American Idol S15 Top 10 Revealed Part 2

26 02 2016

They got right down to business by announcing the final six contestants making it through to the top 10. Going through are Sonika Vaid, MacKenzie Bourg, Gianna Isabella, Avalon Young, Tristan McIntosh, and Lee Jean. Going home will be Manny Torres, Thomas Stringfellow, Jenn Blosil, and Jeneve Rose Mitchell. It was sweet how Jenn was supporting Jeneve Rose.

Kelly Clarkson looking very gorgeous and pregnant joined the judges’ panel. The top 10 will be performing this evening. Hopefully there will be new songs and not picks from previous songs they sang.

Olivia Rox starts the evening. She shared her memories about her first real memory of the show being Katharine McPhee singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which was her song and one she would sing on stage with her parents who are professional singers. I was expecting her to do the song but tonight she is singing “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry. I love the control in her voice. Where people would belt out certain notes, she brought it in and it was a different way of doing it. I love interesting and different and I love her. I think Sonika Vaid needs to take notes from her about changing up a song and not singing it exactly like the original. Keith said keep loosening and relaxing. Jennifer loved what she did with the song. She liked the arrangement. Kelly said the beginning was tasteful. She is a fan. Harry loved it; she did everything she had to do—nice job.

Gianna Isabella had a crush on Scotty McCreery. Too bad she didn’t get to pair with him in the duet. Her hair is beautiful straightened this evening. She chose “Listen” by Beyonce. She is amazing for 15 but there were some notes that were sharp and flat on important notes. I loved the background. It’s ballsy choosing Beyonce. Jennifer said it wasn’t her best performance ever for her. There were parts that sounded really great. But, it was very shaky. Now she has to pick songs that will show all of her strengths if she is going to make it all the way through. Kelly said it was a bold song to choose. You get pitchy and you get nervous but she would grow out of it. Kelly suggested to her to quit thinking about it because you focus on it too much and she will lose emotion and get pitchy. Harry said Kelly is pretty good at this judging thing. Harry had nothing to add other than the song seemed very arranged. It felt rehearsed. Keith said but with a good thing is that she needs to believe in herself. And Kelly chimed in “and grow, tour, sing more and more.”

Lee Jean remembers Chris Medina’s audition and his story touched his heart. Tonight he chose “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. He got a little pitchy in there. I think he needs to be careful about song choice. That isn’t a song many know. But the audience was clapping along with him so he did capture them and that is often important. Kelly loves him. It is cool that he found his niche. Harry said this is his lane. He said that he and MacKenzie are both similar and if he goes forward in the competition, that is something he may have to concern himself with, which is what Kelly was saying, but he can’t see him doing EDM. He needs to concentrate on pitch. Keith said what he does well is telling a story. That is very different than what the others can do. Jennifer said it is really achieving what Chris Medina made him feel. Songs that he picks has to mean something to him so when others are watching him they can feel the same way and he has the ability to do that. And Ryan said Chris was in the audience and Chris loved it.

Avalon Young gets called up to the stage to perform. One of her biggest moments of Idol was Justin Guarini. She chose “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes. Oh no, bad song choice. Her lower range is rough. It was pitchy all over the place. Her comfort zone is higher. Harry said he does exude this cool vibe. He said he wouldn’t have done the halftime groove in the beginning. This fell flat for him in terms of what she was singing. Keith said she was nervous at the beginning and the audience wasn’t quite with her yet. After the halfway point, she loosened up and the audience was with her. She has to be loose like that from the beginning. Jennifer said she hasn’t had trouble doing that so maybe it was the song. It wasn’t really the right song for her. Kelly said she is so captivating. There is something so special about her. She generally doesn’t like the songs she sings but she loves them when Avalon sings them.

Dalton Rapattoni said season 5 of Idol was very special. They would bet each season and Chris was his bet. When Chris was sent home, it was a very bad night in the Rapattoni house. David Cook is one of the biggest reason he approaches the songs the way he does. Tonight he is singing “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s. I don’t like this song for him; however, I like that it up-tempo. Keith said he loves what he does with songs. He was like electric barnyard. Jennifer said he is the kind cool cute guy but he has a lot of heart. He did a really good job. Kelly said he is so comfortable on stage and it bleeds through. Kelly says he loves the way he sings. It is artistry and not just a singer. Harry said every time he has sung, he has completely flipped the concept of the arrangement and so far he is batting 1000.

Tristan McIntosh she watched religiously since she was 11 years old. They all loved Jessica Sanchez. She was her inspiration. She chose “Nothin’ Like You” by Dan + Shay. I don’t know this song. I don’t think I can comment about it. Sometimes she sounded a little sharp or flat at times. Nerves are getting people tonight. Jennifer said that it is about finding songs she feels comfortable in because she felt like that one for her wasn’t all it could have been knowing how she can sing. It wasn’t as strong a performance that she could have given. Kelly wants to know what her message is. She recalled the audition song where her mom surprised her and she got lost in the music and that is the girl she wants to see. She suggested a Trisha Yearwood song. She wants to hear a song that she really felt. Harry said it is a very lyricy song and he would suggest doing a song that everyone would know and not just people in the country lane. Also if she is going to go talk with the crowd you can’t let it affect her vocal. When she stopped doing that, her vocal improved. Keith said that the familiarity of the song is one thing. If you can find a song and kill it, it doesn’t matter what the song is. She did pretty good but she has to watch the pitch.

MacKenzie Bourg enjoyed William Hung sing “She Bangs.” He chose “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. I thought he sang this before, but when I checked my notes it was Lee Jean who did. It was pleasant. I think Lee Jean’s version was more haunting. MacKenzie is a cool dude. I hope he goes far in the competition. Kelly said that her baby had not moved during the show and he was doing flips during his performance. The baby likes him. What is so cool for him is that he knows exactly where he wants to go and he is already there. Harry said he is very compelling when he sings. He asked him what the lyrics meant to him. He said it makes him feel fired up to be there. Keith said he loves that he plays guitar so he was so chill and in the zone and pulls the audience in. Jennifer said that as the competition goes on it will be interesting to see which songs he chooses to make an impact.

La’Porsha Renae watched Kelly Clarkson who came from such humble beginnings. To win would make her feel like she is on top of her life and her struggles. She came out on top. She chose “Diamonds” by Rihanna. Wow. She is the bookend to Kelly indeed. I love Dalton, but she is the winner right there. Goosebumps! The first ones of the evening. She is in a different lane from all the other contestants. Jennifer, Kelly and Keith are all on their feet. La’Porsha is in tears from the love and support she is hearing from the room. Harry said – that is your critique. Kelly said it is not her turn to speak but she does not care. But if she were her every time she opened her mouth to sing, she would say, “you’re welcome.” It is such a talent. She is going to win. Jennifer said it is her control. Keith said there is a quote that says, “I judge myself not by what I have but what I’m willing to give” and what she just gave was just pure humanity. It was beautiful.

I would hate being the contestants who sing after her because it is just going to fall as flat as a pancake. And that unlucky person is Sonika Vaid. Kelly Clarkson was her inspiration. Oh wow. She is going to tackle “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence? Interesting choice. But once again it sounds like she is singing karaoke. She is a beautiful singer, but there is no artistry. She needs to bring up her game by changing arrangements. I like this rocker side of her because her choosing ballads has been a complaint of mine. She just can’t make the ending different; she has to change the song. Keith loved the song choice and had all the right drama. Jennifer said she is dangerous. If she can do what she just did, letting go, believing in herself, etc. she is dangerous. Kelly said she is never pitchy and that is an amazing accomplishment. Harry said it takes guts to follow a performer who had crazy applause like La’Porsha, that he liked the song, he loved the fact that she was showing a different type of angst and passion they haven’t seen before.

Trent Harmon said that Idol made him want to become a singer. He remembers when David Archuletta sang “Imagine.” It really stuck to him. He is singing “Like I Can” by Sam Smith. Goosebumps. I was dancing and clapping while he was singing. Jennifer said “wow.” She feels they have one of the best competitions with this top 10. His voice is so unique and different and he does exciting things with it. It wasn’t all perfect every single moment. He is an artist. She loves him. Kelly said it is a very impressive thing to have such an impressive thing to have that natural gift. Harry thought it was fantastic. Over the last years American Idol has been on the air, it is almost like watching a world class ice skater. If he goes for the runs he has to be like an ice skating match. Tremendous job. Jennifer wants a “run battle.” Keith said it was a good job. He thought everyone was rising to the occasion after La’Porsha and now he wishes La’Porsha started the show.

Kelly Clarkson then took the stage for a special performance with a song called “Piece by Piece.” I was in tears. It was written after a conversation with her sister. Keith was sobbing as much as I was. Jennifer had so much compassion in her eyes. The lyrics made me cry because it sort of resembles my own life. I married a man who stayed when all I knew was abandonment. We are kindred spirits Kelly Clarkson.





American Idol S15 Atlanta Auditions

9 01 2016

(I know the Atlanta and Denver auditions were in the same show, but I’m splitting them up because the blog was just too long).

And so it begins….the beginning of the end of a 15-year run on American Idol. There will be surprises galore this season. Back of the judges panel are my favorite three judges: Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. While some will argue that the original three judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell were the best, I prefer the constructive criticism that is given to the contestants versus the ridicule that left some contestants baffled as to what went wrong with their performance. I have been blogging about American Idol in one forum or another (including on the Fox 26 Houston blog site) since season 2 of the show when I first began watching.

If you are a newcomer to my blog, there is just one thing you need to know. My goosebumps never lie. Music truly rocks my soul. My mother had a beautiful opera voice and had auditioned for the NY Met, but didn’t make it. Because of her influence, I have been singing my whole life. I went to music school and my last public performance was at Hamman Hall at Rice University here in Houston. Stage fright got the best of me, my recital bombed, and I decided that this field was not my career path. My vocal coach was going to do a road trip and asked me to come along to be her background singer, a compliment that was not lost upon me, but the idea of being on the road, in gross motel rooms, singing in smoky environments (because there were no smoking bans in bars back then) just didn’t appeal to me. My childhood had been unstable and I decided to keep my stable day job. That didn’t mean, however, I gave up singing, writing songs, and challenging myself. My stage fright, however, has never left me. When I see singers crash because of stage fright on Idol, my heart truly feels empathy for them.

The first stop begins in Atlanta. Michelle Marie has been waiting to audition on Idol since she was 4 years old. She is 15 years old and is from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her song choice is “Blue” by LeAnn Rimes. I got goosebumps when she sang the opening “Blue” inflections. Jennifer thought it was pretty. Harry thought she did a good job with a song that is technically difficult to do. Keith loved it too. She is through.

Some of the previous contestants came to do screening judging on the audition part of the tour including Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Kris Allen. I am not sure if that was a gift or a curse for them.

Showing off classic country is 18-year-old Josiah Siska from Dacula, Georgia. Singing Johnny Cash’s “Riders in the Sky” in the key of Johnny Cash, this big old deep bass voice came out of this young man. It was interesting, but I am not sure he would make it far in the competition; he would need to learn how to change “theme” weeks into a range he could sing and people would enjoy. Harry got up and did hand clapping and sound effects for him. Keith loved his voice. Harry said they have never heard anything like him yet. Three yesses.

Lindita is a 26-year-old personal trainer who was ridiculed her entire life for being obese. They would say, “She has a great voice but she is fat.” She decided to make lifestyle changes and dropped 150 pounds in preparation for her audition. She also married her own personal trainer. She is from Kosovo. She sang “This is a Man’s World.” Goosebumps! Jennifer says to Keith that she has soul. I loved it. Harry thinks she is a powerful singer. Jennifer and Keith loved it. Keith thought she had too many runs, but she will learn to cut some of that out. She receives three yesses.

Billy Bob Evett, 25 years of age from Punta Gorda, Florida, is a self-described honky-tonk man who is quite the Jennifer Lopez fan. He picks a Waylon Jennings song. He is another contestant with a deep bass voice. He was a lot of fun but it was not as good as Josiah. Keith likes him as a person but felt the singing wasn’t strong enough (the pitch was all over the place). Jennifer and Harry agreed.

Fifteen-year-old Lee Jean, from Bluffton, South Carolina, sang “I See Fire” by Ed Sheeran. Immediate goosebumps for me. His voice is so pure. I think when he added the guitar his voice went off pitch quite a bit. My suggestion would be to lose the guitar so he can concentrate on the vocals. Jennifer wants to squeeze him he is so cute (and she loves his talent). Harry thinks he has a tremendous amount of talent. The singing-in-tune part needs a lot of work which is doable. Keith loves his tone and has a singer/songwriter quality about it. They all give him a yes.

Sylvia Lee Walker, a 16-year-old that likes to talk (A LOT), from Rayle, Georgia got a standing ovation from Keith for her tales of her life that were told at the speed of light. Her song choice: Yodeling. And at the end of that Keith did a “mind blown” reference and collapsed in a ball of laughter. Jennifer and Harry thought it was awesome. Keith thought she had an amazing accent and he could listen to her stories all night long. Keith said she is entertainer as a person, but this was a singing competition and her pitch was all over the place. Jennifer thought she would be a lot of fun at Hollywood week but she also was a no.

Joshua Wicker, age 25, is the creative director at his church. His wife is 3 weeks away from her due date of their first child. He decides to sing, “Stay” by Rihanna. Oh my gosh. From the first note, I had goosebumps. I don’t think it was from the ice on my foot either. Jennifer said it was an interesting voice with a lot of pretty colors. Harry said it was compelling and that is all he cares about. Keith thought he sang it like he wrote it which is the highest compliment you can give someone who didn’t write a song. Three yesses. And three weeks later their daughter Branch was born.

This adorable couple with a new baby are both auditioning. First up is Alex Sasser, a 23-year-old worship leader from Raleigh, NC. She sings Bruno Mars’ song “Count on Me” while playing a ukulele. She is cute and has a sweet voice. Harry thought she had a pretty voice but it was just not passing it at all. Keith felt it was just too light for him as a performance. Jennifer needed to hear more of a compelling voice. It’s a no from all three. Jordan Sasser was next up. He chose Celine Dion’s song, “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” He too is a worship leader at his church. He is definitely the stronger voice in the couple. I got some goosebumps. He has a nice face and a nice smile, too. Jennifer thought it was really good. Harry thought he is incredibly talented and smart. Keith thought it was great. Three yesses. What was sad to me is that I think she really believed she was the better singer in the family and it wasn’t just a joking around in the package before the singing. When she left she blamed Jordan for dancing around with the baby which made the judges not like her singing as much because it was distracting the judges. She says to him that she has never been good enough—she’s sat and watch him follow his dream and it’s heartbreaking. He looked shocked at her words. But he reassured her how proud he was of her and that he loved her. He really is the better singer Alex. It wasn’t the distraction of your baby in the room. And no offense, but you are a worship leader and we just witnessed one of the seven deadly sins:  Envy.