Friday, February 12, 2016

Top 24 Part 2: 12 out of 24 Sing Duets w/Idol Alums & Eliminations


Welcome back. In the past 15 years there have been many notable winners, contestants, losers and judges. Tonight many of the more notable contestants and some winners are returning to lend their voices to duet with the same 12 contestants that we saw last night. Not only will we get to see 12 duets but we will also see the elimination of 5 contestants. So more that 40% of the contestants we see singing tonight will be gone by the end of the night, unless they come back as a Wildcard in a couple weeks. So a lot to get to. I am very excited to see a lot of these past contestants again. So let's get to it:

Duets with Current and Idol Alums

Emily Brooke and Lauren Alaina(Season 10 Runner-Up)
(Flat on the Floor by Carrie Underwood)
Lauren Alaina seems like an appropriate choice for a duet with Emily. Emily had a tough night last week. Lauren starts the song but Emily comes on strong. Right away she sounds more confident and stronger than last night. Their voices are very complimentary to each other. Lauren was a formidable foe for Scotty McCreery in Season 10, the fact that Scotty was so country and she was so country made it tough for her to overtake his spot, but any other season Lauren could have done well as the lone great country singer. Tonight was so much better for Emily. Not sure if it makes up for last night, but much stronger.  
Judges Comments-Harry-Learned that their was a difference in age and growing, she sounds like a young young singer. Not sure if that loud, rocking song is right for her. Hung pretty well with her. Keith-Lauren's experience is immense compared. Not in her lane. Jennifer-Gonna be interesting to see the difference between past contestants and those on new journeys. 
Grade=B

Thomas Stringfellow & Nick Fradiani (Season 14 Winner)
(Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson)
Nick is the most current Idol winner, so he just came from this experience, so he tries to give Thomas advice to not overthink things, which is what Nick did a lot in the beginning of his journey. This song was a notable for Nick last year, it made him stand out. This is a big song for Thomas, who usually does more subtle, acoustic-y songs. He got over-shined by Nick. Just happened, not a big knock, but Nick is more experienced and has a stronger voice. Thomas sounded so much better last night then tonight. Really wasn't the best song for him.
Judge's Comments- Keith-Hard to sing next to Nick that won it last year. Struggled with doing a version that isn't his. Jennifer-Song felt more Nick than Thomas. Harry-Thankful that he was extremely strong last night. Because last night was phenomenal.
Grade=C+

Stephany Negrete & Ruben Studdard (Season 2 Winner) 
(Superstar-The Carpenters)
It's been awhile since Season 2, 13 years is a long time, but Ruben singing this song that helped make him a winner.  Stephanie held her own with Ruben on one of his notable songs. She was subdued when she had to be, she was strong at other times. It was pretty. I gotta be honest I was more for Clay Aiken than Ruben to be the eventual Season 2 winner, but everything happens for a reason, and he is the first male winner on the show, so that's something. Nice job by Stephany.
Judge's Comments-Jennifer-Really blended well with Ruben. Really beautiful magic happened. Harry-Came out in a seperate entrance and was strong. Nice job. Keith-It was so beautiful, gorgeous song choice. Voices blend well tonely. He brought out the best in her.
Grade=B+

Sonika Vaid & Caleb Johnson (Season 13 Winner)
(Skyfal by-Adele)
You'd think that Caleb's rock, strong, powerful voice would work well with Sonika's tender, yet quietly powerful voice, but it's kind of a cool combination. Caleb can tell Sonika thinks too much, wants her to be confident. I love this song, so it makes me get into the performance right away. Their voices are so different, but it really works on this song. It's a bigger song than she has ever done. She held her own, that's all I can say. She had a much more lovely performance last night, but this was quite good, and pushed her.
Judge's Comments=Harry-Enjoyed it a lot. Giggling because she is nervous and this is new and it's adorable. Held her own with someone so loud and strong. Keith-Great song for both of them. Great together. Jennifer-Well suited song that worked for both of them. Nerves and feeling she is having, she needs to loosen up. 
Grade=B+

Jenna Renae & Scotty McCreery (Season 10 Winner)
(See You Tonight by Scotty McCreery)
Scotty gives her advice to stay in her lane no matter the genre of the week.  It's cool to see Scotty again, and to have Jenna sing one of his songs is pretty cool. Scotty is dominating in this song, but given it's actually his song, that makes sense. Jenna's voice is really strong and this was a good song choice for the two of them. At times at felt like she was his background singer instead of his duet partner, but when she had he opportunity to sing on her own, it was very pretty.
Judge's Comments=Keith-Tricky cause it's his song, tough to critique what she did, but lovely voice. Jennifer-The song suited well for the two of them. Harry-As entertaining as a solid performance.
Grade=B

La'Porsha Renae & Fantasia (Season 3 Winner)
(Summertime-Ella Fitzgerald)
La'Porsha is a big Fantasia fan, she relates to Fantasia not only professionally, but personally as well. This song is arguably Fantasia's most notable song and performance, and led to her win. I think it is almost unquestionable.  Gotta say I really love that I got to hear Fantasia sing this song. For her to sing this song with La'Porsha is a great combination. Their voices together was pretty unbelievable. They are both powerhouse singers, so it was so cool to hear, see and enjoy.
Judge's Comments=Jennifer-Fun to see things like that, seeing Fantasia sing with La'Porsha was mind blowing. She is amazing. Harry-So great to hear Fantasia, but got what they hoped. Keith-First one that is beautifully matched. Beautiful force meets an unmovable object.
Grade=A-

Mackenzie Bourg & Lauren Alaina
(I Hope You Dance, Lee Ann Womack)
Lauren gets to sing another song tonight. Lauren loves Mackenzie and doesn't hide her crush on him. This is a real country song, but Mackenzie is not country, so he did a nice job making it his own. They had a nice chemistry and dynamic to this performance. I liked to see him step out of his comfort zone a little.
Judge's Comments=Harry-So much talent in the ranks of American Idol is overwhelming. Takes a lot of guts to sing something for someone like Lauren and do this different. Sweet, but thankful for last night. Set the bar for how talented he is. Keith-First time saw Lauren blush. Sparks were flying. Loves what he does with songs. Makes it his own. Jennifer-It felt really nice. Felt mismatched but still someone nice together. 
Grade=B+

Gianna Isabella & Nick Fradiani
(Beautiful Life-Nick Fradiani)
This was Nick's Idol winning song. This song was very far from Gianna's element. She is like power ballad, but this was more rock and Nick just over dominated her. At times she was drowned out by Nick or the band or background singers. It was more of an anthem song, then showcase for her voice.
Judge's Comments=Keith-Thought it was good. Jennifer-It was a good song choice. Perfect song. Harry-Still trying to figure her out. Mysterious to see if she is goofy and young kind. Gift is really special. 
Grade=B-

Avalon Young & Ruben Studdard
(Flying Without Wings-Ruben Studdard)
This was the song that Ruben sang when he won, it's one of his most memorable song performances.It's not a song that Avalon would ever sing, but I loved hearing Ruben singing this song on the Idol stage, it's been such a long time. Avalon tried, but it didn't do much. The notes were big for Ruben and a little less for Avalon, she tried, but this is his song. Tough to switch it up and make it different. She still has such a nice voice, and that can't be denied.
Judge's Comments=Jennifer-Incredible. Great song. It was equally matched. Showed how great she was by standing beside her. Did a real duet, sang together, and feeling it together. Harry-So incredibly likeable. Looks fun to hang out with, and her voice is just surprising. Nice package. Keith-So real. Doesn't seem intimidated next to Ruben, who is phenomenal.
Grade=B

 James VIII & Caleb Johnson
(Gimme Shelter-The Rolling Stones) 
James is a real nice guitarist, vocalist, not so sure. James didn't impress me last night, and although he was better tonight, it still was lacking. Caleb's voice is so big and strong, and James is just there. There wasn't anything special by James, he just sang the song and added a little bit, but not enough.
Judge's Comments=Harry-That's gotta be tough. Talented, but that was Caleb's wheelhouse. Did a pretty darn good job hanging in there. Keith-Did a great job hanging with the big dog. Likes the way he performed. Jennifer-Complimented each other. Obvious they like working together.
Grade=C+

Jeneve Rose Mitchell & Scotty McCreery
(Gone-Montgomery Gentry)
I was skeptical at first at her singing this song, but she impressed me. She put some attitude in there and tried to do her own thing. This song was one of my favorites from Scotty in his season. It was nice, not great.  
Judge's Comments= Keith-Bizarre. No idea why she got saddled with the song. Song was good, but did nothing for her. Likes her a lot, but gotta forget that performance. Harry-No one in the competition that is in this lane that she is in. Unique. Very interesting gift. Better last night. Jennifer-Likes her. Won her over. Today was reinforced. Feels every moment, a real performer.
Grade=B

Jordan Sasser & Fantasia
( I  Believe-Fantasia)
Other than Summertime, I Believe is Fantasia's second most popular and famous songs from her run on the show. This was her winning song. It's so powerful and suits her so well. Jordan tried, he really did, but Fantasia's voice is just so darn good that it overshadows everything else. Simon Cowell has mentioned that Fantasia is his favorite contestant of all time, and I can see what he is saying. Even more than 10 years later she still is so good, so powerful, and a deserved winner. Jordan was better than last night, but still not good enough for the Top 14.
Judge's Comments=Jennifer-Her voice brings tears to her eyes. Doesn't even seem like she is trying. Did a good job, held his own. Harry-Doesn't wanna upstage his duet partner, he crossed right in front of her. Keith-Telling that the ones tonight is ones they don't get out of their lane. Fantasia was singing so strong that Jordan was trying to go all over the place to stay in her lane.
Grade=C

Going Home Predictions(Based on Last Night & Tonight)
1.Emily Brooke
2. Jenna Renae
3. James VIII
4.Gianna Isabella
5. Jordan Sasser

Actually Eliminated
1. Emily Brooke
2. Jenna Renae
3. James VIII
4. Stephany Negrete
5. Jordan Sasser

Elimination Thoughts
Gianna over Stephany or Jenna Renae was the biggest "shocker", but they were pretty hyped up about how young and talented she is. Other than that the correct contestants moved on, based on tonight, but mostly last night.

Final Thoughts
*Seeing these past Idol alum sing some of their most famous songs that made them famous and/or winners was outstanding, whoever thought of this idea gets a gold star. Now to be realistic do I think that these duets made any impression on if the judge's were gonna save someone or not? Nope. I think their mind up was made after their solo performances and past performances in Hollywood and other points. But it was still nice to see this idea come to fruition.

*Next week we will see some of my favorite Idol alum, Chris Daughtry, Hailey Reinhardt, David Cook are toward the top of my list of favorte Idol contestants ever. They each bring their own unique style, voice and creatitivity. Kellie Pickler, Jordin Sparks, and Constantine Mourilis will also sing next week. So much more rock, and soul instead of country and R&B.

* It is interesting that each Idol alum paired up with at least one person that moved on. No Idol alum had both duet partners eliminated. Surprisingly, Nick Fradiani is the only Idol alum to have both his duet partner's move on, Thomas and Gianna. Might not have guessed that combination when it was written down. But there ya go. 

That's it. I can't wait until next week to see how the current Idol contestants do with their solo rounds and how they match up with the Idol alum. So until next time see ya!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Top 24 Part 1: 12 out of 24 Sing & Voting Shakeup News



Welcome back to I'dol Be the Judge. We are finally at the live rounds where the home audience gets to start voting, like we have for many years....oh wait...no we aren't at all. The "live rounds" are actually pre-taped and the judges are eliminating contestants during the Semifinals round and the audience is not. That's right, not until at least Top 14, possibly Top 10 does the American Idol audience actually vote, so we are looking late March, early April as the first opportunity.

I am pretty upset at this. The show is founded, good or bad, on the voting process. This show was one of the first of its kind to allow the home viewers to vote for a winner. Sure the process has changed over the years and sometimes there is a Twitter vote, or phone vote, or we only get to vote for a certain number of contestants, but Idol has stripped away this power, this right of the fan at home. I have to be honest, I have probably only voted a few times in the past 15 years, but millions of people have continued to watch this show because they like feeling that their vote matters. This is a tough blow to the home audience that has been loyal all throughout these past 15 years.

With that being said we will recap the show just as we normally would, but we will be listening and watching the judges a little more closely to see where their vote might go, because in the past their opinion was just that at this point in the competition, now it could seal someone's fate.

Our Top 12 Remain
Prior to Hollywood week we named our Top 20, these 12 are still singing. 
Audition 1=Lee Jean, Sonika Vaid
Audition 2=LaPorsha Renae, Tristan McIntosh
Audition 3 =Jenn Blosil, 
Audition 4= Chris "CJ" Johnson
Audition 5=Mackenzie Bourg, Jenna Renae, Emily Brooke, Adam Lasher
Audition 6= Stephany Negrete, Manny Torres

So as we always do, let's get to tonight's show:

Breakdown of Top 24 Week
12 out of the 24 will sing tonight.  12 will duet with a past American Idol winner or contestant tomorrow. After their duet 5 out of the 12 will be eliminated, 7 will move on. Then next week the remaining 12 contestants will follow the same pattern. The Top 14 will be revealed on Thursday Februday 22nd. Got all that. Ok.

Solo Rounds
Stephany Negrete 
(Mamma Knows Best by Jessie J)
She comes out strong, the band is really loud, but Stephany is also, so works out for her. She looks fierce, and you can tell she has a strong personality. This song has a lot in it, it didn't always work out for Stephany, but overall it was a solid opening performance.
Judges Comments=Keith-Really good song, good to see her on a stage. Loose, but she could have loosened up more. Jennifer-Full package, every ingredient to be a pop star, but needs to connect to the song. Harry-Great voice, felt something was missing due to lack of connection, but strong performance.
Grade=B
Mackenzie Bourg
(Say Something by A Great Big World)
He has a really sweet voice and this was a great song choice. It came up short for me at points, it didn't go anywhere, he was singing the words, but it felt chopped up or something, like very start and stop. I didn't really enjoy this performance.
Judges Comments=Jennifer- Seemed natural, does what Mackenzie does. Harry-Liked that he changed the melody but kept integrity of song. Keith-Believed every word he sang.
Grade=B-

Jeneve Rose Mitchell
(Angel by Sarah McLachlan)
Jeneve decides to play a harp while singing. Don't recall anyone else ever playing a harp on American Idol. Gotta say she is different than most everyone else in the competition, and different makes you stand out, and that's a good thing, in this case. I liked her on this song. I think her voice was clear, the harp playing was a little bonus. I think she connected to the song. I enjoyed it.
Judge's Comments=Harry-Think she did herself a disservice playing the harp on this song, in this way. Rather see her just sing the song. Keith-Real deal. Extraordinary, loves that she takes risks. Jennifer-Was not sure about her, but got goosies everywhere, it was beautiful. Congratulations.
Grade=B+
Jenna Renae
(My Church by Maren Morris)
She has a very underrated powerful voice. It's so strong and it just sounds so natural. She has a lot of confidence on that stage. She really does a nice job with a song I never heard of. Quite good.
Judge's Comments=Keith-Good song for her. Curious to see another side of her. Jennifer-Liked that, really in her element, has a lot of joy. Harry-Liked the energy and enthusiasm. Felt a little shouted and pitch lacked a little because of it.  
Grade=B

James VIII
(Love Lockdown by Kanye West)
Going into this show I was pretty unsure about James VIII. He hasn't stood out for me, really at all. I don't really like what he did to this song. It didn't do enough for him. It was the same notes over and over again. He didn't take much risks in his singing, there was creativity in the switching of the song to fit his personality and voice, but other than that I didn't enjoy it much.
Judges Comments=Jennifer-Interesting song choice. It stays so even. Didn't grab audience or me. Harry-Talented guy. Did something too easy, wasn't complex. Keith-Has to be really careful to be really chill and really indulgent. Because the indulgent thing can happen too fast, wasn't compelling enough to hold attention. Can't assume he'll get another chance to do another song. Has to come out and kill it every time.
Grade=D+

Sonika Vaid
(Safe & Sound by Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars)
Her voice is so pure, and pretty. There were some really lovely runs in there. She has a quiet power that sometimes just comes out of nowhere. Really well done.
Judges Comments=Harry-Good job. More emotional performances of night. Keith-Voice is so good. Jennifer-Voice is so beautiful, wants her to choose songs that make her heart sing.
Grade=A-

Gianna Isabella
(I Put A Spell On You by Annie Lennox)
There were some really nice moments in the performance, but at times it went a little astray. It just seemed kind of young. Like she ticked all the things you're supposed to do in a song, but when it was put altogether not sure if it fully connected.
Judges Comments=Keith-Voice is undeniable. Can really sing. Moments of owning stage, but some inconsistency. Jennifer-The voice is so real, most privileged voice, very strong. Harry-Truly amazing voice, hit loud voices, but needs to keep finding the arc of a performance. 
Grade=B
Emily Brooke
(I Am Invinciable by Cassadee Pope)
The song starts very low for Emily, so low I really couldn't hear the lyrics, once she the chorus it was better, but it just started really rough and it took awhile to recover. I don't think this song fit her voice. The big notes were good, but the lower moments were pretty low.
Judges Comments=Jennifer-Really likes her. But that wasn't the best song for her. It played in the lower range of her voice and that isn't the sweetest and most beautiful part. Needs to play to her strengths.Harry- Has to make us feel a connection to those lyrics and didn't feel it. Never heard her struggle with pitch as much as she did. Keith-Liked that she tried to find her artistry.
Grade=C

Avalon Young
(Love Yourself-Justin Bieber)
Her voice and her whole persona is just cool. She just goes out there and sings, while wearing a hoodie, some sneakers and capris. As she says, she isn't your typical girl girl. But, her voice is one of the best in this competitions.  I don't know if I loved the song choice, it didn't give her enough big moments that I know she can hit. It was a competent performance, just not stellar.
Judges Comments=Harry-Seem to be in tune to who she is in the moment. Terrific and really strong. Keith-Don't be afraid to take charge and pull the rug out. Jennifer-Had audience in palm of her hand, has a tone that everyone loves. Don't get too caught up in the moment. 
Grade=B+

Jordan Sasser
(All By Myself by Celine Dion)
Jordan finally got rid of the man bun and got a clean cut haircut, it's nice. This is a big song, by a big artist, with huge notes, and if you choose a song like this you have to hit every big note, and I don't think he did. It was okay, not great.
Judges Comments=Keith-Has a great gift, but doesn't want him to lose the emotion, it was a little too theatrical and missed the heart. Jennifer-Should have been breaking hearts but instead made us think he didn't use the right part of voice. Harry-Great voice, but that was really show offy. Doesn't like that big, loud stuff, doesn't need to do that.
Grade=D+
Thomas Stringfellow
(Creep by Radiohead)
The thing that bothered me about Thomas all along was that little squeak he does at the ends of most of his notes. For the first part of the song it was gone, noticeably. It appeared here and there, but it really wasn't there as much to be distracting. Instead he actually did a nice job with his falsetto and high notes, good job by him. Seemed like he has grown and learned since last time we saw him.
Judges Comments=Jennifer-Loved that he played with his voice that hadn't heard before. Really sang with emotion, really filled the room. Harry-Thought that was tremendous, really strong. Felt that when he did yell it was due to the lyrics. Stood there and sang and very aware of the words. Keith-Loves that his natural way of performing is to lean into abandonment, should let himself go. 
Grade=B+

LaPorsha Renae
(Proud Mary by Tina Tuner)
You know that LaPorsha is doing well when this is at least the second or third time she has closed out an episode Idol this season. This is an ambitious artist to try to take on, but LaPorsha handles it with a ton of swagger. The way she walks around that stage and stays on point the whole time. It was Tina Turner-like, but she was able to infuse her own personality into it as well. Hopefully she picks other artists that she can be more herself than like the artist themselves, because it was a little Tina Turner-y, but still really good.
Judges Comments=Harry-One of two things will happen, either gonna make other competitors get better or want to make them quit. SO captivating and smart, foolish to critique. Keith-Managed to not be concise of how good she is. Is a portal to her gift. Jennifer-Joy to hear her song. Dreams about voices like hers. Amazing. Only get more stronger, and take all the influences she loves and make them hers.
Grade=A-

In Danger To Go Home
All the contestants will get another chance to sing with a past Idol contestant, but they will have to really step it up.  If not they could be one of the five that will be eliminated tomorrow.
1. James VIII
2. Emily Brooke
3. Jordan Sasser
4. Gianna Isabella
5. Stephany Negrete 

Final Thoughts

*This whole pre-taped, packaged show felt really strange. The way that it was edited made everything seem super rushed and choppy. I never got truly comfortable during this episode.

*Not sure how I didn't notice before that there only 11 males left out of 24 contestants. That is why only 4 men went tonight and I guess next week the following 7 will perform. So that means at least 3 females will be leaving the competition tomorrow. There is no way any more than 2 guys will go home this week.

*There was some good performances, but I wasn't completely blown away by anyone. I think there were some pretty bad performances, which can be due to nerves, not knowing exactly what to do or just not being good in general. We'll see how they do with the past Idol contestants next episode when they will have this performance under their belt.

That's it. Come on back tomorrow for the second part of Top 24 week. After tomorrow only 19 contestants will remain. So a lot to do in so little time. So until next time, see ya!