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." 

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.



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