge Nunez, the kid from Puerto Rico who the judges had told to work on his linguistics and sound more American. Are you kidding me? Well, Jorge chose a white bread song in Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and accent or not, it was excellent. And I mean, this dude has a spectacular voice. Paula said she’s proud of him, Simon said Jorge has a good voice, which is an understatement, Randy said it wasn’t perfect but really good, and Kara said Jorge was born to sing.
Lil Rounds closed the night with Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” and it was not just the best performance of the night, but I would dare to say it was the best semi-final performance of the season. Lil is not a contestant on “American Idol,” she is already a recording artist going through the necessary motions, kind of like standing in line to get her license like everyone else. Simon said “in one word, brilliant” and that it was his favorite of the night, Randy said it was one of the best this season, Kara said Lil is a powerhouse, and Paula said Lil is “first class.” Yeah, all of the above. See you next week, Lil.
There were a few very good performances last night, and starting with Ju’Not Joiner, a few of them would have easily made the Top 12 if they had performed last week instead of this week. Ju’Not picked that horrible Plain White T’s song, “Hey There Delilah,” a song that baffles me with its epic appeal. It may have seemed like an odd choice, yes, but Ju’Not toned it down and did a really nice, almost R&B version of the tune. I like this dude, and I hope he gets through but I just have my doubts. Randy said it was a nice change of pace and that he loved it, Kara said it was a smooth spin on the song, Paula parroted what Kara said, and Simon said it was better than he thought it would be but just a bit safe.
Kristin McNamara had mostly been shown before this when she was in that group in Hollywood aptly called “The Drama Queens.” But Kristin has a heck of a voice. She sang Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and all the while I was thinking what a great choice the song was, and that Kristin did a nice job with the arrangement and delivery. But the judges, for whatever reason, don’t love her. Kara said Kristin is a great singer, but she wanted to see more of a rock side ala Kelly Clarkson, Paula said it was safe but a great vocal, Simon said it was an odd song choice but good, and Randy said he’s not sure who Kristin is. Um, they need to watch that back on their DVRs, because I think the judges may have kept Kristin out of the finals with those comments. Then again….
Felicia Barton was at home after not making the semi-final cut, but got a call from the executive producer of the show telling her she was back in. That’s because Joanna Pacitti was disqualified because she had two previous record deals. Or maybe it’s that she didn’t disclose all that information properly, but whatever. Felicia was in and she absolutely brought it last night, singing Alicia Keys’ “No One.” Paula said Felicia has a great gift, Simon said it was a bit copycat, Randy said Felicia has an amazing voice and is different, and Kara said there were some vocal issues but that mostly Felica had a great attitude and stage presence. Well, Felicia should make it to the next round, and wouldn’t that be a great story?
Von Smith kicked off the night with Marvin Gaye’s “You’re All I Need To Get By” and it was a nice start but Von makes these weird emotive facial expressions that just make it somewhat painful to watch him. It was pitchy in spots too, but come on…why the hell do kids like this (he’s 22) sing Marvin Freaking Gaye? Randy said it was “very hot,” Kara said Von is coming into his own, Paula parroted what Randy said, and Simon said it was a good vocal and reminded him, good or bad, of Clay Aiken. I’m not sure why the judges were so enamored by Von, but they were.
Taylor Vaifanua (who?) sang in Danny Gokey’s group in Hollywood, so she may have been lifted up by their awesomeness. She sang Alicia Keys’ “If I Aint’ Got You” and it was just okay. Kara said Taylor obviously has a good voice but she wanted more of her personality to shine through, Paula said Taylor has a gift but that it was a safe choice, Simon said it was generic and not memorable, and Randy said it was kind of boring. Yeah, I agree with all of the judges to some extent.
Alex Wagner Trugman is a 19 year old kid who doesn’t know who he is yet. The judges made some reference to Joe Cocker early in the competition, but when he sang Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” last night, young Alex growled way too much. Paula said Alex is a good showman and gave everyone their money’s worth, Simon said he was fun to watch but not to listen to and to get rid of the growling, Randy said it was a bit crazy and that Alex didn’t need to scream, and Kara said to him, “you’re you.” Yeah, and he’s probably going home.
Scott McIntyre is the 23 year old guy who is almost totally blind, and these are the kind of contestants that the producers just love. But as Mrs. Mike pointed out, Scott would not be in the semi-finals if he weren’t blind. He’s a good singer, but not a great singer. Last night he sang Bruce Hornsby’s “Mandolin Rain” and while I thought it was just pretty good, the judges were draping him with too much praise. Randy said it wasn’t perfect but that Scott has nice passion, Kara said Scott can “move mountains” (ugh, shut off the crap faucet Kara), Paula was beaming and said how proud she was of him, and Simon said that Scott is not the best singer in this competition, but that he’s growing on him. I’m not sure if Scott makes it through, but you know the judges were trying their hardest to aid his cause.
Kendall Beard was the lone country artist of the night and sang Martina McBride’s “This One’s For the Girls.” It was a typical country music performance–bland. Kara said Kendall has a big personality but had some pitch issues, Paula said Kendall had a great outfit, which was a nice way of saying she wasn’t a great singer, Simon said it became shrilly halfway through, and Randy said it was a good song choice but not a great vocal.
Arianna Afsar is only 17 so she has much to learn, including that you shouldn’t sing a pageanty version of an ABBA song at this stage of “American Idol.” It was so pitchy I almost muted my TV. Simon said it was terrible and a dreary arrangement, Randy said Arianna didn’t show what she is capable of, Kara said it was gloomy, and Paula said there were some bright moments, but that was being way kind.
Nathaniel Marshall was also in that group of “Drama Queens” during Hollywood, and this guy is just flambuoyant and over the top, one of those who repeats through tears, “This is my dream!” Please, everyone is in the same boat as you, dude. Nathaniel sang Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love,” to me one of the most atrocious songs ever, and I don’t care what the judges thought, it was painful to watch. Simon said some folks may like it but that it was excruciating, Randy said it may have been the wrong song choice, Kara said Nathaniel is fun to watch, and Paula said it was like the Boy George version of the song, which was really quite accurate.
So there you have it. It’s going to be interesting to see who garners the most votes…..you have to think that Jorge and Lil are shoe-ins at this point, but there are a number of possibilities as well….I like Felicia but did America want to see more of Scott? I also liked Kristin and Ju’Not but were either of them memorable based on everyone else who sang last night? Okay…I’m making up my mind…I think it’s gonna be Lil, Jorge and Felicia…I’m of course banking on America getting it right, which is a big gamble. We’ll see what happens….and also what crappy former finalist they pull out of their ass to perform a crappy song. I need to take my cynic meds, see you all tomorrow….