First, my apologies for my lateness with this week’s Idol reviews. As we get into the real meat of the show, the reviews will come more quickly and be a little shorter. With that said, let’s dive in. Let’s start with a little discussion about the new judges.
Thursday night’s American Idol episode was an emotional one and not just for the contestants. Jennifer Lopez has really been struggling thus far; having a hard time dealing with the emotions that come with her role as a judge. I had a preconceived notion of her and it seems I was wrong. She might be a diva, but she’s also a human being. Later eliminations, when there’s been more time to really form an attachment to the contestants, are going to be hell for her. I hope she holds up and returns. She adds a lot of heart to the show.
Steven Tyler has proven to be an interesting addition to the judging panel, but I don’t think interesting is a bad thing at all. He can come across as a little sleazy sometimes, but he’s a rock star. What else would you expect? When he really feels a performance, you can see it all over his face. He’s unique, entertaining and most of all, isn’t afraid to make the tough cut when it comes down to it. Definitely hope he returns for another season.
The second round of solo performances for ‘Hollywood Week’ followed the tumultuous group performances. These solo performances marked the contestants’ last chance to really impress the judges before the big cut was made. It also marked the first time the contestants could choose to perform with a band and backing vocals, their own instruments or acapella. Up first is…
Haley Reinhart, 20, was one of the girls I loved in her audition, but I really didn’t think would have the guts to really bring it. In her audition, she said she’s tried the year before but was told she wasn’t quite there yet. Instead of taking that as a ‘no’, she took it as a ‘not yet’, came back stronger and wowed the judges. Her first performance in Hollywood Week was great, but she forgot the lyrics during her group performance and was nearly sent home. Clearly the decision to let her through paid off.
While my favorites from the auditions turned in strong performances (for the most part), Thursday night was a night of whoa-where-did-they-come-from moments. Ashton Jones, 24, was the first performer that really had me struggling to remember her audition. She caught my attention in the group performances with ‘The Hits’ but her solo was just ridiculous. Her fire, passion, presence and incredible voice left me reeling.
Thia Megia, 15, has been a favorite of many Idol fans (and the judges) from the beginning, but I wasn’t really sure about her. Her performance on Thursday’s show, though, quieted any doubts I had. The girl was incredible. I’m still not sure she’s going to make it through to the very end, but I can see her making the top twenty five at least. She has something very special that I’d like to see more of.
The challenge of performing with a band proved to be a big one for many of the contestants. Some of them tried to blame the musicians for less than stellar performances. Here’s a hint. They’re professionals and you’re an amateur – at least for now. Perhaps it isn’t them. Anyway, Frances Coontz, 16, started off on in the wrong key but was given the chance to start over with the right key. As someone who has performed acapella and with a band, I know how hard it can be to find the right key if you’re used to singing acapella. I’m going to cut Frances a lot of slack here.
I want to like Clint Gamboa. I really, honestly do. The only thing standing between Clint and the top five is his ego. He comes across as arrogant. A little humility will get you a long way in this competition, especially considering it becomes a popularity contest toward the end. Kicking Jacee out of the group left many viewers with a bad impression of Clint. Keep your feet on the ground, Junebug. You didn’t even turn in the best or most memorable performance of ‘Georgia On My Mind’ of the night. That honor goes to…
Casey Abrams. Oh heavens, Casey Abrams. Hitting the stage with a ton of personality and his upright bass, he kept all eyes on him. He’s magnetic. Every time he hits the stage, magic happens. I didn’t take him seriously at all in his audition… right up until he started singing. He will be in the top ten, maybe even the final three. Why Casey and not Clint? It’s hard not to love Casey. The kid is only 19, is super talented but has no ego about it. He gets my personal award for the best rendition of ‘Georgia On My Mind’ that we saw last night. Honorable mention goes to Sophia Shori, 28, whose unique voice and laid back performance was lovely.
Carson Higgins, 22, came out of nowhere in group week and continued to stand out in the solo performances. This guy is crazy but the guy can really sing. His version of ‘My Prerogative’ was so much fun it was hard not to love the guy. Like Junebug, Casey, Kendra and Sophia, though, it was hard not to compare him to others who chose the song – most notably fan and judge favorite….
Chris Medina. I really don’t know how I feel about Chris. I think he’d be perfect in a band – maybe similar to what Daughtry has done since Idol – but I can’t see him making it into the top twenty five. It’s going to be hard to see him go, but I think his exit from Idol is inevitable.
I liked Julie Zorrilla from her audition, but she’s been impressing me more every week. To me, she doesn’t have the stand out star quality many of the other women in the competition have, but she has an incredible voice. She’s also a beautiful girl which could definitely work in her favor. Her performance last night with the piano was very well done. It was understated, but strong and I definitely appreciate that.
I love Caleb Hawley. He has a very singer/songwriter vibe that I really enjoy. His audition definitely made me smile and so did his performance on Thursday’s episode. I also really enjoyed Colton Dixon’s rendition of ‘What About Now’. He’s someone I only really took note of during group week but if I had to guess, I’d say he could make it to the top ten. If it comes down to either Caleb or Colton, I’m going to bet Colton comes out on top, but barely. That would be a tough call to make.
Before Chelsee’s performance we learned her friend and group member, Jacqueline Dunford, had fallen ill the morning of the audition and was forced to drop out of the competition. After her ex-boyfriend, Rob’s, elimination during group week, she found herself alone. Her nerves got the best of her and she performed a rocky version of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Because of You’. I honestly was never her biggest fan, but I felt for her. Jacqueline as well although I don’t think she would’ve made it through to the finals had she stayed.
It was a night of favorites shining with great performances by Brett Loewenstern (playing acoustic guitar, performed ‘The Story’ by Brandi Carlyle), Robbie Rosen (‘Gravity’ by Sara Bareilles), Lauren Alaina ( ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’ by Aerosmith), John Wayne Schulz (‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac), Stefano Langone (‘Sir Duke’ by Stevie Wonder) and Jacee Badeaux (‘The Time of My Life’ by David Cook) but it was also a night for new stars shine. Jacob Lusk was the man that delivered the only rip-off-my-headphones-and-call-my-husband-over moment. This man has so much soul and so much love for music, if he doesn’t make it to the top ten I will be shocked.
Scott McCreery has heart and he has talent. I doubted him in the beginning, but each performance shows a bit more of his range. I don’t know if he’ll make it all the way, but he has the talent to make it to the top ten – even if he did mess up the lyrics to ‘I Hope You Dance’ . Hopefully, he’ll get the words down next time. Forgetting the lyrics is a good way to put an early end to you Idol run.
Ashley, my darling. I adore you. The judges adore you. Pull yourself together, lady! Ashley’s performance of ‘Everything’ by Michael Buble was emotional and heartfelt. It was also wrought with forgotten lyrics. The judges were patient and encouraging but if she doesn’t get it together and get over those nerves soon, she’s going to be headed home.
With the performances done for the day, it’s time for the judges to decide who stays and who goes. It’s a tough call as they have one hundred contestants and only fifty available spots. The contestants are separated into two groups with twenty-five contestants in each group. They are put into four different rooms. Fifty contestants will be gone before the night comes to a close.
As the contestants in room one await the judges’ decision, they have to be looking at the other people in the room to try to figure out if they’re in the ‘going home group. Must be confusing. In room one we have: Ashely Sullivan, Jacee Badeaux, Chris Medina, Caleb Hawley, James Durbin, Brett Loewenstern, Haley Reinhart, Robbie Rosen and Lauren Alaina. It should be pretty obvious to everyone in that room that they’re safe. Lo and behold… they are!
I honestly didn’t really recognize anyone in room two, although I recognized a few of the names. None of my expected finalists are in there, though. The judges deliver the news that they’ll all be going home and Lopez does her best to comfort one of the departed contestants. It’s a sad moment, but the show must go on. Time for room three where things don’t go much better. Chelsee Oaks is sent packing. That’s showbiz, I suppose. On to room four.
I will admit, I was getting a bit nervous at this point. I hadn’t seen Scotty McCreery, Hollie Cavanagh, John Wayne Schulz, Jovany Barreto and, most nerve-testingly, my favorite of all the contestants (tied with Brett), Naima Adedapo. It is announced that everyone in room four but if you’re at all good with math, you already knew that. As the camera pans around the room, I see Naima first (yay!!), then John Wayne, Jovany and Scotty. Julie Zorrilla is also among the group.
With the rooms given their passes or cuts, I am overjoyed to see so many of my favorites still in the competition. What bothers me, though, is the lack of information on Stefano and Hollie? Watching the room four announcement a second time around, I spotted Thia Megia, Colton Dixton, and I believe Stefano. Where’s Hollie? I suppose we’ll find out next week when the contestants will have only twenty-four hours to learn and perform a song by The Beatles. Cuts will be made and we’ll be left with our top 25. I know who I hope to see there. Let me know who you’re rooting for in the comment section below!