Hollywood Round Three

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The Singers, the songs:

Haley Reinhart, 18– Haley was the kid fromMilwaukee who was rejected a couple of years ago, did her time in the woodshed, and came back to get her Golden Ticket this year. This is the first time I’ve seen her since her audition. They showed short snippets of her wailing on FHS and struggling mightily on Group Night just before she sang tonight. She is sang “God Bless the Child”, the old Blood, Sweat and Tears song.

She blew the doors off, pulling out every trick, and this was probably about the best audition that she could possibly pull off. I seriously doubt she’s one of the fifty best singers left, but this audition might have put her through. I’d give her an A for effort and creativity, but a lower grade for the technical parts of her performance. I give her big props for coming up big under the pressure, especially in light of her struggles earlier in the week. I don’t think she’ll survive to the live shows, but she might have earned herself a punchers’ chance tonight.

Ashton Jones, 24– She was part of that terrific group performance last night, the one with Ashley Sullivan. She sang “And I’m Telling You I’m not Going”, an Idol staple that came from the musical “Dreamgirls”, later performed in the movie by Jennifer Hudson and famously lampooned by Normund Gentle in season 8.

She reminds me of Syesha Mercado, the third place finisher from season 7. She doesn’t have as strong a voice as Syesha, who had a howitzer, and her intonation was a little bit shaky (so was Syesha’s). I think it’s too early to call her a major contender, but we are down to less than a hundred contestants left. Her edit leads me to believe she will make the live shows.

Thia Megia, 15– Thia is the former “America’s Got Talent” contestant. She sang “What a Wonderful World”. Thia has a terrific tone, and she really sings the crap out of ballads. She just has it; that feel for where to bend the melody, and where to let her voice spread or pull back. She sang an up-tempo song on FHS, and I wasn’t as impressed. Her youth betrayed her when she had to deal with complicated rhythms, and her accent got really heavy. The accent doesn’t need to be a detriment, but it’s an indication that she isn’t able to fully command herself at tempo. She should be fine for today, but she isn’t going to be able to get away with singing ballads all the way to the Nokia.

Adrian Michael, 19– He lost it, had to start over.

Caleb Johnson, 19– The screamer turned into a shouter, singing in too high of a key and then blaming it on the band.

Frances Koonz, 16– She was way out of tune. I was bummed. She was the girl in the group that tossed Jacee out last night, and she was the only one who stood up for him.

Clint Jun Gamboa, 26- He lost some luster last night when he was the main force behind the Jacee ouster, but he gained some by singing incredibly well after being embarrassed on stage by the judges. He sang “Georgia on my Mind” (written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, thanks Wikipedia) tonight.

His tone reminds me of the lead singer of “New Grass Revival” (Pat Flynn, thanks again Wikipedia) while his style of athletic bends, runs, trills and runaway train departures from the melody remind me of a lot of people, but few who do it as well as he does. While JD sounds more like Adam Lambert, he isn’t the only one trying to jump over the bar that Adam established. Nobody did it last year, so I wasn’t sure that anyone could, but Clint and JD are not the only ones that are using this style to take down the crown this season.

Kendra Chantelle, 22– I don’t remember seeing her before. She was good, not perfect. I loved her tone, and only a couple of sloppy notes in there kept me from loving her more.

Sophia Shorai, 28– Like Kendra, I haven’t seen her before that I remember. Like Kendra, she sang “Georgia on my Mind”. She doesn’t have a strong voice. She is a finesse singer, more like Lilly Scott than anyone else I can think of, but not as quirky as Lilly (who is?). She has to be perfect, as is the case with anyone not bringing a bazooka of a voice to the table. Tonight, she was.

Chris Medina, 26– He went Andrew Garcia, pulling out a backbeat heavy guitar version of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative”. They only showed him doing a couple of lines, and not with the full guitar going. Carson Higgins sang the same song, and he got the better edit.

Carson Higgins, 22– He can’t sing all that well, but this kid has total star quality. He is the light bulb.America is the moth. I don’t know if the judges will give him the chance, but I really hope that they do. This kid will be ratings gold, and he will make this season fun and memorable. Idol needs him, with so much on the line in a year without Simon’s insult comedy to draw the less imaginative viewers. Whether they realize it will tell us a lot about Nigel Lithgoe, who can walk across the stage and tell the judges to keep him and just put in earplugs if it hurts. He would be a HUGE asset to the Idol Tour this summer. I mean, common. He doesn’t have to win; he just has to make the top ten, right? Right? I love this kid. Please keep him, ok?

Julie Zorilla, 20– Frosting Girl brought out a piano and sang “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. There is still something that bugs me about her, not that she isn’t good but that she isn’t great, or something to that effect. She is too heavy on the downbeats, and her phrasing doesn’t flow like a professional singer. That said, her intonation was spot on and she has command of her limited arsenal. With the pimping of the producers she might make the live shows, but I don’t envision her going too far past that. If it wasn’t for the pimping, I would wonder why she is even still here. She isn’t an idiot, and she is very poised, so that must be what they are seeing. She is a relatively mediocre singer who seems, as I see it, to be forcing her notes out and play-acting more than emoting.

Caleb Hawley, 25– He was the second auditioner from the first show. I liked his voice, but he lost his edge when he was singing at the top, shouting instead of screaming, and his voice broke up at the top. He sang Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” tonight. He sounded good and he can play the guitar very well. I would have loved to hear the whole thing, not just a few notes, but they are pressed for time. This particular show should be a two hour show, with so many interesting performances to air.

Colton Dixon, 19– I heard him last night during the Group Night show, and I didn’t think that he was any good at all. I was surprised that they let him through. He sang Chris Daughtry’s “What about Now?” tonight. He played the piano decently, though he seemed to be shaking some, and his voice sounded really good. He isn’t unique, really, but he is a lot better than I thought that he was last night. He wouldn’t be the worst singer they let through to the live shows.

Brett Loewenstern, 16– We all know Brett by now. He sang “The Story” by Brandi Carlile. He was free and easy, and just smoooooth. Again, I would have loved to have heard the entire performance.

Robbie Rosen, 16– I’ve seen Robbie playing the piano on several youtube videos, and he’s very comfortable playing and singing. He sang another Sara Bareilles song, “Gravity”. He got to show off some when they gave him an extra ten seconds or so past the other singers in this particular montage. He’s number one in my power rankings, so you know that I am high on the kid. His intonation, which was a worry early on, has gotten massively better. He pulled out an extra gear tonight that will be important down the road, when they are all struggling to stand out. My only worry about him is his tendency to overdo it. That might bite him in the butt on a song at tempo, when he can’t make everyone wait while he fixes a mistake on one of his massive departures from the melody.

Casey Abrams, 19– Amazing. Casey brought in a standup bass, which is just one of probably dozens of instruments that he can play. He sang “Georgia on my Mind”. This kid is amazing, just amazing. I have no words. It was just….. amazing.

Chelsea Oaks, 23– Before Exe Girl sang, they announced that Jacky Dunford dropped out due to an illness. That sucks, and it’s unfortunate that Jacky doesn’t get to compete, but truthfully she wasn’t going to win. Hell, maybe this will give her a shot to come back next year, with a year in the woodshed to get better.Chelsea sang “Because of You”, a Kelly Clarkson song.

She sang it very well for the most part, but she couldn’t help the mistakes that are inevitable when a singer just doesn’t have enough experience or talent. I’m so tired of the drama that surrounds her that I won’t miss her if she gets tossed, but she is doing the best that she can. I’ll wish her luck, but in the back of my mind I am still hearing reverberations from Brett, Casey and Robbie. She isn’t in their league.

Lauren Alaina, 15– Will somebody, anybody, PLEASE pull this kid aside and teach her where to breathe during a song? It isn’t rocket science, and she is going to be surrounded by qualified coaches. Let’s hope that she gets that worked out. In every other way she is terrific, and she is a mortal lock to make the live shows.

Jacob Lusk, 23– Anyone remember Harry Belafonte? Jacob is Harry Belafonte, with Adam Lambert’s range. I am just floored. This kid is going to be on the tour for sure, and he might catch fire and go very, very deep. He sang “God Bless the Child”. You might have noticed that several songs have been repeated. It’s a myth that the kids get to choose whatever they want to sing. They get a fairly short list of choices, and only a few of those choices are good vehicles to show off their talents.

Aside: I expected to see several “Adam” types last year, and was disappointed that there weren’t any at all. I can’t blame it on Simon, but I sure as hell can note that, with Simon gone, suddenly we have Adam types coming out of our ears. Last year sucked, mostly because of the choices of the judges. By the final[ 12 only Siobhan gave us any hope of something amazing, and Simon did everything he could to shut her up, too. They kept dumping and dumping, until we were forced to choose between Tim Urban, Aaron Kelly and Michael Lynch; or several people who hid behind their guitars.

I listen now, and I wonder if any of the final nine (after Didi got tossed) other thanCrystaland Siobhan would have even made it to the semis this year. Would even Lee Dewyze stand out in this crowd? Casey James? Aaron Kelly? The talent pool is much, much deeper this season because they are focused on getting the best singers, instead of bowing to the Simonmonster and letting him cast the show. Last year it was all about Simon. This year, it’s all about the singers. These kinds of talents were sure as hell in the mix last year, and Idol (mostly Simon, who was running the show like the stubborn autocrat that he is) dumped them. This year, they are being allowed to compete. As far as I am concerned, we all win. I dunno, maybe I just hate Simon. All I can say is that I am sooooo happy. Ding Dong, the witch is dead.

John Wayne Shultz, 23– He’s hard to forget; with his signature name, his romantic occupation (cowboy) and his free, easy George Strait/Brad Paisley style, but this is the first time that we’ve really heard him since his audition. He sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. He was sweet, and he is charismatic, but he wasn’t perfect like he probably needs to be to make it to the semis. Frankly, there are aLOT of singers around this year who can sing as well as he sang tonight. I’ve heard him sing better, and the judges have too. He might be ok.

Ashley Sullivan, 25– We all know this girl by now, don’t we? She almost quit on Group Night. She cries so much that the local weather station reports her as precipitation. She has a weirdly rubbery face that makes her look older than her true age, and she weighs about 80 pounds. She looks more like an actor in your local theater’s production of “The Crying Game” than she looks like a singer. Her best comparison might be a transvestite version of Carol Burnett, if Carol was an anorexic heroin addict who was on the list for a sex change until someone pointed out to her that she was already a woman. She sang “Everything”, by Michael Buble.

Oh my God, she messed up the words. I had this strange hope that, after she had dodged so MANY bullets so far, she would be terrific tonight and stay in. I have to say that I enjoyed her all the way, even when I was continually shocked that they didn’t bounce her and tell her to go straight to the nearest therapist. Underneath all of the drama, and all of the insanity, the kid has a terrific voice.

She is every bit as real as Hick Chick Vanessa, who seems to be my go-to girl for the kids who are not prepared for the reality that being a professional singer means, well… being professional. Ashley will move on, and who knows? Somebody might see her as someone to take under their wing, and use her in musicals or something. She would probably make for a terrific reality show. I hate those shows, but she would get paid. Why not? She might be seriously flawed (hell, she might be seriously insane), but she is a human being who got to express herself on a pretty big stage. We win; Idol wins, and hopefully Ashley will find a way to win, too.


It’s after midnight. I wish I had four more hours to write. I have that much to take in, and pass on. What an amazing show this has been.

Stephano Langone, 21– Accident boy, with the scars on his arms and legs. He covered his scars up, and blew up “Sir Duke”. I had him way up in the power rankings already, and he ain’t dropping after tonight. Realistically, though, he isn’t comparable to Casey and Robbie.

Jovany Barreto, 23– He sang Marc Anthony’s “You Sang to Me”, and he was impressive. I haven’t been a fan, but he has a good tone and he never seems to go out of tune. He could be a sleeper, but I am not emotionally invested in him. He seems arrogant, and he’s not special enough to be that arrogant. He’s sweet, nice, and forgettable. Is that your next American Idol? Not this year.

Jacee Badeaux, 15– He sang beautifully, as he always does. Jennifer might have given him the kiss of death, almost thanking him for being here. He sang “This is the Time of My Life”, a David Cook song.

Scotty McReery, 16– He sang “I Hope You Dance”, made famous by Leann Womack. He didn’t nail the words, but he wasn’t all that far off. Another girl “Tatanisa?” messed the same song up worse.


Before I get to the rooms and the judgments, I wanted to say that this night of performances might have been the best that I’ve seen in my four years of writing about Idol. I kept looking at the clock, and I was amazed that they packed so much into an hour show. I wanted more, but at the same time I was overwhelmed because they were giving me so much. As I write I’ve been at it for four hours, and I generally get it done in less than three hours. I’m not sure at this point that I’ll be able to get it all done before I have to get to bed. Oh, hell, It will be Friday. I’ll hang.


Room one: I saw Ashley, who I figured as long gone, sitting next to Brett. That scared me for Brett, but then I saw Jacob and Caleb and Casey and Lauren and several others who are locks. Ashley is going to sing one more time. I find myself strangely happy about that. Jacee was there, too; as well as Haley, Robbie, Chris, Clint, Scotty, and several others.

Room two: Dust. Brielle was in the room, along with a bunch of people that I didn’t recognize.

Room three : Dust as well. Several obvious people were there, including Chelsea.

Room four made it. We still have Carson Higgins. I can sleep now. Kim Kardashian’s Kosovo sister Melinda made it, too.

This might have been the most intense Idol show I’ve ever seen that wasn’t a live show. The talent was remarkable, the performances amazing, and the drama organic.

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