Page 1 of 14
CLICK HERE TO JUMP DIRECTLY TO MOST RECENT WEEK
American Idol begn in earnest this week, as the top 24 contestants took to the live Idol stage to perform for America's votes. Last season's format for the semi-final rounds has been scuttled, and it has returned to the format more familiar to viewers of seasons 4 through 7. Each week, the women and men perform on differnet nights with the bottom two going home each week for the next three rounds. When the semi-finals are done, we'll have our top 12 that will go on to the big stage at the Kodak Theater.
Looking at the way the competition has shaped up so far, we don't think it's going too far out on a limb to predict that the winner of this season will be female. Let's take a look at the performances from this week.
American Idol 9: Semi-Finals Round 1 Ladies' Performances, Tuesday 2/23/10
(1) Paige Miles sang "All Right Now" by Free (1970). Good, but not great, performance. Verses were fine, but Paige was swallowed up by the background singers and the band during the chorus (refrain). We'd rate it a B+ and feel that Paige should be safe when the results are revealed.
(2) Ashley Rodriguez sang "Happy" by Leona Lewis (2009). Subpar rendition that compares noticeably quite unfavorably to the original by Simon Cowell discovery Leona Lewis. Simon felt that Ashley could be "in trouble" when the results are revealed, and we agree. Grade: C
(3) Janell Wheeler sang "What About Love" by Heart (1985). We liked Janell during Hollywood Week with her great, stripped down performance of Estelle's "American Boy" on acoustic guitar, but a Heart power ballad was way beyond the scope of her talent and her voice simply lacks the power necessary to sell that song. Going off key several times did not help matters. Grade: C
(4) Lilly Scott sang "Fixing a Hole" by The Beatles (1967). Although Sgt. Pepper is often cited as the greatest album ever in the Rock Era of music, this minor, unknown cut was a strange song choice, and we didn't feel that Lilly did anything to make us love this song or bring it to life for the vast majority of viewers who have never heard it before. It was sung reasonably well, but performed blandly. Grade: B
(5) Katelyn Epperly sang "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles (1969). Epperly's torch song rendition really worked for us, and it had almost a country flavor to it. Katelyn delivered a good, solid vocal – the best of the night up until then – and we really couldn't find any faults here. Grade: A-
(6) Haeley Vaughn sang "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles (1963). Haely's version of this well-known Beatles classic was youthful and jubilant, and while there were some bum notes, we liked her vocals and performance overall. Grade: B
(7) Lacey Brown sang "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac (1975). The worst vocal of the night. Lacey's voice fell flat many times throughout her performance, and because her voice couldn't reach the rich depths that Stevie Nicks' could, the song was ultimately emotionally uninvolving. Grade: D
(8) Michelle Delamor sang "Fallin'" by Alicia Keyes (2001). Good and solid, but we agree with Ellen in that it fell so squarely within Michelle's comfort zone that it was a little too safe. Still, unquestionably one of the best vocals of the night. Grade: A-
(9) Didi Benami sang "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson (2007). We liked this a whole lot more than Simon did and thought it was one of the better vocals delivered by the women that night. Didi's voice and highly commercial appearance should guarantee her safety when the results are revealed. Grade: A-
(10) Siobhan Magnus sang "Wicked Games" by Chris Isaak (1989). Siobhan pleasantly surprised us with this difficult song choice. Her vocals were evocative and haunting, and she was definitely our favorite of the night. Grade: A
(11) Crystal Bowersox sang "Hand in My Pocket" by Alanis Morissette (1995). Crystal accompanied herself on both the acoustic guitar and the harmonica and delivered a solid folk rock performance. We felt that Crystal was convincing and authentic in that genre, but wonder how she'll fare if she makes it to the top 12 and has to sing more diverse types of songs. Grade: B+
(12) Katie Stevens sang "Feeling Good" from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1965). This has been covered more than once on American Idol – Adam Lambert did it last year. We liked Katie's rendition and disagree with the judges that it was too old for her. Again, another good, solid vocal, and Katie should have no problem making it through to the next round. Grade B+
We think that overall, the ladies delivered a solid night of performances especially taking into account that this was the first night and everyone's nerves are heightened. Our picks for the bottom 2 would have to be from among Lacey Brown, Ashley Rodriguez, and Janell Wheeler, with the first two being our definitive choices.
Who will actually be in the bottom two and going home? We'll find out on Thursday.
American Idol 9: Semi-Finals Round 1 Men's Performances, Wednesday 2/24/10
(1) Todrick Hall sang "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson (2004). Todrick gave a funked up version of Kelly's big hit. Did we say "funked" up? Hmmm. We didn't like it, and the judges mostly felt the same. Grade: C-
(2) Aaron Kelly sang "Here Comes Goodbye" by Rascal Flatts (2009). Aaron simply didn't have the vocal chops to tackle this difficult Rascal Flatts song, which was co-written by American Idol Season 6 finalist, Chris Sligh. His voice went off-key several times, and it was a lackluster performance in general. Grade: C+
(3) Jermaine Sellers sang "Get Here" by Oleta Adams (1991). Another mediocre-at-best performance. The loud parts were screechy; the soft parts were underdone. Overall, not good and way too over the top. Grade: C
(4) Tim Urban sang "Apologize" by One Republic (2006). Tim started off decently in the verse, but once he hit the chorus and tried to go to the falsetto range, he quickly showed the severe limitations in his voice. The song was simply out of his range, and he knew it. Grade: C
(5) Joe Muñoz sang "You and I Both" by Jason Mraz (2004). Joe gave the best vocal of the night thus far, and performed the song charismatically. Jason Mraz is a pretty distinctive artist, but Joe did a respectable version. Unfortunately, Simon gave damamging criticism in that he called it forgettable. Grade: B+
(6) Tyler Grady sang "American Woman" by The Guess Who (1970). Tyler busted out the leather pants and his best Jim Morrison stage moves, and while the vocal was fairly good, we agree with Simon in that his performance was cliche and too on-the-nose in terms of being a 70s rock star. All the judges gave him severely damaging criticism. Grade: B
(7) Lee DeWyze sang "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol (2006). Nice vocal by Lee who reminded us of a more rock version of last season's Danny Gokey in terms of his vocal tone. His performance, where he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar, was energetic and a crowd-pleaser. Grade: B+
(8) John Park sang "God Bless the Child" by Billie Holiday (1942). John's voice sounded fine when he opened up and sang the higher parts of the song, but his lower register was lacking and inconsistent. Overall, however, it was one of the better performances of the night. However, we did agree with Simon in that it was performed too devoid of passion and emotion. Grade: B-
(9) Michael Lynche sang "This Love" by Maroon 5 (2004). Michael has very much the same stage charisma as previous Idol winner, Reuben Studdard, but without the great vocal talent that Studdard had. Taking a Maroon 5 song, that contains many falsetto parts, and singing a mid-register version all the way through rendered the song ineffective and compared very unfavorably to the original. Grade: B-
(10) Alex Lambert sang "Wonderful World" by James Morrison (2006). Alex has a great, interesting tone to his voice somewhat similar to Lee DeWyze who performed earlier. There were some rough patches in his performance, but overall, we did like his vocal. His stage presence needs work, but we did feel that Simon took the criticism too far. Grade: B
(11) Casey James sang "Heaven" by Bryan Adams (1985). Beyond all the schtick surrounding Kara's crush on him, Casey did deliver a rock-solid vocal that sat perfectly within his vocal range. Every year it seems Idol selects a guy to be the designated heartthrob, and this year it's Casey. That can be a huge disadvantage if it starts to overshadow him as an artist, but so far he has proved himself vocally. Grade: A
(12) Andrew Garcia sang "Sugar, We're Goin Down" by Fall Out Boy (2005). Coming into the competition, Andrew was already a fan favorite thanks to both his previous following on YouTube as well as his acoustic rendition of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" during Hollywood Week that has also become a YouTube hit. Andrew gave our favorite vocal of the night with a highly entertaining version of the Fall Out Boy song. Every note in tune, this was great from start to finish. The judges all gave him some really inappropriate criticism and unfortunately put him in the position where he had to compete with himself and his earlier Idol performance and actually made him feel as if he had failed tonight. Ridiculous. Grade: A
Our guesses for the two men to be eliminated would be from among Tim Urban, Todrick Hall, and Jermaine Sellers.
Looking at the two nights, it was pretty clear to us that the ladies delivered better than the guys overall, but there were some great performances from a select few of the men. Some frontrunners are already beginning to emerge to us. From the ladies, we think Katelyn Epperly, Michelle Delamor, Didi Benami, and Siobhan Magnus will all make it into the top 12. From the guys, Andrew Garcia and Casey James are pretty much guaranteed to advance. We also expect good things from Lee DeWyze, Alex Lambert, and Michael Lynche, although with Lynche, it's more due to his charisma and backstory because his vocals haven't wowed us at any point thus far.
American Idol 9: Semi-Finals Round 1 Results, Thursday 2/25/10
The results show both surprised us and did not surprise us. For the women, we correctly guessed who would be in the bottom two, but for the men, we were completely off. Tim Urban's backstory about being a second-chance pick after the dismissal of Chris Golightly and his teen-appeal looks may have won him some fans, but he will definitely have to step up his vocals or he'll be gone by the midlist even if he does make top 12.
Joe Muñoz's dismissal caught us completely off guard, but Simon's harsh criticism about his performance being very forgettable might have been the only thing the voting audience remembered about him. Tyler Grady's being voted off was also a bit of a surprise, but not a completely shocking development. However, we really feel that all three of our guy nominees to be voted off were more appropriate than the two that America actually voted off, but even if they had remained in the contest, we didn't see either one of them actually winning.
So, in summary, the four contestants voted off after the Round 1 Semi-Final performances were: Ashley Rodriguez, Janell Wheeler, Joe Muñoz, and Tyler Grady.