Here is my breakdown (and I acknowledge wholeheartedly this is NOT how the votes will go tonight, but a boy can dream, can’t he?):
Felicia Barton— “No One.” Every week I pick just one contestant to call in for, and this week Felicia won my vote. Admittedly, I am a sucker for a good comeback story (Jennifer Hudson, baby!), but Felicia has oh so much more than that: she looked stunning, her voice was soothing and I could practically feel her gratitude oozing through the TV. Yes, it was a bit obvious she picked the song that gave her Youtube/Idolatry fame (since Idol previously had given her none), but it’s Felicia’s shining attitude and powerful instrument that made me fall head over heels. New dark horse?
Ju’not Joyner—“Hey There Delilah.” So freaking pretty—this performance was just beautiful: the definition of less-is-more. I have serious doubts about Ju’not’s commercial appeal as an artist (where will he fit in?), but that’s the beauty of Idol—the man can sing the hell out of a song while making it his own, and for that, he deserves to be heard again.
Kristen McNamara—“Gimme One Reason.” I have been one of Kristen’s biggest fans through the early rounds, but I was hoping for Kelly/Leona/Pink ballad from her, not a mid-tempo soulful jam. This song requires more attitude than Kristen possesses (plus Jordin Sparks killed it her first time out…). That being said, Kristen’s voice is insane—I really hope she gets another shot to display those gritty power notes and that shockingly high falsetto.
Wild Card Worthy
Arianna Afsar—“The Winner Takes It All.” So the song was wrong and the performance wasn’t winning; I STILL want to hear this girl sing again. Something about her voice is hypnotizing, and I think the judges were WAY too harsh. The ultimate test for me is whether I’ll be shelling out my 99 cents on iTunes, and for Arianna, and I know I will be. Chin up, girl.
Lil Rounds—“Be Without You.” I’ll say it time and time again, I LOVE an Idol diva, but Lil just isn’t doing it for me. She has all the right components: she’s gorgeous, stylish, passionate and confident. And the voice is there. But she pales in comparison to Season 3’s impeccable divas, and there’s a copycat quality about her that makes her kind of boring/predictable to me. That paired with the blatant producer pimping, she leaves me dead cold. Sorry Lil! I wouldn’t be too surprised if she gets relegated to the Wild Cards for the sake of some more interesting contestants, which would be fine by me…
Jorge Nunez—“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Hands down the most impressive vocal performance of the night. But I found it hard to get past the syrupy, drippy quality of his notes, and good lord, someone get this man a pair of tweezers! Those downward curving eyebrows were wildly distracting. Still, like Felicia, I want to root for him, and I really think that counts for a lot.
Scott MacIntyre—“Mandolin Rain.” Admit it, when you saw Scott go for that low squat you thought he was going to try and sit back down, woefully missing his stool. All right, I may go to hell for that one, but all kidding aside, I understand why Scott is crazily appealing. But if he didn’t have that amazing back-story, would everyone praise him quite so much? I don’t think so, but I do recognize how irrelevant this question is. He is emotionally gripping, honest and possesses a passable voice, and that’s much more than most of the previous weeks’ contestants can say. So while I am not yet a fan, I am willing to be persuaded…
Von Smith—“You’re All I Need.” I wanted to like him, I really did. But this performance just felt all wrong. From the weird backward slides, to the terrible reverse mullet haircut (party in the front and business in the back?), to the schizophrenic outfit (an oversized gray suit with red t-shirt and matching sneakers?), everything felt a bit alien in this performance. Vocally it was mildly intriguing, but he was too strange.
Taylor Vaifanua—“If I Ain’t Got You.” Pretty girl, fashionable clothes, good voice, stage presence, great song. How can this equation add up to utter blandness? I’m still puzzled, but I agree with Simon: Taylor was utterly forgettable. And it pains me to say so, because I genuinely like(d) her.
Nathanial Marshall—“Anything For Love.” I have never been in Nathanial’s corner, and tonight he reminded me why. I concede that he has a great voice, a big personality and is certainly fun to watch. I just can’t take all that cheese—from the flashy dance moves to the skintight outfits, it’s just way too much for me. But I know people will vehemently disagree with me, and that makes him one to watch (especially because of the emasculating Paula lap-sitting and Kara karaoke buddying, not to mention his supportive-yet-honest grandmother).
Kendall Beard—“This One’s For The Girls.” I was not as appalled as I expected to be. I’m famously dead set against the Kristy-Lees and Pickler’s of Idol past (with one Underwood as a sweeping exception), and I cast Beard in the same light—a thoroughly mediocre country girl. But why is it that these “innocent” country girls are consistently wickedly smart—they know exactly what songs to pick, which notes to belt and what personality traits to show to get people to pick up their phones. Being this season’s only country girl, I would not be surprised to see Kendall in the Top 12, though I really hope it doesn’t happen.
Alex Wagner-Trugman—“And I Guess That’s Why.” So you’ve heard of a butter face, right? (Everything is hot, but her face). Well, Alex is a classic case: everything is great, (but his voice). The kid is massively likable and so much fun to watch, but he simply can’t sing, and tried to disguise this fact with runs and growls and kicks (oh my).
So really, those top 12 slots could go to anyone tonight, but if you held a gun to my head, I’d say Lil, Jorge and Scott will take top honors. Though Felicia, Ju’not, Nathanial and Kendall all seem to have legitimate shots as well. But where does that leave my favorite gals Kristen and Arianna? And what about that quirky Von? This should make for a truly suspenseful results show…and a (hopefully) Group 3 filled Wild Card show!