Now we’re into the meat and potatoes portion of American Idol. The best part of the semi-finals is really gauging stage presence. This year there are only two nights of semi-finals for American Idol.
There are some advantages to the one-and-out version of this. It does make the season seem shorter, and with a less talented group, saves us the trouble of listening to abysmal performances week after week.
Unfortunately for some of the guys tonight, they did really well, but don’t get the option of improving. So I’m going to go in order of performance, and then give my verdict if they are in the top twelve, borderline, or should start packing their bags now.
Seeing Randy in Simon’s chair is really weird. I also miss the Ryan/Simon dynamic, but not enough to wish Simon back. I also found the intros a little jarring, and not informative as they have been in the past.
Clint Jun Gamboa has the unfortunate task of singing first. “Superstition” is not the most inspired song choice, as it’s been sung by several contestants. (Always appropriate to insert a Ricky Braddy was robbed comment here.) The lighting is a little distraction, but I can’t deny that he sang it very well and had immense stage presence. But with his performance slot combined with his villain edit, I’d have to say he’s not going to be one of the five guys voted in. Verdict: possible wild card/surprise vote in.
Jovany Barreto. “I’ll Be” may possibly be the most boring song choice of the night. It’s been overplayed and oversung over the last few years. Add in the fact that it was a little off key and sort of boring until he did the key change. Surprisingly Randy was the only one who pointed this out. (Maybe it’s the chair. Maybe it makes people more critical and sound of mind. We’ll see as the night/season goes along.) Verdict: Out. I don’t see any way he makes the top 12.
Jordan Dorsey. “OMG”Dear Mr. Dorsey, please go give Anoop Desai a call and ask him about singing Usher. (I’ve seen some rumors about how he had to take the song because it was given to him, but I’m not sure what that’s about.) Either way, this was a complete mess, and given that Jordan has not been portrayed in the best light… Verdict: Out.
Tim Halperin: “Streetcorner Symphony” I can see why Tim picked a Rob Thomas song. But I’m not sure why he didn’t go for something with a little… I think it was a case of right artist wrong song here. You could see he was trying to do something with it, but he got lost behind the band, and looked like he was wandering aimlessly across the stage. Verdict: a very slim chance at getting voted in because I know he’s pretty popular, but his best shot is a wild card slot.
Brett Loewenstern. “Light My Fire” This was an interesting case of wrong song sung pretty well and with enough personality to make me happy. There’s something about Brett that just lights up the stage, and his voice is interesting enough that I want to hear more. (Also Idol stylists: leave his hair alone, it’s part of his charm.) Verdict: Good chance of getting voted in, excellent shot at a wild card.
James Durbin. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” I’m going to take a moment and defend James for a moment. I’ve seen it all over twitter where people are really getting on him for being an Adam Lambert wannabe. Now, I get the comparison, and James has done himself no favors by singing one of Adam’s signature songs last week. But I think with this performance, James really proved that he is his own man. His vocals were controlled, his stage presence was amazing and I was extremely impressed. (To put it simply James is a bit more hard rock than Adam ever was. If Adam was compared to Freddie Mercury, I’d put James in front of a 80s hair band, or *gasp* Aerosmith.) Verdict: If he’s not in, it’s because his personality can come off as a little smug. A definite wild card, but I think he’s a lock in the voting.
Robbie Rosen. “Angel.” Oh Robbie. I actually dug the rearrangement, and I could see how Robbie was trying. But somehow in the mix he came off as a little lightweight, and a lot uncomfortable, and unless he gets a ton of votes, with all the other strong performances, my verdict is going to have to be a very sad out.
Scott McCreery “Letters From Home.” I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we expected Scott to sing anything but country. This was sung well, with great conviction. I like Scott, and it’s tradition for Idol to have a strong male country voice (who inevitably finishes between fourth and sixth place) so the verdict is in. (If not voted then probably wild card.)
Stefano Langone. “Just the Way You Are.” I usually appreciate it when someone sings a newer song on Idol. But the problem is that this was out of his range, quite a bit sharp, and heavy on the cheese. Verdict: out.
(Did anyone else notice how Randy seemed to be the voice of reason all night long? What strange alternate universe have I found myself in, yo?)
Paul McDonald. “Maggie May.” It almost seems obvious for him to choose this song, but I don’t ever remember hearing it from a contestant on the Idol stage before. Paul is the opposite of everything we should love in an Idol: his voice is full of quirks, his dance mves are awkward, and his fashion sense (not tonight) is questionable. But somehow he translated it into an amazing performance that should surely propel him to the top 12. Verdict: In.
Jacob Lusk: “A House is Not a Home.” This may have been the most restrained performance he’s ever given. It had gorgeous vocals. My only issue is that Jacob tends to overuse his vibrato, and it could get annoying in the future. But I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get voted in. Verdict: most likely in.
Casey Abrams: “I Put a Spell on You.” Was the vocal great? No. But Casey pulled a Jacob tonight and put himself so entirely into the song I was worried he might have an aneurysm to go along with his stomach pains. I loved the performance and can’t wait to see what he does next. Verdict: In.
As you can tell, nine of the twelve guys who performed tonight have a shot at making it beyond tonight, and only five slots are available. This is going to be a fascinating show.