Finally, we’re at the live rounds.
I’m not sure that the jumbled addition of Beatles/Vegas week did much of anything for me (did anyone else feel blitzed by that barrage of over-propped performances?). Especially when I thought Naima and Brett were part of a massive group cut after the Producer’s Seven were anointed safe (I gasped, hand-to-heart). Luckily, I was mistaken (that was cruel, Idol).
But I did greatly prefer the spotlighted hangar walks of suspense to the ill-conceived security-camera elevator rides, or even those ridiculous mansion sing-offs. And while I did feel there was some genuine empathy emanating from the judges this year (sans Randy, duh), I was able to correctly call every single yes/no. 10 seasons later, and Idol has not mastered the art of subtlety... sigh.
Onto some thoughts on “our” Top 24 (and a few others)…
Lauren Turner: Diva! Werk! I feel some Kelly/Carrie/Carly/Allison/Crystal coming on with this one…not that I can ever judge a big-voiced female vocalist objectively. She'll need some work, for sure… but so did the aforementioned Idol royalty, once upon a time.
Naima Adedapo: Easily one of the most likable and deserving contestants of Idol 10, and for all the right reasons. She'll be one to watch, though at this point I must admit I remember her spirit and wardrobe more than her voice… not a great sign. Sick strut on that hangar walk though, gurl!
Lauren Alaina: Puh-lease, as if there was even a shred of doubt that Lauren would make the Top 24. What’s with all the repeat songs though, little lady? I’m not convinced there’s an artist underneath that stunning voice, but I’m more than willing to find out.
Haley Reinhart: Yes, she over-sings just about everything. But still, she has hit the Christina Aguilera-sized soft-spot in my heart for vocal diva antics. I look forward to your live belting, young madame.
Rachel Zevita: Her funky style, smoky voice and crazy falsetto have flown under the radar… until that shaky (but entertaining) take on Gaga’s “Speechless.” I’m excited to see her sing live, for perhaps she can bring the fire Siobhan never delivered last season.
Julie Zorrilla: Learn how to appear less affected and more genuine, and I will begin to love both your considerable vocal talent and on-point fashion sense (the judges were so spot on with her lack of emotion, weren’t they? How refreshing is that?)
Ashton Jones: My Lil Rounds alarm is going off for Ashton, sadly. I love her look and I love her personality, but I’m not sure her voice can withstand the inevitable black-female diva expectations. If you’re going to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Tamrya, Trenyce, Fantasia, LaToya, Jennifer, Vonzell, Melinda, Jordin & Syesha (whew!), you better BRING IT, betch.
Thia Megia: At least we have some more rainbow-themed outfits to look forward to? Because vocally, I fear there’s nothing pleasant to anticipate.
Casey Abrams: Yes. Love. Bass! Is it just me, or is anyone else getting some serious male-Adele vibes off of Casey? OK, maybe that’s a bit of an early jump, but I think he could really have those kind of chops.
Robbie Rosen: He’s got everything it takes to win this whole damn thing, minus one mullet-esque haircut. If he can deliver even half as well as his previous showings in the live rounds, he’s a shoe-in for the Idol tour this season.
Paul McDonald: I’m not sure that I’m digging all your “look at me, I’m an original artist” affectations (cue limp T-Rex hand and offbeat wardrobe choices). But lordy, is your voice pretty.
Brett Loewenstern: “We are all shining stars.” As adorable and talented as Brett is, when he utters lines like this, totally deadpan, I fear for his ability to cope with the onslaught of opinions about to hit him. He better hope that bullet-proof vest really works…
James Durbin: Everything from his voice to his look to his backstory feels copycat to me, and no amount of Seacrest cover-up will prove what only a well-delivered performance can. And a tip? If you want to avoid Adam Lambert comparisons, don’t choose to sing the crowning jewel from Adam’s season, fool.
Clint Jun Gamboa: While I think he handled his unfair villain-label rather smartly, I didn’t find his overblown emotional reaction earnest—but here’s hoping his desire to show America what kind of “artist” he is will deliver something more interesting than a series of indiscernible vocal runs.
Jovany Barreto: Remember Jorge Nunez? David Hernandez? No? I fear that Jovany will suffer the same fate, soon enough…
Scotty McCreery: You are indeed in over your head, young one. But this is coming from a diva-loving city slicker, so Scotty’s country stylings were never going to do it for me. That being said, he’s clearly not vocally up to par with his competitors (which will do absolutely nothing to stop the hordes of tweens that will no-doubt vote for him anyway).
Jacob Lusk: I'm standing firm on this one--until this boy learns how to wield that big ol' voice of his, it will continue to feel like being hit with a blunt weapon. Currently, his singing sounds more like parody than performance, to me (as his celebratory reel demonstrates clearly)…
Kendra Chantelle & Stefano Langone: I’m not quite sold on these two yet, though by all rights, I totally should be. Please hold.
Karen Rodriguez, Pia Toscano Tatynisa Wilson, Tim Halperin & Jordan Dorsey: Certainly not bad, but not fantastic either. This kind of mid-level performing is catnip for early public elimination (where only being memorably excellent or mind-blowingly terrible ensures a spot on the couches of safety).
THE DEARLY DEPARTED (slow Steven one-hand clap, please)
Hollie Cavanagh: As much as her departure devastates me, I can’t be mad at JLo’s commentary on her future potential—I’d much rather see her blossom later than become a mid-season castoff now (and we all know us Idol fans love a multi-year comeback. I always had your back, JHud).
Deandre Brackensick: Please make good on your vow to bring it next year. Pretty please?
She Who Shall Not Be Named: At least she managed to bow out of Idol with some surprising grace (and got someone to put a ring on all that crazy). Kudos.
Chris Medina: I didn’t have an ounce of love for his voice, and still I felt myself saddened by his elimination. Thus demonstrates the power of the American Idol dream machine--and I feel your pain, JLo. I feel it.
Jessica Cunningham: Props for knowing that your complete lack of airtime compared to Thia’s would result in an inevitable face-off cut. Hey, maybe you can snag a job as an Idol producer and construct some real suspense for us?
And on that note, I am very excited to see how the live rounds play out. Will JLo and Steven continue to be as dazzling without the power of editing? How will the Producers Pack fare in America’s hands? And will we really get to see this much-discussed (but rarely practiced) transparency the producers keep squawking about? We. Shall. See.