“American Idol” gets serious now — the Top 24 kicks off their performances with the women.
It’s here! The moment’s arrived! I’ve waited for six long weeks to get to the actual competition. This year, my mom avoided watching up until now, so I’m curious as to how her opinions differ from the opinions of people who have been watching from the beginning.
My initial reactions to the ladies’ introduction: It surprises me that Paige is first; it does NOT surprise me that Katie is last. Didi is wearing a crocheted throw that I’m pretty sure she stole from my Grandma Donna’s house and Katelyn has total ’80s prom hair.
Apparently the new sexual thing on the show is Simon and Ellen. I love it, it’s way less hits-too-close-to-home than the Simon-Ryan stuff. The video of him touching her leg is well edited, and still makes me giggle even though I saw it when Ellen previewed it on her talk show last week.
1. Paige Miles, 24, “All Right Now,” Free
Paige has a very strong voice but it’s not a great song choice. This song is so milquetoast. It doesn’t get big enough to be a rocker performance, but it’s not a soaring ballad either. It just kinda sits there. Oh and then she breaks out the clap-over-your-head move. Sweetie, you aren’t in Bon Jovi circa 1986. Stop that. She does have a great big last note, which is always good for “Idol,” and overall as a vocalist, Paige is very good. She just needs a better song.
Simon declares that out of all the girls, Paige has the best voice, but he hated the song choice. Yes. Kara thought the song was brilliant because it’s a rock song and that she killed it. Randy says it’s a group song, but that Paige blew the doors off with it. Ellen commends her for going first and says she was “present.” Well, yes. She is live in the studio.
You know, if Paige is the best female singer … why in the name of all that is holy have we not seen her before this?!?! That drives me CRAZY about this show. Does Simon really think Paige is the best girl or is he just throwing her a bone because she’s been featured so little so far?
2. Ashley Rodriguez, 22, “Happy,” Leona Lewis
She can quite get to the lowest notes, they’re a little unsupported. When she gets to the big chorus where she can really let it rip … it’s disappointing. That should be the big moment, but there are some bum notes and it never gets big enough. In order to contrast that with the pretty ending, the middle needs to be bigger.
Kara says it was a big song to take on and there were some nice moments, but there were some other moments that weren’t great. She wants to see Ashley go outside the box. Randy says the song didn’t do well for her because she’ll get compared to Leona Lewis because she didn’t do it differently. Ellen wanted a whole different vibe and to see her take a risk. Simon says it was clumsy and she could be in trouble. Totally.
It appears my earlier predictions have already been proven wrong.
3. Janell Wheeler, 24, “What About Love,” Heart
She better bring it, I love Heart. Oh god, this is a bad country karaoke bar performance. You have to have a bigger voice than this to pull off Heart. What Janell should’ve done is stripped this song down and sung an acoustic version. It would’ve suited her voice better and it would’ve kept comparisons to Ann Wilson at bay. If Paula were here, she’d fall back on the “But you’re really pretty” compliment.
Randy goes, “Phew, glad that’s over?” Yes, Randy, I am. Oh, were you not talking to me? He didn’t like the song choice. Ellen loves the song (yes) and says that she sang it very well (no). Simon says it was 100% effort but only 65% good. Kara says the song was way too big for Janell, which is absolutely true, and that it took away from Janell’s interesting vocal quality.
4. Lilly Scott, 20, “Fixing a Hole,” The Beatles
I am not familiar with this song (sorry) but Lilly’s version totally rocks. Right in her wheelhouse. It’s weird and crunchy and coffeehouse. She definitely has a niche but when she’s in it, she’s really in it.
Ellen says, “That’s what we’re talkin’ about.” Simon says best so far but wants to see more star power from Lilly. Kara says it came from the heart and that Lilly is comfortable on stage. Randy says she’s a real indie artist. She’s not an affected Lily Allen or Duffy, she’s the real deal.
Wow, Lilly’s tall. Or she’s like 5’5, who can say? Seacrest is a munchkin. OH MY GOD, as we went to break, it just clicked who Katelyn Epperly looks like. Buffy’s frenemy from the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” movie. [checks IMDB] Michele Abrams is her name.
5. Katelyn Epperly, 19, “Oh, Darling,” The Beatles
Katelyn has a sexy vamp vibe going on. She makes some funny faces when she sings, but the sound is great. I keep waiting for her to really tear it up but she keeps pulling back. It’s nice to be surprised sometimes. I just love the tone to her voice. Overall, pretty strong.
Simon says it was very messy but he likes her and it was a good song choice. Kara says she knows her voice very well and that she switched it up in a good way, but the makeover isn’t helping. She liked her earthier, rather than sexy vamp. Randy loved the tone of her voice. Ellen loved her personality and says it made her pay attention, but warns her not to push too hard.
Kara then says that Katelyn was thinking, “Bitch” when Kara critiqued the makeover. WOW. That is a bit of a leap, Kara. Way to put that thought into several million voters heads.
6. Haeley Vaughn, 16, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles
Haeley is in all white with a flouncy skirt and she is screaming her way through this song. Wow. Not a fan. This is a totally boring song, there’s nothing to be done with it and she’s totally shouting. There’s one good high note in the middle but overall this is really rough.
Kara says there were problems from a technical standpoint. That’s putting it nicely. Kara then says she makes up for it with her fun. Really? Who was that fun for? Randy falls back on the “but you’re 16!” excuse. Ellen says as someone who likes music it was fun for her. Simon says it was verging on terrible and he’s totally right.
7. Lacey Brown, 24, “Landslide,” Fleetwood Mac
Excellent song choice, I can already tell before she sings a note. She’s got a total Stevie Nicks voice. She’s pronouncing the word “down” funny, but other than that, no complaints. It will probably be polarizing, though. You’ll either love it or hate it. Put me down as loving the way she ended the song.
Randy says it wasn’t the right song for her and that it was terrible and pitchy and didn’t suit her voice. Ellen says she’s better than that. Simon says it was quite depressing, kind of indulgent and boring. Kara says it was the wrong song but she hopes America gives her another shot.
See polarizing? Currently it’s four to one, but the tide could turn.
8. Michelle Delamor, 22, “Fallin’,” Alicia Keys
She drags the opening out too long and, well, sounds pretty much like — but not quite as good — as Alicia Keys. A big “no” to the “ah!” and the flinging of the arms. That’s weird. It gets boring about halfway through but she sticks a big diva note on the end, which will get her votes even though it’s weirdly abrupt.
Ellen says fantastic
but safe in that it seemed easy for her and that she has more to give. Simon says very professional and close to the original but there wasn’t a “wow” moment. Kara says she’s very commercial but there were some not-great moments. Randy wants to see her go outside her comfort zone.
9. Didi Benami, 23, “I Am,” Ingrid Michaelson
Does she remind anybody else of Judy Greer in her video? Anyway, Didi has a very interesting voice and this song is perfect for her. It’s funky in the way that Lilly Scott is funky and I hope they don’t split votes. Her last note is too breathy. Support, girl! But overall, solid.
Simon says she’s a good singer but there are too many people tonight trying to sound like Adele and Duffy. He also says it was dreary and dull. He wants a spark. Kara says the song was good and her arrangement was creative. Randy wants more star power, more outward oomph. Ellen says it could be one song in a set, but for her only performance it was too low-key.
Also, who let her leave the dressing room looking like that? Didi, sweetie. No more crochet.
10. Siobhan Magnus, 19, “Wicked Game,” Chris Isaak
Siobhan blows glass? That is weird and cool. Thank god the rumors about her singing “It’s Raining Men” were false. Anyway, her song choice is really weird but it fits her voice. Man, from certain angles she really looks like Anna Paquin. I just don’t know what to do with this odd little duck but I liked that performance a lot.
Kara says “wouldn’t’ve picked it but … I kinda liked you on that song.” Randy says it got better when she opened up her vocals and she should reach bigger. Ellen says she forgot for a minute they were in a competition. She called it “mysterious” and that she really liked it a lot. Simon calls her a funny little thing. Me and Simon, we’re simpatico. He says it wasn’t as good as she’s done before but he did like it.
11. Crystal Bowersox, 24, “Hand in my Pocket,” Alanis Morrisette
Great song for her. Great. She’s got great tone and who doesn’t love her guitar and harmonica playing? Really great vibe. The arrangement was identical to Alanis but Crystal managed to sound different from the original, which is cool.
Randy says one of the favorites tonight. Ellen says we are lucky to have her on “Idol” because she adds something fresh to the show. Simon says she’s a subway station singer and that she’s a soundalike, but he does call her refreshing. He wasn’t criticizing. Kara says she was good but she wants to see greatness out of Crystal.
12. Katie Stevens, 17, “Feelin’ Good,” Michael Buble
I was hoping to see Katie do something different from a throwback song, but I suppose the first week is the time to do something you know you’ve got down, lest you totally blow it.Her little shimmies are cutesy, not cute. This is bordering on precocious. Vocally it was good, but it’s not going to blow anyone away.
Ellen says she wants something younger and more current from Katie. Simon totally agrees and adds “pageanty.” Kara wonders if she couldn’t hear herself because she was pitchy but says that she has ridiculous vocal chops. Randy says she was sharp but that her big voice is good and she needs to be younger.
Recap (with botched audio): Paige surprising us, Ashley disappointing us, Janell being the blonde waif we’ll forget in a week, Lilly having a great night, Katelyn vamping it up, Haeley not cutting it on the most boring Beatles song ever, Lacey winning me (and apparently no one else) over, Michelle being proficient and forgettable, Didi grooving her way along, Siobhan shocking us with her performance, Crystal doing exactly what we expected but still being great and Katie sounding great but needing to be different.
If I were the voting kind, Paige, Lilly, Katelyn, Lacey, Didi, Siobhan, Crystal and Katie would split my votes. I would take a pass on Ashley, Janell, Haeley and Michelle. Who should go home? I think Haeley and Janell both really blew it. Everybody else did at least good enough to stick around another week.
Tomorrow night — The Boys! — and be sure to check back at Zap on Thursday, Feb. 25 for new Zap2it “Idol” guest blogger Kevin Covais impressions of the Top 24.
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Photo credit: FOX