Almost every year, the judges and producers tout how this is the most talented group ever.
Based on what we’ve seen after tonight, I have to say they aren’t exaggerating this year. There is a surfeit of talent, many who aren’t weak copies of past “Idol” contestants like the crew we saw a year ago (with Crystal Bowersox the lone exception.). We might have a true Hispanic sex symbol (Jovany?), a genuine male country singer (John Wayne?) and an Italian Stallion (Robbie?).
“Idol” has only 42 minutes to highlight 100 contestants. We manage to hear bits of 27 singers, a vast majority who move into the top 60 and sound great to boot. Among my favorites were all guys: Robbie Rosen, Casey Abrams, Carson Higgins, John Wayne Schulz and Jacob Lusk, to name a few.
Next week, the 60 go to Vegas to learn Beatles songs.
Here’s my recap:
Up first: Haley Reinhart, who we haven’t seen in awhile. She did well in her opening round but failed during the group round. She survived, barely. A bit much with the lounge singing histrionics but good vocals. She has some good stage presence, something sorely missing last year. She’s in for sure.
Ashthon Jones went for the Lakisha Jones/Frenchie Davis song: “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” I can’t say she’s quite as good as those aforementioned two but she is certainly good enough to move on.
Thia Megia, just 15 and an “America’s Got Talent” alum, has a hint of that pageant patina but manages to move beyond that with impressive mature-beyond-her-years vocal control.
Adrian Michael had trouble with the band. Caleb Johnson does, too. Frances Coontz goes completely flat, missing the band.(I have a feeling none of those three made it any further.)
Clint Gamboa is back and they show him dumping Jacee. (Painting him… evil!) He puts his heart into “Georgia on My Mind” although it’s a borderline Norman Gentiile-ish. (Is Clint the first karaoke host identified as such since season one’s Nikki McKibbin?”)
Kendra Chantelle, who we’ve never seen before, heats up the same song. Very impressive. Another new-to-us singer Sophia Shorai is good though not quite as good.
Chris Medina goes Anoop on us with “My Prerogative.” And Carson Higgins does, too, returning to our eyes for the second day in a row after goofing around with “Forget You” during group sing. Carson is all white boy cheese but in a good way. Chris is working the Andrew Garcia route and isn’t quite as good as Andrew’s “Straight Up.” I prefer Carson’s version. “That didn’t go as well as I wanted to,” Chris said. In general, I have not heard much good from Chris since his original audition. Is he a one-trick pony?
This was the first shot they could use their instruments. We hear a string of solid performances. Lea Michelle..err.. Julie Zorrilla works the keyboards for “Love Song.” Caleb Hawley does Stevie Wonder with a guitar. Colton Dixon gives some rock edge to Daughtry on the keyboard. Brett Loewenstern does my favorite Brandi Carlile song with a guitar. Robbie Rosen (keyboard) channels John Mayer in a good way.
A first: Casey Abrams uses a stand-up bass. He caresses “Georgia on My Mind” in an incredibly inventive way. I love this guy! Taylor Hicks, eat your heart out! A standing O!
Chelsee Oaks not only lost her ex the day before, but her best friend Jacqueline Dunford is sick. She headed to the hospital. She bows out. She sings Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” She does a respectable job.
Lauren Alaina, the Georgia representative who is really a Chattanooga area gal, repeats the Aerosmith nugget “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” For the first time, I kind of like her. She has stagecraft, certainly more than virtually all of last year’s finalists. It’s had to believe she’s only 15.
Jacob Lusk, who only hit our radar this past Wednesday, turns the stage into a spiritual heaven doing “God Bless the Child.” “Idol’ has not seen someone like this before get far. Yowza! Michael Lynche who? The man has a guaranteed ticket to the top 24.
“Idol,” despite Phil Stacey, Danny Gokey and Josh Gracin, has never had a potential male country superstar. Could John Wayne Schulz be it? He feels like the real thing. He even gets Jennifer Lopez to sing along with him doing the old Fleetwood Mac “Landslide.” Stupendous.
Uh oh. Ashley Sullivan, who Ryan Seacrest describes as “an emotional time bomb,” arrives. She picks a tune she thinks will work (”Everything” by Michael Buble) since she sings it to her boyfriend. Then she hits a wall after missing lyrics. But she has another panic attack. She has a good voice but an obviously fragile mental state. There is no way she’s going to move on. Right?
8:40 p.m.: Stefano Langone, who made an impression during his initial audition, is back and works the stage. Jovany Barreto, who we first saw during the group sing, does a decent Marc Anthony cover. Jacee Badeaux takes David Cook’s “Time of My Life” and does a sweet version. He has to work on his awkward stage presence but his voice is angelic.
Scott McCreery, who seems addicted to Josh Turner, can’t do Turner this round. He picks instead a Lee Ann Womack classic “I Hope You Dance” that was popular when he was in kindergarten. He didn’t know the song and forgets the words, though he sounds good. Tatynisa Wilson botches the lyrics, too, while sounding decent. Both think they will get cut. “What will keep me here is my deep voice,” Scott said.
Room 1 has Ashley Sullivan in it, along with Brett Loewenstern and Jacee Badeaux. “This to me is the worst part so far,” Jennifer Lopez said. But good news: they’re in! Robbie Rosen and Chris Medina is there. Lauren Alaina. James Durbin and Casey Abrams, too.
Room 2 includes Brielle Von Hugel and Corey Levoy. And they are out. The three judges don’t waste any time. Jennifer consoles one of the crying contestants. Room 3 share the same fate, including Mark Gutierrez and Chelsee Oaks (surprise on the latter. I guess with her couple-mates all gone, the producers no longer needed her.) Plus 36 others who we barely, if ever, really saw. Those cruel editors!
Room 4, which includes about 40 people is obviously in. Naima Adedapo is there. Carson Higgins, too. Julie Zarrilla. Jovany Barreto, Rachel Zevita and Scotty McCreery are others mentioned.
Sure, Scotty screwed up but he is too enticing for the producers given his voice, as he said. And Ashley may be a mental case but catnip for the producers. She survives, too. But I can’t imagine Ashley will make it to the top 24.