Friday, 29 March 2013

The one where Kree gets the credit and Deven gets Lazaro'd

Janelle and Angie looking sultry in jeans and black tops. That'll help their Country votes! Now, by rights it should be Lazaro going home but we know he has all the girls' support out there so it should be between Burnell and Deven. I have a feeling, though, that one of the girls is going to be at the bottom of the list and also that the 'save' will be used,

The Top 8 sing-a-long emphasises the difference between the girls and three boys. It is still a bit sad and something they could usefully drop fairly soon, like next week.

Kree gets an endorsement from Aretha Franklin (arranged by Smokey Robinson). Quite a nice touch. Jimmy Iovine's summary tells it like it is and Candice, Janelle, Amber and Kree must share the top 4 positions this week, Angie's surprisingly bad performance putting her somewhat at risk. He seems to think that Deven and Burnell performed well in their individual rounds and would expect to see Lazaro going home. I still think we could be in for a surprise, with either Angie or poor Amber struggling for votes against Lazaro.

Colton Dixon has had a good year. I had to smile at the Ryan commentary announcing that his first album charted at #1 ... in the Christian Music and Gospel lists!! I would have been more than impressed with #43 on Billboard or US Top 100, or wherever he featured. Nice performance and another reminder of how rubbish this year's remaining boys are. I keep asking myself how it could have happened. Although he needed some work, I feel that Elijah could have brought something more modern to the show and, of course, Charlie Askew would have kept us entertained and, at least, had some star quality.

Candice and Kree, I think we can assume, are in for the long haul. Janelle will be safe this week but it'll be week by week for her from here with all the Kree love going on. Amber is lovely but i can see her just being ignored. Angie, talented as she most certainly is, may finish up as an older Carly Rose Sonenclar, on Broadway, getting rave reviews but not the Idol winner.

One Republic I Lose Myself Tonight - very smart performance with another (much further back contestant) Katherine McPhee joining them but not actually contributing as much as she might to the excitement. Still, a nice break.

Keith Urban gets a slot, too, in this busy show. He writes good Country rock numbers that flow along and have a good catch too. Nothing particularly memorable but preferable to listening to any of the boys again!

It must be time to get the votes. We only got the old-style Bottom 3 last week. Will we get the Top 3 and placings thereafter this week? No. Old style stuff again.

Candice -safe
Kree - safe
Janelle - safe
Angie - safe
Amber - my recording missed her announcement - it jumped to the Bottom three:
Burnell -he's safe
Lazaro - again, he scrapes through
Deven has the bottom position and, despite a pleasant ballad effort which Mariah loves, he isn't going to be this year's Idol and so I don't think he's worth the save. That would be better used should Lazaro put someone like Amber or Janelle in the danger zone (as I thought might have happened this week). For a moment I thought he'd got it but it wasn't to be.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The one where Smokey Robinson looks quite young

The Music of Detroit is the theme this week and there's an intro from Smokey Robinson who provided the guidance for the last 8 contenders.

Candice gets a bundle of compliments from Jimmy and Smokey during rehearsals. She does her take on I Heard I Through The Grapevine. Some take it was too. One of the best versions I've heard! Superb. This girl is ready to record now. She is showing herself as a clear potential winner of this thing - in normal conditions, Of course, there's the Country vote to handle yet.

Kree and Janelle do a joint version of Madonna's Like A Prayer. Pretty nice and commercial. Randy and Nicky give Kree all the compliments and Janelle gets all the criticism from those two. Mariah takes ger time and actually makes the best observations, recognising that Janelle has something that appeals to the crowd even if Kree may have the better technicalities. There was a point at the end where Janelle's arm went up - that said it all for me. I wonder how they're all going to fit in duos or whatever?

Lazaro gets told to go out and do what he feels comfortable with by both Jimmy and Smokey. He picks For Once In My Life by Stevie Wonder. It's another from his album of well-rehearsed numbers and whilst he doesn't actually go anywhere with the song, it is one of his better performances. He could even survive with that. Which does beg the question Who goes?

Janelle now, on her own. You Keep Me Hangin' On could be good or it could go wrong. It's been done by so many people from The Supremes to Vanilla Fudge! She knows this well and had been working on her own version since age 14!  And that was very very good. Mariah says that was her at her finest and anything the others had said had just been proved wrong! Super arrangement and quite brave, bringing out the darker side of the track which The Supremes missed. She even gets an 'in it to win it' from Randy.

Deven brings the beautiful Tracks Of My Tears to the stage. What a mess. He shouldn't have bothered and it's even worse when the master is right there trying to be polite and considerate. I would actually say that Lazaro deserves to stay this week - provided it's Deven that goes. This guy has been just disappointing in the Live Shows.

Amber, Candice and Angie do The Supremes I'm Going To Make You Love Me. Good job, especially Amber who just suits this era so well.

Burnell does My Cherie Amour. It should work well for him. My Cher Free Amour emerges at one point and it gets a little tedious - all at the same phrasing volume. He seems to remember to ease back at the la -l -la bit but then he's off again. Still the best guy by a mile but that still only puts him 6th.

Angie is doing Shop Around. Hope it works for her. This isn't a song for proper pronunciation or best diction, as Jimmy tells her. It didn't work well. She wanted to show another side to her but I don't think we need to see it and Mariah gives her good advice. She could have easily romped home this week with any number of Motown classics. Nicky gets it spot on too.

Ryan reminds us that Amber is trying to get out of the bottom three. Odd remark as the votes start all over each week. She does Lately and should do that well. She puts a lot in and does certainly do that well. Excellent reviews from the judges so something very wrong if she is still struggling tomorrow.

The three boys tried a Four Tops performance. Luckily, Deven rescued them as only he seemed to have a clue about what was going on! Hilarious and Nicky tells them off big time. Justifiably too.

Finally, Kree has the spot and the chance to seal the deal with the last spot and a good idea of what she needs to do to stay in. Aretha Franklin's Don't Play That Song was an excellent choice and everyone loved it.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The one where you realise how old-style this Series seems!

How much we need the Jimmy Iovine summary! He talks such sense and cuts out a lot of the rubbish that the judges (Keith Urban excepted) deliver after the performances.

Amber gets the Seacrest invite but it's only to run a recording from rehearsals when she was giggling at the ridiculous smoke machine making her performance impossible. It's ad time so she has to sit down again. If she were top 3 material this week then he should have told her. That was not well handled.

Next, in fact we get one of those forgettable sing-a-long spots with the 4 guys doing a crap version of Gotta Get You Into My Life.

Paul Jolley gets pulled back. He has some silly Name Day certificate presented to him and also the news that he is in the bottom three..

Casey Abrahms shows the guys what they should have done with a great and refreshing version of I Saw Her Standing There. He's looking strange but there's talent all right!

The five remaining girls show how good they are by avoiding disaster with Here There And Everywhere which was a brave shot requiring absolutely precise tuning.

Deven is also in the bottom three.

Lazaro really ought to be joining Paul and Deven. This feeling sorry business is getting a drag. He is not in the bottom three, though. Lovely character but I can see his continuing story taking so much time and space away from the others.

Jessica Sanchez returns to the Idol stage and presents her single with Ne-yo. It's nothing like as catchy as the brilliant Jump In whihc never did get released but that'll do well and was an interesting reminder, following Casey, of just how straight, respectable and nice the current competitors are. There are some fine voices and talent but the mix hasn't yet shown us true originality to stand out. If anything, whilst Kree and Angie get the credit for singing and writing, it's Janelle and Amber who have the personalities and are coming over best. (Candice wins anyway.) This is the year of the serious, planned assault on the show, to win and make money, have kids, retire. No Casey or Jessica here this year.

Time for the votes:

Paul's out. That's wrong. Amber was also bottom three which is also wrong.

Paul does a good, sold version of Alone which is ideal for his range and style. It won't save him, though.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The one where we see how restricted some people's radio channels must have been

Billed as Our Top Nine take on the Fab Four. Unbelievable how many contestants (and a judge!) didn't know the Beatles' tracks they were given. So it was no contest really. If they'd really wanted to take on the Beatles, here's what one of them should have done:

The 11th slot on the Idol Tour goes to Aubrey Cleland. I guess Charlie doesn't cut it with voting people over there. I still think he'd have been great on the shows - especially tonight.

Kree starts with her fairly predictable With A Little Help From My Friends. Well sung and she seems just totally reliable, performing naturally. She strikes me as the one who could be around all the way through but never quite exciting anyone. The judges give her credit galore and she's clearly a favourite of theirs now.

Burnell tackles Let It Be. He says he doesn't know the track so you do have to wonder two things. One - so why choose it!?? Two - where on Earth has he been and which station does he tune in to day by day? I reckon Jimmy fixed this one as it has the gospel stuff and works well with his tone. I still find the way he does low notes quite disconcerting. Good, but still a but uninspiring.

Mariah finally has a dress that suits her. Well dome make-over team in that area.

Amber picks She's Leaving Home. Nice track. This girl keeps surprising me. She doesn't look old or big enough for such great voice and notes and is really making her mark on the show. Mariah says she didn't know the song. Amber didn't know the song. God what is going on. Randy was annoyingly and quite rudely dismissive saying that she 'ended well.' Keith was the one to give her the credit she needed. Thank heavens someone seems to care. Best track so far tonight, but it's fair to say that none of the three have been at all bad!

Lazaro seems to know what he's doing - a great song My Life. The start is dreadful. No, he can't do this any more, folks. Lovely fellow but he does struggle with the notes and his breathing. He ended a lot better than he began but this is not Idol material. Time to go, even though I'm sure he won't.

Mariah is polite and talks about courage a lot. Keith is all technical, another way to avoid saying anything bad. Nicky is honest and great, telling him off. Randy - hey, he comes straight out with it and says that was his worst performance ever. Lazaro makes some excuses about only learning the song the day before. Hmmm.

Candice should wake us up. A track from Abbey Road they say. Come Together. Another fine choice when there may have been many simpler and more popular alternatives. That was impressive. Again. Boy this woman is on the final road all right. Just great. She takes the lead with that.

Paul seems to live in the middle of nowhere and construction techniques are greener than green which is nice. He does Eleanor Rigby. That's difficult. Well done to him for that. He has a slightly annoying tone at the start and you get the feeling that he's trying hard to get things right, which he did but without as much connection as I wanted. He looks like a classic cruise ship entertainer and somehow I can't see him getting far. He's done well and makes some interesting choices, seldom lets us down but still No 8 or 9 in this competition is a great prize for him. He shouldn't be at risk this week but could be for all the wrong reasons.

Angie chooses, or someone does, Yesterday. So many people have done this. I can't think of anyone who have done it that well, though. Another brilliant performance. Someone has finally sorted her hair - not sure about the colour change, though. Great comments from Randy, in particular. She has to be another potential finalist.

Deven goes for The Long And Winding Road. Never liked this one much. His singing this time matches Burnell's and is better if you don't look at him. The track suits him but, like the road, never really gets anywhere I felt happy with. Mariah is right behind him. This is someone who simply hasn't shone since making the Live Shows. I don't see him as any long-term performer we'll be paying to hear in years to come.

I do wish the crowd would shut up in the middle of tracks. What is this need to applaud and interrupt whatever is seen as the 'high point' of the song?

Janelle closes with I Will which is not the sort of track you'd expect someone to pick given the whole Beatles catalogue to select from. That was a nice, honest Country track which everyone likes. Randy has it down as one of the best of the night. I was impressed and reckon this should pull her back up from a low position last week. She certainly looks fabulous. So far, Kree seems to have stolen her Country vote. She needs that back and this week may be her chance.

I like the review at the end and here's how I reckon they finished up.

9th Lazaro tired and boring
8th Deven very boring
7th Burnell odd noise
6th Kree trying too hard
5th Paul something good going on there
4th Amber just a little more emotion needed
3rd Angie not as good second time around
2nd Janelle nice, this works for her

1st Candice attacking the competition

I may change my mind again tomorrow, of course!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The one where Charlie and Aubrey get another chance and Nicky doesn't go home.

Ryan starts by saying there'll be a sing-off between one guy and one girl. I'm hoping I didn't hear that correctly. Not that it matters - it will be a guy going tonight, however they work it.

Another odd tweak by the producers has Ryan telling them how many votes they got in their home territory. I'm not sure how useful that is. More interesting is the announcement of who is in the Top 3 each week - a bit like X Factor USA's ranking but without a more specific rank.

He starts with Deven, Janelle and Candice. Candice is in the Top 3. Deven and Janelle aren't. I thought Janelle might have been but imagine two of the other girls must have pushed her out.

My last article ended with: So, who will America throw out in Week 1? I would put Lazaro, Curtis and Deven in the Bottom Three but suspect it will be between Paul and Deven. I don't know if we'll get a Bottom Three as such now - it looks like we will get the 4-10 ranking with the 10th going home.

Some huge bloke comes on and gives Kree a key to some place in Texas. So will there be some award each week for the others? That was odd, especially as his back, covered in some equally gigantic tan coloured jacket almost filled the screen. Kree is also the second person in the Top 3.

Eh?? Now I'm confused, Charlie is back!!?? Oh, the 'sing off' Ryan was talking about appears to be between one girl and one guy who were rejected at the Top Ten stage. God, this is confusing! He sings Sky Blue Diamonds beautifully - a straight act from this guy with a stunning tone and that was extremely good, far, far better than any of the guys last week. That was his own song too - a brave move and it would be so good if he does get on to the Live Tour.

Oh boy, my other favourite, Aubrey Cleland, is the other contestant for this spot, On My Own she delivers nicely - and I do like her voice and looks - but she gets some notes wrong and it really doesn't match Charlie's performance. She does pull things back a bit at the end but I fear that she won't get back in. Now, I am still assuming that someone will be going home tonight, with 11 going on the American Idol tour instead of ten, including whoever gets kicked off tonight.

Last year's winner, Phillip Phillips does his new single Gone Gone Gone. He hasn't had any success over here in the UK but he sounds remarkably like Mumford & Sons who are now really popular here so perhaps he could break through now. It's a professional and naturally great performance. I still think Jessica should have won and would have been a more internationally successful representative of this show but the guy certainly has his fans over the water with 'quadruple platinum' for Home based on USA sales alone.

Lazaro and Angie. One has made it into the Top 3. Angie is the third member of that group. Three girls in the Top 3. That figures. I'd have five girls in the Top 5 from last night's efforts. Lazaro apparently beat her in Florida. Interesting. Presumably he's polled well across the States so won't be in the risk zone this week.

I am still trying to figure out what's going on. I guess the judges will be deciding between Charlie and Aubrey for the Idol Tour space but will they also be back in the Live Shows? The judges will also, presumably, be deciding between the two lowest ranking on the votes list too, with one going home.

4th Lazaro! Good Grief - that makes him the #1 Guy, even with a very average performance
5th Amber 
6th Janelle
7th Burnell
8th Paul!

So it's Deven and Curtis in the bottom two, which was what I'd initially thought but I reckoned Curtis would have had a lot of gospel support.
9th Deven!
10th Curtis!

Wow. I didn't expect that. So now I figure out how this works: the bottom performer will sing again but will only get to continue if all four judges use their one and only 'save' in the series to keep him in. Nicky has already said that she's going home if he goes home. My guess is that they'll agree to keep him, recalling all the OTT comments they made in the past, especially Randy's, and that will be the end of their ability to save anyone else. 

I was wrong again. Randy says that they were not unanimous! Nicky wants extra time but she doesn't get it. I am expecting at any moment a change of mind or even rules but no, he's gone. It wasn't a great version of the annoying I Believe I Can Fly. He had bags of passion but the fact that the public haven't taken to him does say something and all credit to whoever did vote against him to preserve that valuable option for someone who really could win but trips up one week.

I was also wrong again about the Charlie - Aubrey thing. Maybe there's a vote going on for them which we'll find out about next week.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The one where we get to see what the make-over teams have done.

Just in case you've just started following this, it's the first Live Show and the ten competing for the title American Idol 2013 are:

The GirlsAngela | Candice | Janelle | Kree | Amber

The BoysPaul | Curtis | Burnell | Lazaro | Deven

From here on it's the voting public that'll be deciding who stays in the competition, one leaving each week (unless they change the rules!).

It's Idol Week which means they choose a track by a previous winner which narrows the field a bit.

Curtis sings the song that Fantasia won with way back. He's wearing a curtain made into a jacket which actually suits him. Not a brilliant track, sort of off the shelf, written by someone for the programme, by the sound of it. Pretty boring and, although he did his best, that never went anywhere and some notes even sounded quite dodgy. I should think he's got plenty of support out there so should be safe on this first night, with several others likely to get fewer votes, whatever they sing.

It's also Makeover week and we get to see what sort of a job the teams have made of rebranding their charges. Good job with Curtis. Not that he needed much more than a polish as he looked smart and cool before.

Janelle has loads to choose from and that must be to her advantage. Add the fact that any cheerful Country stuff by this attractive blonde - even more so with an excellent makeover - will attract the same voters who put Scotty and many before him at the top. It's always a good idea to look like you're enjoying yourself when doing something cheerful and she manages that well. She is a confident performer and a natural in front of the camera. Nicky finally arrives but seems to have forgotten to take her sunglasses off which makes you wonder what she was doing to make her late. 'Traffic jam' isn't convincing. Randy didn't like the song choice. Mariah caught the experience point and reckons she's on target all right. Keith likes her anyway.

I'm glad she got through as she adds a sparkle to the show but she'll need to do something a bit special at some point after the weaker contestants have gone in a few weeks' time to avoid being vulnerable.

Deven's new portrait black and white photo makes him look decidedly odd and not like a winner at all but he can certainly sing well. He's doing Carrie Underwood and she has had some amazing writers working for her as well as being a brilliant writer herself so that ought to be a good choice. However, Temporary Home, which I think is the title, is not one of the best without some real passion and belief that she can produce but Deven fails to impart. He also tries a bit too hard to hit the right note at the end and it's all a bit obvious. That was not a good performance and Keith picks that up straightaway, saying that he hopes they get to hear him sing again. Nicky thinks the opposite which is a bit strange. She thinks that's his comfort zone. Well, if that's his comfort zone then he's not going to sell any records. It was, as Randy points out, not the sort of thing expected of someone who has made it through after so many amazingly good people have already fallen by the wayside on the road here. Mariah doesn't actually say anything at all.

Angela is doing a Celine Dionne track that Kelly Clarkson did in what I reckon must have been Idol 1. Now that's quite smart. Jimmy Iovine says she needs to avoid looking as if she's at a beauty pageant. I like that guy. Her voice is exceptional and all the notes are not only in the right place but you feel she is actually adding something to them and this is excellent. Expect Randy to announce that 'This girl's in it to win it!' because she certainly is and certainly could. Wonderful. I'd actually like to hear that again and once the video is available I'll add it here.

Keith loves her, you can tell. Nicky likes the leather dress and style. Her hair is still a bit 70s and the teeth too white but this is one fine contestant. Randy says what we expected!! Mariah has one word: 'Stellar'. Nice.

Paul is following Scotty as well, with Amazed. Jimmy Iovine tells him to cut the theatrics. That's a good point - Paul would be great on stage and may well make a great career on Broadway. I can't remember who first did this track but they had a special quality that neither Scotty nor Paul were able to bring to it. This was, how can I say it, a nice performance. Nicky says he whetted her sexual appetite! Surprised they let her get away with that. Keith was fairly non-committal and both he and Randy acknowledged he had taken good notice of Jimmy's advice. Mariah summed everything up nicely by recognising that and just telling him just to get on with it, relax and enjoy himself. He comes across as such a decent chap. He's not going to win but he doesn't deserve to be first to go.

Candice is another magnificent singer and I like the way she proposes to feel the lyrics. She does the excellent I Who Have Nothing which Jordin Sparks won over America with a while ago. This was a superb performance and must put her firmly in the running for the final. That was a 'moment', all four judges giving her a standing ovation and the crowd very enthusiastic. Great. That could have been a concert performance. I still prefer Angela's interpretation and tone but this girl would be a worthy contender. Nicky is so good with her comments, too, saying that that song should never be performed on Idol again as no-one else would be able to touch it! Actually, that's an interesting challenge and I wonder whether one of Angela, Janelle or Kree might take that up at a later stage. Apparently Mariah didn't stand up - explaining that she would have done but her skirt was too tight. Oh dear. perhaps it's not the skirt that's the problem but the expanding body in it.

Lazaro next. He's been very photogenic in the past and I'd thought he'd be possibly the one that the camera likes best of all the contestants. Strangely, though, his makeover seemed to have taken something away from him. He does Kelly Clarkson's Break Away and it's OK. Just OK. Not an Idol performance. All very average, I'm afraid. Nicky's right - he was nervous and maybe Jimmy's advice made him think a little more than he should. The thing is, though, the courage that this guy shows, as Mariah mentions in her comments, makes everyone feel for him and he may well have more fans voting out there than Paul and Deven, he really shouldn't stay but I would be surprised if he goes this week, despite that very average performance.

Kree has all the talent needed to win this. It's all down to the songs she chooses. Carrie Underwood had done Roy Orbison's Crying in 2008. Perfect. Carrie was good but still learning in those days. In some ways Kree is more experienced than she was then. It'll be an interesting comparison. The first part isn't as good, although her notes and tone are good there is something missing, Kree has a purity of tone that is nice but I'm afraid she lost out to Carrie on that one. Part of the problem is that, without Simon Cowell, that extra bit of spark and presentation can be missing. Just standing there didn't work. Carrie sat down in dim lights and brought the atmosphere. There was none of that for Kree. She's lost to Candice (of course) and also Janelle this round. She should stay but will need to try another 'perfect' song next time. Something longer, too.

The judges were quite careful in their comments - all saying how well she can sing but none actually going out f their way to promote her to the voters.

Burnell next. He needs to establish himself as the preferred alternative to Curtis as a start, as that;s his initial competition. Then he needs to blow away Paul and Deven and try and grab Lazaro's votes. He can do it if he does the kind of performances we've seen so far. What I'm noticing about the Live Rounds is how some shine and some just glimmer in these early stages. Some seem to get an extra kick from the audience and turn nerves to quality and know that they are there to entertain, inspire and roll with whatever the mood brings. Others are just remembering their moves, camera spot, words and notes first and, if we're lucky, we get included near the end. Few have grabbed us so far: three of the girls have but none of the guys. I think Burnell might. 

He's been turned into a trendy kid with the hat turned around. Oh dear, it sounds like he's doing the ruddy Flying Without Wings one. I can't recall the big fellow that did it first on Idol but an awful lot of people have done it so very well elsewhere. It's like an anthem that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole. It's also a bit boring now. The range he requires for this key is wrong for him - bringing out the tinniness in his voice. He throws in an uh-uh-h bit on one note and that weird low tone which sound odd to me. Not what I'd expected and nowhere near as good as I'd hoped.

Nicky says he's well on his way but not exactly over the Moon. The word 'nice' is used a lot. I still think he has the best chance of all the boys and will survive this first week. Needs to try harder next week.

Amber, interestingly is left to close the show. She's the unexpected Top 10 Live Show star. I like the girl but haven't yet seen anything that justifies her being there. She's got very tough competition in the girls but, at least, now doesn't have to worry about them while there are some weak performances from the boys. She'll need to distance herself big time from Candice, though, and choose a different sector to appeal to. No-one's doing anything very young - that's one chance she might try. Ballads and anthems could be dangerous territory tonight.

A Moment Like This is not what I would have given her. She messes about with the timing and that's not good. She looks good and you do get the feeling that she does appreciate the words she's singing. That was a good point and she sings pretty well. It was just a little tired. Nicky calls it the best performance of the night! Good grief. Has she just walked in? Did she miss Candice? Weird. Randy was very complimentary. Mariah too. Perhaps she's one of those acts that works better for those nearby. Hopefully she'll do something for the small screen next week as she ought to make it.

So, who will America throw out in Week 1? I would put Lazaro, Curtis and Deven in the Bottom Three but suspect it will be between Paul and Deven.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Top 10 for Live Shows Revealed

We start with a nice view of what Ryan sees as he enters from a back stage area. He says that only he knows the names of those who have made it through to the Live Shows. Well, this seems live too, actually, but the ten will go on the Idol Tour and get a decent salary so this is a pretty important night for those who have made it this far.

Losing 50% of them is really going to hurt as we're starting to get some favourites now. Here's my list, the ones I'd like to see go through, not necessarily those who I predict will go through. Those in bold are what I would say are pretty sure shots.

The Girls
Angela | Aubrey | Breanna | Kree | Amber

Two of mine will probably lose out to Janelle and Candice, though.

The Boys
Elijah | Charlie | Burnell | Paul | Deven

I also expect to lose three of these to Lazaro, Curtis and Nick.

The first through is Paul Jolley. Now he was one of mine but I had doubts as the judges hadn't been that supportive. Looks like each will get to do a victory song. Nice idea. He does Heart's Alone. He and it are a bit sugary and I get Keith's comments earlier about a degree of disconnection that he will need to fix. Nice fellow, though. Good start.

Second through is Burnell. One of the expected ones. He sings I Am Ready For Love really very well and that was quite a 'moment' to use the Idol jargon. So far so good. This guy will take some beating if he can keep that up.

With shorter judges' comments, this will be a pretty fast-paced show. The problem could be the emotions getting the better of some, perhaps, who must surely be absolutely over the moon to get this deal.

Ryan's hosting so well tonight. Third through is Curtis Finch Jnr. Another fine song - not one I recognise but it's probably called So High and it's got God in it. I am going to get a bit tired of this stuff but he can sing and, guess what, Randy is delighted. Another nice chap who can be relied upon to perform well, though.

That was the first not on my list so I'm going to lose someone. Charlie, I guess for Lazaro.

Number four is Deven. After his excellent performance last night that's well-deserved. He's quite original, with a jazz feel this time. Not my kind of music either. We Can Change The World Together is a pretty boring track, not that that matters a great deal on this occasion. He isn't as good tonight as the other three, Burnell still being the stand-out and most likely end challenge to the girls. Nice guy #4 as well! I wonder if he'll get the big votes, though, as the show progresses.

The next announcement is going to be the really tough one. From all that we've seen I have to think that Lazaro will have had a whole pile of votes, with the guys as well as girls supporting him, and that he's the one. That's a great shame for people like Elijah who was modern and a potential pop star, Nick, who has sung beautifully but just lacked that sparkle and good old Charlie who will certainly be remembered. I still hope Charlie makes it as that would really add something different to the shows ahead but I don't hold out much hope. It has to be Lazaro.

Cortez is a good-looking guy and not a bad contestant at all. For him it'll be a near miss and he may still make it into the limelight after an impressive run so far. Vincent Powell is the other I've rejected. He looks a bit odd and tries too hard. This is not for him this year.

OK. Time for the last spot. It's Lazaro. You've got to feel sorry for the others. Lazaro gets a massive cheer when he appears. On the way he asks the guys running the backing track to cover him on the last note. This guy is a professional and maybe not as dumb as he seems! His song is the really difficult Bridge Over Troubled Water. It's difficult reviewing this as the track is so good and really difficult for anyone to match. He is one good-looking guy and immensely likeable. He'll steal all of Paul's votes on that front. His pronunciation of words and actual tuning isn't that appealing but he has established himself by sheer personality as the one to beat.

Now the girls.

First is a surprise. Janelle. I like her a lot but I really did think she'd lost it after a distinctly dodgy performance and being well out of tune. That's the strength of the Idol Country vote. As if to justify their faith she sings a very comfortable and reassuring The Place We All Call Home. In fact she did that really well and, as Nicky said, she came alive tonight and looked so much happier. So I'm going to lose one but she'll be a good replacement. I'm also going to lose another as Candice is bound to make it. I just hope it's not Aubrey as I'm quite attached to her already.

I have a feeling it's going to be Angela, Candice, Kree and Amber joining her.

Candice is number two. She could have worn some better trousers, Those red things look dreadful. She's the first to look really emotional but she holds it all together for I'm Going Down and does yet another first class job. She's good. If the public start to like her a bit more then she's in for the long haul. Randy reminds us that this is a singing competition. No-one actually asks why Lazaro is through then but a few think it.

As if we didn't know, Angela Miller is the next through. She's my tip for the title. No-one is surprised that she's there. She's got rid of the curls but kept the forehead sweep. I can't wait to see what the makeover team do with her. I Was Here is a powerful number and I felt she lost her way a bit but she was pretty emotional. Keith sums up the situation perfectly. This is the break she needed.

Number four is Amber. This might well surprise a few and it does. She looks cute and is at least wearing something that suits her. Hers is the first fast number as she tries I'm Every Woman. She's eminently watchable and enjoys what she does but it's a bit of a mess. She'll ahve to work hard to keep up with the rest.

Oh dear, looks like I've lost both Aubrey and Breanna as surely Kree will get place number five. Remember she was the bookies favourite a couple of weeks ago! Anything else would, indeed, be a shock. Having said that, though, is she someone who attracts votes? Possibly the best natural singer of all and a judges' favourite too but her personality hasn't shone through yet.

Yes. It is Kree. No shock. And she hits the stage running with possibly more confidence than anyone tonight. I'd forgotten that she'd appeal too to the Country vote and whatever she's singing is like a thank you song for all who did pick up the phone for her. She is exceptionally good and another totally reliable performer.

Again, some sad goodbyes to those who didn't make it. Particularly this one.

And that, folks, is your American Idol Top Ten.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Let's Hear It For The Boys

This is American Idol with the God Factor. Beware, by the end of this 2 hour show you may be converted or will be spending so much time thanking the Lord that you may well miss the tunes.

Elijah Liu has a lot of fans out there, being one of the few young and modern contestants in the whole show. I Want You To Stay was a first class performance. That worked, He has a good range of styles and brought the gentle ballad one this time. He's marketable, as Nicky said, and that seems to count for a lot with the judges. Randy used the 'm word' too. Mariah is giving much more in depth reviews at this stage and talking sense too. Maybe they are all feeling freer as the decision is down to those with the mobiles and sufficient spare cash to pay for the calls.

This guy should go through based on that but, of course, there are nine more to come yet.

Cortez still has to prove he can get the notes right every time. He has the looks and he's not the old-style big gospel and run round the notes wailer like so many. Bruno Mars Locked Out Of Heaven is a great track and he attacks it and really gets most of the song right. Unfortunately, he is a poor second to Bruno himself and just doesn't make the standard that we need at this stage. He says he likes to dance but there wasn't any that I noticed. The high notes were out of his range. Randy makes the point too. That spoilt things. Good to see up-tempo stuff, which this competition needs. I don't know - he could well have a good following building up that could save him but more mistakes like this and no amount of styling will make much difference. He'll have to wait to see whether there's another four to take those valuable five places.

I like Charlie. He is so natural. Entertaining and a damn good singer too. This week he does a Genesis track that I can't imagine many people knowing. That performance could be released today and I am sure it would hit the charts both sides of the Atlantic. It was over way before it should have been and I'd like to have seen it develop. Nicky makes a reasonable point about the way he's presented himself. Keith says he would see him in front of a band. Mariah is very cautious and struggles to  say much at all. Randy was pretty down on him. That was a tough time for him as everyone has been pretty cool with him so far and I get the feeling audience felt they'd been a bit hard too. I guess they just didn't get it.

Ryan makes a good job of handling a clearly upset Charlie and shows why he's so damn good at this job. Normally I would have put Charlie straight through - no question. But now? Another query.

Nick Boddington has a great higher range voice and delivered a good audition song I Just Want You To Know Who I Am, possibly the best so far tonight. That suited him and, at the piano, he was a great deal more comfortable. He has done himself a huge favour with that. Last week I wouldn't have put him through but he has proved that he deserves to be here. Will he get the public votes, I wonder. This is getting impossible to predict! Good reviews from the judges but each has their but...

Burnell was one of the stars last week so we're expecting good things and it looks like he has a good chance with a couple of Top 5 contenders on less than top form. A track i don't know - there have been quite a few of them. This one has a religious theme and this is his original audition song. I guess he felt confident with this but I found it tedious. Keith gave him a standing ovation for this - he likes that sort of thing, I guess. He's right about the voice having a signature and certainly can sing really well. I can see him going quite a way in this competition. Randy makes a good point about grabbing attention with the first few notes which many miss out on. Basically, all the judges are well into this stuff and love him. I am quite glad there is a public vote as, at the rate they're going, we'll have four gospel singers at least going through. Of course, maybe the voters will put through five! I'd say he's through.

Paul Jolley is as close to Country as we're likely to get tonight. Something like I'm Just A Fool For You. And that wasn't country after all! It was a great track and he delivered it immaculately. I was impressed. Keith asks what genre he wants to be and he says 'pop country'. That could work and he sees himself as the male Carrie or Taylor. He is talented. Nicky didn't go anywhere in her review, just talked about Keith's. Randy and Mariah are all over the place in their reviews, from which we learned nothing!

Ryan presses them to say what they think and even he fails! Shame, as I think he needs that boost from the judges to get through. I'd definitely have him in the Top 5 after that.

Lazaro. Now, if he doesn't perform as well as Paul and the judges applaud him and give him all the amazing reviews then it will be a bit annoying. Feeling Good is a classic, of course. He does a good karaoke version of this and, yes, he looks great and the camera loves him and his cute expressions in a way that Paul should get but doesn't quite manage. He's so popular with the crowd. Keith picks up on that and on the 'connection' thing, despite the less than amazing performance that was very much beaten by the X Factor USA 14 year old. You know when people ask how you feel you did that they don't want to break any bad news, hoping you'll break it to yourself instead. Mariah is the only one to recognise this but still compliments him in the end.

He'll be though on votes alone and could be around a while.

Curtis Finch Jnr ought to be the leader of this pack. He's mature and can sing brilliantly. I hope the gospel thing is played down, though. Oh boy, it's the I Believe I Can Fly song. That was the ultimate karaoke. Pretty good and with a huge amount of extra stuff thrown in for good measure but that was just plain tedious and the sort of thing I'd retune the radio away from. All four give him a standing ovation which more or less confirms the influence of the Church on this part of the competition. Nicky is talking about someone on high and blessing and calling and how much 'we' need this. Hang on, we've got it. R Kelly gave it to us in the 90s if not the 80s. Curtis Finch Jnr is a great singer but if we need this we can dig out some old albums, not dig out a Curtis Finch Jnr album of old stuff. Jesus! Randy asks that we all praise the Lord too and Curtis is holding his hand up. This is crazy. You have to feel a bit sorry for any atheists in the audience.

The guy will be through but please, folks, put a cap on the worship in this programme will you.

Deven is an odd one. He has a stupid hairstyle. But he sings very well indeed. Striped shirt, big black bow tie and bright red V neck jumper over too short white trousers. Val Doonican would have been proud. Once again he slips into Spanish for this big Eurovision-style ballad. It's Impossible was the title. Yes, you've heard it before. Well, your grandparents have. The judges give him rave reviews and, despite it not being a track I can imagine many teens rushing out to buy or download, he most definitely can sing and sing well. That was the best so far. This is a weird competition with the boys this year.

Vince Powell doesn't look like a star. He looks quite old, compared to all the others. He has tendency to chew the words a bit - nothing like as much as James Arthur, thankfully and the tinny resonance can be a drag. The End Of The Road is a 70s number that he re-performs. He gets all the notes right. I just didn't like it much. The judges didn't like the song either. They all say how great a singer he is, Mariah noticing some areas of brilliance, but none were that complimentary and all hoped that he survives.

So if we assume Lazaro, Curtis and Deven are through, who are the other two? Burnell and Nick or Elijah.
My choice would be Elijah, Charlie, Burnell, Paul and Deven but I expect to be at odds with the American voting public on this one!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Kree, Candice and Angela Stake Their Top 5 Claim

This week the Top 20 perform and it's down to the voting public to decide which five survive. That's a brutal cut, but better than previous years when they didn't really get that much chance to shine and many may have been left out when the judges played with the cards on a table. But were their off camera deliberations a better solution than the public vote will be?

Zoanette kicks off doing her Tina Turner impression. She certainly puts her all into What's Love Got To With It but I think I'd rather she hadn't. The makeover people had worked hard to make her look a lot more reasonable. She wasn't anything like as bad as I'd expected but it's still a old style act and she'd have to come up with something different to move on. She would have to be as extraordinary as she has been in the past to continue in this competition. As a cover, it didn't work and it wasn't original enough to make anyone rush out and buy it. And that has to be the key - we need an artist who will sell records and fill a stadium and this woman doesn't seem to be going that way.

Breanna gets another reference to busting the windows out of my car from Ryan who, currently starring in a soap opera on another channel where that may well be the sort of thing that's on the menu, is clearly intrigued by this girl. She was lucky to get through last week so has a lot to live up to. If we're to divide the pack in two tonight then she is almost certain to be in the lower half as things stand. So this is a pretty important performance if she is to stand any chance of unseating one of the stars who have stood out.

This is a nice performance. That's Why I Love You (I think that's the title) suited her voice and and her style. The makeover team hardly seem to have touched her - she's pretty already apart from the eyes. Great control and a very relaxed attitude. Nicky didn't like that at all. I did. Whether that was actually enough to appeal, though, I don't know. Randy and Mariah make the point that they could see that as one of the tracks she might do at a show but it hadn't got that instant grab factor that will make people pick up their phones.

Aubrey Cleland is someone else who doesn't need a makeover team. Hers is a gentle track, plenty more appeal to the guys watching. Me Myself And I is nicely commercial and she brings it across well, although not brilliantly, missing some notes on the way. Nice girl. She gets a better review than Breanna, who must be seen as her main competitor. Everyone comments on her beauty which is understandable but sometimes you wonder if they heard the singing as much as maybe they should. She stands a chance but will need to do more.

Janelle seems so experienced and this was a great choice for her. Blue jeans, simple clothes and straightforward delivery of If I Can Dream. Damn good choice but she's always up against Elvis with this one. Half of this was excellent but the other half was decidedly dodgy and serious notes missed. I'm surprised that Keith didn't mention that. The judges seemed very impressed and she has been one of the 'stars' so far and could well be one of the five. With that massive Country vote, she's in a good place.

Teena has transformed and lost a good many years. Apart from a badly designed dress she's looking good. A slow number by Faith Hill. Her voice is different, with a certain timbre that could be tinny but isn't. She can express emotion well and that hit more right notes than Janelle. Whether she's got the votes, though, is the question. Randy gives her due credit for not over singing. So many usually do and this evening has been mercifully clear of that. Well, let's not mention the first act! I wouldn't be confident of her survival.

Angela Miller is up there with the best. She can sing brilliantly, and play. I Was Never Gone is a strong song and she put everything into that. It was written by Colton Dixon, interestingly enough, from last year. There's something I'd still get the makeover team to fix about her hair and the teeth need taking down a few shades - she looks too cheerful when she shouldn't be. Only 18, but looking 25. For all that, she has been one of my tips to win from the start. The early betting odds didn't have her as the favourite - so she does need to keep up the pressure and we all know what happened to Carly Rose Sonnenclar! If she makes 2nd place then just who has the talent to come first?

Amber looks and sounds like a ready-made star as she starts on the stage. Unfortunately, something goes wrong after that and she is running up and down the scale in a way that seems totally unnecessary and of no value to the song at all. In fact, I have no idea what the song was and it certainly didn't make me want to go find out either. Now that's odd - the judges gave her a standing ovation! Weird. They must have heard something quite different. Apparently that was a |Whitney Houston song. Randy gives her the In it to win it line. Well, I wonder what the public will make of that?

I've already put Aubrey, Janelle and Angela in the Top 5 so adding Amber would leave room for only one more. But I reckon there are two definites to come so something has to give.

Kree is another very natural girl. From the very start this was a pure and totally accurate performance, becoming stunningly good. Stronger gets Keith on his feet, but only Keith. That was so much better than Amber's performance so I have no idea why the others didn't show that extra appreciation. Maybe they're not so fond of her Country vibe. She has to take one of the Top 5 spots and gets another Randy In It To Win It. She has the edge over Janelle but maybe not quite as Country-appealing as her. It'll be intriguing if they're both through.

Adriana Latonio
This is the pretty little girl from Alaska. Husky, attractive voice but this performance starts all over the place - maybe nerves got the better of this girl. Stand Up For Love is not her song but she pulls it back and, reminiscent of Jessica Sanchez, ends well and may have helped her chances. However, it didn't strike me as Top 5 material. She is. The song wasn't. Nicky actually suggests she comes back next year and is probably absolutely right. The word pageanty appears again this week - a word I wish I'd thought of when reviewing Pia Toscano last year. Disappointing, as so far the girls have been going for the older, less interesting market and at this rate the American Idol 2013 will be more like 1983.

Candice is last on and there is, in my view, a space in the Top 5 remaining for her if she wants it. Last week she didn't live up to the earlier expectations we'd had from those excellent auditions and you wonder whether she's OK with the familiar, well rehearsed items but how will she do in the glare of the camera and maybe a less regularly sung track? If she's sensible, she'll deliver one major, well-known and not over-demanding song, play it safe and get through. Or maybe she will demonstrate something special after all?

Ordinary People was an excellent choice and she was pot on throughout. Definitely one of the best singers, if not the most immediately lovable, tonight. Standing ovation from three tonight for that.

Randy says that they might have to talk to the producers about getting a wild card or something! I guess he sees that there are more than 5 who deserve to be in the Live Shows. I think I agree with him.

Listening to the decent length playbacks and not watching, Breanna stood out more than first time. Tough to choose between her and Aubrey. Janelle was very off. Teena a bit desperate and not that impressive. Angela perfect. Amber still sounded odd to me, albeit a bit less so than before. Kree not as perfect as first time but still very good. Adriana no improvement. Candice excellent.

So my choice: Breanna, Aubrey, Angela, Kree and Candice.

My guess is that Janelle and Amber will be in, though, with two of my choices out. That'll be very tough as, logically that's both Breanna and Aubrey.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Top Twenty Decided. Now they need to build their fan clubs to survive!

The last ten guys with a chance of reaching the all important Top 20 and a chance to win the public vote are
Bryant Tadeo - the Hawaii one
Burnell Taylor - the old-looking young one
Cortez Shaw - the Nicky reject one
David Willis - the preacher one
Gurpreet Singh Sarin - the Turbinator one
Joshua "Josh" Holiday - the unknown one
Lazaro Arbos - the girls' (and probably boys') favourite one
Mathenee Treco - the cheerful one
Nick Boddington - the odd-looking one
Vincent "Vince" Powell - the old one

Mathenee Treco starts the show with the Elvis number A Little Satisfaction. He puts plenty into this and it works well, although he sounds very tinny at the top end, like so many seem to do. We get a shot of Zoanette in bright pink and yellow in the audience jumping up and down in support which is a worrying sign of what's to come. Nicky finds him cheesy and karaoke and has a point - it wasn't exactly this Century music but he is entertaining and confident. I wouldn't see him surviving against the five already through, though, even if he is lucky.

Gurpreet Singh Sarin in yellow and black is cheerful and putting on a bit of a show with some track I didn't know. A jazzy number that suits him but I found his voice just average. He's a nice guy but I don't see him going far in this competition. He is someone I would expect to get through from this group but Randy says it was terrible - that was a surprise!! He usually beats around the bush or gets all fired up for his favourites. So it would be one leap of faith if the judges do put him through.

Vince Powell just comes on, sings and you know he knows what he's doing. Another track I'm not familiar with but it has so much more going for it than Gurpreet's and totally puts that performance into perspective. He is very good and, whilst not an ultimate Idol, he sure deserves the standing ovation from three judges and he'll be through for sure. That's how you audition. He may struggle for fan votes but he's got another week on the payroll for sure. We even get Randy's first (I think) In it to win it.

Ryan picks up on the Zoanette thing as she's at it again for Vince who she calls Papa Smurf. I can see that the producers see plenty of viewing points in keeping her up front but you do have to wonder if they've taken leave of their senses. Maybe they are determined not to have another Phliip squared.

Nick Boddington is having another go, having got this far last year. He looks better with the hat. This is a cool tune Say Something Nice suits his style and voice but it's not perfect. Quite good, and maybe good enough, but, like several others in this group, he's not destined to go that far. The judges seem apologetic, as if they're looking to let him down gently. He would be disappointed not to get through. So far he's second best, however, so let's see what the others bring. He may survive after all.

Nicky is getting all the limelight in the adverts in the UK for the show. She is really good now, having settled and not competing with Mariah nowadays. Ryan's cracking a joke as we return about Mariah's jewel 'bungee jumping'. She is enormous in places.

We get what I reckon is the first intro to Josh who got picked up from a cattle farm on the Idol bus tour. He does a track he's written himself, sitting at a piano. The girls will adore him and not just for his looks - he can write and sing too. He sounds a bit limited in range and this song has faults that Angela Miller's didn't. However, all credit to him and my guess is that they've kept him away from our screens to give the others a chance. The judges are critical but I think he'll be through and so pushes poor Nick down to #3. Randy says he doesn't know and hands over to Mariah who uses the 'whatever happens' line which is often a sign. I'm still backing him, though. Just less confidently after that review.

David Oliver Willis gives us Fever. With guitar and nice casual approach he comes across very well. Sings great, albeit within just one octave. He's a nice clean-looking, God-fearing lad and that was a faultless audition. Uninspiring but very likeable. Pretty wife. Nicky sees him as a bit of a robot. I don't know what to think after that review. Ryan also spots a debate coming on this one.

Bryant Tadeo sings with a pained expression on his face. New York City Mind is a gentle strolling song but not easy to sing. He does this well and with feeling. You get the feeling he's been practising this at a million karaokes in the past. Nice job. No errors and a bit more pzazz than Nick or even David. I put him through at the new #2, pushing Nick down to #4, assuming Nicky loses her fight to ditch David. The judges make the point that the song never really went anywhere but seem to be supporting him overall.

So far this is a pretty lacklustre bunch. Even those I expected to get the crowd behind them haven't done so - only Vince is going to give the first five something to worry about and he's not going to win either. Burnell, Cortez and Lazaro to come. Assume Lazaro will get a place, just for the ratings, whatever he does. Cortez is quite capable of out-whining Mathenee and out-looking pretty David so he stands a great chance and expect Nicky to be converted.

Burnell looks so much older than he is. I remember him in baggy yellow and white shorts and now he's in a suit. Nice voice - better performance than Mathenee by far, and David and Bryant too, with All Of Me. The crowd like him. He's the new #2. Keith says he sounds original and that's what we need. Nicky's a big fan, offering to pay to hear him sing, calling him the best by far! Randy's a supporter too. Lots of compliments. Nice job.

Lazaro is taking on one of Keith Urban's songs. His eyebrows seem independent of each other. He rather mangles the words, breathing heavily and it's not really very easy listening at all. He's a popular kid, though, so what can they do? They're all very nice to him. He's got Nick's spot.

So, it's down to Cortez to push Bryant or David out. He's got a crystal clear voice. Titanium is not an easy song to deliver and, in places, he didn't. There's talent there and I'd like to see him get a chance to do better. He didn't swing open the door on his entry to the last ten with this but he's still got a chance. Keith and Nicky support him. Randy almost says pitchy but someone in his earpiece must have reminded him that the words banned so he rephrased that. Mariah is a supporter too. They're very understanding and look to be voting for him, despite all the faults this time.

Prediction: Vince and Burnell straight through, with Lazaro as there'd be a riot if they didn't. Then Cortez and .. and who? Josh is the one act that I'll be disappointed not to see make it through and I'm going to say he makes it and David and Bryant don't.

David gets the bad news. No debate either.
Bryant, too, goes and that surprises the audience.
Vince next - sure thing, he's first through
Mathenee - no
Lazaro - well, we know, don't we - he's through
Cortez - yes

- ad break - after the oh so positive review Burnell has to be a certainty, Gurpreet will go so it's between Josh and Nick. I see Jimmy Iovine choosing Josh.

No, that's not the way it goes.
Josh is up next and is dropped. That's a shame.

So, looks like Nick isn't poor Nick after all.

Burnell gets the news from Randy who tries to sound down but not for long. He's there, of course.

Nick and Gurpreet on the couch and then, while we watch their extracts, they're dragged back to the stage. It has to be Nick of these two. Mariah doesn't need to refer to Jimmy Iovine either and Nick makes it.