Well, everyone, it’s all come down to this. This is where the real competition begins in the search for the next American Idol. We’ve got our Top 12, and they all get to compete against each other as a whole for the first time this evening. After our usual opening sequence, Ryan walks out onto the new stage and proudly announces, “This is where it gets huge.” Oh my. As I start to fan myself and try to ward off the onset of the vapors, my partner tells me that Ryan is talking about the competition and says I need to get my mind out of the gutter. The surroundings are new, though, and they’re quite nice. There’s a bigger stage, a bigger band, and the biggest audience the show has ever had for this stage in the competition. After a very cursory acknowledgement of the Mario Vazquez brouhaha and pointing out that Nikko Smith is now a member of our Top 12, Ryan announces that tonight’s theme is music from the 1960’s. Now, seeing as how none of this group was born anywhere near the 1960’s, tonight’s show could prove to be very interesting. That being said, let’s get on with the performances.
First up tonight is Jessica Sierra, who sings the Smokey Robinson & the Miracles classic “Shop Around”. Her voice sounds pretty good this evening, but the thing I notice about the performance is that she doesn’t move around much at all. Given that this is a high-energy, upbeat song, I would think Jessica would be all over the place. It doesn’t detract too much from the performance, but I’m wondering if the judges have noticed it, too. What do our judges think of the performance? Randy says, “It was not unbelievable. It was just OK for me.” Paula adds, “I dig your vocals. I thought you did a really good job.” Finally, Simon tells Jessica, “That was very boring and uninspiring.” Hmm…I didn’t think it was that bad, but, then again, I’m not one of the judges. (Although, if anyone from FOX is reading this and would like to consider me for American Idol 5…)
Our second performance of the evening comes to us courtesy of Anwar Robinson. I guess Anwar is trying to do his Johnny Cash impersonation, because he’s dressed all in black and is wearing one of those duster-types of coats. What song is he singing tonight? It’s the R&B hit “A House Is Not A Home”. Now, Tamyra Gray did a stellar rendition of this in the show’s first season…can Anwar’s rendition measure up? Unfortunately, it does not. In fact, it falls far short of Tamyra’s rendition and is, in my opinion, Anwar’s weakest performance to date. Although he finishes well, he does sound off in several places, and it sounds to me like he’s straining to hit the notes in others. What do the judges think? Randy says, “I expected it to be on and poppin’. It wasn’t really great.” Paula tells Anwar, “It was kinda strange from where we were, but your style is flawless.” Simon concludes with, “You look great, but the risk is that you’re going to become a bit boring, but you’re not. Otherwise, it was really good.” Interesting…sounds like Anwar gets mixed reviews for that one.
After our first commercial break, it is time to hear from Mikalah <s>Drescher</s> <s>Streisand</s> Gordon. Mikalah chooses to sing Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man”, and I’m thinking this could be a good song choice for her. She’s certainly got the energy to pull it off, and she’s definitely all over the stage during her performance. The unfortunate thing is that you can hardly understand a single word she is singing, as it’s like someone is holding her nose while she’s singing with marbles in her mouth. Do the judges like what they hear? I think it’s safe to say they do not. Randy tells Mikalah, “Wow, man. That was rough, dude.” Paula says, “That was not my favorite performance of yours.” Finally, Simon says, “I think your confidence definitely exceeded your ability tonight.”
Constantine Maroulis is up next, and he has chosen to sing “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. His voice sounds strong, and I think it is definitely one of the best (if not the best) performances from Constantine yet. Do the judges agree? Randy says, “That was your best performance to date. Props to you, man.” Paula adds, “That sounded real nice. Great job.” Simon concludes with, “If this were Smoldering Idol, you’d win hands down. You’re a great performer. I think a lot of girls are gonna vote for you.” Constantine then goes over to chat with Ryan, and Ryan says, “I’ve got to get heels when I talk to you.” Well, Ryan, if you had only gotten those Jimmy Choo slingbacks from the back of your closet…
We come back from another commercial break, and it is Lindsey Cardinale’s turn to perform. She sings “Knock On Wood”, and I think she’s going to have to do much more than just knock on wood to stay in the competition after this performance. She’s got the energy for the performance, that’s for sure, and she covers the stage just fine. Unfortunately, the song just doesn’t fit her smoky-sounding voice. This is especially noticeable to me, interestingly enough, when Lindsey goes for the deeper notes, as those are the points where she sounds way off. The judges are not impressed at all, with Simon delivering the stinger of the night when he says, “I think 30 million TV sets had their volume turned down simultaneously just now.” Ouch, indeed…
It is Anthony Federov’s turn to sing, and he has chosen the Neil Sedaka hit “Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do.” (After last week’s great Marc Anthony song, I was hoping he’d do another upbeat number. I guess you can’t have everything your way…) Anthony sits on a stool for his whole performance, and his voice sounds strong throughout. However, the performance comes off as so sappy and sugary to me that it almost sends me into a diabetic coma. How do the judges feel about it? Randy takes a page out of Simon’s book and tells Anthony, “I feel like I was in a bad hotel listening to a below-average performance.” Paula says, “That wasn’t bad, but it was not up to par.” Finally, Simon concludes the critiques with, “That was akin to an office Christmas party when someone gets up and tries to entertain at the end of the evening and fails.”
We come back from another commercial break, and it is time to hear from Nadia Turner. Now, this being a show centered around the 60’s, Nadia’s dress is the closest thing that comes to being psychedelic all night. (Of course, it doesn’t look so much like a dress as it looks like a bedsheet that Nadia hurriedly wrapped around herself in a rush to get to the studio, but I digress…) Anyway, Nadia sings the Dusty Springfield hit “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me”, and she knocks one out of the ballpark. Between the dress, the makeup, and the hair pulled off the face a bit, Nadia looks like a completely different person, and it works. Her voice is strong, and she is sultry and expressive in all the right places. Are the judges as impressed as I am? Randy says, “Nadia Turner…the show finally started.” Paula adds, “I’m excited because you are in this to win it. I’m so proud of you. Great job.” Finally, Simon tells Nadia, “Nadia…in a competition full of hamburgers, you are a steak.” Oh, great. Now, I’m hungry on top of everything else.
It’s Bo Bice’s turn to perform, and he’s chosen to sing Blood, Sweat, & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” this evening. This is an excellent song choice for him, and he works it for all it’s worth. Not only does Bo cover the entire stage during his performance, but he also goes out into the audience, never letting go of the microphone stand at all during the whole performance. Bo’s voice sounds great, and the audience is cheering wildly by the time he’s done. Do the judges like it? Randy says, “You keep it real, dude. This is the way to get it done.” Paula adds, “You’re already a superstar.” Simon tells Bo, “You look like you’ve been doing this for 20 years. That was really good.” Yeah, I think it’s safe to say the judges like it.
After yet another commercial break, it is time to hear from Vonzell Solomon. She sings Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who Had A Heart”, and she pulls it off pretty well. The only thing is, between her gown and the overly dramatic hand motions, I suddenly feel like I’m watching the talent competition of a beauty pageant or something. Are the judges impressed with Vonzell’s performance? Randy says, “That was an ambitious song choice. You have a really good instrument there.” Paula tells Vonzell, “You sounded really lovely.” Finally, Simon says, “At some point, you’re going to have to do something fantastic, or you’ll be out within 5 weeks.”
Scott Savol is up next, and he’s chosen to sing the Motown classic “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. (And for those of you who are keeping track, yes, his tinted glasses are coordinated to match his outfit.) Scott’s voice sounds weak to me at the beginning of his performance, but he recovers nicely, and he does a good job with the song overall. Scott takes a page from Bo’s book and goes out into the audience, but he decides to stop at the judges’ table and serenades them for a few seconds before heading back up onto the stage. Do the judges like what they hear from Scott this evening? Randy tells Scott, “You’re back, dude. I enjoyed you tonight.” Paula adds, “Good job.” Finally, Simon says, “I thought you would have trouble with the theme tonight, but you surprised me. You did good.”
After our final commercial break of the evening, it is time to hear from Carrie Underwood. She sings “When Will I Be Loved?” and puts—surprise, surprise—a country spin on it. Her voice sounds good, but the performance comes across as kinda “blah” to me. Her timing seems off in a couple of places, and she does these cheesy finger snaps throughout the performance. What do the judges think of the performance? Randy says, “I had high hopes for you. That was just very OK for me.” Paula tells Carrie that her performance was “very safe and boring”. Finally, Simon tells Carrie, “I think there are three people in this competition who know who they are musically, and you’re one of them.” (Come on, do you think Simon would ever say something truly harsh about his Carrie?)
We’ve got one more performance to <s>endure</s> listen to this evening, and it comes to us courtesy of Nikko Smith. He has chosen to sing the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, and I think this is a good song choice for him. He sounds a bit off in a couple of places, but it’s an overall good performance, as Nikko has plenty of energy and even throws some choreography into the performance. Do the judges like what they hear (and see)? Randy says, “I’m glad you’re back. You brought some fun to the performance.” Paula adds, “You did your own thing. I’m proud of you.” Finally, Simon cuts right to the chase and tells Nikko, “I thought you sounded horrible.” Simon having something negative to say about someone’s performance? Imagine that…
Well, that does it for our first Top 12 performance show, folks. Who will stay, and who will be the first person cut? Tune in Wednesday night to find out!
Best performance of the evening: Nadia, Bo
Weakest performance of the evening: Mikalah
Biggest Improvement: Constantine
Biggest Disappointment: Anwar
Bottom 3: Mikalah, Lindsey, Anwar
Who should go home: Mikalah
Who will go home: Lindsey
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