American Idol: Season 10 top 24 – the girls

Having watched American Idol‘s top 12 boys perform, now it’s time for the girls to strut their funky stuff – hopefully in a more convincing manner than Jordan Dorsey managed.

Being girls’ night, there are of course some, er, interesting – for which read ‘dubious’ – wardrobe choices. And that’s just J-Lo, who appears to be wrapped in Bacofoil with thigh-high Bacofoil boots. But don’t worry, there’s worse to come.

Anyway, on we go. I promised myself I would do this post before watching the results show, so here goes with what will undoubtedly be the worst predictions ever.

Tatynisa Wilson: Only Girl (In The World) – Rihanna

It doesn’t happen often on Idol, but maybe a couple of times a season you hear the opening notes of a song, recognise it, realise that a car crash is imminent and sit forward in your seat ready to place your head in your hands. And it’s doubly bad when it’s the opening song of the night because the stench of failure lingers over the theatre, shattering the nerves of the other contestants and quieting the audience.

Enter Tatynisa Wilson, singing Rihanna‘s Only Girl (In The World). It was a huge global hit and is a great radio track, but it is not a great live performance song if the aim is to showcase your vocal ability. This is a disaster from start to finish. Tatynisa is out of tune and out of time throughout. It is quite possibly the worst live performance we have seen in ten seasons of Idol – yes, even worse than anything Sanjaya Malakar or Jasmine Trias ever managed – She finishes to a cacophony of screaming girls in the audience – it’s hard to tell whether it is in appreciation or horror.

After S-Ty and J-Lo say unnecessarily nice things to her – did they have their earmuffs on during the whole thing? – R-Jack brings a bit (but only a bit) of reality to proceedings when he says:

I thought that you didn’t really bring anything special or different to it. You had pitch issues. Some of the notes were sharp in the chorus.

No question about it: it’s ta-ta for Tatynisa. She won’t make it through even if she was the only girl in the world.

Naima Adedapo: Summertime – George Gershwin (Porgy and Bess)

Naima Adedapo played up to her distinctive image by performing in a dress she had made herself. But I’m not at all sure about the song selection here. For starters, it was season three winner Fantasia Barrino‘s signature performance. It is, traditionally, a sultry, bluesy song which feels a million miles away from where I think she wants to be as an artist. And the jazzy, up-tempo arrangement here is, well, just a little bit odd.

Nonetheless, it’s a very good vocal performance. I’m just not sure I actually liked it at all.

J-Lo, channeling the ghost of Paula Abdul (Mistress of the Utterly Stupid Irrelevant Comment™ – MUSIC, for short), tells her:

You’re like an exotic flower in a rose garden.

R-Jack, keeping it real, calls it “a bit lounge”. I’m with him on this one. I can’t see that performance winning her many new fans, and it may just cost her a place in the final 13.

Kendra Chantelle: Impossible – Christina Aguilera

Meh. The original is hardly the most memorable ballad of all time, and is livened up only by the fact it is sung by the wonderful voice of Christina Aguilera. Kendra Chantelle is good, but she’s no Christina. She sings the song competently enough – a bit shrieky at the top of her range, perhaps – but it is an immediately forgettable performance by a singer who lacks any kind of distinctive presence.

J-Lo says:

I feel like there’s more in you. I think we’re just scratching the surface with you.

She may well be right. But I fear the surface is all we are ever going to see with Kendra. I’ll be amazed if she returns.

Rachel Zevita: Criminal – Fiona Apple

An interesting, if somewhat showy choice. The Fiona Apple original is a real performance number, full of intensity and angst. Rachel’s vampy interpretation of it takes it to a whole new level, though, and crosses the line between dramatic and overly theatrical. It’s just too over the top for me.

She is the first contestant to use the stage area which extends behind the judges’ desk. They are presumably happy to see the back of her.

S-Ty says:

A little too Broadway for me.

And R-Jack tells Rachel, brutally, that “it just didn’t work”. Calling it a Broadway performance was far too kind. This was way off Broadway. More narrow cul-de-sac, really. Which is exactly where Rachel’s Idol career is going, never to be heard from again.

Karen Rodriguez: Hero – Mariah Carey

One of the things the Idol judges always tell contestants to do is to project a clear idea what kind of artist they want to be, and there’s no doubt that Karen Rodriguez has squarely targeted the Hispanic market. We have seen K-Rod singing Selena in earlier rounds, and here she takes on the classic Mariah Carey ballad Hero – so often a contestant’s equivalent of writing a suicide note – which she part sings in Spanish. A bit gimmicky, but a shrewd move, adding a bit of spice to a competent but otherwise unexceptional performance.

J-Lo says:

I love that you changed from English to Spanish and showed who you are and what your flavour is.

She’s not the strongest singer in the competition by a long chalk, but she is making the most of what she has going for her and she has one of the clearest identities which sits squarely within a key demographic – and that equates to votes. Lots of them.

Lauren Turner: Seven Day Fool – Etta James

Trussed into a figure-hugging dress which only served to emphasise the fact that she isn’t a size zero like some of the other female contestants, Lauren Turner was always likely to struggle in a competition where physical appearance isn’t everything, but certainly counts for a lot.

Taking on Etta James with the powerful voice that she possesses was not a bad idea, but the first half of Lauren’s performance felt flat to me, as if she was struggling to connect with the core of this sassy number. It gets better as she went on, but the opening 30 seconds feel to me like she was just singing the words rather than really feeling the emotion of the song. Maybe it’s just me, though, because the judges love it.

R-Jack even draws some extremely favourable comparisons:

I love the feel that this could be Amy Winehouse meets Florence and the Machine. I just love that whole bluesy, soul flavour thing in you.

Sorry, dawg, I just wasn’t feeling this one. I fear we have seen the last of her. And we can’t have two Laurens in the final 13 – that would just be confusing at a time when the producers are already talking about having to exclude thousands of votes because viewers have sent in text votes with ‘vote’ spelt ‘veto’.

Ashthon Jones

Ashthon Jones: Love Over Me – Monica

The more we see of Ashthon Jones, the more she looks like a young Diana Ross. I suspect that’s no accident.

Ashthon has previously always come across as a confident and assured performer on stage, but her song choice here just screams ‘safe’ at me. It’s good, but there is nothing adventurous about either the song or its arrangement. It’s all a bit dull, really, and by the end of her 90-second performance I’m mentally elsewhere and flicking through my e-mails, which is not a good sign.

S-Ty is suitably complimentary, however:

You go places with your voice few have gone. We’ve found one.

It’s certainly an extremely capable voice. But Ashthon needs to start taking some risks with it, if it’s not already too late.

Julie Zorrilla: Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

The Colombian Julie Zorrilla has carried a heavy burden of expectation since day one, when J-Lo labelled her as one of the favourites for the whole competition at her initial audition. Though very good, she has struggled to live up to that tag ever since. And here she finally collapses as that burden turns out to be an albatross around her neck.

Her choice of song is as questionable as her prom night dress. Why put yourself up for comparison against the original American Idol? Nerves seem to get the better of her and she struggles from the first note, always chasing the pitch and deceptive pace of the song. Cut-away shots of the judges sitting stony-faced tell you everything you need to know about her prospects: not so much breakaway as fade away. And to top it all off she veers sharp on the glory notes at the end of the song. It’s a poor and terribly disappointing performance.

R-Jack doesn’t pull his punches this time:

You didn’t bring anything different or new to it. You sang it not nearly as good as her [Kelly Clarkson].

Haley Reinhart: Fallin’ – Alicia Keys

Another hugely risky song choice here, as comparisons to the distinctive original are unavoidable. But I suspect Haley Reinhart has always known that she would need to pull out something special if she is to stand out against the competition, so kudos to her for that.

It so nearly works too. She nails the song’s killer opening, but it starts to veer all over the place after that. Some of it is very good, when she is able to bring the rasp in her voice into play. Some of it is merely good karaoke. And a few moments are more like bad karaoke. It’s a real hit-and-miss performance, but more worrying is the fact I still have no clear idea what she is trying to be. She needs to find an identity, quick.

S-Ty, predictably, found something complimentary to say, though:

I heard just the right amount of style, just the right amount of sexy.

Thia Megia: Out Here On My Own – Irene Cara

I’m not sure why, but I have disliked 15-year old Thia Megia from her first audition. It’s not that she can’t sing – she has an immense voice packed into that tiny body – but I haven’t enjoy listening to her and I’ve failed to warm to her personality.

However – he says, taking a deep breath and inserting a large slice of humble pie into his mouth – her version of this delicate ballad from the original movie Fame is quite brilliant. Alternately powerful and delicate, Thia’s crystal clear tones shine out against a minimal piano accompaniment. It’s a quiet, intimate performance, all played out under a static spotlight – a Bo Bice moment, if you will – and it is an immensely brave choice which pays off big time.

S-Ty is spot on when he says:

Sometimes a person’s pitch can be so perfect it doesn’t matter what song they sing, and you just did that.

And sometimes a singer can be so good that they win over even the most ardent hater, no matter how grudgingly. I’m not completely won over yet, but I’m getting there. This was fantastic – the first real sit-up-and-take-notice performance of the evening.

Lauren Alania: Turn on the Radio – Reba McEntire

Another girl who already occupies a clear niche is Lauren Alaina, who was still just 15 when she first auditioned (now 16). Sitting somewhere between soft rock, pop and country on the musical spectrum, she has a raw, powerful voice which can punch through just about anything.

Her choice of this recent country hit by Reba McEntire (who, at 55, is literally old enough to be her grandmother) is inspired, opening her up to a country audience without alienating mainstream pop fans. And her performance is spot on too – swooping vocals, natural stage presence, still as sassy as we have seen before – and a million times better than the original version. It confirms Lauren as one of the big favourites for the competition. Her voice is by no means the finished article, but there is a scary amount of potential to be nurtured here.

R-Jack tells her as much:

I don’t even believe you know how good you are. There’s so much more in there with you. You remind me of a combination of Kelly [Clarkson] meets Carrie [Underwood].

I had expressed that same opinion barely 60 seconds before. Being compared to Idol‘s two most successful winners is not a bad place to be.

Pia Toscano: I’ll Stand by You – The Pretenders

Taking pride of place with the final performance of the night, Pia Toscano manages to catapult herself from relative anonymity to serious contender with her powerful, emotional rendition of the Pretenders classic. There is nothing clever here – no fancy arrangement, no vocal gymnastics to show off her range – but she takes the song and simply nails it. It’s enough to earn her the first standing ovation of the season from the judges.

J-Lo congratulates her on stepping it up:

You were saving that for when it counts. That was out of this world.

I’m not sure it was necessarily the best performance of the night, but it was a great way to round off the show and I would certainly put her in my top three girls on the night, along with Thia and Lauren Alaina. That trio were streets ahead of the other nine on the night. As with the boys – who finished with Jacob and Casey – the previous night, they certainly saved the best for last.

Overall, round one goes to the boys for showcasing far greater strength in depth. Having said that, I am expecting seven of the final 13 to be girls, although if I had to pick a top six right now there would be four boys and two girls in it.

Anyway, here is my prediction for the 13 finalists (in alphabetical order):

Top five boys: Casey Abrams, Jacob Lusk, James Durbin, Robbie Rosen, Scotty McCreery.

Top five girls: Karen Rodriguez, Laura Alaina, Naima Adedapo, Pia Toscano, Thia Megia.

Wild cards: Ashthon Jones, Haley Reinhart, Paul McDonald.

Next: The results of the public vote will put the top five boys and top five girls through, and the judges will select three more wild card qualifiers from the remaining 14 to give us our final 13.

American Idol posts

Auditions: New JerseyNew OrleansMilwaukeeNashvilleAustinLos AngelesSan Francisco

Hollywood Week: Solo auditionsGroup roundFinal round

Las Vegas & Green Mile: Las Vegas & Green Mile part 1Green Mile part 2

Semi-finals: Boys

Link: American Idol website