Top 10 performance show

Tonight’s show featured one massive moment, two other near-moments, weak performances from a couple of favorites, and the prospect of an early front-runner being dumped despite a strong performance. First, the results from last night’s performance show:

At the top of the show Ryan dimmed the lights and announced the six survivors from last night’s show:

  • Tristan McIntosh
  • Sonika Vaid
  • Gianna Isabella
  • McKenzie Bourg
  • Avalon Young
  • Lee Jean

This means both Jens – Jeneve Rose Mitchell and Jenn Blosil – are done, along with Manny (expected) and Tommy (a little surprising). I’m sure both Jens will be fine, using their Idol experience and exposure to advance careers already in motion, while Manny and Tommy might want people to forget they were on the show so they can grow back a little street credibility.

The show quickly morphed from results to performance, as the freshly filled top ten chairs became the green room and each contestant took a turn on the big stage. The bottom two from tonight’s vote will get dumped at the beginning of next Wednesday’s show.

The singers, the songs:

Olivia Rox “Unconditionally” Katy Perry


Anyone who reads my blog knows Olivia is my favorite. I worry about her overabundance of vocal tricks, because she has a habit of trying to cram all of them into every song. Tonight she was restrained, only changing the beginning and adding one glory note. The effect of less affect (English teachers, see what I did there?) was a brilliant performance.

Judges: Gushed, almost too much except J-Lo who gave some reasonable criticism.

Gianna Isabella “Listen” Beyonce

giana isabellaThat last look she gave at the end of the song, out to the crowd, was pure “did I pass the test?” to her mother, I think. Gianna doesn’t have smooth phrasing or perfect pitch or a powerful upper range, but she gets better every time, to the point where she is almost passable now. With her growing bag of tricks – she added a growl this week – her bright, shiny tone, and her bright, shiny tweener personality, Gianna is starting to nip at the edges of contention.

Judges: I don’t know why they chose now to suddenly notice that Gianna is 15 years old and inexperienced, right about the time she is starting to figure it out a little.

Lee Jean “Skinny Love” Bon Iver

lee jean

I found several versions of this song on Youtube, none of them as bright and cheerful as Lee’s version. Lee sounded as mature tonight as he has all season, and he channeled a little Stevie Wonder tone underneath is usual auto-tune microphone intonation. His falsetto ain’t the best, but that was the only real blemish on a strong performance.

Judges: they noted his basic sameness, which is a fair criticism, and Harry mentioned intonation, which really wasn’t. After watching the show for several years, I’ve come to believe there is no real reason to mention pitch unless it’s glaring, and Lee wasn’t anywhere near glaringly out of tune.

Avalon Young “Stitches” Sean Mendes


You would think Avalon was the one with the mother who sang in the 1980s the way she sings. Her tone, which stands out in today’s music for its almost helium-ish sweetness, wouldn’t stand out in the 1980s. Everyone from Lisa Lisa to Paula Abdul to Brenda Starr had that high-end tone.

Credit Avalon for trying to get out of her comfort zone and sing something with a lot of range and complicated rhythms coming thick and fast. She didn’t nail the song – she struggled with the low notes, some of the transitions were out of tune and the rhythms felt rushed – but it wasn’t a train wreck, either. She might be in trouble, depending on the rest of the singers, but she didn’t take herself completely out of it.

Judges: they basically said what I said – the song was not what she is used to singing.

Dalton Rapattoni “Hey there Delilah” Plain White T’s

dalton rapattoniI already know Dalton’s style and his sense of humor, so I got what he was doing up there. People who have never seen him before might not understand some of his choices, though, and for that reason I don’t think this was the best song to choose on the first night in front of the voting public. He was good, he’s always good – but that’s two performances in a row, for Dalton, without any dynamic range to play with.

Judges: They know him. They get him. Let’s hope the voters have been paying attention.

Tristan McIntosh “Nothin’ Like You” Dan + Shay


I like that song, but it was a terrible choice for Tristan. She couldn’t hit the low notes and even the upper notes were a little too low to really nail. She sold out the entire song to hit one high glory note, and even that note was relatively forgettable. If the judges get on her she is in serious trouble.

Judges: they were nicely negative, but the audience did a good job of separating the good singers from the bad last night.

Mackenzie Bourg “I see Fire” Ed Sheeran


Mackenzie illustrates how far Idol talent has come, in a way. He is a niche singer, on the show more for his style than for his voice – but he has a really good voice. Paul McDonald was a niche singer a few years ago, Phil Phillips even won the show as a niche singer, but neither one of them were as good as MacKenzie. That first guitar lick he played was pretty cool, too.

Judges: gushed

La”Porsha Renae “Diamonds” Rhianna

thBecause she is a big bodied woman with a hairdo from the Jurassic Period, La’Porsha looks older than she is. It can be a little jarring when they shine the camera right into her eyes and we can see the very young woman that isn’t so obvious from a distance.

Oh, and this was the first Moment of the season. Dalton just went from odds-on to fighting with the rest of ‘em for second place.

Judges: no words needed, but the judges all pretty much lost their minds.

Sonika Vaid “Bring Me to Life” Evanescence


Sonika brought it, choosing the perfect song and singing it beautifully – and a little ferociously. She wasn’t perfect – her phrasing was a little inconsistent and that last note was at the absolute edge of her effective range – but she dropped her knee-buckler putt right on top of La’Porsha’s 90 foot bomb. No fear.

Judges: Gushed, as they should have.

Trent Harmon “Like I Can” Sam Smith


Trent made it three in a row, sort of a momen-tage … effortlessly and exactly hitting notes that most people can’t get close to without waking up the dogs. Trent always makes strange faces when he sings – I think the faces are part of his intonation, sort of a facial fine-tuning mechanism – so I don’t really know what the voters are going to think … but he validated the judges’ decision to fast-pass him, didn’t he?

Judges: They ran out of adjectives, exhausted and dehydrated from all that gushing.

Safe to in Danger

Safe –

  • La’Porsha
  • Dalton
  • Sonika
  • MacKenzie
  • Trent

Nervous – 

  • Lee
  • Gianna
  • Tristan
  • Avalon
  • Olivia

I might be trying to reverse-jinx myself, but Olivia (1) went first, (2) has never been exposed to the voters, which they might resent, and (3) got a bad edit from the producers on the end-of-show montage. She wasn’t the weakest singer, of course, but the singers who made a lot of mistakes – Tristan and Gianna, basically – might get ‘credit’ for being so young. They are each 15. Olivia, who I think most people think is pushing thirty years old, is 16.

The night’s standouts were the final three singers, which might be something of an indicator. Idol has been doing this all season, showcasing the best performances late in the show. There is a dress rehearsal before the show goes live, with each contestant singing their song. I think they are setting the order based on the dress rehearsals. I think they did that in season 12, too. It seemed like the best performance was almost always in the pimp spot that year.

Do I fully expect Olivia to get dumped? Fully is strong, but who else is going? Tristan and Gianna have popular backstories, and Avalon has been getting the star treatment from the judges – especially J-Lo – all season. All of the others on the nervous list performed and survived the vote last night while Olivia gathered dust. Olivia went first tonight, and gathered more dust while the other three fast-passers sang later in the show.

It might not be the worst thing in the world for Olivia to get dumped now. She has tremendous talent, but she isn’t any more ready to put it together than the other teenagers. She is going to get every opportunity to develop her skills, and build her career, with or without Idol. I think she has an inkling that she’s in trouble … they cut to her at the end, when the judges were gushing about all the great singers in the top ten, and she nodded and looked kind of stricken.

Now the question is: who will be the other one? Assuming Olivia is the first one gone, I would say:

  • Avalon – 40%
  • Tristan – 30%
  • Gianna – 15%
  • Lee – 10%
  • the other five combined – 5%

We’ll find out Wednesday – see you then.




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