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 Nicky was spot on about the hair style which was definitely a bit outdated, not that she was probably to blame for that.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.