Night 1 in Vegas: Song by song grades
Over the weekend, American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe sent out a couple of tweets about the talent level on Season 12.
One read like this: “I believe the girls have great voices this year. The boys are good and are interesting characters.”
And another: “3 great guys, 10 great girls.”
Presumably, then, we’ll be hearing some great voices this evening because its ladies night on Idol as the judges begin the four-night task for whittling a contestant field of 40 to a semifinal field of 20.
Ten girls will take the stage; five will advance. And judging from the publicity photos Idol has already provided, we’re going to get to see some contestants we’ve barely heard from to date — like Jenny Beth Willis, Amber Holcomb, Adriana Latonio and Brandy Hotard.
I’ll be live blogging throughout tonight’s show and providing song by song grades, so keep checking back.
The link attached to each singers’ name will take you to a profile of that contestant and pre-Idol videos.
Jenny Beth Willis: Jenny Beth is 17, from Kentucky and known as Snow White by fellow contestants for her pale skin and dark hair. She’s one of at least five country singers to make the Vegas round among the ladies. Oh, and she likes phoofy dresses, just in case you couldn’t tell. Hey, really like that ending on “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love.” She finished with a big glory note in true Idol style. Until that point, it was an OK performance. Nicki echoes that thought. Randy says he wishes the rest of the song were as good as the end note. Mariah, in long-winded fashion, seemed to agree. Grade: C+
Tenna Torres: Tenna is 28 from Queens, N.Y., and has been recording pop music for a while now. In fact, she released a single after being eliminated in Vegas last year. She’s going to slow things down with Natasha Bedingfield’s “Soulmate.” Interesting song choice for someone who has specialized in pop-dance tunes from the looks of her YouTube videos. She seemed to connect with the song, though, and turned in a really nice vocal from start to finish. Nicki loved her performance, but suggests a change in hair style because it’s making her look older. But other than the comment about her hair, Tenna is getting really solid reviews from the judges. Grade: B
Adriana Latonio: Have we seen this 17-year-old from Anchorage yet this season? I don’t think so. Whoa. Where has Idol been hiding this darling? She sang “Ain’t No Way,” and that was a surprisingly wonderful performance. I was worried when the young gal stepped on stage and starting singing a classic Aretha Franklin ballad. She’s getting high praise from the judges. And Adriana says the song went better than she thought it would. Grade: B+
Brandy Hotard: She’s Idol’s singing nurse, and another of the country gals who have made the Vegas round. She’s singing Travis Tritt’s “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” Brandy posted to Facebook today that she’s been ill, but did the best she could with this song. Not sure I liked the song choice, and the vocal was just so-so. There just weren’t any killer moments in the song. The judges are questioning her connection to the song. Nicki calls it a pageant performance. Which wouldn’t be surprising since Brandy has competed in Miss Louisiana twice with vocals as her talent. Anyway, don’t look for Brandy to survive tonight. Grade: C
Shubha Vedula: Only two judges were around when Shubha auditioned in Long Beach. She’s just 17. And she’s going to perform from the piano. She’s going to give her own twist to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Really loved that opening. Really do not like what’s happening since she got up from behind the piano. Give Shubha big marks for switching up a popular song and doing it her way. Give her high points for vocal range. Give her high points for performance. But that middle was a bit of a mess. I’d keep her because that was the bravest performance of the night. Grade: B-
Kamaria Ousley: Kamaria is 29 and a background singer looking to step into the spotlight. She’s going to tackle Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All.” And there were more blown notes in that opening verse than we’ve heard all night. This is almost grating, alternating between off key and shouting. Easily the night’s weakest performance. Even the glory note was off. The judges seem to agree. Say bye-bye to Kamaria. Grade: D.
Kree Harrison: Kree is the young lady who lost both of her parents before age 19, one to a plane crash, one to an automobile accident. She’s a demo singer in Nashville and has some really nice originals. She’s singing “Up to the Mountain.” One verse in, I can tell you if Idol is going to keep a country singer tonight, it had better be Kree. She’s not the most glamorous contestant we’ve seen, but that was one sparkling vocal, with a touch of soul and blues thrown in. My new favorite of the night in fact. Now that was a performance filled with highlights. Grade: A-
Angela Miller: Angela is the gal who dazzled us with an original song in Hollywood. But, remember, she’s also the gal who told us she has 40 percent hearing loss in one ear and 20 in the other. She comes out looking like a star. She prances around the stage like a star. I have to think this gal is finals bound in a heartbeat. That was a solid vocal, though there were times when the background music overwhelmed her voice on Jessie J’s “Nobody’s Perfect.” The judges are clearly impressed with Angela. They’re still praising the original song she sang in Hollywood. Grade: B+
Isabelle: Every time she’s performed so far, Isabelle has been impressive. I’m just afraid she’ll fall into the Pia Toscano trap, singing power ballad after power ballad. She’s going to sing Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child.” She’s singing it very well, but I’m not in love with the song choice. Lots of power and lots of range in that voice. Randy calls it “old-fashioned,” and that’s the impression I was left with, honestly. Grade: B
Amber Holcomb: Interesting that Amber gets to sing last. The teen is in Vegas for the second straight year. I’m not sure we’ve seen her at all yet this season. I was hoping for something upbeat. Nope. “My Funny Valentine.” Like the bright blue shoes. Unfortunately, I fear that might be the most memorable thing about this performance. Amber has succeeded in looking much more confident this year. And she pulled that vocal off in the second half of the song. But, wow, she got three judges to stand at the end of her performance and got praise for her vocal from every single judge. Grade: B
Now, it’s decision time. I would keep Kree, Angela, Adriana, Shubha and Isabelle. The last pick only because I’ve seen Isabelle sing well repeatedly and that’s the first time we’ve seen Amber do anything.
Going home: Jenny Beth Willis, Brandy Hotard, Isabelle, Kamaria Ousley, Shubha Vedula
Going to the semifinals: Tenna Torres, Kree Harrison, Angela Miller, Amber Holcomb, Adriana Latonio