Sunday, April 14, 2019

American Idol Top 14

Tonight, it what was clearly another pre-recorded broadcast, the group of 14 Finalists from the 17th season of American Idol made their "big stage debuts. While I will have to catch a DVR recording of tomorrow's episode, I was able to watch this one as it aired. I ranked the performances at the time, and will construct my comments based on memory.

There were a couple trainwrecks tonight in my view, a couple others that did not live up to expectation, at least one that exceeded my expectations, and some very strong showings from the usual suspects. I was not so sure about the song selections from some, but all things considered, it was a good night, and there are some worthy people to advance. My understanding is that the Top 7, as voted by America will get a free pass to the Top 10, and then with everyone singing a second time tomorrow, the three judges will pick three out of the remaining four as "wildcards."

The judges claimed to love everything tonight. There was hardly a critical word for anyone. Some contestants were not told the truth. This is perhaps the biggest change in American Idol from it's early days.

It looks like the only way to vote is to either text your vote or to create an account on the show's official website before voting that way. For now, I do not feel like taking the step of creating an account.

1. Laine Hardy- "That's All Right"

Last week, I noted that he seemed to be trying to channel young Elvis and this week he went for it even further. I recall he was once a very young Elvis impersonator. Thankfully, he did not try to imitate "The King's" vocal stylings. He sang this old song pretty well and looked comfortable on stage. I think he did it a lot better than Scotty McCreery, another southern teenage contestant of the past who considered Elvis an early inspiration. This was sort  of "safe" for him though. It shows nothing about what kind of current artist he would be. I think Laine has a shrewd strategy of trying to appeal to the oldest fans in the viewing audience, who still remember Elvis.

2. Evelyn Cormier- "The Middle"

We know she can do an impressive rendition of "Wicked Game" and was credible at least on Peter, Paul, and Mary, but what in the world was she thinking trying to do a semi-rock song from not all that long ago? I thought this was horrible. The song did not match her voice whatsoever and at times, her vocals seemed to disappear altogether. Surely, this would be the worst of the night, right?

3. Alyssa Raghu- "She Used To be Mine"

I thought Alyssa, as the first ever "returning" Idol was strong in the audition rounds, but less than stellar at the Wiltern Theater. Tonight, she impressed me on singing a song I did not know. She hit every note and looked supremely confident the entire time. I cannot exactly remember how the song went, but it was a power ballad. Alyssa has certainly been waiting a full year plus for this moment. If she somehow goes all the way in this competition (which I doubt), she will a lot in common with the Virginia Cavaliers basketball team which lost last year to the #16 seed in the First Round.

4. Eddie Island- "Bennie And The Jets"

While he has not been one of my favorites, I have accepted the fact that Eddie is a decent singer. That was not on display tonight. This reminded me more of an old syndicated show where regular people would be "transformed" into a celebrity and they would then sing that singer's song. Eddie looked a lot like Elton John for this performance but did not sound like him. In fact, I thought he sounded really bad.

5. Riley Thompson- "Suds In The Bucket"

Ugh. Unlike Evelyn and Eddie, I can at least sort of understand her strategy. I thought Riley was very lucky to be chosen over better singers to reach this point. She picked the same country song here that Kellie Pickler once performed (and which Simon Cowell hated.) Riley sorta pulled off a couple of high notes, but other than that, I thought this was extremely subpar and corny. She continues to sound more like Britney Spears than a genuine country singer.

6. Wade Cota- "Trouble"

Well, this song has certainly been done a couple times on Idol before. From the start, I have liked the grit in Wade's voice. He explained it in his video introduction tonight saying he used to be a heavy metal singer and might have damaged his voice. I wanted to like this vocal tonight but he did not sound as good as he has before. His voice legitimately sounds like it has been damaged. With all the singing he will have to do for this show, it's not going to get any better. That is unfortunate, despite the fact that in his conversational interactions, he is shrewder than he lets on. If his voice is  healthy, it would be interesting to see him sing some metal.

7. Dimitrius Graham- "Perfect"

I give a lot of credit to the contestant for taking on this Ed Sheerhan song, which may be the most played on radio over the past year and rearranging it a bit to make it sound more R&B. There were parts where I thought Dimitrius sounded really good. Apparently, he actually does have an opera background. Nonetheless, I detected a couple bum notes towards the end. I think he is incredibly talented, but America is voting now, and like a couple of the others, will they "get" him?

8. Madison VandenBurg- "Fallin"

I accidentally just typed her name as Kelly Clarkson. I guess that might say it all .What does Ms. Clarkson, the "Voice" coach think when she sees clips of Madison? I think Madison is a fantastic singer. It was almost like Kelly would have done this song on Season 1 when it would have been very current. A lot of time has passed though and Madison does indeed sound very much like Kelly. Nonetheless, she was very strong tonight, starting off at the piano (which I do not believe Kelly plays) to then standing up and taking the mic. I guess if Laine tries to sort of be Elvis and Eddie can fail at being Elton John, then Madison can keep on being the new Kelly Clarkson.

9. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon- "We All Fall In Love Sometimes"

It is interesting that JLH says that things with his parents are now better. I wonder if they threatened to sue him for talking so much about him on tv. Probably not, but just watch, if he makes it to the Finale, they will be there in tears pridefully cheering him on. That will be the "arc." Based on vocals alone, he might get that far. I do not know this particular Elton John song, but Jeremiah sang it pitch perfect and his voice is really unique. While it might be a challenge to see him do something uptempo, this sort of song was right up his alley. I can definitely see him having a Josh Groban like post Idol career.

10. Uche- "Finesse"

I also did not know this Bruno Mars song. It is very obvious that Uche is one hell of an entertainer. Many people will love him for that, some will be shocked. He brought out some seriously fierce dance moves tonight. Vocally, he also managed to sound pretty well, though not exactly flawless. The song started off as a ballad and then went majorly uptempo. Eventually, he might actually have to sing an actual ballad to prove he has the vocal chops.

11. Alejandro Aranda- "One Dance"

I never understood the appeal of this Drake song but I know the kids loved it. Tonight, AA seriously surprised me. I assumed he was just a chill acoustic guitar playing cat. Who knew he also dabbled in electronica? He played the electric keyboard for this song but it was set up in a way, complete with a drum machine beat, that made him look like he was deejaying. That is indeed some versatility. However, his vocals were similar. Very high without much in the way of dynamics. He has a good one trick with his voice, but it appears to only be one trick.

12. Ashley Hess- "Fix You"

This original version of this song is boring but occasionally you hear some nice covers of it. That was certainly the case tonight. Ashley stayed at home, at the piano, and provided a seemingly effortless rendition of the Coldplay number. A couple of notes sounded a bit wonky to me, but they probably were delivered by the singer as intended.

13. Laci Kay Booth- "I Miss You"

Here is another song I have not heard from a group I remember. From what I gather, the thing that the judges seem to like most about LKB is the way she sings in affected manner where you cannot really decipher the lyrics. She does that fairly well. She always sounds pleasant and connected, but also a little boring.

14. Walker Burroughs- "Climb Evr'y  Mountain"

This was definitely an interesting song choice for the first ever Season 17 voting pimp slot. Walker is going to try to ride his nerd chic/Harry Potter thing for as long as he can. Picking an old musical number was pretty bold. I think he has probably sang this in a school play before. It sounded like the young females in the audience were legit screaming for this. If so, I am not sure I get that to say the last. To be sure, the vocal was pretty good. He seems to be a true student of  music, but unless he is trying to go on Broadway after Idol (which many former contestants have done), it said virtually nothing for what kind of artist he would be.

Rankings on vocals alone from Worst to Best.

14. Eddie Island
13. Evelyn Cormier
12. Riley Thompson
11. Alejandro Aranda
10. Wade Cota
 9.  Uche
 8.  Laci Kay Booth

 7.  Dimitrius Graham
 6.  Walker Burroughs
 5.  Ashley Hess
 4.  Laine Hardy
 3.  Alyssa Raghu
 2.  Madison VanDenburg
 1.  Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

So, you can see whom I would pick as the Top 7 to advance automatically. I will note that  I had a distinct Bottom Three for this episode.

How will America vote though for the Top 7? Based on everything I think I know about the current voting audience (which is probably different for ABC Sunday nights than it used to be during the week on Fox), I expect America to agree with me on Jeremiah, Madison, Laine, Ashley, and Walker. However, instead of advancing Alyssa and Dimitrius on the merits, I expect those spots to go to Laci Kay and Wade.

The judges will be shocked, without exactly saying why, that minority contestants  Alyssa, Alejandro, Uche, and Dimitrius did not advance. Indeed, three (or more?) may be the wildcard picks. I will judge who is deserving after I watch the Monday episode. It is worth noting that the one "racial minority" who will be voted through is Bayou Boy Laine Hardy, whom I believe is half-Filipino. I will already predict he will go further than any Asian-American male ever has in Idol history.

In any event, I think the time is approaching for the end of the runs for Eddie, Evelyn, and Riley. Someone else will have to join them though, and it will almost certainly be someone I wish could stick around.


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