Tuesday, April 20, 2021

America Idol Top 10- Night 2

I will now begin live-blogging a recording of tonight's American Idol, in which singers who were last on television about 11 months ago compete for a spot in this year's highly acclaimed Top 10. I have already coined the title for tonight's competition as the Arthur Gunn Invitational.

Before I begin, a world of condolence in regards to former Vice President Walter Mondale. He had very different politics than me, but had an honorable career and life.

This show is clearly not live. So, we are seeing competition episodes out of chronological order, but I doubt many people will care. There is also a full week for people to vote. That might be an Idol record. Will the show be on next Monday night? 

1. Cyniah Elise- "Edge of Seventeen (Midnight Sky Remix)"
 
A couple of days ago, I re-visited my blog from last year and I actually had her ranked first out of 20 for her at home performance. She did not advance any further though which I surmised was due to fans thinking she was too full of herself and also that her hometown of Atlanta had a lot of people she needed to vote watching "Real Housewives of Atlanta" at the same time.
 
Cyniah is no more humble than she was in the early months of the pandemic and I do not know what the hell the remix of this song is or why she choose to sing it. I am sure she is still talented but this was almost cringeworthy. I have already determined that 2021 is superior to 2020, at least in terms of Idol. Of course, a lot of people feel the same for many reasons, including the occupant of the White House.

2. Nick Merico - "City Lights"

How much PTSD do these kids have? I already cannot wait for this episode to be over. I guess I have still sit through Harry Connick Jr. and Lauren Daigle as well.

Back in 2019, Nick auditioned for Idol and received a ton of online buzz. The judges seemed to be critical of him for being too good looking and cocky. Then, he up and quit before Hollywood. Last year, he tried again but did not get many votes for trying to appear far more humble. Now, he tells us he took his elimination very difficulty and apparently took a scissors to his head and all his jeans as an act of penance or something.

This was a weird vocal and performance on an original song, Nick is trying to be an EDM artist now. There was an entire dance-break in this performance not seen since the days of Naima Adedapo. I did not get it. Nick is a former child and teen cable television sitcom actor and came across here as a poseur.

3. Aliana Jester- "I'll Never Love Again"

For her opportunity on the big stage, Aliana is bringing out a different look from last year in regards to her hair and make-up. She slightly resembles Meghan Markle but an Oprah interview is likely not in her future.

I do not know this song. Technically speaking, Aliana did her thing vocally better than the two that proceeded her. It seemed a bit shouty though. It was like she was trying to sound too much like Lady Gaga in her lower range on a Gaga song.

4. Franklin Boone- "Meant To Live"

So far, every singer tonight only had only one Zoom performance last year before being voted out. I think that might be the case for everyone but eventual runner-up "Arthur" and Louis Knight. 

Since last year, Franklin lost a lot of possessions to black mold, but happily managed to expect another child with his wife. This performance seemed completely different than the kind of old school R&B.. I really cannot even remember.. that he tried to do last year, that did not work out that well for him. Here, he played the electric guitar on what sounded like a horrible '90s song and seemed to be trying to channel Lenny Kravitz. Vocally, I thought it was pretty, pretty bad.

Again, maybe 2020 nostalgia is just not meant to happen. Not in 2021 nor ever. Even Dr. Fauci should take note.

5. Faith Becnel- "Cry Baby"

FB follows FB. In this case, Faith wants redemption on the song she messed up on last year at the Disney Resort (but somehow still was picked by Idol to advance.) I remember she had an interesting tone to her voice last season, but nothing is really impressing me this evening. Vocally, she definitely was not the worst of the evening, but it still sounded and felt amateurish.

6. Arthur Gunn- "Iris"

Since he was basically guaranteed to win this week-long vote, I wish he would have had a more inspired song choice.

Instead, Arthur sang the well-known Goo Goo Dolls tune sounding as he always does, very similar to past winner Phillip Phillips. At least for this competition, it puts him in his own lane but I think he has sounded better before. I am really struggling with having to rank him as the best so far tonight. It is close between him and Aliana but compared to last night, I am just down on this whole thing. I guess that is what working all day at home on a Monday will bring about.

7. DeWayne Crocker Jr.- "Voice Of God"

He was Idol fodder last season, where his biggest storyline was the frisky great-grandmother who wanted to jump Lionel Richie. Now, DeWayne returns with his hair (and part of his goatee) dyed blond and interestingly enough announces his desire to be a Gospel singer.

DeWayne certainly sang this religious song better than his basement attempt at James Brown last April. He has a nice voice, but it may just be a nice voice. In recent years, there have been other male singers on Idol who cam do Gospel much better. Perhaps, with a week of voting, there could be an organized online effort from church folk to give him a surprise win, but I think that might need some divine intervention.

8. Makayla Phillips- "Anyone"

All night, she has been sitting there in a white dress with a frozen smile on her face and I had no idea who she was. I knew I would eventually remember when they told us, and that what happened, when they told us her name and it was mentioned she had received the one judges' save last year. In the package, she seemed to make reference to a sister passing away last year, although the wording was a bit ambiguous and I do not  remember that as part of her 2020 story.

Last season, I thought she showed tremendous potential in the audition rounds. Returning to the big stage tonight, (or whenever this was taped), she sang pretty well, at least by the standards of what has gone on tonight on an emotional Demi Lovato post-overdose ballad. Towards the very end, Makayla seemed to get very emotional, and perhaps I am being cynical, but it seemed a bit contrived. It is likely she will wind up with the best vocals tonight, but even if she "wins", she would wind up  in a Top 10 with even better female belters.

Seacrest clarifies that the song was dedicated to her (I presume half) sister who lost her father last year.

9. Olivia Ximenes- "Say Yes"

I think this was possibly the third song tonight to mention Jesus and that is not even counting the Harry Connick Jr. Religious Acid Trip that was shown earlier. Lots of prayers are looking to be answered on this "Comeback Show."

Olivia did a lot of dancing on stage which is what she wants to be known for. Her vocals might have suffered a bit, as to be expected, because of that. I did not find her vocals impressive at all, but she seems to love to entertain and her hair, outfit, and dance-breakdown reminded me of the very popular movie (which now has a sequel) "Coming to America."

To finish up the night, it would be a perfect opportunity for British ex-pat Louis Knight to dedicate his own version of "Candle In the Wind" to Prince Phillip.

10. Louis Knight- "Maybe That"

I notice that his speaking voice, after another year of living in Philly, seems to have had his accent fade a bit (in constrast to Kansan Arthur whose accent seems heavier now.) 

Nonetheless, Louis's British accent was far more pronounced on the actual original song, which is perhaps by design. I thought it started off very nicely, as he once again played the piano, but then, like his bedroom and backyard performances from last year, it got a bit whiny and he went off the rails vocally a bit. Still, there are people that will really like it.

If I were a judge on "The Voice" I may not have turned my chair for a single performance tonight:


10. Franklin Boone
  9. Nick Merico
  8. Olivia Ximenes
  7. Cyniah Elise
  6. Faith Becnel
  5. Louis Knight
  4.  DeWayne Crocker Jr. 
  3.  Aliaina Jester
  2.  Arthur Gunn
  1.  Makayla Phillips

On the merits for tonight alone, Makayla should get the spot (and then promptly go out in 10th or 9th or 8th place) but of course it will be Arthur bringing a bit of ethnic diversity to the Class of 2021.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

American Idol Top 10- Night 1

Tonight, I watched the show live so I am basing these blog comments from memories. Now most of America's seniors have been fully vaccinated for a while, I watched the show over at my parents' house for the first time in two seasons. My mother still really likes Madison but would actually wind up with her ranked a spot behind where I had her.

The program tonight featuring Oscar winning and nominated songs was really quite an event. There was not a song tonight that I really like but all of the performances (perhaps just one that was too cheesy) were really good vocally. All things considered, the females are definitely ahead of the males this season. Some of the performances were tightly grouped together and thus difficult to rank. It is hard to believe that some are as ranked as low on the list as I have them, considering how good vocally they were.

The lowdown was that tonight, the Top 12 would perform live and viewers would vote coast to coast in "real time" and eliminate the bottom three. Where is Stacey Abrams to organize against this? It seems really unfair in several ways. The show is airing at 5 pm on the West Coast (and sometime midday in Alaska and Hawai'i.) How big is the viewership from west of the Mississippi when a show is broadcast across all the land? This might prove to be competition fatal to someone from say Orange County, but who expected that at the beginning of the evening.

Tomorrow night, in an apparently taped show (since song choices are posted online), 10 of last season's Top 20 (the unsigned ones who wanted to come back) are going to sing for one spot. This is otherwise henceforth known as "The Arthur Gunn Invitational." I saw a list of who is coming back and without winner Just Sam or Finale participant Francisco Martin, I am underwhelmed with the list. Does it mean that Jonny West and/or Dillon James have record deals? They should pass on this farce and just give "Arthur" the spot for being last season's runner-up. Let's take on tonight first though. The nine that advance are off to Disney World (where Covid restrictions are far less) and will have two weeks to prepare for "Disney Night." Of course, the Oscars air on ABC next Sunday, so that brought us this week's theme.

1. Grace Kinstler- "Happy"

Leading off the night, she better hope her Chicagoland base is watching and prepared to vote. Up to this point, Grace has been singing some pretty serious songs, so this was a bit of a reprieve and a chance to be more cheerful. For her, the song is almost "too easy" but she did all that she could with it and checked the "big note" boxes a few times. Apparently, she felt she could coast a bit this week. The judges' comments (with Luke Bryant miraculously recovered from Covid) were somewhat mixed.

2. Ava August- "City Of Stars"

It is not too long after 5 pm in Ava's city when she hits the stage. I do not know this song but it is more of the kind of old-school ballad that she had done very well before and received much praise from the judges. This is after a video package where the 15 year old is (perhaps illegally) driving Bobby Bones around in a golf cart and knocking down many cones.

I do not even recall how this song went, but she sang it very nicely and professionally. Ava is poised to the extreme and seems to be born for this. I made a remark that she will wind up as the female Josh Groban after this show. That is better than nothing of course, but I certainly expected she would be around for more weeks. The judges are once again giving her conflicting comments. Sometimes they want her to be "young" and at other times they want her to sing old classy standards.

During her entire segment, my mother kept remarking that she hated the Doc Martin boots that Ava was wearing under her fancy pretend Oscar Red Carpet gown. I said that was what is in fashion these days (as if I would be some sort of expert.)

3. Caleb Kennedy- "On The Road Again"

The young country hopeful wants to be an "outlaw" just like Willie Nelson, who was certainly an income tax outlaw. In what will become a bit of a theme this evening, I thought this was Caleb's best performance yet. He sounded pretty good and appears to be very proficient on the guitar as well.

Before finishing this blog, I accidentally typed his name as Caleb Johnson. That is a singer who actually won Idol, but perhaps I had the Great Society on my mind.

4. Hunter Metts- "Falling Slowly"

This may be the one people are talking about tomorrow at the Work From Home Water Coolers. The song choice seemed right out of the Kris Allen playbook, so that seemed like good strategy for the person I have considered the front-runner. 

Hunter has a highish voice (that my mother does not like) but I think many others will be a fan of. For most of this performance, he sounded very good to me, although there was a sense of nerves or trepidation. Towards the very end, he messed up somehow and started to laugh briefly. I thought that perhaps he hit the wrong chord on the guitar but apparently he forgot the words. I doubt a lot of people would have noticed if he did not let on.

Then, when it was over and the crowd was applauding, the 22 year old software developer had a bit of a meltdown on live television. Tried as he might, he could not really hold back the ugly crying. My first thought was that it would definitely get him more votes, but the more serious the episode became the more I wondered what exactly was going on. Is he that much of a perfectionist? There seems to be something else going on with the crying that I can only compare off the top of my head to something that happened to Vonzell Solomon on Idol years ago. Lots of other singers, including teenagers, have had performances before in which they messed up lyrics or were obviously displeased with their performance, and they seemed to hold it together in the moment better than Hunter was able to. The judges went way out of their way to reassure him during such a difficult moment.

5. Madison Watkins- "Run To You"

We are told by Madison that when she was a little girl, she wanted to grow up to be Whitney Houston. She has straightened her hair for this round and frankly looks a bit like Jessica Hahn during the peak of the PTL Scandal. Madison is 26 and with the whole get-up tonight looked a good deal older than she actually is (not that I am saying that is a horrible thing or anything.)

She sang the ballad very well. She is the kind of singer who was more common in the very early years of Idol, whom once again, Simon Cowell might have compared to a nightclub or cruise ship singer.. She is up against some other big (and younger voices) though and the wild-card choice might be finding it difficult to stand out.

6. Chayce Beckham- "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You")

This song has been overdone on Idol. I hope I caught enough of it because the cable froze up a few times while Chayce was singing. The parts I heard were really good. He made me enjoy the song better than the whiny Bryan Adams version.

Chayce has a gruff voice that differentiates him from Hunter, but as a straight, white male with a guitar, he is very much in competition with Hunter this season. We saw Hunter break down and cry on stage tonight as if it were among the lowest moments of his life (and not in a sentimental/drunk John Boehner sort of way.) Females will have to debate amongst themselves whether that was a turn-off or the opposite. What I want to know is that last year, when Chayce drove drunk and crashed his car, did he have the self-awareness to break down and cry before deciding to try to turn his life around. I sure hope so.

7. Beane- "I've Had The Time Of My Life"

The second wildcard contestant took the stage and sang a song that has never been done on Idol before. The movie "Dirty Dancing" certainly has its cadre of cult-like fans and I wondered if this could bring a boatload of votes in for Beane. It occurs to me also that he could be the love child that Kris Allen and Adam Lambert conceived during Season 8.

Starting off, Beane was seated cross-legged on a stool and with guitar, playing an emo-ish version of the song. Maybe he should have kept it unplugged. It soon turned into the familiar arrangement though and Beane sang it exactly as he probably has at several gay weddings in recent years. He did not sound bad per se, it just felt and looked really cheesy. There should have at least been a lift or the carrying of a watermelon.

8. Alyssa Wray- "This Is Me"

Last week, two nights in a row, we saw Alyssa all dressed up and singing in a way in which she seemed much older than her actual age of 19. Tonight, she was dressed in an evening gown again, but perhaps sang a song that was easier to connect to emotionally.

She actually sang it pretty spectacularly and might have gained back some credibility with the viewers. It occurred to me that this was a song that Grace could sing and also slay it, but tonight, Grace took a bit of an easier route. This worked out well for Alyssa though.

9. Deshawn Goncalves- "The Way We Were"

Wearing a white tuxedo jacket, he sang a 1973 Barbra Streisand song. I was a bit leery from the start and wondered if African-American voters could actually get into it.

Truth be told though, Deshawn sang it quite well. It was a fairly successful technical achievement, but there is no way he is in any way post-Idol current. He should consider Broadway perhaps. He also told us that he had received a phone call from Ruben Studdard during the past week. My first thought was if Ruben also called Willie Spence, because if not, Willie has the right to be pissed.

10. Casey Bishop- "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

Another song that has been performed many times on Idol before. Up to this point, we have seen Casey be pretty credible on rock songs, although at times, her voice seemed a bit rough around the edges.

She was stellar on this ballad though. I think every note was probably on the money.  Clearly, she has been singing songs like this long before she discovered 90s grunge. Only a year older than Ava, Casey was equally as poised and professional on this, while wearing a pantsuit. Before she was even done, I remarked that she stole Ava's whole gig. What might Ava have been thinking to see another teenage female singer do something that would get her compared in a favorable way to Judy Garland? In some ways, this was a cold-blooded move by Casey, but of course extremely fair game.

11. Cassandra Coleman- "Writing's On The Wall"

If I thought anyone was bound to break down and cry on the Idol stage, I would have bet on Cassandra ahead of Hunter. Up to this point, I have found her vocally underwhelming during the "live" rounds and thought for sure she might be at risk of being one of the three eliminated tonight.

I do not know this song, and barely remember it at this moment a couple hours later , but Cassandra sang it tremendously. It was easily her best performance. She hit some Celine Dion like notes. Someone on Idol showing genuine growth as they move on in the competition makes them pretty dangerous.

12. Willie Spence- "Stand Up"

It has been another tumultuous and difficult week in America to watch the news. By the song choice and some comments he made in the pre-package, it was clear Willie was trying to catch the justice vibe.

Not surprising of course, but he sang it pretty powerfully. With Willie, some notes are often a bit off, but he has a great voice and truly seems dedicated to giving emotional performances and doing more than just standing still and belting. Perhaps it is possible that he will eventually win this season's title, but I still think that is more unlikely than not. Either way, I can see him having a well-received gospel album.

Rankings:

12. Beane
11. Caleb Kennedy
10. Hunter Metts

9. Deshawn Goncalves
8. Chayce Beckham
7. Madison Watkins
6. Willie Spence
5.  Cassandra Coleman
4.  Grace Kinstler
3.  Ava August
2.  Alyssa Wray
1.  Casey Bishop

After the performances this week, to use a cliche, really nobody should have gone home. Well, I would have been ok with one of them leaving per the merits, but honestly, three seems way too many.

Who should have been eliminated: Beane, Caleb Kennedy, Hunter Metts

Who I predicted would be eliminated: Deshawn Goncalves, Madison Watkins, Cassandra Coleman

Well, it seemed pretty obvious that Madison might struggle to stay on. I thought also that perhaps the "Beane Babies" or whatever they would be called would be rallied to save him. The predictions here were tough. I thought there was perhaps some degree of danger for Grace and Alyssa.

Once again though, I went back to the well of Deshawn and Cassandra not having enough votes. I was wrong again, they have had (thus far) enough votes.
 
Who was eliminated: Beane, Madison Watkins, Ava August
 
 Clearly, not everyone enjoys Beanes in their diet. I did have him ranked last, so I think that was a fair result. Goodluck to him. We learned tonight that Beane is deaf in one ear, as well as the fact that Bobby Bones is blind in one eye. Thankfully, during this pandemic, nobody has lost half their sense of smell.

My mother seemed to handle the Madison elimination gracefully. I prepared her for it coming. Madison deserve to stick around longer of course, but that's not how it would turn out.

Of course, the shocker to me here is Ava being eliminated. That is definitely unfair to someone of her talent. Of course, they announced Hunter as the last "safe" contestant, and he once again started crying, whether out of relief or guilt.

Ava seemed to take her ouster without a sense of disappointment or sadness. She is either really a zen person or she knows exactly how to act on camera. Why did she go? Well, I think the coast to coast voting, with her going early on in the evening, before Californians have even eaten dinner cost her.

My mother wanted me to mention that Ava lost because of her "ugly shoes." She is very serious about this. If the older audience was truly offended by an evening gown with combat boots, there could be something to that. I am mostly going with the fact that Casey might have stolen a ton of votes from Ava, for song choice (perhaps in addition to footwear.) Casey sang an Ava-like song, later in the show, and at least a little bit better, and in doing so, sent home a television rival.







Tuesday, April 13, 2021

American Idol Top 12

Let us see what the program had in store this evening, as I will liveblogging as I watch a recording of the first "live" episode of the season. Before the show begins, I heard that Luke Bryan is out with Covid. Sitting in for him at the judges' table will be.. for the first time in over a decade, Paula Abdul. I do believe this is the first time in American Idol history, that a judge will miss a performance show in which they were expected to "judge." If this were the United States Supreme Court, it would create more stories. I do remember there was one episode where Nikki Minaj rolled in a bit late. One might also perhaps argue that there were a few episodes back in the day when Ms. Abdul may not have been entirely present.

Seacrest tells us that Wyatt Pike has dropped out of the competition. What in the name of Mario Vazquez might that be about? Did he test positive for ganja? I had him ranked dead last from last night (I doubt that is the reason) but speculated he might still get voted through or that the judges would make him a wildcard. That is all moot now. According to an online source I just looked up however, (while avoiding any other spoilers), it said Wyatt dropped out after making the Top 12. I think I did catch Seacrest referring to him as a "Finalist" but perhaps that term would refer to the entire Top 16. I will have to see if there is any further clarification.


1. Casey Bishop- "House Of The Rising Sun"

I had her placed fifth last night, so I am not surprised that she was voted into the Top 10. It looks like they are going to be calling the singers up randomly and telling some "no" as well. I assume they will "sing for their lives" at the end, rather than at the very moment they were just crushed, but who knows.

Casey has a mane of hair that a Wookie would be envious of. She also has a very powerful voice but I did not like the very loud grungy industrial rock like music playing behind her, as she sang this 60's British tune pretty straight up. The voice and the music did not seem to match well and any sort of melody was lost.

No comments from the judges apparently at this point. Do they not trust Paula? Those who have made it are sent to the "Victory Zone" while those at risk are relegated to the "Danger Zone." It feels like a vaxxed vs. non-vaxxed thing.
 
I am going to comment upon and rank all the "winner" performances because I do not know if next Sunday's vote will have these performances taken into account or not as to whom will be officially performing then. 
 
2. Colin Jamieson- "Waves"
 
Justifiably, Colin, whom I ranked 15th did not make the Top 10. He has to sing though right away and hope the judges (or producers) remember how it went nearly two hours from now. Truth be told, this was probably his best performance so far. He held off on smiling while he sang until around the end, but still ran around a lot on stage and changed microphone hands a lot. All of that continues to make his voice less resonant than it might otherwise be. I do not think he is American Idol caliber, but somehow I can see him as a David Lee Roth tribute singer.

3. Deshawn Goncalves- "Higher Ground"

This is twice now he has surprised me by being voted through. I had him 13th last night. In no way do I not respect his talent, but I just am continuing to not see him at the same vocal level as some of the competition this season. I think it was good for him to try something a bit more uptempo for this performance but there were still some vocal moments I thought sounded less than stellar. His dancing may have even been more awkward.

In any event, he is off to the white Pfizer couches instead of the black Astra-Zeneca couches.

4. Cassandra Coleman- "Light On"

I am not sure what America is up to. She made it into the Top 10, despite my having ranked her 14th. She joins Deshawn in twice surprising me. I think people may be voting on personal or identity factors more than just vocals. At least a couple of deserving people will be out of luck after tonight.

Vocally, I thought this performance started off decent, and she seemed more comfortable on stage than she did before. Towards the end, I detected some serious pitch issues and it felt like the whole thing went a bit off the rails.

5. Caleb Kennedy- "Nowhere"

I had the perpetually stone-faced and non-applauding for anyone Caleb ranked 12th last night but did predict he would be voted into the Top 10. That is what happened, so there will be no need for some of his fans to try to get various Secretaries of State to alter the vote.

Nobody is exactly blowing me away tonight but based on this performance, I think I cannot be too upset. The 16 year old singer, tonight hatless and mulletted sang the finished version of the original song he wrote. I am not a country music fan but it seemed like a fairly good song for that genre, though I am not so sure how literally we should take him singing about "drinking for fun" and "paying the bills." He really seemed to give his all to this performance though vocally and in the way he worked the stage. I think he did what he set out to do. Two of the judges are allowed to comment on him.

According to Seacrest, America gets a break from voting tonight. As I have done in the past ABC seasons though, I will continue to rank all the performances.

Next, we get to see a skinny Randy Jackson watching the show from home. I can imagine if he were a judge for ABC's "Pooch Perfect.... ("Dog, I gotta say, you were doing your thing out there. Crazy crazy grooming. You could pee on a phonebook.  Keep on going dog. You're the bitch to beat!")

6. Madison Watkins- "Hotline Bling"

This is a weird show tonight. I had her ranked second overall last night and thought that would be enough to advance (after predicting her elimination going into that show), but she did not make the Top 10. I think I have to assume she wound up picked as a wildcard though because I spoke to my mother after my parents finished watching the show live and she did not sound devestated.

Her hair was up in some sort of modern-day beehive and she was wearing a fringe jacket and sang a horrible Drake song. (Do kids these days really say "call me on my cellphone?") It was an interesting interpretation, boarding on cabaret at parts, but Madison put her own spin on it and was able to get in some big glory notes.

7. Ava August- "Love Of My Life"

I thought the competition was pretty steep last night and only had her 7th, but had little doubt she would indeed be voted in.

Once she was given that good news, she proceeded to take the advice of Katy Perry from last evening who seemed to say she preferred her more classy than youthful. Ava dressed in what could be a Prom dress sang a Queen ballad and while parts of it were almost spoken-word like, her musicality came through at the end. She can definitely sing classic ballads. Is that going to be a winning strategy though or will she need to show youthful energy as she attempted to last night?

8. Beane- "Grow As We Go"

Halfway through those who have qualified, there was bad news for Beane who along with Colin, became the second Bostonian to be rejected by the voters. I had him 8th and thought he would make it, but alas, it was not to be. Perhaps even the Adam Lambert die-hard took umbrage to the guyliner. Tonight's outfit was extremely weird, but I am not here to judge that.

Beane has a very nice pleasant tone to his voice, but he seemed a bit deflated right away on this song. He made the most out of it but it did not really have anything that the judges are likely to remember after a few minutes.

9. Chayce Beckham- "What Brings Life Also Kills"

I keep wanting to type his name as Chacye. There is no surprise here that he made it into the Top 10. I had him fourth last evening. This was another strong performance for Chayce in which he sang and played guitar in his typical gruff way. Eventually, he may need to show some more musical versatility but this seems to be working for him. I do not know this song, and I know it is by someone else but it seemed like it could have been his own. One can look back and think of the season that Lee DeWyze actually won Idol, and think that Chayce's style is fairly similar, but just like 150 percent more "in tune" vocally.

Now, we know The Twist. Next Sunday, viewers will vote to reduce the Top 12 to 9. On Monday, 10 of the singers from last year's Zoom sessions will be brought back and America will vote one (at least its only one I suppose) into the 2021 Top 10. Is it going to be that Jonny kid whose last name I have for now forgotten?

Four spots remain though for this Top 10. It has to be Willie and Grace (ha), and Hunter and Alyssa I think. My bracket already feels busted though.

10. Alyssa Wray- "The Greatest Love Of All"

I am glad to see her make it. After leading off the show last night to perhaps mixed results, it did not feel as much as a sure thing (9th place for me.)

In heels, Alyssa towers over Seacrest as if she were RuPaul. I can believe that Alyssa has the pipes to credibly cover a Whitney Houston ballad but I had mixed feelings about it. There were some strong moments, but it felt very cabaret and pageantry. This is two nights in a row now, where she seems to be trying to act more like a 50 year old diva than an exuberant 19 year old with pink in her hair. She probably should be singing Beyonce instead of Whitney.

11. Alanis Sophia- "Heart Attack"

Vocally, I had her ranked 10th last night, but did not think she would win enough votes. Sure enough, she was compelled to sing for a wild-card spot tonight. We learned in her audition that she has been watching Idol since she was a baby and had her own toy microphone, etc. I wonder if she ever envisioned at this stage in her life that her fate may lay in the hands of Paula Abdul.

This was a pretty good vocal. Alanis has a big voice and can do the pop thing. Personality wise, she seems a bit guarded though and it comes across like she is just doing what she has been trained to do virtually all her life. She might very well deserve to get a wildcard based on her voice, but I think the decision could be that others make for more interesting television.

12. Willie Spence- "Diamonds"

I though he was so good last night that I ranked him number one overall and had no doubt he would be voted into the Top 10. Of course that happened.

This first live broadcast continues to be a bit of a wild ride though. To be sure, Willie did his thing and impressively showed off his voice here. He will never not make an impression with his talent. However, it seems like he does not always support the notes the way he should and some of the words fall off. That could be an issue of breath control. Towards the end tonight, he got really into the performance, which is great for a live audience and perhaps for compelling television, but the vocals suffered at least a bit.

13. Grace Kinstler- "Dangerous Woman"

The second to last spot goes to Grace. Thank goodness. I had her in third place last night, but I think almost certainly has the best voice this season. She also seems committed to using her curves as a weapon. In the name of female empowerment or whatever, you cannot help but salute her for that, when in the past so many others would have considered it a weakness.
 
I do not love this song or anything but I find it very hard to find anything wrong with how Grace performed it vocally. Every week, she seems likely to step out on stage with the belief that she can blow everyone else out of the water.
 
So, now the final spot comes down to Graham and Hunter. I saw this as the ending several segments ago. Hunter is probably dominating with the votes but they want to make him appear in danger by having him "survive" at the very end. I think that is what will happen. After all, I had him 6th and Graham 11th last night. I have a hunch though that this may not be the end for Graham.

Or, the real shock is about to happen and we will learn that the middle-aged, overweight women of Middle America, who make up the vast bulk of the voting audience, truly lust after Graham over Hunter. This will be a very telling moment for our society.

14. Hunter Metts- "I Can't Make You Love Me"

Of course, it's Hunter. This was an interesting song choice. I do not know if I have ever heard a male sing this Bonnie Raitt ballad and of course Hunter has sort of a higher voice for a dude.

All things considered, it was pretty good, but definitely not perfect. I do not think it was intentional, but Hunter actually seemed a bit nervous and shaky when singing. He might really have been worried about getting through and did say he has a strong friendship with Graham. I think though that coming across as vulnerable in the performance will probably help him get even more votes in the future.

Let's run down the Popular Vote Winners:

Who should have advanced: Willie Spence, Madison Watkins, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Hunter Metts, Ava August, Beane, Alyssa Wray, Alanis Sophia.

Who I predicted would advance: Willie Spence, Madison Watkins, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Hunter Metts, Ava August, Beane, Alyssa Wray, Caleb Kennedy

Who did advance: Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler, Chayce Beckham, Casey Bishop, Hunter Metts, Ava August, Alyssa Wray, Caleb Kennedy, Deshawn Goncalves, Cassandra Coleman

Seven out of 10 for whom I wanted, and eight of out 10 for whom I predicted. Not as bad as I thought.

I am noting that the Top 10 consists of five males and five females. There are seven white kids and three African-Americans, but all the possible racial minorities for the group of 16 have already made it.
 
15. Graham DeFranco- "Cover Me Up"

I have decided that facially, Graham reminds me very much of the 1980s professional wrestler Hillbilly Jim.

He had such a misguided song-choice last night, that it almost seems like everything was scripted for him to have this moment "singing for his life" as the underdog. It was another sort of emo-ish Indy songs but Graham sang it really well. In some ways, he, Hunter, and Chayce, are very much alike vocally. They just all look different. All are probably relieved that fellow white dude Wyatt is gone for whatever reason he is gone.

Rankings:

15. Cassandra Coleman
14. Deshawn Goncalves
13. Colin Jamieson
12.  Beane
11.  Casey Bishop
10.  Caleb Kennedy
 9.   Alysssa Wray
 8.   Alanis Sophia
 7.   Willie Spence
 6.    Hunter Metts
 5.    Madison Watkins
 4.    Ava August
 3.    Graham DeFranco
 2.    Chayce Beckham
 1.    Grace Kinstler

Clearly, I am still not getting the Cassandra and Deshawn victories, but good luck to them. I think this is the end of the road for Colin and Beane, even though I think Beane would deserve to be in a Top 12. So would Alanis for that matter. Maybe she can crash the group next year.

We are told we are only getting two wildcards though and on the merits it should definitely be Graham and Madison, perhaps the two oldest of the competitors left. 

That is what I predict will happen. There is no way they are about to say no to Graham now and in order to keep it a 6-6 by sex split (say that ten times fast), they are going for a female and if it were not Madison, I would have heard my mother at 9:30 on the phone sounding despondent..

Who should have been the wildcard selections as well as whom I predicted: Graham DeFranco and Madison Watkins

Who was selected: Madison Watkins and Beane

Whoa. Are you kidding? Never has there been a more surprising result for a candidate in a pantsuit since Election Night 2016.

This worked out much better for Beane though than it did for Hillary. I do not get it. I have been pretty praiseful of Beane this season but there was no way he was better than Graham tonight. 

Is it possible the producers fear that having Graham around might somehow cause a vote splitting problem for Hunter and/or Chayce? Or with 9 white kids in the Top 12, do they just feel like they have to be woke and a throw a bone to the liberals? 

I wonder if Beane and Caleb talk at all off stage.

Politics can be hard to escape.



Sunday, April 11, 2021

American Idol- Top 16

 Once again, I will be watching a recording of tonight's broadcast of American Idol, pausing to offer comments along the way.
 
As a matter of review, below are my rankings from last week's shows.
 
Group 1:
 
12. Cecil Ray
11. Deshawn Goncalves 
10. Andrea Valles
9. Cassandra Coleman
 
8. Wyatt Pike
7. Alanis Sophia
6. Graham DeFranco
5. Alana
4. Willie Spence
3. Anilee List
2. Alyssa Wray
1. Grace Kinstler
 
I believe the Top 8 should advance but have predicted that Cecil will get the spot over Alanis. I know that there are online spoilers out there containing the results, but I have not looked at them.
 
 Group 2:

12. Hannah Everhart
11. Colin Jamieson
10. Jason Warrior
 9. Caleb Kennedy
 
8. Liahona Olayan
7. Madison Watkins
6. Chayce Beckham
5. Mary Jo Young
4. Beane
3. Hunter Metts
2. Casey Bishop
1. Ava August
 
 Despite these rankings, I am predicting that Caleb Kennedy (without any help from Mayor Daley) finds enough votes to beat out Madison Watkins. My mother, who is a big fan of Madison, refuses to believe this is possible.

Now, let us see what happens:

1. Alyssa Wray- "Killing Me Softly With His Song"

There is no surprise at all that Alyssa made it to the next round. I feel like this was an interesting song choice this early in the competition. This older song is more of a sultry grown-up number than what some think could be more suitable for Alyssa's youthful energy.

She sings it pretty well, showing she is a versatile vocalist but some of the lower notes sounded a bit overdone.

2. Graham DeFranco- "That's Life"

I am glad to see Graham advance, as I predicted he would. For weeks now, I have been thinking that his voice sounds exactly like whomever sang the theme for the sitcom "King of Queens." I looked it up and that is Billy Vera. I think this means Graham will have to do "At This Moment" at some point in the competition.

This was sort of a modern hipster take on a Sinatra hit from the '60's Somehow, I think Frank would have hated it. I thought it was decent, but nothing to get too excited about. Graham is very talented, but I do not think he is the kind of singer that will sell a ton of tickets to an arena show or anything like that. Per the lyrics of the song though, he is now riding high in April. Will he be in the competition in time to be shot down in May?

3. Grace Kinstler- "Elastic Heart"

This was an easy call for America. I had her ranked at the top of the first group last week. Grace continues to show her vocal prowess and confidence in her voice on stage. This was another strong performance, although I find the song itself a little bit boring. It did not really go anywhere but I guess Grace, who did all she could with it, feels like she will be around long enough to really show off on more belty numbers.

4. Alanis Sophia- "The Story"

Here is the first upset for me, although I thought she deserved to advance among her group. The singer, who is named after Alanis Morrisette was dressed tonight like Avril Lavigne from 2002.

There is no doubt that Alanis has a very powerful voice. I do not know though this this song showcased it the best. We have long seen rock songs or other "heavier" songs slowed down into acoustic ballady arrangements, but she went the opposite and made a very low-key song into a rock number with a lot of belting. I think some people, especially those who know the song, may find it a bit jarring and disjointed.

5. Willie Spence- "Set Fire To The Rain"

First of all, not a surprise whatsoever that he was voted through. I feel like Willie might have even been reading the comments I wrote about him last Sunday. This was a very good song choice for him, because it seemed like everything he was doing wound up sounding the same. Taking on Adele (a white female), definitely gave a different element to his vocal while still keeping in his style. I was extremely impressed by the way he sang it. The fact that he knew just went to walk around on stage too, even if that is probably somewhat uncomfortable for him, shows he is very serious about this competition.

6. Deshawn Goncalves- "Feeling Good"

Ok, I did not necessarily see this one coming. I thought he got kind of lost in the shuffle last week, but the fact he advanced, in addition to Willie, who was a sure thing, indicates there may have been a lot of African-American families watching and voting on Easter Sunday.

This song he did though is traditionally a kiss of death of sorts on Idol. I believe everyone who has ever sang it (besides Adam Lambert) went home the same week. I definitely think Deshawn is a very talented singer, and I imagine the judges are going to completely love this, including the way he started at the piano and then got up towards the end, but once again, something felt a bit missing for me. Is he always going to sing older songs while dressed so youthfully? He hit an impressive note towards the end but I just think there are others with more professional sounding vocals.

7. Wyatt Pike- "Use Somebody"

I am not surprised he made it and I thought he deserved to, based mostly on his duet last Sunday. Looking at the remaining list though, there is some bad news at store for one or two of the female A names, and all the confusion that caused. Could it be both Alana and Anilee (speaking of Lists) if young father Cecil gets the country vote?

Wyatt, who is now in the Top 16, looks like he would also be among the Top 16 people in Utah that you could buy weed from. I did not really like this performance. It is one thing for him to have his quirky style, which worked for past contestants like Phillip Phillips, but this felt a bit too manic and I do not think Kings of Leon is really his vibe.

Back from break, the last group A spot goes to... not someone whose name starts with an A but Cassandra Coleman... I am surprised. I was very impressed with her audition, but I have thought she came across as too nervous and a bit vocally shaky since then.

So, Alana and Anilee are both unfortunately out (plus Andrea.) I correctly predicted just five out of eight for this group, but six out of the eight I thought deserved to go forward did. There will "results" on tomorrow night's show. Will there also be performances? How many will be eliminated tomorrow? When will the "Twist" take place (and I do not mean the Chubby Checker song/dance craze.) So many questions, but before I watch Cassandra sing, let's make this official.

Who deserved to be eliminated: Cecil Ray, Deshawn Goncalves, Andrea Valles, Cassandra Coleman
 
Who I predicted would be eliminated: Deshawn Goncalves, Andrea Valles, Cassandra Coleman, Alanis Sophia
 
Who was eliminated: Cecil Ray, Andrea Valles, Alana, Anilee List

8. Cassandra Coleman- "Wicked Game"

She seemed very surprised and emotional to make it. Of course, she had to sing right after. On paper, this is sort of the perfect song for her, but I think she might have failed to live up to expectations.

Cassandra tried to have some big vocal moments on parts that probably should have been sung softer leading up to a more powerful conclusion, and her voice just seemed a bit shaky. Still, it was far from horrible. This was a talented group, besides perhaps for one tonight.

Now, on to Group B

9. Caleb Kennedy- "Midnight Train To Memphis"

Did Major League Baseball relocate the Midnight Train to Georgia? I did predict Caleb would go through, on the strength of being of the few country singers this year, although perhaps at least one person will wind up being more deserving.

I am impressed with his gruff singing style and seeming country authenticity. The blue states are by and large not going to be into him as much. He may do well by continuing to stay in his lane but I doubt he is an actual threat to win. Is he capable of singing a ballad down the road?

10. Colin Jamieson- "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"

This group may bring about some surprises. I did not think he would advance or deserve to. Maybe some of his old boy band fanbase remains intact.

I still think Colin has a very good voice and could have had a moment with this song, which many singers have taken to rearranging in covers in recent years. He just does not seem to commit to the lyrics as much as he needs to. There is something about his boy band training that he cannot shake from the way he keeps imploring the crowd to stand up and clap along or the fact that he is smiling through most of the song and that is affecting his voice.

11. Casey Bishop- "Black Hole Sun"

Finally, someone from this group whom I both predicted would advance and deserved to. Casey must really be into early 90's rock by taking on Soundgarden. I want to hear her try Pat Benatar or maybe Lita Ford.

On the verses, which are quite melodic on this song, I thought she sounded great. The chorus is just lousy though for anyone vocally and Casey's voice sounded a bit grating there. Towards the end, she attempted to take Katy Perry's advice about what to make the stage and really wailed on some impressive high notes. All in all, she is doing very well.

12. Madison Watkins- "Gravity"

Well, I thought she deserved to be in the Top 16, but I thought because at age 26, she would not be as hyped as the much younger female contestants would mean she would miss out. Nonetheless, she made it and I am sure my mother is quite happy about that. Perhaps it was the remark Madison made about being religious to Tori Kelly that got her a lot of votes. Indeed, her age may have worked to her advantage as well as the support of Arkansas.

I thought this song would be a bit boring (at least it was not the John Mayer song of the same name, but instead Sarah Bareilles), but Madison really sang it effectively. I can see how I may have underestimated her. She scored very high vocally in this round. At the very end, she was visibly emotional, while still mostly managing to hit the notes she wanted, so that will likely get her even more votes.
 
13. Beane- "Searching For A Feeling"
 
Another correct prediction. I do not understand the one name gimmick thing he is doing, but he actually is a pretty talented singer and performer. I think in all the past ABC Idol seasons, there may have been at least two openly gay singers early on in the voting competition, but this year, Beane is the only one that we openly know of, so that could be a powerful voting bloc.

I do not know this song but I thought he sang it very credibly and with a lot of confidence. Beane seems like someone who can sing a wide variety of songs, but also has the ability to come across as relevant to today's music scene.
 
As the end approaches, I am going to go on record and say I will be shocked if Hunter, Ava, and Chayce are not the final three to advance. I did have Mary Jo ranked just above Chayce though last week.

14. Hunter Metts- "Skinny Love"

As I have mentioned, I think he is the overall front-runner this season, even if he does not have the best voice on the stage. His voice is still pretty good.

This Bon Iver song from a few years back is not really the music I am into, but that might be because I am rapidly getting older. A ton of kids will love this and how Hunter sang the song. Once again playing acoustic guitar, he sounded pretty good throughout and definitely came across as current. If there were any wonky notes, it was because he was trying to heed the judges advice to not play it as safe as some thought he had been doing, so it is unlikely he will get too much criticism for that.
 
15. Ava August- "2002"

Spot number 15 went to the one 15 year old and neither Ava nor anyone in the building was a bit surprised.

I had never heard this song before. Of course 2002 was before Ava was even born as well. I am not crazy about the vocal effect that she has when she sings, but it is very much the way that many young white female singers do sound, who wind up being very successful. Despite her young age, Ava seems to know exactly whom she is musically and what was was trying to accomplish. Like Beane and Hunter, who had just performed, she is very relevant to what is out there today. Keep Matt Gaetz away from this show.

The last spot does indeed go to Chayce. Poor Mary Jo. Cleveland falls short again.

Like Group A, six out of the eight I thought deserved to make it did. Also this time, I predicted six out the eight. So overall, I predicted 11 out of the 16 which is not that great and saw 12 out of 16 make it whom I deemed worthy.

Who should have been eliminated from Group B: Hannah Everhart, Colin Jamieson, Jason Warrior, Caleb Kennedy

Who I predicted would be eliminated: Hannah Everhart, Colin Jamieson, Jason Warrior, Madison Watkins

Who was eliminated: Hannah Everhart, Jason Warrior, Liahona Olayan, Mary Jo Young

16. Chayce Beckham- "Waiting In Vain"

Fortunately for him, he did not have to "wait in vain" in order to sing last. In fact, Idol did him a favor. I will have to unpause to hear what the judges said but I bet they were very impressed.

Chayce seemed more relaxed this week and thus improved on his vocal performance from six days ago. There was more of a Springsteen vibe to his vocals than Eddie Vedder this time, although I have always tended to find "The Boss" to be overrated. This was a strong showing for the guitar playing, stool sitting contestant, though perhaps the band was maybe a bit too loud and drowned out some of his vocals.
 
Tomorrow night, Sixteen are supposed to become Twelve. If it goes the way I would like it to go, it may be one of the best pound for pound Top 12 in Idol history, but I am still expecting a "Twist." 

Rankings:
 
16. Wyatt Pike
15. Colin Jamieson
14. Cassandra Coleman
13. Deshawn Goncalves
 
12.  Caleb Kennedy
11.  Graham DeFranco
 
10.  Alanis Sophia
 9.   Alyssa Wray
 8.   Beane
 7.   Ava August
 6.   Hunter Metts
 5.   Casey Bishop
 4.   Chayce Beckham
 3.   Grace Kinstler
 2.   Madison Watkins
 1.   Willie Spence 

I will almost certainly be wrong (perhaps Wyatt will have enough people to perhaps beat out Alanis), but I will predict that my Top 12 will be the same as America. I have six males and six females. A split in favor of the males would seem wrong... however, the more I think about it, I think Wyatt beats out Alanis. I just hope Colin does not beat out Madison.

At the very end, Seacrest explains that the Top 10 will be chosen by America and then the judges will pick two more. That changes things. No word on if there will be "wildcard performances" or not.

So, I will now say that my Top 9 get voted in (although I cannot say Madison is a sure thing and even Alyssa going first tonight could have a problem.) I also think Caleb, whom I have 12th will be voted in the Top 10 provided that Trump die-hards were not boycotting ABC tonight.

If the judges will pick two more, without them singing, I think they should pick Alanis and Graham, but unfortunately be more likely to go with Wyatt over Alanis. Also, they could try to make the Finalists more racially diverse and pick Deshawn.

 




Tuesday, April 06, 2021

American Idol Top 24- Part 2

This is definitely going to be a liveblog that I do over the course of two nights. I was watching the NCAA Championship Game and it is too late at night to watch all two hours of the Monday Idol episode and blog about it. After all, I have work Tuesday (even on my birthday.) Then again, I am typing this here from my "office." Soon, it will be one year of working from home. I have rarely, if ever done this, so I am not sure if I will be able to save this entire entry as a "draft" or if I will just publish the first half of it and add to it in the future. It is not like very many people are reading this. I noticed that even the "What Not to Sing" website, with their inclusive database is not planning to cover Idol this season. Back in the day, there used to be hundreds of Idol blogs and websites. Somehow, I endure here.

Anyways, congratulations to Baylor University. The Bears are the Champions! Imagine that. When was the last time that could have been said in a sporting context? It was good to see the "One Shining Moment" montage after two years. Twelve more young singers competed on tape tonight hoping to see their own confetti moment in the near future.

At least I know the Idol format from Sunday night...

1. Jason Warrior- "Call Out My Name" and "How Deep Is Your Love"

The Chicagoan's backstory has been that he somewhat embarrassed himself a few years back on another reality singing show when he reacted badly to Meghan Trainor eliminating him. He should be concerned that  leading off the night might not be a great way to get enough votes and that the Idol Powers may be sending him a message.

Jason is a talented singer but might be on the wrong show. He goes full out gospel, down on his knees and everything at the end of every song apparently, and while he has a set of pipes, he may be trying to do too much. I believe the thing he is doing too much of might be called "melisma." Thirty years or so ago, he would have had a better chance. I do not know who P.J. Morton is for the celebrity duet (sounds like a restaurant chain) and they did not seem to mix very well together on the Bee Gees song. Jason was perhaps trying to win the vocal duel.

The judges loved it though. Perhaps, they were afraid he would come at them.

2. Madison Watkins- "Holy" and "Don't You Worry Bout A Thing"

I think I was more impressed with Madison's vocals during Hollywood Week. I might not get these two song choices. Perhaps it is too bad she had to perform the religious Justin Bieber number on the night after Easter. Then, she sang a Stevie Wonder song as a duet and Idol contestants used to be warned to stay away from Stevie.

For this performance, she sang with Tori Kelly, who was a Star Search contestant as a child, and then as a teenager, was cut during Hollywood Week on Idol. Despite that, she has gone on to have a more successful career than most Idol winners. Tori and Madison definitely have some impressive '80sish curly hair. This just seemed a bit off to me. Madison has a good voice, but I think if Simon Cowell were still around, he would say she was destined to be a "very good nightclub singer."

3. Beane- "Don't Stop Now" and "Angels"

The next contestant has been likened to the modern day gay hipster Mr. Rogers. His vocals were not perfect but I like the way he commits to each performance. His solo number sounded more relevant to today's music scene than the two who had gone before him.

I have to say, I thought Josh Groban sounded a bit weird on "Angels" but I am not supposed to be judging him nor his gold (perhaps silver) Elvis jacket that might have been left over from the Laine Hardy 2019 Idol Collection. Beane sounded decent enough, but the show made a big deal about how he changed the pronoun "she" to "he." Oh please, if he really wanted to be woke, he would have gone non-binary and used "they."

4. Hannah Everhart- "I Was Wrong" and "She's Country."

To the contrary, I think I am right and she would be better off singing Southern Rock (with her Axl Rose bandana) than Country.  Vocally, I thought this was rough (and I bet this was the one my mother did not like.) The teenaged Hannah seems like an interesting character but very raw as a singer and that came across on the "big stage." 

The duet with Jason Aldean was maybe a bit better, but not much. He has a history though of having left his wife for a young Idol also-ran, whom he is now married to, but I think Hannah is safe. Looking back at Hollywood Week, I think what would be more interesting is a reality show with Hannah and her then duet partner, the ultra-troubled Claudia Conway, taking a roadtrip across America.

5. Mary Jo Young- "Castle On The Hill" and "Foolish Games"

The next teenage singer is hoping to become the most famous Mary Jo since the former Mrs. Buttafuoco.  I have a hard time reconciling her performances. I almost want to dislike them, but I always come away thinking she is a better singer than I expected.

First, she sang an Ed Sheerhan song, which may not have been the right one for her, but somehow managed to pull it off. Mary Jo definitely has an affected way of singing and pronouncing words that so many female singers these days do. The godmother of that style may in some ways be Jewel from the mid 90s, and they were matched up on one of Jewel's songs. It sort of seemed to work.

6. Chayce Beckham- "Afterglow" and "Drive"

Last season, a white guy with a guitar, who had recently battled addiction, and who came from the working class part of California made it all the way to the Zoom finale and with that in mind, I have sort of pegged Chayce as a potential frontrunner this season.

He seemed to look and sound a bit nervous though during his solo in which he sang an Ed Sheerhan song as if Eddie Vedder was doing a country tune. The duet with Brandon Boyd of Incubus was better, but Chayce really is trying to milk the Eddie Vedder thing. I expected a bit better, but I think he is probably safe. Is he someone who will be able to perform on stage without the guitar?

7. Colin Jamieson- "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Hollow"

I am really confused by Colin. I get that he is a former member of a minor-league boy band who sort of let himself go after that gig ended and changed his personal and musical style, but he still seems to have the same sort of cheesy/smiley pop thing going on stage that is not always appropriate for the song. I also think he has a really good voice, if he knew how to apply it.

I thought his solo performance was pretty lousy, despite the oddity of playing electric guitar for a portion of a Bruno Mars song. The transition from the bridge to the chorus seemed off because ABC/Disney surely made him cut out the risque lyrics. Colin's duet with Tori Kelly, like most of the duets these past two nights, were better, and he has an impressive high range, but he also seemed to not sing as much as her.

8. Liahona Olayan- "Just Friends" and "Say So"

The show has billed her as being from Hawai'i yet the Idol website says Utah. In any event, she is lucky to not have been cut during the duet round in Hollywood when she all but gave up, because she was upset her brother (who truthfully should never have even gotten a Gold Ticket) had been cut.

As a very young singer, she has an interesting tone to her voice and I think a lot potential to appeal to teens. I did not like the first song she did, but I can see how kids might be into it. Her vocals suffered a bit because she was moving around stage a lot, but that does help her stand out. Her duet with P.J. Morton was far more of a ballad. She proved that she can sing very pleasantly but might have had a hard time standing up vocally with her partner.

9. Ava August- "drivers license" and "Both Sides Now"

At just 15, Ava is the youngest singer in the competition and not quite old enough to obtain a divers license so she can drive through the suburbs and stalk an ex. The song she did for her solo was recently number one on the Billboard charts for a few weeks, and she more or less sang it exactly like the record. It is something that appears to be right up her alley. She knows her voice and is trying to be more of a Lana Del Rey than a pop star.

She then dueted with Josh Groban on a Joni Mitchell hallad I do not know. Vocally, it was stellar. She may not have the pipes that several other singers this season have but her stage presence and musical intelligence in the way she sings is way beyond her years.

10. Caleb Kennedy- "Midnight Rider" and "Fly Over States"

I can believe that young Caleb genuinely is a good ole' boy who might be the one hope this season for actual country fans. There is also the possibility he might show more potential as a songwriter of that genre than a singer himself. I was a bit surprised he did what Hannah should have done and sang a Southern Rock song for his solo instead of leaning in on the country audience. It might have sounded a bit too gruff.

Country fans might be more pleased with the duet he did on a Jason Aldean song, about fly over states, which probably sends the right "own the coastal libs" message to get the Trump voters to vote for this Kennedy.

11. Hunter Metts- "Chandelier" and "Who Will Save Your Soul"

Going into this week, Hunter was my early prediction for the eventual winner. He is a telegenic white guy who plays guitar from the South and of an apparently religious Christian background. All the pieces are in place. I do not necessarily think he will deserve to win, I just see a ton of votes headed his way. Also, nose rings are apparently a huge thing with the kids these days. Someone just needs to approach Ryan Phillipe about a paternity test.

His arrangement of the Sia song was quite interesting and probably the best solo of the night. Hunter does not have a huge voice but he sounds somewhat different than anyone else on this season and also "current." I think he will not come across as weird to some as Wyatt Pike for instance. The duet with Jewel on her song was not exactly enthralling but he sang it very well and it will be interesting to see what kind of music he gravitates to in the weeks ahead.

12. Casey Bishop- "Decode" and "Wish You Were Here"

Yet another teenage singer to close out the lineup tonight. I think she has a lot of potential as a rock singer, but would have been more intrigued if she would have sang songs I like better. She has a great voice, but it can be a bit tinny. I think she is going to improve a lot with age.

I thought she was somewhat better from a rock sense in the duet with Brandon Boyd but was a bit surprised that the producers would save her for the closing spot on the show. They must expect her to go far. I found myself wondering if the Alanis Morrisette loving mother of this season's Alanis Sophia maybe wants to swap daughters.

Rankings:

12. Hannah Everhart
11. Colin Jamieson
10. Jason Warrior
 9. Caleb Kennedy
 
8. Liahona Olayan
7. Madison Watkins
6. Chacye Beckham
5. Mary Jo Young
4. Beane
3. Hunter Metts
2. Casey Bishop
1. Ava August

Once again, we can see the eight I hope will advance and the four that fell short. My prediction though will be very similar to how I am predicting what will happen with the first group. I think the voters will put the young country male singer through, in this case, Caleb, over the female singer I have ranked number 7. That would mean bad news for 25 year old Madison, who is at least 6 years older than every other girl in this group.




Monday, April 05, 2021

American Idol Top 24- Part I

For the first time in nearly two years, American Idol has returned to the "Big Stage" in Hollywood. A small audience is present, wearing masks and sitting in "pods." Things are definitely different from last season's Zoom contest, so I am optimistic that there will be some good entertainment over the next couple of months.

I will be watching a recording of tonight's episodes and live-blogging, pausing after each performance to give brief comments. Per usual, I will rank the performances at the end and make predictions. My understanding is that 12 of the contestants will sing tonight, two songs each, and the other 12 will perform tomorrow. By my count, I believe the semi-finalists this year consist of 13 females and 11 males. Based on what is said at the beginning of the show, there will be solo performances, followed by "celebrity duets" and eight from each night will advance to make a Top 16 that will take part in "live" broadcasts. I have also heard rumors that contestants from last season (which never got to sing an on an actual "live broadcast" stage might somehow find themselves entered into this competition as "wildcards." We will have to see what happens. Idol was a lot more straight-forward back in the day and I miss that easy to  understand format and "results shows."

1. Alanis Sophia- "Alive" and "Shallow"

So, it looks like the kids will have about 30 seconds of a solo performance, heavy on special effects in the background, followed by a longer duet, in which the two singers interact at a Dr. Fauci level apprpved distance.

I am impress with Alanis's voice. I wonder how much she really wants to try to keep her hair (as her mother also has) the same as Alanis Morrisette, whom she was named after. For her duet, they paired her with Jimmie Allen, whom I have never heard of, but apparently auditioned for Idol a decade ago. He did not get very far at the time. He seemed to sing more of it than Alanis and overpowered her at times. Still, she has a big voice and I want to see what else she can do.

2. Cassandra Coleman- "Find Me" and "Apologize"
 
This coffee shop manager is not as much of a belter as some of the other female performers, but she seems to be trying to swing at the same speed. I thought her solo started off pretty good and then went slightly off the rails.

For the duet, Ryan Tedder emerged and was about as generous in sharing the spotlight (not overly so) as he was when he sang this with David Archuleta at the 2008 Idol Finale, (when this song was really big.) For Cassandra, this was another good effort, but I think she may have sang it better when she performed it at the piano by herself at the audition. A couple of notes sounded a bit off.


3. Alyssa Wray- "Something In The Water" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight"

I could tell from her first audition that Idol producers seem to be pimping her to be the eventual winner this season. Indeed, I have found her very impressive from the start, and whether she loses to a white guy with a guitar or not, I think Alyssa could have a major career.


In a way, despite her young age, she reminds me of a more seasoned Jordin Sparks, from her run on Idol, and tonight she took on another Idol winner, Carrie Underwood, with a very credible country twist, before dueting with Idol alum Katherine McPhee (apparently after she had her baby with husband David Foster) on a very R&B like Whitney Houston number that seems very hard to sing. Unlike the others before her, Alyssa is definitely not lacking in confidence. I think she may go very far this season, although I am suspicious of the claim that she is old enough to actually remember McPhee's 2005 Idol season.

 

4. Wyatt Pike- "rubberband" and "Brand New"

There will be polarization over Wyatt, mostly based on the age of the viewer. I already feel like I am too old to totally get him and his quirky Indie folk rock style, so people of my parents' generation are likely to really find him weird. He definitely has talent, but I did not really enjoy his solo.

However, I think the duet went better than I expected. I do not know this song or who Ben Rector is, but he seems very much in league with the kind of artist the Wyatt wants to be and I thought they meshed well together.


5. Alana- "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" and "Back At One"

I anticipated that Alana (one name only) might get sort of lost in the shuffle tonight because of all the other female A name singers and because I can barely remember her from the audition episodes. I have to admit though that she had a fairly strong showcase. I did not love the Dua Lipa solo song, but she sang it well and added in a bit of a rap breakdown, which is not often attempted on Idol.


Then, she sang Brian McKnight's well known song from the '90s which he claims to have never done as a duet. In truth, the song was mostly about him, but she sounded more than adequate on the parts she was given too. McKnight was recently on Fox's "Masked Dancer", and I with the two networks would do a crossover where the Idol hopefuls have to duet with one of the "Masked Singers" and automatically advance if they can guess the identity.


6. Anilee List- "my future" and "Tell Me Something Good"

These are really hard to rank tonight because everyone is doing quite well and they are bunched together. I keep waiting for someone to lay an egg on stage. I do tend to be biased against singers who do not perform in shoes on the Idol stage.

Anyway, Anilee sang one of these lowercase hipster songs, in this case by Billie Elish, pretty well. She has a lot of soul for a skinny white girl from Los Angeles with a nose ring. This was proven even more on her duet with Joss Stone. Like Alyssa, Anilee is pretty much up to par in terms of confidence and stage presence and had no trouble holding her own in the pairing with the professional.


7. Deshawn Goncalves- "Forever Young" and "I Lived"

He proved he is a talented vocalist, but compared to the others thus far, something felt missing from his segment. I did not really like the arrangement of the Bob Dylan song (which I first came to know as a vastly re-arranged Rod Stewart song.) It started off acapella and felt more musical theater like than gospel, which I think he was trying to go for and did not really have a moment.

Then Ryan Tedder did the duet and once again seemed a little bit too competitive on his part. I am curious why Tedder has the "Divided We Fall" Ben Franklin snake tattoo on his arm. Once again, Deshawn seemed just a little bit off his game.

8. Graham DeFranco- "Raye" and "Love Like This"

During the audition rounds, Graham has come across as a very nice guy, but I have found his singing a bit on the boring side. He definitely has a higher voice than would be expected from his husky frame. To my semi-surprise tonight, I was really impressed by him vocally.  He certainly has his own vocal vibe which will be unique this season and time will tell if the fans will take to him.

I thought his duet with Ben Rector (whom he met at a High School performance years ago) was really good. I know nothing at all about Mr. Rector but he seems to have done a great job working on two male contestants in the duets tonight.

9. Andrea Valles- "Los Vos A Olvidar" and "Careless Whisper"

This was an odd combination of songs. Before the Texas wedding singer explained to Brian McKnight that she recently had eye surgery, it was impossible to ignore that she was wearing an eyepatch. Hey, it worked for Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw.

Her first song was mostly in Spanish, which might appeal to some folks out there and she sang it nicely, but without much of an impact. I liked what Brian McKnight did with Careless Whisper, but Andrea, while a good singer, seems to be lacking that star factor.

10. Cecil Ray- "Paint Me A Birmingham" and "Freedom Was A Highway"

During his solo, I was a bit relieved to finally hear someone who sounded a bit over their head. After all, that is how the first semifinal episode of American Idol is supposed to go for some. He looked nervous (and that attempt to grow a mustache was a huge mistake) and sounded too nasally.

His duet with Jimmie Allen was a good deal better than and might potentially save him from elimination. There is some potential there, but all in all, Cecil still seems a bit too rough around the edges vocally. The very young father probably needs to have his infant daughter with him on camera as much as possible to go very far this year.

11.  Willie Spence- "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "The Prayer"

A lot of Idol viewers have been and will continue to be convinced that Willie will be the "one to beat" this season. There is no doubt that he is an enormously talented singer and people will want to root for him based on his humble origins and back story, such as learning tonight that his grandfather just died of Covid (and I guess I did not know that Kat McPhee's father, whom I remember crying every time she sang on the Idol stage passed away a few years ago.)

Willie can definitely sing in the gospel sounding way he does and appeal to older audiences of all races. I just do not think he is going to be able to demonstrate much versatility this season. All of his songs are likely to sound good, but they are also probably going to really all sound the same. Way back when Ruben Studdard won Idol, but one could at least see a possibility for R&B relevance back then that Willie likely lacks. Other really good African-American male "church singers" have failed to make the Top 2 throughout Idol history.

12.  Grace Kintsler- "Queen" and "Midnight Train To Georgia"

I am going to briefly digress here and get political but are we sure the Midnight Train to Georgia has not been cancelled? I could go on and on about this issue in the news about the new voter laws in the State of Georgia. There are pros and and cons to what was passed but basically what I feel like saying is that for someone like me who voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump because of what a shameless liar Trump was (including the false narrative that he was cheated in Georgia), it is disappointing to see Biden now go on and contribute to a narrative of lies on his own. I wish he would leave up to the promises he made in his campaign and Inaugural address and not falsely escalate every political battle into it becomes as he put it a "raging fire."

Now, back to Idol and the north Chicago suburbs' own Grace Kinstler closing out the night. Her solo, which I had never heard before was all about how she loves her body. Good for her to go with that because a lot of people will be talking about her body throughout the season. We already know she lost a lot of weight a few years back, but inexplicably only from the waist up. Nonetheless, Sir Mix A Lot will definitely love her body and a whole lot of others will also love her voice.

 She knows she is good and can do crazily impressive things with her voice. That was on display tonight, especially in the duet with Joss Stone. Perhaps some people may think she is showing off too much, but if she can do what does consistently, she might as well go for it.

 Here are my rankings from worst to first, with the salute to all 12 that at least on the duets, they all were all at the minimum above average. They were pretty lucky to not be a part of last season's Idol and all that those kids were forced to make the best of.

 

12. Cecil Ray
11. Deshawn Goncalves 
10. Andrea Valles
9. Cassandra Coleman
 
8. Wyatt Pike
7. Alanis Sophia
6. Graham DeFranco
5. Alana
4. Willie Spence
3. Anilee List
2. Alyssa Wray
1. Grace Kinstler
 

The divide is shown as to whom I think should advance and those who might miss out in this strong group of competitors. What will happen? I think there is a chance Cecil may get through on the sympathy vote (eye patches are maybe not as big of a deal than baby daughters) and that could spell trouble for Alanis Sophia or the similarly named Alana.

So, if I have to predict, I say Cecil will unfairly be put through and Alanis will be sent home and America will to be reminded of the mess we left when she went away. We oughta know.