Wednesday, March 02, 2011

American Idol Top 12 Girls

It was the first Ladies' Night on the American Idol stage, which has to mean one thing; the ratings are probably down. Young girls and cougar housewives may not have been as invested in watching all these raven haired beauties (with a couple blondes thrown in) performing. Somehow though, I can picture Charlie Sheen and the Goddesses watching the show, with him shouting out "Winner!" at every performance he enjoyed.

Let's get right to them:

1. Ta-Tynisa Wilson - "Only Girl (In the World)"

The first performance in this round, whether by a male or female, seems to always be an uptempo number. For the first of two female contestants from Chicagoland, I think being the first out of 12 is going to be hard to overcome.

Ta-Tynisa tried her best, but just fell far short of the mark in trying to sound like Rihanna on a well-known contemporary song. With two other fellow semi-finalists who are African-American, she was going to have a hard time being voted into the Finals and looked like a classic example of Idol fodder. Grade: C

2. Naima Adedapo- "Summertime"

The young Afro-Centric mother is well known by this season's Idol watchers for her job cleaning toilets at Milwaukee's Summerfest (scary even to think about it), and for her performance she sang the musical classic "Summertime." While she has definite ability, and has been the early favorite of many, I really sort of hate the song, and her somewhat jazzed up version of it was really nowhere near as good as the widely renown version done on the Idol stage several years back by Fantasia Barrino.

Naima appeared to be more about performing than vocals and it seemed like something that might be more apropos to Broadway. While I would find others to come a lot better, I think the biracial singer (she was the Every who was in the group with Ebony and Ivory in Hollywood week) has a good chance of banking enough support from black voters and white lefty types to make it into the Finals next week. I definitely salute her for being a Wisconsin, who actually bothered to show up and do her job. Grade: B-

3. Kendra Chantelle- "Impossible Tonight"

We have not seen a ton of Kendra in the audition rounds thus far, but what we have seen, has been very good, and I think she was extremely good tonight. Beyond that, being the only "legal" blonde might be enough to get her voted into the Finals, for diversity sake. She sang a song I did not know, but I learned is from another big voiced blonde; the recently locked up Christina Aguilera. Something tells me Kendra may be more sober this week than the artist in question.

Being an attractive and talented singer from the music and Red State mecca of Nashville, Tennessee, I think Kendra has the potential to go very far in the competition. She just has to hope that being a bit under the radar thus far does not hurt her with the votes tonight. Grade: B+

4. Rachel Zevita- "Criminal"

I think Rachel is extremely talented and has great vocal range, but I also think she is a bit crazy. While that could possibly spell "winner" to Charlie Sheen, I bet she ruined her chances tonight. Singing a not very crowd pleasing Fiona Apple song, complete with lots of not exactly family friendly vamping on stage is not exactly indicative of an American Idol winning formula. Furthermore, the vocals were off point in several areas.

Rachel seemed to take great offense from some judge criticism tonight (which looks horrible at this stage to America), but it is true that her performance was another one that would be more fitting for Broadway. Rachel always seems to be more about "image" and in the age of Lady Gaga, that's hardly unheard of, but it is going to come across as disingenuous to many Idol watchers. The fact that there are two other dark haired girls from the New York City area on to split her vote (and I think I read that all three of them were in the same performing arts High School together) is not going to help her. She may need to hope the judges think she is interesting enough to deserve a wildcard. Grade: C

5. Karen Rodriguez- "Hero"

Seemingly sponsored this season by MySpace, Karen is another one of the Big Apple girls and she did fairly well for herself tonight, in spite of what I perceived as pandering. She sang a well-known Mariah Carey song and was good, if not spectacular on it, at least in the English parts. She also added in some Spanish to portions of the song and thus sang it bilingually ("bi-winner!"perhaps Mr. Sheen.)

That definitely helped Karen suck up some to judge Jennifer Lopez, who enjoyed the twist, and perhaps to the Latin contingent of Idol fans (I could not tell if her family member was clutching a Puerto Rican or Dominican flag). Not a bad strategy, but it seemed a bit obvious to me. Has Mariah ever sang part of the song in Spanish? Is Karen going to now be expected to add some Espanol every week? Grade: B

6. Lauren Turner- "Seven Day Fool"

Is Lauren Jewish? Does anybody know? It looks like she might be, and I also noticed the treble clef tattoo on her wrist (lots of inked up ladies again this year.) She has really not gotten much notice thus far this season, but I have thought she has been excellent vocally in what we have seen and I really thought she did a great job tonight.

I had never heard this song before, but it seemed to be in part an ode to her job working as a maid in Louisiana, and perhaps a bit of another pander to JLo who starred in the film "Maid in Manhattan." This first of the two Laurens has a really strong voice and I definitely think sang her way into deserving a Finals slot, but I am somewhat pessimistic she will be voted in by America. There are just so many dark haired girls and unfortunately for Lauren, she may not be as conventionally good looking as some of the other ladies, who look like they just stepped off the pages of Maxim magazine. Grade: B+

7. Ashton Jones- "Love All Over Me"

Ashton has great potential as a singer and in this competition, but I think she did herself no favors by choosing this Monica song that very few people would be too familiar with. She sounded ok, but I detected some pitch issues. Steven Tyler may have praised her "confidence" but I think Simon Cowell might have labeled it as "indulgent." I think Ashton came out on stage as if she already had the next round in the bag.

There really is not much more to say about her performance. From what I have seen before, I think she is a really good singer, but in a way she reminds me of Season 7's Syesha Mercado, in being a very talented vocalist who would perhaps rather be an actress Grade: B-

8. Julie Zorilla- "Breakaway"

The former Colombian refugee sang a song by the original Idol Kelly Clarkson, but in some ways, the performance reminded me more of Antonella Barbra. Well, perhaps Julie was not as bad vocally as she would have been, but it's easier to think that she looked fine than sounded fine. She had been really good up to this point, but seemed to fall well short of the Clarkson standard and appeared to be a bit disconnected on stage. She really needed another singer who would go last, and to whom many may have had a hard time distinguishing between before to do badly, and that did not happen.

It also looked like she was wearing a Prom dress, perhaps similar to the one she might have worn when she went to her actual Prom a couple years ago with fellow semi-finalist Casey Abrams. (So many of them this year seem to know each other from High School, it's like 90210 Idol.) After tonight, I think her old friend Casey is likely to go a lot further on Idol this year based on his vocals, but that Julie's affinity for the camera will lead her to some career. Perhaps as a correspondent for some cable entertainment show or something like that. Grade: C+

9. Haley Reinhart- "Falling"

Last year, Lee DeWyze who is right from my area won it all, and this year, Haley is from Wheeling, IL which is even closer yet to where I live. So, if I simply wanted a local rooting interest it would be her, but I am afraid that will not be the case.

I have found her a bit grating vocally and overpraised from the beginning and I do not think she was appealing at all tonight, vocally or in the somewhat awkward way she tried to use her 20 year old womanly charms to advance. From a distance though, based on her dress and her hairstyle, she looked a whole lot like a circa 1991 Mariah Carey. The vocals just were not there though and Haley also might have come across to America as feeling more entitled than she deserved to be. Grade: C

10. Thia Megia- "Out Here on My Own"

Another song I did not know tonight from the competition's youngest competitor and the first 15 year old in Idol performance history. She has sang on network television before though on a show called "America's Got Talent" which I thankfully do not follow, so she has had some preparation for this moment.

I have to say though, Thia really surprised me in a positive way. I had not been too fond of some of her vocal stylings leading up to tonight, but I find it hard tonight to criticize her for anything. She started off acapella, which is a very difficult thing to do, and gave a powerful, yet restrained performance. Job well done, although Thia may need to get a little bit better in the facial expression/demeanor department when she is not singing. It seems to me like she knows she is good and is not surprised by praise. That could come across as arrogance to others. Even if she had been bad, I think the Filipino and other Asian-American fans of Idol were going to be enough to maybe put her into the Finals. I wonder what Charice thinks of Thia at this point. Grade: B+

11. Lauren Alaina- "Turn On the Radio"

She has perhaps been the most "pimped" contestant thus far this season, and I definitely find some annoying traits about the bubbly recently turned 16 year old Lauren, but few can deny that she is a very good singer,and perhaps quite marketable as well. Why does she look so much like a 16 year old Candace Cameron though?

Tonight, I thought she was pretty good vocally and was wise to pick the one country song of the night and maybe even for being one of the few girls in the whole evening who wore pants instead of a dress of some sort. She did seem to be a lot more age appropriate in wardrobe and demeanor than she has been at other portions thus far, such as in her semi-flirtation with the 62 year old Steven Tyler. If the buzz tomorrow is about Thia being the "better teenager", that should probably be considered a positive development to Lauren A. (her middle initial actually) in the long run. If young girls like her and identify with her, she will be around for quite some time this season. Grade: B+

12. Pia Toscano- "I'll Stand by You"

What I had seen of Pia leading up tonight had been good, but I surprised when I read the song spoilers from the Monday evening taping and discovered she had been given the coveted "pimp spot", but I have to say she deserved it and made the most out of it.

If a singer can deliver the good on this emotional ballad, they pretty much have it made, and Pia brought it tonight with a great amount of skill and confidence. She is no longer a dark horse in this competition. She earned the first standing ovation of the season by the judges and probably did enough to advance, leaving other New Yorkers, Italian chicks, and otherwise hot dark haired girls in her dust. Grade: A-

Ranking them from worst to best:

12. Haley Reinhart
11. Ta-Tynisha Wilson
10. Rachel Zevita
9. Julie Zorilla
8. Ashton Jones
7. Naima Adedapo
6. Karen Rodriguez
5. Lauren Alaina
4. Thia Megia
3. Lauren Turner
2. Kendra Chantelle
1. Pia Toscano

So, if I had my way, the Top 5 this week would be voted in to join my Top 5 guys; Jacob Lusk, Casey Abrams, Stefano Langone, Brett Loewenstern, and Scott McCreery. If any of these 10 singers do not get voted in, I hope they will be among those selected as wildcards, provided that there will be no more singing for the judges live tomorrow night (if that is the case, I will throw these rankings out the window and judge them based on that.)

Last night, I decided to go ahead and say that my Top 5 guys will be what America also votes for. Tonight, I will predict advancement for almost all of my Top 5 girls, with one exception. I think Lauren Turner is likely to fall short, and if I had to guess, I think Naima will make it in.

Somehow though, I hope the ten I have ranked the highest are in the Finals. We know that there will be wildcards selected by the judges tomorrow night. Assuming that there will be no more auditioning, I have to select who should be taken ( I will not try to even predict whom the judges will select, because that might not necessarily be on merit.) We do not formally know if there will be two selections, or if each judge will pick one singer, for three wildcards added to make a Top 13.

If it were up to me, I would pick Karen Rodriguez and James Durbin if I had two selections. If I had a third, I would add Paul McDonald.

So, that would give me what I think would be a very good Top 13 (with a bunch of other talented singers out of luck in what still feels early on.) My group would be missing an African-American female, but otherwise would be seemingly diverse based on race, ethnicity, genre, and other factors.

Let's hope for the best!