Tonight’s performances was completed at the Vibiana. It’s a church in Los Angeles so I can’t wait to hear the acoustics. Twelve singers will perform tonight and tomorrow they will get to do duets with former Idol contestants. Tomorrow night, five contestants will be cut. Next week they will do it again.
Stephany Negrete chose a Jessie J song “Mama Knows Best.” It’s odd that when I look at her, I see a young Cher. There is something missing though and I can’t put my finger on it. It was a fantastic way to open the show. Keith said it was a really good song for her. Keith thinks she could have loosened up even more. Jennifer said she is the full package but she needs to connect emotionally to the lyrics. Harry said it was great advice.
Next is Great Big World’s “Say Something” Mackenzie Bourg. I really liked this. Sometimes simple is better. Jennifer said he felt very natural up there; he did what Mackenzie does and it is exactly what he needs to do. Harry said the lyrics meant something to him. He liked that he changed up the melody without changing the integrity of the song. Keith said if he had heard that song for the first time he would absolutely believe Mackenzie wrote it.
Jeneve Rose Mitchell chose to play the harp (one of many instruments she knows how to play) and sing “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan. The young lady has talent but I don’t picture her as the last American Idol. I can see her getting a recording contract though in Nashville. Harry thought she did herself a disservice of playing the harp on this song in this way. He would have just liked her to sing the song. Keith said she is the real deal. She is extraordinary and he loves the way she takes risks. Jennifer said she was not sure about her before that performance but she had goosies everywhere. She thought it was beautiful.
Jenna Renae is a singer/songwriter. She chose “My Church” by Maren Morris. I had to laugh because they were singing in a church for this performance. Keith woo-hooed from the audience because he loves this song. She did a fantastic job (that is high praise coming from me because of my disdain of country music). Keith said it was good tonight. Jennifer thought she was in her element and she had a lot of joy when she sang. Harry liked the energy and enthusiasm. He said that there is a fine line between enthusiasm and shouting and her pitch was sacrificed as a result of that.
“Love Lockdown” by Kanye West was the choice for James VIII tonight. I loved his version more than Kanye’s. I could see him holding back still though. It wasn’t until recently that he ever saw himself as a singer as he just played guitar in a band so this might be a lack of confidence issue. I loved how he interacted with Rickey Minor in the end. Jennifer said it was an interesting choice to do that song in that way. She thought it stayed too even and it didn’t grab her in the way it could have for as good as he is (and the audience boos). Harry said it felt good. It was super easy but when is it going to get more complex. He didn’t know how far down the road he would get. Keith said he has to be careful being chill and being indulgent. You can’t assume he is going to be here to do another song so come out and kill it each and every time.
Sonika Vaid chose “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift featuring the Civil Wars. She has a tremendously beautiful voice. She still is lacking stage performance and she always takes a song and sings it as a ballad. Just singing ballads is not going to get her through this competition. The stage just seems to swallow her up (and this is a small stage). Harry said it was one of the more emotional performances they have seen. Keith said her voice is so good. Jennifer says her voice is so beautiful but she wants her to choose songs that makes her heart sing as well.
Bookworm Gianna Isabella chose “I Put a Spell on You” by Annie Lennox. First goosebumps of the evening. She was a little off pitch on those few end notes but I loved it. Keith said her voice is undeniable. There were moments she was starting to own the stage but they were inconsistent. Jennifer said the voice is so real and so strong. Harry said she has a great voice and has been a great student of American Idol because she hit big loud notes in the right places. He wants her to challenge herself to find as much meat in there as she can.
Emily Rose drew upon The Voice’s champion Cassadee Pope for her song “I Am Invincible.” This is the same problem that Emily had last year when she got cut—her performance during the showcase was terrible. Emily started off flat and sharp all over the place. Yes, perhaps she was scared. I feel for her if she was. But these performances are do or die to make it to the next round and they are cutting 5 people from the 12 tomorrow. There is no room for mistakes. The song did not improve as she went along. She was off pitch throughout the song. It just became less obvious because she was more in her vocal range. Jennifer likes her but that was not the best song for her because of the lower vocal range. She has to choose songs that play to her strengths. Harry says she has to sell those lyrics. He did not feel it. He has never heard her struggle with pitch as much as she did tonight. But he leaves her that her talent is unquestionable and she must be having an off night. Keith said that song did not play to all her strengths but what he did like was that she was exploring and trying different things.
Self-described tomgirl Avalon Young picked “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber. She has a great voice but her performance doesn’t match the song lyrics. This isn’t a happy song and she is smiling throughout. She is a bit off pitch as well. Harry said she seems to be the most in tune with who she is in the moment. He said the only advice would be that maybe she could have modulated it up on the last chorus. Keith said don’t be afraid to tell the band that she wants something different.
Turtle-lover Jordan Sasser chose “All By Myself” (the Celine Dion version; I don’t think anyone remembers that Eric Carmen was the original artist on this). Did he get a haircut? It looks great. I am not sure if this is my favorite song I have heard from him. Sometimes on those notes he uses with his open throat sound fabulous, but then he almost goes for the opposite back-of-the-throat-straining quality that does hurt my ears a bit. My son with autism happened to come in to the room (he loves music) and he had his hands on his ears (the same thing he does with me when he doesn’t like a note coming out of my voice). I got goosebumps by the end of the song though (again with that open throat). Keith said he has a great voice but it was a little too theatrical for him and asked him to please not lose the emotion of the song. Jennifer agrees a little bit. She said when he first sang “all by myself” she should not have been thinking whether or not he hit the right part of his voice. Harry says he has a great voice and he has to do all that show-offy stuff. He doesn’t like that. He doesn’t need all that.
Thomas Stringfellow chose “Creep” by Radiohead to sing during the showcase. I wasn’t sure whether his chord on his guitar wasn’t correct or his voice didn’t match the chord he played correctly but they weren’t in tune with each other. He is unique and that is his plus. I’m kind of on the fence about whether or not I liked it but the young ladies in the audience did. Jennifer felt that he played with his voice in a way she hadn’t heard before—he was pushing the envelope. He sings with emotion and it fills the room. Harry thought it was tremendous—really, really strong. Keith said his natural way of performing is to lean into abandonment; that is when he is at his best. It’s really compelling.
The pimp-spot performance goes to La’Porsha Renae. She chose “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner. This woman is already a star. She stole the night. If she continues having performances like this she will surely win American Idol. I had goosebumps. Keith was standing up. Harry said he thinks one of two things is going to happen as a result of her American Idol performance tonight. She is either going to make other competitors get better or she is going to make them want to quit. She is captivating and smart. He would be stupid to critique that in any way, shape or form. Keith said one of the hard parts is once people critique doing runs, they become conscious of it, and then it backfires. She has never become conscious of it. It’s beautiful because she remains a portal for the gift. Jennifer said it is a joy to listen to her sing. She dreams about voices like hers. Her advice is to take all the influences that she loves and make them hers.
I don’t envy the judges decisions here. In this group, I think the some of the 5 going home will be Emily Rose (worst performance of the 12 and their other country girl did better); James VIII (was nice, but just nice); Sonika Vaid (beautiful voice, but the stage swallows her up).
I’m on the fence about Jeneve Rose Mitchell. She is unique and they may keep her because of that. Jordan Sasser might go home because he was overly dramatic.
Thomas Stringfellow versus Mackenzie Bourg: There might only be one. Mackenzie is more relatable; Thomas is quirky.
Definitely through: La’Porsha Renae (she dominated the competition); Stephany Negrete (because she has a voice and stage presence, but they know she will find that emotional connection like Nick did last season); Jenna Renae; Gianna Isabella; Avalon Young (because they need a quirky girl).