I have not had a chance to watch the boot camp episodes and missed the second week of auditions. (It’s been a busy week!) So this is my first extended exposure to the semifinalists.
Anyway, the final 32 are split into teams of eight. L.A. Reid receives the younger guys. Simon Cowell gets the younger women. Nicole Scherzinger is given the older folks. Paula Abdul landed the groups.
We get a look at the luxurious homes of the four judges and feel bad ourselves. Reid shows off his expansive Hamptons pad. We go to Paris to see one of Simons’ many homes. Not surprisingly, Paula’s home in Santa Barbara is crazy fancy. Even Nicole, certainly the poorest of the four, is not living badly in Malibu.
Tonight, we get to hear 16 of them sing mostly to backing tracks. The other 16 will be on Sunday at 8 p.m. (That rain-delayed baseball game Wednesday caused Fox to have to pre-empt the show.)
The producers (or the mentors?) pick the songs for the acts.
Brian Bradley (14-year-old rapper on L.A. Reid’s guys team): He takes a classic Grandmaster Flash song “The Message” and does it justice. He has swagger in a good way. I liked him.
Simone Battle (female singer on Simon Cowell’s ladies’ team): She brings some true craftsmanship to a classic Beatles song “Help!” I was impressed with her vulnerability after all her arrogant comments in her original audition.
The Anser (Salt Lake City trio on Paula Abdul’s group team): The black guy (I don’t know the names here) sang his portion with heart. The harmonies were good, not amazing.
Dexter Haywood (Memphis lounge singer on Nicole Scherzinger’s over-30 team): He takes a chance with “Crazy in Love” and it doesn’t quite work. He is drowned out by the pre-taped chorus. His lyrical portion is far better and he has showmanship.
Skyelor Anderson (black dude who wants to sing country for Reid’s team): He tackles Tony Rich’s “Nobody Knows” and I think he has potential but I’m not sure he’s quite there yet. Reid wonders if he truly has country in his blood.
Tora Woloshin (college student with tons of tattoos for Simon’s team): She said she struggled prepping for her song, Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” She has a little Pink vibe and a very a solid voice but Simon thinks she’s missing a certain something. She wasn’t quite as confident as she could have been.
Lakoda Rayne (quartet created by the show for Paula’s team): The singing of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” is good but the choreograph is sloppy. It still feels like four solo singers to me even though the harmonies are solid.
Stacey Francis (overly hyped mom for Nicole’s team): I do remember her over-singing her audition. Now, embracing Prince’s “Purple Rain,” she gives it a gospel spin. She’s good but I don’t get why she’s anything special compared to half the contestants on “Sunday Best.” The yelping is annoying. “I think the neighbors heard that!” Enrique Iglesias (guest judge) notes.
The Brewer Boys (teen brothers for Paula’s team): The older of the pair has an especially interesting voice and the harmonies work. The rejiggering of a Rihanna song into a country song sort of works. “It’s good,” Pharrell Williams said. “You know and I know good is the sometimes the damn difficult place to be because sometimes it’s not good enough.” That doesn’t bode well.
Phillip Lomaz (crooner for Reid’s team). Who was obnoxious enough to give the poor crooner a Rihanna song to sing in front of guest judge… Rihanna. He turns a dance tune into a standard. He is confident and likable. And I like the hat! Naturally, Rihanna and L.A. question his commercial appeal.
Elaine Gibbs (R&B wedding singer for Nicole’s team): I like this woman much better than Stacey, who has a bit of desperation to her. Elaine is just like warm honey. She does an Oasis song I’m not all that familiar with and turns it into R&B. I’m a fan.
Caitlyn Koch (rugby coach/singer on Simon’s team): She was one of the only two singers I really liked during the second episode three weeks ago. Too much makeup but her “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (with live accompaniment!) shows grace and subtlety that touches the heart. She has a beautiful voice. She’s in for sure.
Nick Voss (22-year-old Floridian on Reid’s team): He kind of sucks it with Tears For Fears. Rihanna wasn’t impressed.
4Shore (R&B quartet from Virginia Beach on Paula’s team): This type of R&B group smooth sound is not really in vogue and it seems apropos they did a 1994 Brownstone song from the Boyz II Men era. Paula feels they need to “dirty” up the feel and sound.
James Kenney (A 34-year-old singer on Nicole’s team): Yet another Rihanna song is picked. Coincidence? He brings some white soul and I get a sense we only heard part of it. It was okay but I don’t see the X factor.
Drew Ryniewicz (14-year-old Justin Bieber fan on Simon’s team): That classic Roxette song “It Must Have Been Love” (which is older than she is) is given an even sadder, more textured performance thanks to Drew. She is a lock for the live rounds.
My conclusion: female singers are outshining the guys. I especially liked Drew, Elaine, Simone and Caitlyn.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk