Thursday, 28 February 2013

Las Vegas Round 3: Five More Girls

Doubling down? Is that like halving in Vegas-speak? What Ryan Seacrest means is that the last ten girls will become five who go home and five who finally get to be approved or rejected by the public in a week's time.

Performing will be Melinda Ademi, Candice Glover, Juliana Chahayed, Jett Hermano, Cristobel Clack, Aubrey Cleland, Rachel Hale, Breanna Steer, Janelle Athur and, oh dear, Zonette Johnson.

Melinda is first and, once you get past the bright lilac tights there's a very attractive and marketable girl on stage - like Katie Melua with caffeine. Nobody's Perfect was a going nowhere track for her but she's good and has a gentler touch to her that most others haven't shown as well as an excellent presence. Judges not that complimentary which seemed a bit harsh. Nicky very short and almost delivering a coded 'No' but I have a feeling Keith will fight for her.

Candice Glover has been one of the favourites since the start, especially with Randy. Natural Woman is very 70s and quite restrained compared to what she's blasted us with to date. She's good, not someone I'd want to hear on the hour every hour but she has to be in with a good chance and that was a flawless, albeit uninspiring performance. Everybody seems very happy so we can assume that, whatever they say, the four judges will be putting her straight through.

Juliana Chahayed was someone who really impressed me in the last round. She's quite different and stands there in a simple cream dress with a guitar. Spell-binding stuff. Her version of Skyscraper, totally stripped bare, was excellent and she has real control. That was a 'moment'. Lukewarm crowd response who clearly must have come on a bus with Candice. She's 15. Love her originality. Nicky says she's timid and seems to be saying that will not help with so many belters in the likely competition. I disagree and, for a change, liked Randy's confirmation that she is different and actually that could be to her distinct advantage. Interesting. I think she'll get through and, even if the Vegas audience aren't big fans she will appeal to a large fan base and do well in the public vote thereafter.

Jett Hermano. Now that's an Idol type of name. Great version of Only Girl In The World. Sitting at a piano and looking very classy this a one serious contender. Again, she is original and very professional. In fact she could cost Juliana her place but Nicky and Randy don't seem to get it. Mariah is in one of those width-emphasising dresses again.

Cristobel Clack is not attractive and has a rough voice but she knows where to find the notes and what to do with them. Terrible backing and earrings. She worked hard with the song - not one I recognised - with runs almost everywhere as she realised she needed to do something at the end but I still wasn't sure she fits my idea of an Idol winner. Keith was impressed. Nicky wasn't. Randy yes. Mariah makes the point that this girl has already sung all over the world and, strangely, bigs up the backing singers at precisely the time when they deserved the opposite. She seems to want to keep her but I wonder? If Cristobel stays then that's trouble for Jett, Juliana and even Melinda.

Aubrey Cleland is lovely. The crowd love her too but I'm not so sure, apart from the marketing image (cue obviously male camera guy to pan from shoes up a slender tanned body in a nicely very non-pc way!). We hear a lot about the 'package'. Her version of Beyonce's Beautiful Nightmare goes down extremely well with the judges and it was nice but not exceptional. I get the distinct feeling that she's through, More trouble for the original artists, I fear. I would like to see her in the final Top 20 but in place of Cristobel.

Rachel is good solid Country with soul and they need someone for that audience which comprises a huge amount of advertising revenue and voting dollars. Not a song that worked for me at all but no doubt Keith will have loved it. She's a bubbly and cheery girl from a small town and just seems to enjoy performing. It was neither here nor there, though, and he picks up on that. She has Janelle to contend with, coming up next. She drops the religious thing on us by telling Nicky she's been praying a lot and that gets Randy on a zealous let's all pray mission, followed by Mariah who also seemed to want to keep the gospel viewers who will have been doing the Lordy thing on their sofas in Chapel Country. Maybe merging Country and Chapel may get her through but it won't be on that performance. I just don't think that would have reached the Billboard Top 100 whereas several others tonight would have hit the Top 40 with a bullet.

Breanna Steer has escaped my attention for a lot of the previous weeks, apart from the tight black leather. She looks quite harsh tonight but has one of the more modern performances with something about Bursting The Windows Out Your Car. That could be taken in more ways than one. Different again. A difficult night coming up. Nicky suggests she form a group with Aubrey Cleland - that tells me she doesn't expect her to go through. Randy would sign her today. Does that mean he's voting for her tonight or looking to pick her up a bit more cheaply if she goes? Mariah genuinely doesn't know what they're going to do which is a nice bit of honesty.

What a pair to leave us with! Janelle is the Country girl in my book. Wobbly start, though, to Kiss Goodnight which simply didn't come across at all well. She was off-key and never was able to recover, despite attempts to do so. That could be a great shame as she is absolutely stunning - the classic American girl who could sell records just by being on the cover. Keith says he felt for her and seems to have noticed that. Nicky also was upset by this lacklustre performance but, for the first time tonight, says who she's voting for. Randy is all over the place as he starts but says how she's his favourite Country girls and seems to be willing to forgive and forget. Mariah says the same. I can see them putting her through so she looks like being one very fortunate girl tonight, especially when she looks at the rerun!

In complete and utter contrast is Zoanette Johnson. Oh boy, what's she going to do? Play it down and serious or do something bizarre? She's a fun character and, yes, may initially be good tv but I really think she has to go now or she'll be occupying space that one of the others needs and is likely to more with as things progress. So whatever she does, that's going to be my verdict.

Plug for Liberia and I guess her homeland will have heard this. She starts off in what I assume is her native language with a remarkable African-theme version of The Circle Of Life. In places she's good. In places she's dreadful. Goodness only knows what they'll do with her. I fear the worst, though. Nicky gets quite emotional. Randy nails it with his comment about people asking 'What the hell are they doing keeping her in?' and then justifying it. But is all this emotion and representation of people like her really a good way to decide who will be in our charts, on our screens and on our radios later this year? Put her in a show or something but no, not Idol. It's been fun but let the others get a chance to shine now, even if they don't have quite the personality or 'cause appeal'.

Janelle and Candice I put in the definitely through category. Then I would choose Juliana and Aubrey with Jett just getting in. Cristobel and Zoanette may get the judges' vote, though. So two excellent girls could suffer.

There could well be a Jimmy Iovine moment coming up. No. Not necessary.

Zoanette is first to get the news - probably best to get this over with, one way or another! Oh dear. she's one of the five.
Melinda doesn't. Shame but understandable.
Julianna doesn't. Now that is disappointing and is the casualty I was most concerned about.
Aubrey is second to get through. Deservedly so.
Cristobel doesn't.
Candice is third through. Predictable.
Jett loses out to Breanna - I wasn't expecting that.
Then it's between Rachel and Janelle and it's Janelle that wins out.

Let's hope the public vote sorts them out next week. A tough night for this group - those left now really have to prove they can justify the faith put in them.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

If you thought American Idol was just cheerleaders and Country...

Take a look at Charlie Askew. One cool guy who can also sing and entertain. Who on earth else would come out with Rocket Man at this stage of the competition?! And, for the first time since the 70s, I understand the words Elton wrote.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Spanish, Gospel, Mexican-Chinese, Nice Guy and Charlie Askew.

It has just occurred to me that one of the reasons X Factor USA Steve was so bad might have been his height. He was a tall guy. The two real presenter stars of this type of programme have to be Ryan Seacrest and Dermot O'Leary who are both comparatively short. Memories of Dermot standing next to Rylan Clark spring to mind. The dreadful Khloe was also huge now I think about it. Ryan slightly overdoes the This is... bit tonight, perhaps attempting to make up for the dull background and steel-like set design views we get at the start.

This was a grey start visually to the first instalment of deciding the Top 10 guys, 5 tonight and another 5 in a week's time. Yet another reminder about how good the girls are and when asked for some advice for the boys waiting to perform all Mariah can say is effectively 'don't bother - the girls have got you beat already'. This is getting silly.

Paul Jolley wants it so bad and says he's worked so hard. I don't recall sob stories for the girls but I guess some will come next time. Nice gentle start to what I thought was going to be Hero (but was Keith Urban's Tonight I Wanna Cry) but maybe just a bit too heavy on the pretend emotion. Good ending and his voice has a good timbre. Keith won't be voting for him as he started with If you go through.... Paul's a good, almost too innocent-looking guy and immensely likeable. Nicky gives him a one sentence - neither one thing nor the other - so she's not on his side either. Randy goes on and I have no idea what he really said or where he was going. Mariah similarly totally confuses us all. My guess is that they're not seeing him as the next Idol winner. No enthusiasm at all which is a bit of a shame but understandable I suppose.

Johnny Keyser may well be seeing this as his last chance but thankfully doesn't bank on about it. This is another lovely fellow who can certainly sing and, actually, he could entertain too. Vocally, Paul has the edge but Johnny comes over as reliably professional and relaxed. However I Won't Give Up was a tedious track that didn't do a great deal to show his talent or ability. Keith was short and sweet. Nicki wants to know if he has a girlfriend. He hasn't. No-one asks the obvious next question. She likes him and may vote for him or maybe she's just being nice. Randy is spot on with his comments and I reckon he's not sure he should be in the final 20 anyway. Mariah tells him to 'be around'. Whatever that means. Basically, I have no idea what anyone really thought of that. I reckon he's reached as far as he's going to get.

JDA is something else completely. Think Marc Almond and Divine. He's been kep off our screens pretty much which is a pity as he's entertaining and visually impressive. Rumour Has It starts strangely but once he gets into it he does a cool job of the track. He's wearing a dress and won't get the Texas vote and I'm not sure how far he's going to go. Original and another likeable guy/guyess. Keith's not impressed. Nicky criticises the voice and is really so accurate in spotting all the things that he did well and she 'gets' him. She's an excellent judge. Randy and Mariah focus on the lack of vocal talent and they're right. He is the third that won't make it through so that's got to be good news for the next 7, with 5 spaces still available.

Kevin Harris gets interviewed - cue kiddy photos then gets into a very confident but rather tinny version of Everything I Do which would even have put Bryan Adams to sleep. This is a good singer but way up high in a register no-one really wants to hear that song in. The song is a classic but that interpretation wasn't. Slow, slow vocal with no real feeling or impact. Keith's not bothered. Nicky's impressed and, quite surprisingly, he's the first boy that she's voting for. Randy was bored and I can see where he's coming from with that. "Not blown out at all." I think he meant 'blown away' but this is America so who knows whether he'd been out to a large lunch or not. Kevin really shouldn't be through either so, in my predictions, I'll be in big trouble trying to decide should the next 6 not have the Top 5 amongst them.

One thing for sure - had the producers mixed the girls and boys then, from what I've seen so far, even the best boy would just be at No 11.

Chris Watson is the one with a bandanna. Another we saw little of in the audition rounds. Now that's different - Otis Redding's Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay. But, that is not a cheery rock track, Chris! He treats it as just an excuse to perform. Now he certainly can perform but wrecking that track ought to be unforgivable. That was not good. Heavens, if he's out then the last 5 have it in the bag. Keith didn't like the voice, nor the interpretation but credits the performance and the guy has character. Nicky is way over the top and wants to marry his vibrato and says she loves him and he's the most beautiful guy she's seen. I think she was serious too so he's got her vote. Randy hated the whole thing but, again, recognises his charisma but that's all. Mariah was critical too - wrong song choice. I don't know - there is something about him that, given a better track and production, could work. He has a screen presence that I think Nicky has spotted and I may, like her, be prepared to forgive tonight and give him another chance. Odd. His fate depends totally on what the next 5 do, as does each of theirs as the door to the Top 20 public vote is wide, wide open still.

Devin Velez next. Straight in. No intro. This is a serious, slightly stiff, act and he runs into Spanish, Polish or whatever that was. Possibly the best vocal so far but still not stunning. Keith likes him and that's one vote. Nicky is polite and reckons he made a smart choice of song. In reality she's not a big fan. Randy liked it a lot. Once again, Mariah follows Randy and she'll vote his way. That's the first one I can be sure of.

Elijah Liu also goes straight in. Now, Asian contenders usually feature as joke acts like Heejun but this fellow is young and sweet and, despite a dodgy few notes, is different enough to make it further. Talking To The Moon suited him. As Keith points out, that was a shaky performance but it was a current and relevant performance. Nicky wants his babies. She says she'd sign him today and that's fair comment. I would too as he can be marketed easily and will soon have one big fan club. Randy can't really follow that, nor can Mariah but both recognise, in between the lines, his market value and want in on the act if he starts selling records. Nice guy - yet again - and No 2 through. This fellow could also steal some places in the Top 20 from the girls too once the public gets voting.

Charlie Askew is a cool guy. Yet another very decent guy too. Elton's Rocket Man and that suits him so well - in many ways. This is a highly intelligent contestant who has a near perfect pitch. He takes this track into places even Elton didn't take it and that was great. Standing ovation from Nicky and well-deserved too. This is not the way an Idol should look but everyone seems to love him and I'm so pleased that he'll make No 3 through. Most interesting, smartest song choice, agrees Nicky. All the adjectives are right. Love this girl's commentary. Randy has no idea. "Good. I like it!" returns Charlie. He likes him and that's about as far as Randy gets. Mariah lives for his song choice. Eh? Never mind, he's through anyway.

Jimmy Smith is another nice guy. He's the young Country singer that we haven't had yet. Pray That It's Raining On Sunday or whatever it's called is a boring track but who cares? He's got the fourth slot and will look good on TV with that great smile, tan and ripped blue jeans. The makeover team will love him. That was also another Keith Urban song so you know he'll vote for him. Nicky was bored. Randy wasn't so sure about him. Mariah, again, must be sharing Randy's notes at the start of her comments but she adds that he has something that America will want to see more of so he's number 4.

Curtis Finch probably has the best voice of the guys this week and shows off a lot in his version of The Carpenters track. In places, great. In other places, a bit weird. He's the only gospel type in this bunch, incidentally - normally we have a few more. Curtis will be through, despite all the 'see what I can do' stuff we see this week. I'd prefer he just sings straight and that he could do well. He may not necessarily give us anything that different but he deserves his place and everyone loves each other afterwards. Praise the Lord.
He gets the fifth slot.

So that's my prediction. Quite easy: Curtis, Jimmy, Charlie, Elijah, Devin.

Oh, wrong about Jimmy. So who gets his place? Paul, thanks to Jimmy Iovine's casting vote.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Las Vegas Round 1 The first five girls through to the Top 20

Ten girls. Five will go through to the Top 20. Ryan's in his suit in Las Vegas where the judges make more cuts to get just 10 girls and 10 girls over the next four weeks. Then the public will vote to get down to the Top 10 for the live shows. If the judges split 2-2 then it's nice to know that Jimmy Iovine is the one deciding if necessary. He's smart and talked so much sense in the last series.

There's another pointer on the telepronter for Ryan to mention how strong the girls are. Last week we had it in huge letters at the outset. I wonder what we'll get next time.

Jenny Beth Lewis
Tenna Torres
Adriana Latino
Brandy Hotard
Shubha Vedula
Kamaria Ousley
Kree Harrison
Angela Miller (big cheer from the crowd)
Amber Holcomb

Jenny starts. A good choice as she seems pretty experienced and confident to isn't likely to mess up in front of a very big audience - so very different to all the rounds so far.

She does good ol' fun Country and does it well. Keith notes the confidence but I didn't get the impression that he was convinced. Nicky didn't like it. Nor did Randy and Mariah spoke almost as much as she has done throughout the series. That doesn't sounded too hopeful and I think everyone must have felt that that was some pretty damn harsh judging. Maybe they've been watching the others rehearsing and know what's in store from the other nine? To me, she didn't quite look the part and lacks a likeability factor at this stage - but that doesn't mean she can't establish it - but the performance seemed first class, in tune and, if you like that sort of thing, eminently recordable. I wouldn't see her winning, though, even if she did make it through.

Teena Torres is a promotional model. 28, so it's her last chance at Idol. Husky start and nice tone to her voice in the emotional number she performs that I hadn't heard before. Missed a couple of notes along the way but clearly making an impression and that was an excellent and perfect song for her. Keith points out that it was a rarer Natasha Bedingfield number. He doesn't give much away but I reckon he's a fan. Nicky was spot on about the hair style which was definitely a bit outdated, not that she was probably to blame for that. Randy and Mariah are clearly big fans. 

Adriana is from Alaska. I don't know that we've seen her before so maybe she's one of the expected definitely going somewhere other than home contestants. She has a big voice, bluesy but the number doesn't do much for me at all nor show her capabilities. I think the song was called Ain't No Way and had a big finish but kinda stumbled along. Keith loved this and recognised the fact that this was not a commercial number, nor was it an easy one to do. Nicky was impressed too. Randy has also decided she's through. Mariah tells us that that was an Aretha Franklin number so I have to hand it to the tiny Filpino for the corage to take it and her on. Seems like we'll be having a follow-up for Jessica's home-nation fans this year.

Brandy is quite harsh-spoken and has that pretty, slightly chunky, all-American-girl look that is quite endearing and you can see the posters with her looking fabulous. The start was excellent but she went a little off as it went on and I rather lost interest. Nicky used a brilliant word - pageant -  to describe that performance. Very reminiscent of Pia Toscano in many ways. She could sing the National Anthem at games but she's not the next American Idol, I'm afraid. Randy is pretty straight about not being impressed. Mariah, too, compliments her on her looks but won't be voting for her.

Shubha Vedula has a name that sounds like a star - but maybe so do Teena Torres and Adriana Latino now I think about it! She's just 17 but comes across as much older. I seem to recall that she won some competition in Israel but I may be wrong. This was the first commercial number tonight - Born This Way. Plenty of passion in a strange version of the Lady Gaga number, against which she couldn't really have competed any other way. The audience loved it - and that was the first major response from the, Keith quite correctly says that she was trying to put too many examples of what she can do in one song. Nicky warns the audience to be prepared to boo again and says the same as Keith. This girl's confident but confusing and, if she gets through, would need to settle on one or other style to move forward. Randy was impressed and, like Keith, I reckon he changed his review based on the audience reaction. Mariah probably won't be voting for her but recognised her talent. She's another doubful.

Kamaria says she has been in the music business backing some smart names so should know what she's doing on stage. She's another I don't remember from early rounds. This was not a good performance - off key almost all the way through and quite painful to listen to. Even if she had been in tune, I don't like her voice or style of performance with a lot of quite over the top efforts. I expected a lot better and can only guess that she got this one wrong and may well have to stay in backing groups. No. She's out, for sure. Judges were polite. Randy more or less said what I said - just shorter and he would have been entitled to use the pitchy word. Mariah was almost forgiving but she won't be voting for her.

Kree Harrison, 22, works in the Nashville music industry so, again, should know what she's doing. Here's competition for the other Country contestants. Nice tone and emotion from the very start. So often performances start badly or weakly but that's something none can be faulted for this time. Complex song that lost me completely but for fans of the genre my guess is that they will love her. Indeed, second biggest applause of the night. Keith's on her team, very complimentary and, yup, he's voting for her. Nicky recognises her talent too and says the other Country girls should be afraid. That's true. She may not have star looks (yet) but is totally natural and they like that. Randy's going to vote for her too. And Mariah, I wouldn't have predicted this at the start but I reckon Kree's in the first Top 5 with Adriana so far.

Angela Miller started off a little pushy but totally redeemed herself and has won over many hearts, minds and votes in all her performances since, now regarded as a front runner to win the whole thing. Tonight she is fabulous again. yet another song I don't recognise but I don't need to. It was excellent, if too short! Nobody's Perfect was the title but her voice and stage performance certainly are perfect. Keith needs to say little. Nicky: your an artist, period, congrats. Randy: this girl's the real deal, she's going places. Mariah: keep writing, phenomenal etc. etc. etc. I would just ask the makeover people to go easy on the teeth-whitening.

Isabelle appears not to have a surname. She's a tall, impressive figure, tightly wrapped in a white mini-dress. Following Angela would have been difficult but she does a reasonable job with God Bless The Child in an earthy, strong style that gets applause from the judges. Some notes went wrong in the middle. Keith and Nicky seemed keen but Randy and Mariah aren't that sure. She's on the edge but may just be heading to land on the right side against the other uncertain ones tonight such as Jenny.

So far it's Angela, Kree, Adriana and two of Shubha, Teena or Isabelle. Will Amber make the cut? There is a big hole where commercial pop music would fit. If she can fit that or do something modern she'll stand a chance. Otherwise she needs to beat Jenny at the Country game or someone else at the ballad game.

Amber is one of the best-looking of this group. It's a moody ballad - so she's up against competition with My Sweet Valentine. She also tries just a bit too hard to throw everything into a song that would have been better just sung. That was actually pretty good and, whilst old-fashioned and occasionally not exactly easy listening, she will have put several others out of the competition.

So my prediction is: Angela, Kree, Adriana, Amber and Isabelle may just beat Teena but if Jimmy gets involved we may still see Shubha survive. That fifth place is a tough decision. Personally, I would give Jenny Beth another chance as she was note perfect and real Country style as opposed to several balladeers.

Teena survives and is first through to the public vote.
Kree takes the second stool.
Angela - well, there would have been a riot if she didn't! - takes another stool.
Amber takes stool four.
Adriana gets the fifth.

This was quite an impressive night and I like the way the Series is allowing us to see a lot more of the Top 40. It's pretty similar to the suggestions I made for X Factor to work better - we need to see far more of the contenders and not just hear them doing full performances at the Live Shows when one dodgy song can see them go. I may still have doubts about how the American public seem heavily biased towards Country and that makes it tough for others to win but this year there may be enough talent - Carly Rose Sonnenclar ten years on - to beat Texas.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Hollywood: Tough decisions but some clear leaders emerge as the Top 40 is decided. I think.

Angela Miller
With an original song this girl sets the standard for the others to meet. A brilliant original song sung marvellously well. Randy rabbited on all the way through.

Candice Gover
Good strong and she's confident performer but is she anything we haven't seen before? I don't know. Clearly a favourite with Randy but she was pitchy in places but no-one said anything.

Janelle Arthur
Very safe and traditional but lovely and she comes across with such a nice personaility that the voters ought to love.

Zoanette Johnson
Oh boy. She's on the drums. 20 years old? Good grief? This woman is bizarre, with some strange number she comes up with an invents as she goes. What an extraordinary performance! No way do I want to see her in the Live Shows but something tells me she'll keep going for the silly entertainment factor. Mad.

Jett Hermano (did we see her?)

They're all through.

Shubha Vedula
Experience shows. She knows what she's doing and does it well. Just not sure how the voters will take her.

Juliana Chahayed
Lovely tone and nature. We've hardly seen this girl at all so far and don't get much of a shot this time either.

Kez Ban
Her original song is not a good one, nor is the guitar work. Very short, a bit indulgent. Nicki is clearly not impressed and just delivers the end of journey line there and then. Kez exits nicely, though, appealing for a job on the show so all's well with the world.

Shubha and Juliana go through, although I didn't see it happen but presume it did. Strange editing in this programme.

Ashlee Feliciano
Not making a good impression and seems to annoy Randy. Even her remarkable final high notes were off.

Melinda Ademi
Straight on without any nonsense and delivers Price Tag excellently which made the judges happier which won't do her any harm at all.

Kree Harrison
She has managed to survive against all the odds as she hasn't exactly shone in the rounds so far, Randy even rejecting her at her first audition. This time she excelled and was in exactly her element, coming across really well, if not absolutely spot on the high notes. Serious but attractive girl. Nice job may have justified her being there. We gather that it has been Keith and Mariah that have recognised her talents and this time Nicki spoke up well for her so that should be good news for her and will have made her day.

Sure enough, Kree and Melinda are through with Lauren who we didn't see perform. Breanna and Serena join Ashlee in being cut. Cue a while wathcing Serena cry.

So it's down to 24 girls with another 4 more to go. Lauren, Holly, Arial get sent home at this really upsetting point. There's one more to go. Stephanie is the lovely girl with the big Dolly-blonde hair and big smile. She comes across brilliantly and sounds different to so many others that I'd love to see her survive. Shie is up against Rachel Hale, the very accomplished Country singer and she has Nicki backing her. Such a shame, as on that comparison I would have chosen Stephanie but she's sent home.

We could do with an official list as I have serious doubts about one or two, including Aubrey Cleland and Kamaria.

Now, back to the boys. they have several to get rid of. Adam Sanders is a cool, fun guy but he does wail. He acts very professionally, getting the band on key but the wailing is disappointing. I guess he was trying to impress.

Josh Holiday. First time I've seen him, I think. He's a good singer. Pity about the white jeans - wearing them, I mean, not splitting them as he did! Very professional-looking guy with one great voice.

Called out are Peter Garret, Marvyn, Devon Jones, Kenny Harrison, Will white, Tony Foster, David Leathers and Adam Sanders. That's it for those guys. Some pretty disappointed and David Leathers is cut at the same point as last time.

They're all off to Las Vegas with a live audience and the judges choosing, presumably, just 5 out of twenty. Boy, now that's going to be tricky!!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Hollywood: The Girls Pt 1

Everyone's been saying that the girls are much stronger this year so this should be interesting. The fact that few of the boys have made a big impact may be witness to that but who knows what will really happen once they get down to the best 5 in each category? For now we're deciding the Top 40 - and 20 of tonight's girls will move forward.

This is another of the dreaded 'group' days. Well, it will after the acapella bit when there's a need to get rid of a few.

Angela Miller introduces herself as The Next American Idol. That put me off a bit but she is good and I hope she gets through and settles down so that she doesn't need to do the intro bit again. We also see Mariah and Victoria but neither were that impressive. Luckily we don't get too much coverage of those not making it. I guess there are so many that we also won't even get that good a look at those that do either.

Two Country girls. Rachel Hale has an accent you'll remember and either love or hate. Definitely talented but I wouldn't want to listen to her for long the way she was singing in the acapella round. In contrast, Janelle was much more pleasant. They should both go through a bit further and they do. Glimpses only of loads more. A lot of talk in the background about Candice Glover. She does the usual stuff that girls like Candice Glover do. Megan Miller is far more interesting but it's Candice that gets through. So far there has, thankfully, not been many of the big gospel crowd on screen. I feel that genre's time has been and gone now. The girl's solid and clearly experienced but I want something just a little different. Not that 'different' wins, though. Remember the big Country vote, folks - they'll be voting Rachel.

Isabelle has been one of my favourites and did a beautiful version of Summertime. Not sure what her surname is but I guess we'll find out eventually. She is perhaps the first real stand-out for me. Kez Ban is getting plenty of screen time - she's the masculine one who has a natural carefree talent - and moves forward with what we're told are another 72! It is so difficult to judge anyone really from just a line or two and with so many just shown as through there's little to compare each of them with.

OK. It's group time now. If I were them the one bit I would ditch the choreography and just get the tune and words right. Who cares whether they can dance? It seems to cause a lot of stress for no good reason. Anyway, there are plenty of problems with Kez Ban who really is a pain for the others to deal with and it's a credit to them that they stayed cool. The odd Zoanette Johnson seems to be having trouble with the group choice of Knock On Wood but I have a suspicion that she'll pull something out of the hat later.

Melinda, Ameni, Candice and a couple of others put on a good show to start off with.

Brandy Hotard led and stood out in the second group we see who also all get through.

The third lot were not too bright, with just someone called Dayja getting through. Savannah had worked pretty hard to get them organised but gets cut and isn't so happy. Yes, she seemed the more confident on stage but she looked a bit harsh and older than an Idol might be expected to which may not be a good reason for cutting her but she wasn't that brilliant anyway. I don't see the one that did go through getting much further.

Next Kriss, Janel Stanley, Cristabel Clack and a fourth whose name I missed surprisingly get through. Nicki describes them as the best audition by a group who forgot their words and rescues Janel from what seemed certain cutting to the surprise of virtually everyone, especially Keith and Mariah.

Next Sumedha, Sarina, Aubrey Cleland and Shubha.  Sumedha and Sarina are pretty useless. The other two clearly lead the way. Now this is odd as I thought Aubrey was easily the one who sang well and looked good with a certain something that is needed in this competition. But it looked as though only Shubha gets through, however, which doesn't tie with the rumours I've heard either. Maybe there will be some second chances?

Jett, Seretha, Tenna and Kiara. Seretha doesn't make it but the other three do. Kiara must be relieved as that was pretty bad and Nicky makes her view clear that she would have not have given her another chance.

Now it's the Zoanette Johnson group. She's with Erin and Lauren who were a bit weak and another Country girl (who?) They had finally managed to work out something for Knock On Wood which wasn't exactly inspiring but enough to get the big Z and Erin through. Z had a terrible hairstyle and I am beginning to think that she's going to be there just for the tv ratings, I would have dropped her by now as, whilst she's reasonable, she is way over the top,

Courtney, Alicia Dixon, Liz Shira Courtney and Liz were OK. Alicia, despite being Colton Dixon's sister, is cut and that song didn't suit her anyway. Shira comes back for some feedback. She doesn't look attractive and can hardly question all four judges who quite politely said she was useless. That was a bad audition and the only one getting through was Liz Bills, a music teacher, who seems to have done her own thing which may have been just as well with the three she was accompanying. Courtney may have been worth another try but no great loss.

Last minute morning change by some nice mannered girls Stephanie, Alex, Kalli and Holly Miller. I liked Stephanie and Kalli but it was Holly who joined Stephanie to go through.

Haley, Kree, Brittnee and Brandy did a pretty good job despite not sleeping or rehearsing much. Haley, Kree and Britnee get through. Haley was quite a surprise after getting a big telling off from Nicky who clearly was not impressed that she had gone to bed at 2:30am while the others stayed up all night. Personally, I would prefer to get some sleep and perform reasonably awake than attempt to impress without any sleep but the hand writing thing was silly. Either learn the words or make something up. Brandy Neale was the one sent home and she took that in really good humour - an attitude that many others might learn from.

Kez Ban has been quite annoying. Breanna Steer Angela Miller Janelle Arthur were all fabulous, Janelle particularly - now beginning to be my favourite. Kez Ban did behave in the end and they all get through more easily than any others so far. With the possible exception of Candice I suppose. Angela Miller is another contender that's emerging too and I think we see her doing something exceptional in the next section to be screened tomorrow.

I think the awkward stages for commentary are over now. The next show should resolve all the Top 20 Boys and Girls. I would like to know what happens to Aubrey Cleland and I really don't recall seeing Adriano Latonio and Amber Holcomb who are supposed to be doing well but why aren't we seeing them? Odd. Unless they were two of the ones I missed tonight. Watch carefully tomorrow. All should be revealed.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Hollwood Week: The Boys Pt 2

They call this Solo Day so there's some chance that we might actually get some better idea of who can do what this time. We get told that there are just 43 left.

We meet Paul Jolley who seems pretty nervous. It looked like he was falling apart at the start but he produces a fabulous first paragraph from Blown Away.

Lazaro is back with The Edge. We don't get much more than the two words

Curtis Finch has been pretty professional all the way through and he gets a good amount of airtime for his take on Jar Of Hearts. Nice job.

All three are through and that, I presume, means they're in the Top 20 Boys. Lazaro may have TV appeal because of the stutter story and, yes, he may well get the public voting for him but the other two are the ones to watch so far, even from what little we saw of Paul and despite his 70s white trousers and the Sinatra white jacket that Curtis wore!

Devin Velez doesn't look the star but that was a cool version of What A Wonderful World. The song list is good this year - and these guys have been

Gurpreet Singh Sarin does Georgia very nicely. An odd guy for the Live Shows and not exactly an American Idol but he is coming across pretty consistently and is reliable. Can't see him doing the dancing around or the Abba round, though.

Cortez Shaw does a nice version of Sonny and should have finally won over Nicky who was pretty down on him last time round. Great choice of tracks again.

Matheus Fernandez tries hard with Stronger but seems off-key and may have blown it. Nice fellow but that could be as far as he gets. It is. The other three make it through, together with Adam (surname unknown) who is shown through but we didn't see him perform nor I am sure he does actually make the Top 20 so maybe there are further cuts?

This going too well. Something has to go wrong sooner or later. No breakdowns or apologies or forgotten words. Remarkable. Thereagain, no-one has really grabbed me yet either, personaility-wise. I ahve been impressed with Nicky's very good comments, usually to get candidates thinking straight and having no time at this point for wet stuff. Good for her.

Nicholas Mathis is a big black huy - even bigger than Curtis - and does Your Sex Takes Me To Paradise or whatever it's actually called. Not bad but it wasn't as good and there ain't room for the two of them. They're similar but Curtis was better.

Papa Peaches rather ruins You And I. I have no idea what he's trying to do and Nicky accuses him of being complacent.

Jimmy Smith, in contrast, chooses a great track for him and that produces the goods nicely. He's competition for Paul Jolley. Johnny Keyser and Vince Powell join those two in going through. Nicholas is upset.

Nick Boddington. We haven't seen much of him at all. He's an odd looking fellow but he has one of the best voices. He actually looks a lot better this year without the strange glasses I remember. No idea what teh Stars song was but he produced it well and played well too. Good job. He deserves a place this time.

Charlie Askew is an oddball. James May hair. He does the intro to the Gotye Someone I Used To Know. Perfect! A genuine performance. Nice quirky style and even though he's odder than many of the rest, and less likely to look the part than Bodders, that style could see him go some distance. Loved that very smart intro to the track!

Mathanee Treco and Jada were kept off our screens (again!) so they're either so good they want to hold back on us or not likely to play a significant part. They're through, though, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Burnell Taylor nice job and Marvin Calderton competent are both through with yet more Jars Of Hears.

Micah Johnson is the one who sings well but speaks funnily. I Told You So suited his husky sound but i wasn't that convinced. He doesn't make it but takes it well.

Then the guys 'through' get called back in. There's 28 of them. Ah. That means another 8 still to go.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Hollywood Week: The Boys

It's always been difficult commentating on this round. Huge numbers get whittled down and in the past they had to form groups which was pretty mad. Memories of Scotty wandering around and no-one wanting to have in.

This time it looks a little better with a line-up of six or seven by the look of it on stage going one or two lines at a time. We see one or two for the first time too but really just a line isn't enough. Cortez Shaw we see doing three lines and sounding pretty damn impressive. This part, though, is more of a way to find a quick exit to avoid time wasters who probably shouldn't really have been there and in that respect, if they can get ri of a pile of useless acts now, so much the better.

At the end of the week there'll be just 20 guys left and next week they'll choose the 20 girls. That should make life a bit easier. How they'll cut them further remains to be seen. I'm surprised there hasn't been any good leaks yet.

We get a long intro for Lazaro Arbos, the guy with the stutter and the heavy Spanish or Portugese accent. I do hope they don't put him through just because he makes good TV as his singing of Angels wasn't that brilliant. Bryant Tadeo and Charles Allen we hadn't seen before that I remember.

I don't know if it's my monitor's resolution but Mariah looks huge. Some shots taken from behind on the stage weren't so complimentary, nor were some of her behind the desk. For someone with so much money, you'd think she'd be able to choose colours and clothes that disguise bulges rather than emphasise them. I suppose it's possible that no-one dares advise her. Occasionally she's got it right but the sky blue number does not work.

So, Group Night is still there. The producers fix the groups and that's probably not such a bad idea and certainly an improvement on people trying to sort themselves out. Looks like they get some support from vocal aides too which is another good thing. Still some problems but I guess it's a way to see who can cope with getting some tune and lyrics together. I've always wondered why on Earth they need to learn dance moves as well and don't recall many of the previous winners doing anything particularly impressive or more than a shuffle at best! Philip? Scotty? David? Hardly!

Anyway we get to see some cool performances and some disastrous ones and plenty seem to get through this section too so presumably there's still some decisions to be made to get the numbers down. Not having names appear on screen very often makes it tricky but I spotted Gupreet Singh Sarin and Elifah Liu going through which should help to tick some diversity boxes. Johnny Keyser is still hanging in there despite losing the words to Reach Out I'll Be There. 

We get a look at someone billed as JDA who I think is Joshua jada Davila and he sounds cool. Still haven't seen another Joshua - Halliday - who is supposed to be pretty good. I may have missed him I suppose.

The kids at the end made us all go Aww as my tennage daughter would say. They tried pretty hard and David Leathers was a stand out with Kevin Quinn. Not sure how much further even they'll get, though.

One thing strikes me, though, and that's how average they all seem at the moment. This round really doesn't give anyone a chance to do themselves much good - it's more a case of ensuring they don't give the judges a reason to send them home.

A lot of time spent on one final group in the evening with Frankie Ford getting upset and telling the cameras he'd be back next year quite a lot.

To be honest, after two hours, I'm not a great deal wiser about anyone. This is a round for the judges more than viewers. Let's see what they decide tomorrow.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Oklahoma Wind Up The Auditions

More water. They're at The Devon Boat House in Oklahoma. That's where, as Ryan reminds us, Carrie Underwood arrived to audition.

Carl Skinner looks like something out of a cartoon. I think he's wearing flares! He can sing, though, and play, and as well as an energetic version of I Feel Good he sang with a guitar something he'd written. The dancing was rubbish but he's OK and through. I don't see him making the big time but he'll have fun for a while.

Lots of clips of useless people then Ne Tao, both of whose parents are deaf. He did an OK audition, nice personality. No star Idol quality that I saw but he gets a shot in Hollywood.

Haley and Oscar next. Ha ha! Haley's a ventriloquist. Oscar's a furry something or other. A duet? Oh boy. This might work on America's Got Talent. On her own, she's good, although up against some tough competition already. She'll get through to Hollywood. Oscar doesn't. Cue production team having fun with that! All good fun and Oklahoma does seem to have much more cheerful people auditioning than some places we've been. Must be something in the water.

The judges are all getting along fine too. Nicki's still out there but not as heavily as before and Mariah seems to be enjoying herself a lot more. She's not offering much by way of feedback compared to the others. Keith is up on all the technical stuff and recognises the genres perfectly, with a cool sense of humour as well. Randy is occasionally right on it but most of the time is like someone who has just woken up after a big meal. Nicki is way ahead when it comes to telling acts where it's at. Despite presenting the words in a unique way, she sure does get the message across and it's been spot on so far.

Zoanette Johnson is a big lady. She murders the National Anthem. And fashion - she looks as if the clothes are stuck on and stay where the glue sticks. That was awful. Amazing range, for all that. Weird person. Good grief, she's through. God help the others at Hollywood. I wonder if the judges know more about her than we see?

Anatacia Freeman is off-key. Why even show this? We could have had at least a third of three decent acts that do get through instead of this horrible noise. Go away, girl, please! Oh no, we get more.. she says God told her to audition. Cue another playtime by the production team who really are scraping the barrel with this one. At least they did add 'cheap dramatization' to the clip. God, what a waste of time.

Catum Richardson is really young. His story is certainly one of the saddest - with severe health trouble that may cut his life span to just 35 years or so. Great attitude and personality but I wasn't so impressed with his audition. I guess he deserved to get through but somewhere along the line he'll be cut and that'll be time for tears.

'Pepper' appears at the end. I'll admit that I didn't see Steven Tyler coming!

So that's it. Auditions done. If we've seen the winner I've missed it.

At Holywood they'll be cut down to just 40: 20 boys and 20 girls. My guess is that we haven't seen more than 10 from each category perform so we're very much still in the dark! No bets yet, unless you know something I don't.