With this week’s episode, finally, the Idol season has started for real. (Almost) everything up to this point has been quite heavily edited and designed to shape public opinion just the way the Idol PTB would have it. From now on, everything is completely in the hands of the public. As it should be.
Some of the rhetoric from Idol surrounding the quality of the top 10 girls has, even by the standards of previous seasons, been a bit much. It’s a solid group with some potential frontrunners, for sure. But crowning any winner this early is woefully premature. Many a premature frontrunner has fallen by the wayside.
Zoanette Johnson was, simply put, beyond terrible. This is a bad joke with a sell-by date of January 2013. She shouldn’t have gotten past the auditions, she shouldn’t have survived Hollywood, she shouldn’t have survived any of the Las Vegas rounds. If I were one of the girls who got cut last week, I’d be very upset – and tempted to throw the producers into the Mirage’s volcano. If she makes it through this stage, the only people happy would be Vote for the Worst.
Breanna Taylor was okay, but unexceptional. This was the sort of performance you’d forget by the end of the show. I’m not sure if she deserves to make it to the finals, but by the same token she doesn’t fully deserve to get the boot either.
The word I’d use to describe to describe Aubrey Cleland: potential. The bad part of saying potential is that it wasn’t all there this week. It was not an exceptional song choice, and I agree a lot with Keith Urban: it didn’t really let her show off her vocals. What we saw and heard wasn’t too bad, but there just wasn’t a lot of substance to this performance.
The judges have been mostly sane this season – so can someone explain the unexpected tonguebath for Janelle Arthur? Her vocals were not there with If I Can Dream, if anything it sounded rather forced. The good thing for her is this: she has all the intangibles in her favor. She’s likable and comes off as a country sweetheart. If only the tangibles – her actual singing – could back the rest of the package up.
What Teena Torres did can be best described as wailing, not singing. The less said, the better.
Many pundits have had Angie Miller as this season’s frontrunner. This performance highlighted why. She’s operating at a completely different level than most contestants are at this stage of the show. She knows what kind of artist she is. She’s making good song choices. She knows how to show emotion. Most contestants still at spring training; she’s ready for the regular season – and that’s her problem. It’s a legitimate question of what she does from here. Also, she’s outgunned in the pure vocal power department. She can’t rely on out-singing somebody the way a singer with a bigger, more powerful voice can. It’s a long road to the finale, and she has to be clever every week. Still, well done.
By contrast, take somebody like Amber Holcomb. Where Angie’s performance was a precision strike, this was more like a vocal sledgehammer. Cliched song choice – does Idol really need another over-the-top glurgy ballad? – but she makes it look effortless. There was a genuine “no big deal” factor here that many diva-type singers don’t have; if anything they like showing off how hard it is. Whitney’s never looked easier on the Idol stage. One of the best of the night.
My favorite performance of the night would go to Kree Harrison. I love the package. She picks good songs and knows how to connect with them. She’s likable. She doesn’t sound like a knockoff of someone else. Like Angie, she’s operating at the top of her game. That said, it was a good performance. Not blow-me-away-and-crown-her-now great. In didn’t have the transcendent moment a performance has to elevate it to truly great. But there’s nothing here that suggest she can’t pull that off.
“Pageanty” got thrown around a lot with Adriana Latonio, but it was dead-on. This was an audition for a role with the Trump Organization, not American Idol. Honestly, this is how so many teen girls on Idol fail – they pick big ballads but deliver them with absolutely no connection or emotion. The silly “come back next year” advice aside, let this be a lesson to all teens who want to come on Idol.
The most impressive performance of the night was saved for last. Candice Glover had everyone in that theater – and at home – eating out of the palm of her hand. I only classify it as good because it didn’t have that single blow-me-away moment I’m always looking for. But anyone who can sing as well and command the stage like she does is a serious threat. Well done.
Two big things bothered me about this episode overall, though. First, song choices. Individually, the song choices may have made sense – but there was a huge problem looked overall. Why so serious? Out of ten songs, no one chose anything that could be considered uptempo. If anything, there was a grim, I’m-so-serious-I-must-sing-artistically tone to the proceedings. I’d loved to have an energetic performance just to change things up. The Idolsphere cannot subsist on ballads alone – not without a serious case of indigestion and figurative table-flipping by season’s close.
The other problem? Nicki Minaj. Yes, she’s been more right than wrong with her commentary this season. But the way she delivers her commentary is, to us, nails-on-chalkboard at beast. Call it racism – for the record, I am neither white nor black, so I don’t have a dog in that fight – I just don’t find her likable, period. Maybe I just prefer my biting, sarcastic commentary with a strong British accent. Whatever it is, it’s not working for me. She has to learn to dial it back – she has to learn that Idol is about the talent on display, not Nicki Minaj opining on the talent. Will she listen? Who knows.
In any case, out of this group, four clearly deserve to make it through: Kree, Candice, Angie, Amber. The fifth slot is very much debatable. I think at least three ladies have a shot at it: Aubrey, Janelle, and (sigh) Zoanette. If Zoanette reaches the finals, she would be the worst contestant to ever get that far – which is saying something. My frequently-wrong gut says… Janelle. It might come down to Janelle and Zoanette, but the country vote should be able to carry Janelle to the final.