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.


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.


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