Wednesday, February 27, 2013

American Idol Top 40-Group B Females

I guess technically its the Top 30 now.

Anyways, I went to sign into Blogger to get this thing done and I see news that Perez Hilton has welcomed a baby boy into the world. Poor child. Somehow, I think even adamant folks on the social left should be disturbed by this.

I watched the show "live" and now I am going to try to offer some hopefully succinct comments on the performances as a recording of the show plays in the background. I did not seek out or see any spoilers as to what happened.

The show tonight was interesting, and once again, the females showed a good deal of talent. It seems like there was a conscious effort among the girls in this group to sing more current songs. I wonder if there was negative feedback in the Idol bubble about some of the more old-fashioned choices last week.

Seacrest opens the show outside the Mirage in Las Vegas. I have actually been there.

1. Melinda Ademi- "Nobody's Perfect"

Yes, I remember now, they had featured her backstory of being a Kosovo war refugee a couple seasons ago. I thought she showed a lot of potential this season in Hollywood by coming across as a viable pop artist.

Angela Miller sang this exact song last week to great fanfare, so this was a bit of a risk for Melinda to do. Sure enough, the judges compared her negatively to what they had heard the week before. However, I actually thought this was pretty good vocally and that Melinda demonstrated that she is a strong performer. I can see her singing these kind of pop songs in the post-Idol world, so I was a bit surprised when the judges gave her mostly criticism and I bet she was as well.

2. Candice Glover- "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman"

Already a bit of a blogosphere favorite, people remember when Candice was somewhat surprisingly cut last year in Las Vegas, after performing in a group with eventual finalists Jessica Sanchez and DeAndre Brackensick (did they break up yet?).  Last year, not a single African-American female made it even to the semi-finals, but there sure are a lot of them this season, which is likely a good thing. In past Idol seasons, the type of somewhat larger black women with really big voices such as Candice have done well.

She did choose to sing an older song tonight, and it was famously done in Season One as one of Kelly Clarkson's breakthrough performances. This was a bit different than that version arrangement wise, but I thought Candice pretty much nailed it. She has a great voice and she really should go far in the competition this season. She may need to work on the personality thing though as the season progresses. She seems a bit introverted.

3. Juliana Chahayed- "Skyscraper"

Just 15, Juliana takes the stage with a very large guitar and sings an acoustic version of a Demi Lovato ballad. I had no idea what this song was until she got to the word "Skyscraper."

There is no doubt that the young singer is talented, but vocally this really did not cut it for me. She seemed to struggle a bit with transitions from line to line (if I am even making musical jargon sense). She will probably be better in a few years, but I do not know if Idol was ever the right competition for her. She reminds more of the quirky, petite, young female singer/songwriter types that seem to keep popping up on NBC's "The Voice." I sense she did not expect to advance after tonight and just seemed grateful for the opportunity.

 4. Jett Hermano- "Only Girl (In the World)"

Jett looks younger than 25 and apparently turned down a prestigious scholarship in order to pursue a career in music. I wonder what her parents thought of that.

I thought she had an interesting piano-based interpretation of a recent Rihanna hit and was glad she did not get up from the instrument in order to pick up the tempo. Vocally, I just think there were some hiccups as she tried to hit some notes. After she sang, it was brought up that she was a Filipina. This same thing happened last week, so Idol seems to be trying to go out of its way to appeal to one of their loyal fanbases (both there and in the U.S.) However, they already put through a Filipino girl last week, so that was bad news for Jett. She seemed smart enough to realize during the judges' critiques that she would be out of the competition tonight.

5. Cristabel Clack- "No One"

Twenty nine years old and the mother of three, Cristabel is a worship leader, and before she sings, she seems to get a lot of time for a sit down with Seacrest, and she immediately goes all Evangelical on him. That does not bother me at all, but a lot of people were going to instantly hate it and consider her a female version of Danny Gokey.

She seemed to spoil the fact that she would be singing this Alicia Keys tune, saying that G-d had chosen it for her or something like that. A few seasons back, another female worship leader of some sort, Felicia Barton, who had a lot of buzz sang this song in the semi-finals and never advanced any further. Could this be a bad omen?

Frankly, I expected more from Cristabel vocally. Parts of it were really good, but her voice instead of being raspy in an appealing way, did sound hoarse from time to time, and I sensed that Cristabel started realizing she was messing up during the course of the song. Maybe her voice was worn out from how many words she got out while witnessing to Seacrest.  Still, she put on a determined performance, but I was pretty surprised to see Randy Jackson give her a standing ovation and the fact that the judges (except Nikki) liked it as much as they did.

6. Aubrey Cleland- "Sweet Dreams"

I really do not remember much about her thus far this season, so I sort of expect that she might be fodder and prone to an early elimination tonight. She certainly came out on stage looking like a million dollars though.

I recognized this as a Beyonce song, and this version sounded similar to what Jessica Sanchez did with this song last year. I do not think it is terrible, but it seems to me like Aubrey does not have a big enough voice to pull this off. I think she might have done something better that was a bit more upbeat and "popish." However, the judges really liked it for the most part, and seemed extremely impressed by her commercial appeal. So, while I do not feel like it was the stronger vocals of the night thus far, it does seem like she is likely to advance to next week (I suppose the ten that advanced last week are going to have more time to pick songs and practice than the ten who will make it this week.)

7.  Rachel Hale- "Nothing But the Water"

The first country singer of the night, I had never heard this song she sang before, but I thought Rachel made quite an impression. To me, she seemed confident and in charge of the performance. I thought she would almost certainly advance and that the Idol hair people would give her a bit of a makeover.

While she was singing, I was wondering if her country music bona fides as well as ties to the State of Arkansas and Belmont University in Nashville could make her one of the most promising female hopes of the season. She certainly seemed to have a likable and perky personality as well, which is probably something that any female winner is going to need to bring to the table. I thought that Keith Urban and Mariah Carey would like it more than they did.

8. Breanna Steer- "Bust Your Windows"

During the commercial break, I am already trying to predict who the judges are most likely to advance and doing the math, I think it is more likely that Breanna is destined to not be that great. Instead the Hurricane Issac survivor (air quotes) got some of the best reactions of the evening.

This was another song I do not know, but it seemed thematically very similar to a Carrie Underwood song about destroying a dude's automobile. I did not think Breanna's vocals started off great and while I did not really love the performance, it did get better as it went on and she showed talent both as a singer and in the way she sold the performance with her attitude. It was interesting how Nikki suggested that Breanna and Aubrey find two more girls to make up a group. I do not think that is what they are here on Idol to do. Nikki then asked Breanna her nationality, which I am pretty sure is frowned upon during job interviews.

9. Janelle Arthur- "Just A Kiss"

I had almost forgotten that Janelle, who had tried out for Idol before, would be in the ninth position tonight. She has been considered one of the frontrunners this season, as a blonde country singer, who somewhat resembles a pre-fame Carrie Underwood. The personality of Janelle, who once played a young Dolly Parton on the stage, is quite similar to that of Rachel Hale. Can Idol afford both of them?

The expectations were that Janelle would be great tonight, and at first it sounded really good. As the song progressed however, it got just a bit shaky in parts. I still thought it was pretty strong but my mother, who is a big fan of Lady Antebellum, agreed with Keith Urban in saying this song works far better when done in harmony with other voices. The feedback Janelle received was slightly more negative than I expected, but Janelle did not seem fazed at all by it. I almost wonder if the judges had an agenda to de-pimp her a bit in order to potentially set up a "redemption" storyline.

10. Zoanette Johnson- "Circle of Life"

First of all, let me say that back in Season Three, Jennifer Hudson sang this song on Elton John night and I think it was one of the most impressive performances in Idol history. Vocally, I do not think what we saw tonight can compare.

It was quite a journey for Zoanette to get to this pimp slot tonight. We learned for the first time that she came as a refugee from Liberia as a young girl and I am sort of wondering just how many others can say the same and the tragic irony of the descendents of freed African slaves from America, immigrating to America in far different circumstances several generations later.

There was some blogosphere controversy when the judges even sent Zoanette to Hollywood after her over the top performance of the "Star Spangled Banner"  during her audition, which she unfortunately dedicated to Barack Obama. She lost points with me for that, but I thought her voice was strong enough to advance at least to Hollywood.

Not sure if she deserved to go to this stage though after the antics and vocal and performance hysterics we saw in Hollywood. She makes for good television though and I even wanted to see more footage of her shopping in the mall with Kez Ban. Whatever happens on Idol, Zoanette is probably destined for a talk show or a reality show somewhere.

Vocally and performance wise, this all felt like the curse of Fantasia. I really do not know what to make of what Zoanette did on stage. She started off singing the African chant part from the Lion King at the beginning of the song and I actually thought that was pretty good, made more interesting by her crazy hair which made her look like a very large lion. Then, as she got into the actual song, it just got very weird for me. I really do believe she has some serious pipes, and with some training, could have a career in music, but I thought she majorly oversang the number. The judges absolutely loved it though and seemed to love Zoanette even more personally, and she was either emotionally overcome or is a great actress. On the merits, I did not think it was appropriate, but it seemed pretty clear they were going to advance her over what I thought were far more deserving singers. Not long ago, she was thought about as the "Normund Gentle" of this season; basically a joke contestant, but now that America is going to get to vote, people may keep her around for a bit, just for the entertainment factor. Entering its final season, the Vote for the Worst website must be beside itself with glee.

Ranking them on vocals from worst to best:

10. Zoanette Johnson
9. Juliana Chahayed
8. Aubrey Cleland
7. Cristabel Clack
6. Jett Hermano
5. Breanna Steer
4. Janelle Arthur
3. Melinda Ademi
2. Rachel Hale
1. Candice Glover

I thought predicting the judges' decisions would be fairly easy even as I realized that Melinda and one of the two country singers would be unfairly cut in favor of Aubrey, who's voice was not big enough in my mind and Zoanette who's voice was too big. Cristabel had gotten positive reaction from the judges, but the numbers did not seem to add up for her finding a spot.

Who should have been eliminated: Zoanette Johnson, Juliana Chahayed, Aubrey Cleland, Cristabel Clack, Jett Hermano

Who I predicted the judges would eliminate: Juliana Chahayed, Cristabel Clack, Jett Hermano, Janelle Arthur, Melinda Ademi

Who the judges eliminated: Juliana Chahayed, Cristabel Clack, Jett Hermano, Melinda Ademi, Rachel Hale

So, I went four out of five in my prediction. The one semi-surprise was Janelle over Rachel. While I think that Janelle deserved to advance to next week, Rachel still had the stronger vocal tonight. I guess it paid to be blonde.

Tomorrow night, the final ten guys will perform and I would already bet that Lazaro Arbos will sing last. Whatever the results will be, I am pretty sure that at least two of the males that will advance will wind up being far worse than Melinda Ademi and Rachel Hale, who must say goodbye to their Idol dreams in 2013.