The auditions are in the bag and Hollywood is but a faint memory as American Idol begins to whittle down the Top 36 to our Final 12. Tonight, the first 12 contestants pull out all the stops in their first live performance and Alexis Grace comes out swinging.
This year, the road to the Final 12 is quite different. The Top 36 (not 24) announced after Hollywood have been divided into three groups of 12. Over the next three weeks starting tonight, each group will perform once in a two-hour edition of American Idol. The following night all but three – the top male performer, the top female and the contestant with the next largest amount of votes — will be sent home, leaving us with a total of nine performers. Then in the wild card round three performers will be brought back to round out the Final 12.
Anyone else think this process is confusing and convoluted? Me too, but this is what we are stuck with. Now on to the performances of the First 12.
When I first saw Alexis Grace in the Louisville audition, I knew that she had a powerful voice, but I wondered if she was going to have what it took to be a great performer. Tonight she came out of her shell and proved, as Randy put it, that she had some soul. Alexis put a nice bluesy feel to her version of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man.” She is definitely a contender.
Also pleasing the crowd tonight was fan-favorite Danny Gokey. He proved that he has a nice voice taking on “Hero” by Mariah Carey and earned the praise of three of the four judges. But I tended to agree with Simon that it was a good performance, but not fantastic. To me, it just seemed like a weird song choice for him. However, Danny was still the best of the guys we saw.
Brent Keith decided to show off his country side by singing “Hicktown” by Jason Aldean and he might actually have a career in country music. He sounded good, but as the judges said he chose a safe song. The performance was fun, but we didn’t get to hear anything that really showed us Brent’s potential.
Also putting in a decent performance was Anoop Desai who chose to sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.” Personally, I thought the song was all wrong for him. I like Anoop better we he does upbeat songs, like “My Prerogative” that he sang in Hollywood. Simon told him that the song was “a bit too grown up” for him.
Wrong song choice put several good singers in jeopardy. I’m not sure the Gavin McGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be” was the best choice for Michael Sarver. He did a decent job with the song, but I don’t think it highlighted his talents. However, he seemed to really have fun with his choice. I’m just hoping it will be enough to keep him in the game.
On the other hand, Anne Marie Boskovich put a country flair to “A Natural Woman.” Personally, I prefer the soul of Aretha’s version, but unlike the judges, I think that this rendition worked for Anne Marie. She is no Aretha, but she has come a long way from her audition and I thought this performance showed that.
Unfortunately, not everyone had a good night. Jackie Tohn led off the show with “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley. She put her own twist on the song, but it just didn’t compare to the King. I give her credit for making the song her own, but the growl in her voice just didn’t work with this song.
On the other hand, tonight we finally got to find out that Ricky Braddy has a nice voice since we didn’t get to hear him during either of the two previous phases. He sang “A Song for You” by Leon Russell and sounded good. But, alas, I have no investment in him and by the end of the show I’d forgotten all about his performance.
Also not having a great night was Stephen Fowler. No, he didn’t forget the lyrics again, but it’s not a good sign when Simon says he wished he did. When Stephen started singing Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” I had images of the Love Boat. The performance improved and turned out to be a fun song, but it just wasn’t enough.
And last on my list of mediocre was drama queen Tatiana Del Toro. But tonight she was reserved and tried to sing “Saving All My Love for You” by Whitney Houston. I wanted to hate it, but she didn’t do half bad. But you can’t choose a song by Whitney and not be compared and Tatiana just didn’t measure up.
But no episode of Idol is complete without at least one train wreck. Tonight we had two – and bad song choice was the cause. Casey Carlson tried to take on Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” while Stevie Wright sang “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift.
Unfortunately, it looks like nerves got the better of the both girls. They both had weak beginnings and at best sounded like karaoke. It’s a shame because we have heard much better performances from both.
So the first set of 12 is behind us. Who will be the lucky three to stay?