American Idol went to Las Vegas with a new format and a new look Wednesday night.
By the time the show ended, we had five semifinalists — Tenna Torres, Angela Miller, Amber Holcomb, Adriana Latonio and Kree Harrison.
And five disappointed young ladies — Isabelle, Shubha Vedula, Kamaria Ousley, Brandy Hotard and Jenny Beth Willis.
For my live song-by-song grades blog, head here. Now for the recap.
Idol’s new Vegas format: This might be the best change Idol has made in years. Every Top 40 contestant is going to get to sing. Every Top 40 contestant is going to get judged. There will be no mystery contestants once the semifinals arrive in two weeks. Better yet, this format has built-in drama. There’s no need for phony drummed up drama. Remember the year Jennifer Lopez broke down in tears at the end of the Vegas episode and the big (silly) question was: Will see be able to go on? Now, the focus is where it belongs — on the singers. Grade: A
The judges: Hey, a really encouraging night. Keith Urban seemed more engaged than Steven Tyler ever was. Randy Jackson avoided his old cliches, though I fear “natural born singer” might become his new cliche. Nicki Minaj remains the star of the show. You’d think she’d been doing this as long as Randy. My only concern is that four judges is one too many. By the time it’s Mariah’s turn to talk, everything’s been said. But she’s still going to repeat it, sometimes going on just a bit too long. Grade: B
Standout performance of the night: Funny, most of the young ladies took the stage tonight looking like they had dressed for a beauty pageant. Kree Harrison took the stage in a pair of jeans and a loose-fitting top that looked like something she’d wear at home. Didn’t matter. Her version of “Up to the Mountain” was far and away the vocal of the night. And that’s saying something because the night was filled with very solid performances.
Early favorite: Angela Miller’s got quite the buzz going, doesn’t she? She was solid again Wednesday and has that girl-next-door appeal that might take her deep into the competition. And the judges were still buzzing about that original she performed in Hollywood. A word of caution. I remember Season 9 when the Hollywood buzz was about Didi Benami and a wonderful version of “Terrified.” The momentum faded quickly. And, sooner or later, Angela might run out of Jessie J. songs. Wednesday’s was at least her third.
Worst performance of the night: Kamaria Ousley’s performance of Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know it All” turned into Ms. Got it Wrong on every possible level. Nice of Nicki to compliment her appearance, because there wasn’t anything else to compliment.
The where has she been hiding award: I think I winced when 17-year-old Adriana Latonio took the stage and launched into an Aretha Franklin classic. And then something unexpected happened. A singer we’ve barely seen on the show turned in a sparkling vocal on a song (“Ain’t No Way”) recorded about 30 years before she was born. The judges stood for Amber Holcomb after her show-closing performance. I actually liked Adriana’s better.
Most disappointing cuts: Isabelle has sounded great every time we heard her sing and turned in another fine vocal Wednesday. I probably would have taken her to the semis over Tenna Torres. And Shubha Vedula took the risk of the night with an interesting arrangement of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” That’s the kind of originality so often lacking on the show. I might have been tempted to give her Amber’s spot.
Check back tomorrow night. I’ll be live blogging again with song by song grades for the Idol guys.
And if you want to check out profiles and pre-Idol music for any of this year’s contestants who made it to Hollywood, head here.