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.


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.


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