Thursday, 12 April 2012

American Idol: The Top 7 Pt 1

In all the previous series, and X Factor too, there has been at least a couple of clear also rans, contestants who really shouldn't still be there, often who shouldn't even have been included in the Top 24 in the first place. This year, I cannot say that there is any contestant who shouldn't be in this Top 7. Each, in their own way, has shown something that could make them American Idol Series 11 Winner. The clear leaders change a little each week, Jessica consistently being one, Colton and Joshua also being on the board most weeks. None of the others can be totally discounted, though, and any could make a late run - one starry performance lifting them to join the three mentioned.

So it is difficult to judge and you do have to bear in mind just how much support they may have already established and how vulnerable that may be if any week brings something less than they'd hoped for. This week we're taken to each of their home towns where you get the impression that the whole ruddy place will be voting en bloc for their boy or girl. They won't, but the bigger areas will have an influence and the biggest fan clubs that can be sure to get out their vote might make the significant difference at this stage between who comes 6th and who comes 7th.

First off is this country rock girl who takes what I thought must be a big chance with a Kellie Pickler number, Don't You Know How Much I Love You. Now I hadn't heard this before and, however much I adore The Pickler, this was not a great big huge hit and, outside a particular genre of listeners, she's been more well known as that delightful personality from Series 6 (and I need to check that!). This was a brilliant choice, though, and a great, very commercial song which worked so well. I have a suspicion, too, that this could have sold far more than the original had it been released and then I might well have heard about it. Skylar had plenty of passion, is totally credible as a performer on stage and, as with everyone this week, the time to worry about bad notes or not knowing a song seems to have passed. A very good performance indeed and, in my view, this puts Skylar very much in that top group that I can imagine in the final.

He also comes out with a track I don't know and one I guess that not that many watching will know either. Love The Way You Lie is a powerful, emotional and very difficult to reproduce song. In many ways this was Colton in that zone with which he seems most comfortable. It's not a place that I can imagine hordes of fans following him into but he certainly does have a huge female fan club and this will also have earned him a good amount of respect amongst the men with cool taste. Not mainstream and there were places where I felt that the song got the better of him as it was that difficult to interpret and perform but all due respect to the guy for a non-commercial or typical Idol attempt.

Elise & Phillip
They did the Gotye Somebody that was recently Number 1 here in the UK and, I think, has just started doing the rounds there. the audience loved it. Elise was absolutely superb, making Phillip seem like a walk-on part for the act but, in a sense, the track is written that way and it's how the song works. A truly exceptional voice, look or stance would be necessary to match the female input which he got about 70% of but Elise was just brilliant. That will not have done her chances any harm at all. In fact, it may have made all the difference.

This girl is quite exceptional. I would have expected her to play it safe for a couple of weeks with big popular and recognisable numbers that will be played over and again on YouTube and maintain her as the most downloaded of them all. Stuttering was almost completely unknown to most of the audience and wasn't even the one that I thought it was going to be. It was really well sung - a very tough song as Randy Jackson confirmed. She really did impress the judges who have been pretty demanding of her to date so must have done something right for them at last. Quiet what the audience made of it I'm not sure as their initial reaction was lukewarm but then you could almost sense the fans kicking in and the cries and applause duly came. She is the one who is the big find in this series and with her cute looks, amazing voice and control of someone way more mature, she simply has to make the final. Whether she'll get the votes she needs from this week's performance shouldn't be in doubt but I do harbour a small reservation that her base may not be as big as some others. I'm pretty sure she's one that would, in any event, be saved, however, although I can't imagine that being necessary.

Runaway Baby is a Bruno Mars number, yet again not as well known as one might have expected someone to choose. It was great for him, though, fast and fun and giving him a comparatively easy ride through to lots of applause and credits. Bearing in mind that this boy is steeped in the church and seems to have spent his whole life in a choir and under the big thumb of a church family, the lyrics seemed way out of either his comprehension or, at least, what his bible friends would approve of! Perhaps the producers didn't really appreciate what they meant either. It shouldn't matter - Josh seems pretty well supported. Although quite why Ryan brought Joshua's odd-looking father onto the stage I have no idea. Is he going to call up everyone's dad?

Colton & Skylar
Don't You Want To Stay  is a better know country song and the performance was a credit to both of them. Skylar is having a great night, coming across really well in this duet, putting Colton pretty much in the shade and is increasingly developing a real star quality that could well attract a lot of very useful supporters and, crucially, country votes.

The stylist have done a superb job this week and made this girl look lovely rather than a little ordinary as has been the case for a while. She took on the Pink track, Perfect which, for the first time in the solo performances so far, is something that everyone should recognise. Now Pink is quite an act to follow and Hollie did really well with just one thing missing. Emotion. She's good, very good, but you just don't quite get the feeling that she herself feels the words that she's sending us. The notes are strong - I don't agree with the judges that she was pitchy - she is a very reliable reproducer of songs but I want more than that. Because her competition is so very strong the comparisons with Skylar, Jessica and Elise may not be in her favour. They could be but she needs that special moment that hasn't happened yet. Jimmy - you need to work harder on her!! The judges seemed very harsh - again - and I do wonder why they don't support her more, their favouritism towards Joshua, for instance, being almost embarrassing.

Got A Little More by Maron 5 is another uncommon one and this one did leave me wondering just what this chap is doing here. He has always 'performed' well and you can tell that he loves his music and strumming away on that guitar but the tracks he chooses can only appeal to quite a small section of the record-buying public. Whereas Colton gets the cool vote, Phillip gets the off-beat, maybe some jazz and a collection of other minor passion votes. This did nothing for me at all. 'Underwhelming' was Jennifer's very apt description and, unusually, all three judges were less than enthralled with this. Having said that, he does seem to have accumulated a big fan club amongst the girls and they do tend to vote. The weakest act tonight but I don't see him going somehow for all that. Illogical? Maybe. But this is American Idol. (And Chris, the one-trick-pony, was a runner-up on X Factor USA.)

Joshua, Hollie & Jessica
This was a super performance of Stronger by Kelly Clarkson, American Idol's Series 1 Winner. Joshua was in the middle and did a good solid job, nice tone and rhythm. Hollie matched this well and blended in exactly as she should, strong voice, excellent notes and enjoyable to watch. On their own they'd have been great. Jessica seems to be doing a solo part and, interestingly, using this as an opportunity to show just who's best, not just competing with Hollie but probably with Joshua too! She was absolutely brilliant! Maybe a little too much pushing herself into our attention span but you have to admire her. She was the star, despite the other two being great. Every note was just a little clearer, louder and she moved a lot more and really did give it her all. This was, for the first time, Jessica determined to show us that she is the one. Not Hollie, and not even Joshua. If there is going to be a Hollie V Jessica battle then this was her indication that she'll win. Probably sooner rather than later.

She certainly knows what tracks to pick. So far her choices have been inspired. It could be simply because she has a good 10 years more experience than the younger girls. They may seem to be more 'today' but Elise has the market for the older voters. She just needs more of them as previous votes haven't been going her way as often as they might have been expected to on the quality of her brilliant performances week after week. Her choice this week was Lady Gaga's You And I. She not only had the artist herself to compete with in people's minds, that number being fresh in most minds still, but she was also treading on the much revered Haley Reinhart part of the stage where that same number was wonderfully performed last year.

I can't deny the passion that Elise puts into her performances and the notes, voice, style, looks and everything were great. But it didn't grab me as Haley's had done. There was something missing. I can't think what it could be but I felt a bit disappointed. I might have expected too much. Again, like so many of the others, she is good, very good but there is a big question over her voting popularity and, for some reason I can't explain, I don't see her as an American Idol or even a finalist. She deserves to be on all her consistently remarkable performances so far but I'm still not sure I know who Elise is. I hope I'm wrong, though, as I'm sure she'll put her heart and soul into whatever she's asked to do and would be more interesting to watch than Phillip, Hollie if she doesn't let go of some self control and even Joshua who I would think could be a little boring for more than 3 minutes.

So, quite a night! Skylar, I predict, will easily top the poll and be 100% safe. Joshua will sleep soundly too, as will Jessica and Colton with sufficient fans now to battle any likely nightmares. Hollie, Phillip and Elise are the ones who will be worrying. Hollie will worry the most, after a second week of unhelpful judges' remarks. Elise will wonder what she can do to appeal to voters and may conclude that she can do nothing more. Phillip is probably amazed to be there anyway and my guess is that he isn't that bothered any more. His fan base ought to be enough to protect him so it'll be between Hollie and Elise. If it were a normal competition I'd expect to say farewell to Hollie but, as she could still turn it around and even win, it may be Elise this time. My own preference would be to see Phillip go but I wouldn't risk any money on that bet!