American Idol guys semifinals: Song by song grades
Random thoughts as we wait for the American Idol guys to start singing.
1. I tried and really liked the new super voting method on the Idol website. Since I refuse to spend time dialing a phone number repeatedly, it offered an easy way to cast votes quickly and leaves the viewer with at least the perception that their input could make a difference. Nice change, Idol.
2. So what happened to that #idolagree and #idoldisagree experiment? Was it shelved already? In truth, since the judges’ opinions so often vary — which is a very good thing in my mind — it was difficult to know what we were supposed to agree or disagree with. Perhaps it’s a not-quite-ready-for-primetime idea, Idol.
3. Here’s betting there’s at least one wild card choice on Thursday. Here are all the reasons why.
4. We don’t have the girls’ results yet, but executive producer Nigel Lythgoe apparently does. “I totally agree 100% with America’s vote on #americanidol last night. The top 5 girls are all amazing,” he tweeted earlier today. My recap, in case you missed it.
And now it’s time for two hours of singing from the guys, who under-impressed in the Top 40 round, but are capable of better judging from what we’ve seen in the past.
I’ll be grading each performance as it occurs. Check back after the show for a recap of the night’s best and worst.
Elijah Liu: The 18-year-old from Rowland Heights, Calif., opens the show acting like a lady’s man and assuring us he’s single and available. Then he launches into Rihanna’s “Stay.” And the first part of this performance was much better than his Top 40 performance, which, quite frankly, was pretty bad. All in all, Elijah was better tonight. But the song seemed to drag. And it wasn’t the type of memorable performance a guy who’s performing first in a two-hour show needs. Randy gets it right: It was a performance that never got out of first gear. Unless the ladies vote like mad, Elijah’s in trouble. Grade: C
Cortez Shaw: The 22-year-old Texan with the big smile is up next. Maybe they’re trying to get all the cute guys out of the way early so Nicki can focus. Anyway, I’m going to be disappointed if Cortez isn’t better than he was last week singing “Titanium.” OK, Cortez gets credit right out of the box by singing something upbeat — Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” Sadly though, this vocal is all over the place again. Either Cortez picked the wrong key for the song, or he’s not nearly as good as advertised. This, honestly, is downright painful on the ears. At least Elijah was on key. And Cortez is getting gently raked over the coals by the judges. Deservedly so. Grade: D
Charlie Askew: Here comes the 18-year-old awkward turtle from Little Rock, Ark., who ditched the classy suit from last week for a … what would you call that? … Woodstock look? He’s singing “Mama” by Genesis. Not sure sleeveless is the best look for Charlie. After an uneven opening, he tosses the mike aside and decides to play the role of rocker. Which is a little tough to swallow. But he certainly poured all of his energy into that performance, didn’t he? Problem is, the vocal was absolutely all over the place. Nicki is upset. Randy says it “didn’t all connect” and he didn’t get it. Neither did I. Wow, this is turning dark on Idol. Charlie appears on the verge of a breakdown. Grade: D+
Nick Boddington: So, can the 27-year-old from Memphis start to salvage this episode? He’s heading back to the piano and he says he’s picked a song he’s very comfortable with. He’s singing “Iris (Who I Am)” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Well, this is miles better than the last two performances. But Nick is still struggling and going off key from time to time. Nerves? He does seem more connected to this song. But the critiques from the judges are very middling. Which, in all honesty, is what that performance was. But so-so might be good enough based on what we’re hearing tonight. Since Nick is a Vegas returnee, I expected more. Grade: C+
Burnell Taylor: The 18-year-old from New Orleans will sing “I’m Here.” He’s conducting himself with his hand motions again. OK, that thankful clasping of the hands was a little much. But, let’s give the guy credit. He was on pitch through the whole song. He has a very nice voice. The song selection was a little obscure for me. And he repeated his audition song, which is sorta playing it safe. Randy likes the urgency in his voice. And he’s the first contestant tonight getting solid reviews from all the judges. Mariah says he nearly brought her to tears again. Or was she just overjoyed to hear someone, anyone, sing well. Grade: B
Paul Jolley: The 23-year-old from tiny Palmersville, Texas, has one of the biggest followings among the guys on Facebook and Twitter. And he’s the only male country singer in the semifinals, which should help him. He’s promising a good ol’ shindig. He’ll sing “I’m Just a Fool,” the song Christina Aguilera recorded with Blake Shelton. And he started off very strong. And he’s hitting some ridiculous notes over the course of the song. All in all, he did better than last week. Hmm, he wants to be the guy version of Taylor Swift. Problem was, the vocal was inconsistent. There were other times when he bordered on shouting. Says Randy: “It’s in there, you just got to get it all at the same time.” Grade: C+
Lazaro Arbos: He’s the sentimental favorite and I really like his humility. Wow, he says last week was his first time performing in front of a live audience. He’s singing “I’m Feeling Good.” Like the song choice. Like the way Lazaro is beginning the song. If Lazaro is nervous performing in front of a live audience for the second time ever, he sure didn’t show it. Love the way he walked away from the mike and got a little swagger in his step midway through that performance. That, folks, was my favorite performance of the night. Prediction: Lazaro sails into the finals. Keith loves the way he connects with people. Nicki says they have something in common; pink is their favorite color. Oh, no, Randy pulled out the “in it to win it” line. Grade: B+
Curtis Finch: The 25-year-old from St. Louis says he’s “had a great run, but my feet aren’t tired.” The first of two gospel singers we’ll hear from over the second half of the show, he’s going to sing “I Believe I Can Fly.” Oh, great. Not in love with the song choice at all. But there’s no doubting he’s one of the best singers among the males. Point proven. He went crazy over the second half of that song and made me forget he’d chosen to sing a tired old standard. Says Keith: “We just had us a sermon in Vegas, baby. I believe you can fly, Curtis.” Nicki launches into a sermon of her own, urging Curtis to release an album of music just like that. High praise coming from all the judges. Grade: A-
Devin Velez: The show’s old soul at the ripe old age of 18, is going to sing “Impossible,” recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley and Perry Como. And he’s going to do part of the song in Spanish again. Hmm, he said he wouldn’t be doing that. Oh, well, my advice to Devin would be to start singing more current songs. “Current” is clearly what some of these judges are looking for this year. That said, the Idol guys are starting to bring it during the second half of the show. That was another very good vocal. Nicki calls him a “Spanish Ken doll.” Randy likes his tone. “It’s like turning on a faucet. It’s effortless.” I sense the second coming of Clay Aiken. Grade: B+
Vincent Powell: The oldest guy in the competition at 29, Vincent gets the pimp spot. Here comes another big ballad. He’s doing “Boyz II Men’s “Til the End of the Road.” And the string of great performances just came to a screaming, screeching halt. First, hated the song choice. Second, did not like the execution. That was a case of trying to do too much with a song. Randy says he overshot it a little bit. Hmm, yeah, just a little, Randy. Especially that one loud screech. That said, Vincent is probably among the five top singers left among the guys. That, however, was not the best way to end the show. Grade: C
Picking four guys — Lazaro, Burnell, Curtis and Devin — should be very easy. Picking a fifth … can we take a girl instead? Please? Pretty please?
Recap coming soon.