Welcome back to I'dol Be The Judge. Tonight is the first night of performances. They want you to believe that the performances are live, but we all know that these were actually taped last Friday. It doesn't really matter but it's just another way that American Idol tries to trick the audience. Either way tonight is the beginning, at least the beginning for some, and the beginning of the end for others.
Top 12 Explained: Before the contestants come out to perform Ryan explains how the Top 12 will be created. The audience will vote, then only the Top 5 guys and the Top 5 girls will be automatically put into the Top 12. Then of the remaining 7 guys, and 7 girls, 2 will be wildcards picked by the judges. Since Clay Aiken was a wildcard way back in Season 2, it proves that wildcards can do very well in this competition. Thursday night's results show will provide some brutal cuts. But that's for another night, tonight will determine who deserves that automatic bid and who needs to try again for the judges. So let's get to it:
How Did The Contestants Do?:
Before the contestants come out we see the view of the new American Idol Top 24 stage. It's much more extravagant than it used to be. The Top 24 used to have a low key kind of feel to it, now it's just a little less than what we will get when we get to the Top 12 stage. I miss the old stage and having the families there, but a new year a new stage I guess.
Clint Jun Gamboa(Superstitious): Fortunately or unfortunately for Clint he is first up. The band completely overtakes his performance. The first 30-45 seconds of the song I could barely hear him. He has a lot of stage presence, he doesn't look scared by the largeness of the room. Steven thought Clint was brilliant. Jennifer thought Clint was a little nervous but still sounded great. Randy thought Clint was great. I thought he was decent, I wasn't jumping for joy or anything.
Jovany Barreto(I'll Be): Everyone remembers him as the guy who took his shirt off in the audition room. There's no doubt he looks good, but I personally don't think his voice matches his looks. It was very generic to me. Steven thought he brought it, and loved it. Jennifer was happy and felt he did it well. Randy thought it was karaoke and he didn't bring anything new to it. I agree with Randy on this one.
Jordan Dorsey(O.M.G):Jordan had a rough ride during Hollywood Week but I'm sure he hopes to change that now that we are in the performance rounds. Jordan sings Usher. I don't remember the last time someone sang a really current song like that. I give him credit for that alone but I don't know if it really worked. Steven didn't think it was O.M.G. Jennifer thought that Jordan wasn't himself tonight, and Jordan agrees with her. Randy thought Jordan was pitchy. If Jordan knew the song wasn't him then why did he pick the song? He picked the song, no one tied him up and forced him. With the stuff he pulled in Hollywood rounds and tonight's performance Jordan could be in trouble.
Tim Halperin(Streetcorner Symphony): We didn't see much of Tim in those later Hollywood rounds and tonight will be the first time we see him in a while. I don't think he sounded that spectacular. I thought his voice was a little rough and he didn't really thrill me. Steven feels the song didn't do Tim any justice. Jennifer also didn't think Tim showed who he really is and feels he has a better voice than what he proved. Randy agrees with the other two judges. He again says that he didn't do anything different to the song to make it enough to be great.
Brett Lowenstern(Light My Fire): Brett is a very mellow, "make peace not war" kind of guy. His performance was just like Brett's personality. He sang a very mellow version of "Light My Fire". I love the song, his voice was nice, but the two put together didn't thrill me. Steven thought that Brett was on fire. Jennifer liked Brett's performance. Randy thinks Brett is fun and bold and appreciates that despite some pitchy-ness and a lot of hair flicks. I hope Brett sticks around because he is different and could grow on the audience.
James Durbin(Another Thing Coming): I have never been a fan of James but it's a new day and I'll give him a clean slate. He has a lot of stage presence. He seems to enjoy the big stage. James is over the top but Steven likes it (I still can go either way). Steven liked it so much that he even cursed, which was rather funny. Jennifer feels that James is very real and natural. Randy feels that James was great and feels he was "nice and tasty" with his high voice. I don't know what that means but I guess he means it was good.
Robbie Rosen(In The Arms Of An Angel): Singing a ballad can be scary because all the focus is on the voice and none on the band. Robbie sang this Sarah McLaughlin song very beautifully. It was the extreme opposite of James' performance minutes before. He was controlled and changed the song to make it his own. Steven thought it was beautiful. Jennifer felt that Robbie told a story through every lyric, she liked his version better than the original in parts. Randy differs a bit. He feels that Robbie was pitchy and that he didn't look quite comfortable. Robbie disagrees and so do I.
Scotty McCreery(Letters From Home): Country was never Simon Cowell's cup of tea so Scotty is lucky that Simon is gone. Scotty sings a very countryish song. I definitely never heard of this song or the artist John Michael Montgomery before. Sometimes that's a good thing, you have nothing to compare it to. For what it was Scotty was pretty good. Steven thought he picked the perfect song. Jennifer feels Scotty is born to sing country and did it well. Randy loves the lowness of his voice and that he sang very well. Scotty did a nice job, we will see what happens if he gets to theme weeks later in the competition.
Stefano Langone(Just The Way You Are): After having very old songs being performed last year, hearing Stefano sing a Bruno Mars song is a shock to the system. Stefano starts a little slow, gets really into the song in the middle, but then the end was a little rough for me. Steven loved it and thought he was so good. Jennifer thought Stefano was consistent and thought he was natural. Randy thought there were a couple sharp points, but was able to overcome it and be a star.
Paul McDonald(Maggie May): I don't remember hearing a Rod Stewart song before on American Idol. I think Paul's voice is perfect for a Rod Stewart song. Paul's downfall is that we have only seen him once or twice before this performance so he really had to make the performance memorable. I'm not sure if he pulled it off, at least not enough to not be forgotten. The performance was good but does it stand out enough? I don't know, I liked it. Steven loved the character of Pauls' voice. Jennifer thought Paul lit up the whole place and brought joy to his performance. Randy thought Paul was very unique and different. I guess that's Randy word of the day.
Jacob Lusk(A House Is Not A Home): Randy calling Jacob's performance in the Hollywood round "the best ever". That's a lot to live up to. This song was sung beautifully way back in Season 1 by Tamyra Gray. Although Jacob's performances doesn't rival that one, it was still very effective. He has a lot of control in his deep rich voice. The last notes of the song were crazy good. Steven thought it was unbelievable and feels honored to be in Jacob's presence. Jennifer compares Jacob to Luther Vandross, that's a huge compliment. Randy feels Jacob could sing anything and that they are lucky to have him in the competition. Jacob is a definite front runner in this competition.
Casey Abrams(I Put A Spell On You): The last slot of the night is always the one that everyone wants. It's the performance that everyone remembers, good or bad. Casey hopes it leaves a good impression. His performance was very dramatic. Every word he says creates a different emotion and his voice changes from angry to soft in a split second. It was a performance I've never seen before. I never seen such a passionate to almost on the verge of angry kind of performance. The funny part is that Casey ended the song with a very soft note, very funny. Steven thought Casey was out of his mind good and as good as it gets. Jennifer thought Casey was sexy and feels Casey wants this competition bad. Randy wants more, more, more from Casey. He loves that he transformed in this song. Casey being a funny, likeable guy also helps.
How Did The Judges Do:
Jennifer: You can tell that Jennifer has a couple favorites and she pushes them a bit more than she should. I think she will get better at the critiques as we move on. I do like that she gave more than a one or two word sentences when explaining why she did or didn't like a particular performance. So I give her credit for at least doing that.
Steven: People love Steven. The audience oohs and aws. It's understandable, he is a very likeable person, even when he gives negative reactions he is still liked. Even when he cursed his rating appeal grew. His reactions were short and sweet. When the guy was good Steven didn't go into too much detail, if the guy was bad he explained why he was bad very quickly. I also think Steven will get better at the live instant feedback as the rounds continue.
Randy: Hearing that Randy Jackson is the anchor of this show is a bit scary. But I got to be honest, Randy was on point tonight. He was critical of contestants and actually gave valid criticism. When he gave positive remarks I didn't always understand them but he was pretty right on.
How Was The Show:
I personally hate the new stage for the Top 24. I liked that they were in a more small, intimate room in these beginning rounds and then grew to a large stage when they reached Top 12. Now they aren't really going to be that effected by the largeness of the Top 12 stage as they would have before. 100-150 people in a room is a lot different than the 700 that were there tonight.
I think the judges will get better with their feedback. Steven needs to get into a bit more detail with his reactions and Jennifer has to be a bit more critical.
Overall the show was entertaining in parts, and a little underwhelming at other times. For the first night of "live" performances it was on par with past years. You could definitely miss the Simon Cowell honesty and criticisms but we have to move on and deal with what these judges bring.
My Favorites: Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk & Robbie Rosen
My Least Favorites: Tim Halperin and Jordan Dorsey
Come right back here tomorrow night for the women's performance. We'll see you then on I'dol Be The Judge.