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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 12 Women

February 29, 2012

Image edited from original by Brandon Heyer on Flickr, used under Creative Commons.

The voting kickoff continues with the Top 12 women contestants taking the stage. How come there got to be one more guy? I don’t know. Seacrest even highlights the fact that a woman hasn’t won the show since Jordin Sparks won season 6. You can hear the sadness in his voice. I know it’s shitty, dude. This is American Idol!

Notes: Man, Steven Tyler loves those long shirts and hats. He looks like such a tool! Also, note all the white, blonde contestants standing up there. There looks to be one, maybe two women of color onstage. Yay for diversity?

Theme: Contestants can pick any song. Same as last night.

Here are the Top 12 female performers in order of appearance on the show.

1. Chelsea Sorrell – “Cowboy Casanova” I don’t know this song, but it sounds really upbeat and rich. It was a good choice to start off the night. However, I can’t say the same for the live mix of the music or for Chelsea’s slightly delayed singing and nasal belting style. She was really awkward on the staccato parts of the buildup to the chorus. I also wish she emoted more. I failed to feel the hot, casual lust that was in the lyrics. It wasn’t a shitshow, but she could do a lot better. Also, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Tim Riggins-lookalike fiddle player this season.

2. Erika Van Pelt – “What about Love?” For a big ballad like this Heart original, there’s the temptation to oversing like crazy, but Erika keeps things dialed back and lets her volume build and build until the big held note climax at the end. She has a lot of control in her delivery, and her deep melodic singing style reminds me of Cher (that’s a good thing in this case.) She exuded defiant confidence, and I really got into that. Kids, EVP isn’t fucking around. As Lil Wayne would say, “Go DJ! That’s my DJ!

3. Jen Hirsh – “One and Only” Another Adele song? Jen finds her groove late into the song, and while she’s belting like a pro, her performance feels cold and plodding. I felt like she was mugging way too much onstage, especially for a song like this. It failed to pique my interest….ZZZZZZZZZZZZ………….

4. Brielle Von Hugel – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” So she’s the one with the pushy stage parent? Well, maybe she would have coached her not to sing below her range. Jeez, the first verse sounded like a dryer cycle. Halfway into the song, Brielle found some energy and caught my attention. Her big gospel ending felt cloying and tonally inappropriate, but technically she was ok. She’s the middle of the pack.

5. Hallie Day – “Feeling Good” Jazz standards like this are done to death, but you could make the case that the “new dawn, new day, new life” lyrics work with Hallie’s backstory. Vocally Hallie was noticeably off-key, but she had a good sense of timing and command of the stage. And that big note at the end was totally earned and gave me chills! When Hallie is on she’s on, but otherwise she can be a hot mess. [Sidenote: Stop talking about Adele, judges! She’s good, but she’s one singer! And no, Lana Del Rey doesn’t count. Do you have any other cultural touchpoints?]

6. Skylar Laine – “Stay With Me” Dressed like a Mardis Gras float, Skylar lays into a song I haven’t heard of. I give her points for delivering one of the more energetic performances of the night. Her delivery was a little unintelligible, but she hit every note but the last big one (which…ouch….) Her bopping stage moves were awkward and klutzy, but maybe that will come off as endearing. I give her points for trying to be fun and not completely choking onstage.

7. Baylie Brown – “Amazed” Another country performer? And this overdone wedding staple? Baylie needs to deliver a flawless victory. How did she do? OK, remember Denise Richards’s Becky Leeman character from Drop Dead Gorgeous? Entitled, overconfident, smug, and underwhelming? Well, this is what Becky Leeman sounds like singing “Amazed.” Her performance was off-key, bleating, messy, and harsh (and her ill-fitting “don’t vote me off” dress is just icing on the cheesecake.) I hope I don’t have to listen to her failures for much longer.

8. Hollie Cavanagh – “Reflection” Are all these contestants blondes from Texas? It’s like the cabinet of the George W. Bush administration up in here! The ersatz, schmaltzy music arrangement that accompanies Hollie screams “pageant” to me. Did you notice that Hollie wasn’t really articulating the lyrics outside of “MY RE-FLE-EC-TION?” I’ll concede that for her big notes Hollie did a decent Xtina impression, but outside of that her pitch and delivery combined to form a slurry of immature singing.

9. Haley Johnsen – “Sweet Dreams” Haley comes across as likeably quirky and I really want to root for her, especially for bringing a new wave song to the Idol stage. Sadly, she had the same problem as some of her competitors – singing below her range. Haley and the house band were so divergent key-wise I thought they were performing two different songs. The big belt-off at the end was cool, but so were those from a lot of the other contestants. Let’s go back to Haley’s montage that showed her doing gymnastics. If her performance was a floor routine, she would have scooted her ass around the floor for 5 minutes but she would have totally stuck the landing!

10. Shannon Magrane – “Light Your World” I don’t know this song either! I feel so out of touch! This feels like another one those shitty inspiration-bait songs. I blasted Creighton for this shit last night and I’m blasting Shannon for it now. The empty charity lyrics and tacky arrangement seemed like bedding for cheap vocal fireworks. And that pageanty sound-off didn’t help either. Chant it with me now: One percent! One percent! Jennifer Lopez, Shannon may have good passion for a 16 year old, but if a 28 year old went on stage and did that same shit would you be giving the same kudos? This stupid panel!

11. Jessica Sanchez – “Love You I Do” Project, dammit! When Jessica isn’t belting she’s like a shy Joss Stone. But I think she’s one of the better singers among the women in that she can hit the notes, whip out the vocal firepower, emote like someone who understands her song, and command the stage. I feel weird rooting for a teen contestant, but Jessica came across like an experienced professional. You go, player!

12. Elise Testone – “One and Only” Didn’t Jen just do this earlier in the show. Well, that’s points off for not finding another damn singer (or at least another damn Adele song) to perform from. Elise’s performance was competent enough, but for fuck’s sake I couldn’t feel this one. Hey Adele, can your label temporarily forbid contestants on this show from performing your music?

In conclusion, I think the judges did a horrific job picking female contestants. While last night’s performances were overall decent with two clear clunkers, tonight I saw mostly trainwrecks with two clear winners. It was so hard to pick a third “top” from this group. Seriously, these were the twelve best female singers of the audition pool? There had to have been a better bunch of contestants out of thousands of applicants. And so many of these contestants look the same! This cannot be reflective of America! Tonight felt like some craptacular pageant. I really hope that some of these contestants can wake the fuck up and convince me to root for them. I want to root for them, especially since guys have won the past four years, but I can’t abide such bad performances.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Erika Van Pelt
2. Jessica Sanchez
3. Skylar Laine

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. Baylie Brown
2. Shannon Magraine
3. Elise Testone + Jen Hirsh [Tie, because they sang the same song]

Some housekeeping: Kathy will be busy recapping Project Runway on Plastic Runway on Thursday night, so expect a quick post from me tomorrow or Friday about this week’s results.

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