In the end the results were fairly predictable. The locks I predicted last night are all moving on, along with Avalon and Gianna from the danger list. The first seven finalists:
- La’Porsha Renae
- Sonika Vaid
- Avalon Young
- Gianna Isabella
- Thomas Stringfellow
- MacKenzie Bourg
- Jeneve Rose Mitchell
I wrote the reviews of the duets before the results I posted above. I’ll skip the letter grades, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Many of the songs were awful choices to duet with, and several contestants were thrown under the bus so a former Idol could rehash their coronation song.
A couple of the performances were really good, though, particularly Lauren with Emily and Caleb with Sonika and with J8. Ruben was really good both times, and Fantasia was brilliant on her second song. Scotty was Scotty, and Nick was better on his second song than his first.
Emily with Lauren Alaina “Flat on the Floor” – Carrie Underwood
The judge comments gave me the impression that they had already written Emily off. If one of them had commented about her singing in a ‘different lane’ I would have attributed it to some random opinion, but they told her the same thing, in the same words, almost in harmony. All they needed was Ryan to say it and they would have been a “screw you Emily” barbershop quartet.
I thought Emily sounded terrific, like she sounded all season before last night. If, by some miracle she isn’t sent home, she should be back on the beam and fine. Don’t count on it.
Tommy with Nick Fradiani “Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson
Tommy has a better voice than Nick – hell, Emily has a better voice than Lauren too, these kids all have strong voices – and I think he sang the song fine. Was it earth shaking? Of course not; they might as well have been singing karaoke with the lyrics on the screen in front of them. The arrangement was exactly the same as Michael’s and Nick didn’t give him much to play off.
Stephany with Ruben Studdard “Superstar” – Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlet
Steph has a beautiful voice, but she is not quite polished enough to avoid those little tonal and intonational imperfections. I think she might have a tiny bit of stage fright that she tries to overcome by exaggerating her enunciation a little – like somebody told her not to be a mush mouth sometime in the past. Her tone is mostly pure and sweet, but when she catches a quickly moving phrase – especially in her upper range – she tends to flatten out like she forgot to draw in enough air, losing the texture of the note even when she is basically in tune.
That’s probably more analysis than Stephany rates tonight, given that she is most likely heading to the airport after the show.
Sonika with Caleb Johnson “Skyfall” – Adele
Sonika bonked her head on her glory note in the middle, which is a pretty big mistake, but she was terrific the rest of the song vocally, at least. The prelude, where she talked about her lack of professional experience, might have been a bad idea. Anyone watching her with that in mind – like me, for instance – had to notice her timidity, her missed glory note, and the way she deferred to Caleb on the stage, especially at the end when they were singing together.
She’s still terrific, and she’s moving to the next round – of course she is – but we might look back and remember this performance in a few weeks. The Idol winners, other than Scotty, maybe, have come into the show at least a little hardened by experience. Sonika needs to grow that extra skin in a hurry if she wants to last beyond the next layer of fodder.
Jenna Renae with Scotty McCreery “See you tonight” – Scotty McCreery
It seems like Jenna has enjoyed her time on the show… if this is it, and it almost certainly is, she went out well, singing well and smiling. She has a weird combination of skills for an older contestant; she has a strong upper range but a comparatively weak lower range, and she has a fantastic tone but terrible phrasing. This combination of skills and weaknesses is normal for a 15 year old, but not so much for an older contestant. She has all the hard things, the things that can’t be taught, but she needs to work out the easy things. The teachable things.
Jenna looks so much like Kree Harrison that they could be sisters. Kree had similar talents – big voice, sweet tone, strong upper range – but she went through all her teachable moments before she came on the show.
La’Porsha Renae with Fantasia Barrino “Summertime” – George Gershwin
That’s the best Chia girl has sounded on the show – I think Fantasia dialed her own performance down quite a bit to allow La’Porsha to get out in front, and show off a little.
Can she actually win? The judges would lead you to believe she is the top ranked contestant right now, so it can’t be impossible.
MacKenzie with Lauren Alaina “I Hope you Dance” – Leann Womack
Not so much a trainwreck as a train sitting in the station, waiting for someone to figure out why it won’t start. The song was in a terrible key for both of them; MacKenzie couldn’t draw any power that low and Lauren had to blast out every note at the top of her lungs to stay in tune. The overall effect was like an old episode of “Mama’s Family”, with Harvey Kormann speaking so softly that nobody can hear him and Mama yelling loud enough to rattle the windows across the street.
Of the 12 duets there were three where the past Idol clearly had the stronger voice. In the other two cases the former Idol basically blew the current Idol off the stage, demonstrating better skills, better stage presence, everything. Lauren made MacKenzie seem small, like a high school nerd on a date with a truck stop waitress friend of his father who hired her to come over and take his virginity – by force if necessary.
Gianna with Nick Fradiani “Beautiful Life” – Nick Fradiani
Gianna’s voice is so bright that she could contend if she had any polish to her skill-set. She’s like a deer running around in the woods; most of the time she seems so athletic, so talented, so coordinated – until she runs into a tree at full speed, knocking herself out. She avoided the big trees tonight, so J8 better be on his A game.
Avalon with Ruben Studdard “Flying without Wings” – Ruben Studdard
She was getting blown away most of the song, sounding weak and ineffective – then she did a towel wave at Ruben, relaxed, and did great the rest of the song. She carries a lot of nervous energy with her, and I doubt that she could sing a true ballad by herself without her nerves getting the best of her.
James VIII with Caleb Johnson “Gimme Shelter” – Rolling Stones
Putting these two together seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice is was a disaster for J8, who has a good, interesting voice, but he isn’t a high range guy or a screamer. Caleb dominated the song, reducing J8 to the role of sidekick, and frankly J8 actred like he felt comfortable in that role. He’s really good, but he’s not a lead singer by nature. No true Idol-ish type of singer would have so gladly given up the stage, and the spotlight, like that.
Jeneve Rose with Scotty McCreery, “Gone” – Montgomery Gentry
There are only so many ways to say that the kid (1) can’t really sing, but (2) might win anyway. She could have come out and belched “Mein Kampf” and she was going to be safe to the next round.
Jordan with Fantasia Barrino “I Believe” – Fantasia
Rather than dumbing down her performance – like she did with LaPorsha – Fantasia pulled out every stop, nailed every note, and played every trick in her bag, and blew Jordan off the stage like she was the Big Bad Wolf and Jordan was a trailer park. He hit one nice passage, but for most of the song he was hanging on, trying not to get thrown into the crowd by the force of Fantasia’s performance.
I think Jordan knew what was happening to him, and I think he was ok with it. Like I said in his bio, Jordan seems to be a genuinely nice man. A nice person. He ain’t going to be here next week, but there are other ways to succeed.
(live) At this point the performances are over, and I imagine the judges are powwowing to figure out who is staying and who is going. My safe to in danger from last night wouldn’t change much based on tonight’s performances; the top five became a top six – adding Avalon to the locks – and the final spot is between Gianna and J8, with maybe a 100-1 chance for Emily. Let’s have it, judges.
The judges skipped the drama, picking Gianna with the fourth choice and leaving Jeneve, who we all knew was going to be picked, for last. Next week’s group features three of my top four and weirdo Jenn.