After a strong showing from the ladies last night, the ball was now in the guys’ court on “American Idol,” as the second ten semifinalists performed. Would they give them a run for the money? Sadly, the answer was largely a resounding no, albeit not entirely unexpected.
First up was Elijah Liu, with his emotional take on Rihanna’s “Stay.” Though it seemed reasonably heartfelt, the only thing Liu stayed in was the same key for the entire song. Nicki wasn’t wrong when she said the guy has teen appeal for days, but I don’t suspect it will be enough in the long run. I’m afraid it will be an uphill battle for him to “stay” in the competition much longer.
Faring much better was Cortez Shaw, who mercifully kept things upbeat with a solid rendition of Bruno Mars’ “Locked out of Heaven.” As he was the only one who did, I’m tempted to give him a bit of a pass, though the performance was shaky at times. Mariah was actually on the money when she said he should have brought the pitch of the song down a notch to better suit his range.
As it stood, it was pretty clear to most of them that he was straining to reach some of the higher notes. Given that he had the same issues with his previous performance, he might not be much longer for this competition. That said, his performance was fun and, as Nicki noted, he did seem to be enjoying himself, at least. Will it be enough to keep him in the competition?
Next up was the wild card that is Charlie Askew. Although I do love the song “Mama” by Genesis, to say that it was a bit too left-of-center for Charlie’s own good is putting it mildly. In a highly misguided attempt to channel his inner Trent Reznor, Askew got all aggro on us, losing what was likable about him in the first place. Granted, there were times when that endearing vulnerability shone through the anger, but this was no one you wanted to take home to mama.
Nicki in particular was taken aback, wondering what the hell happened to her dear, sweet “Nature Boy.” I suspect voters will, too, which is almost too bad. Though undeniably one of the weaker links in the running, he did have a certain sweetness to his voice when applied to the right material, such as the aforementioned song.
I suspect he knew almost immediately that he had blown it, though, and that his risk had not paid off, however cathartic it had been- and to his credit, that did seem to be the case, at least until he saw the horrified reactions of everyone on the panel. Too soon, Charlie, too soon. Wait until your balls drop and then take another stab at it, why don’t you? (Kudos to Ryan Seacrest, though, for his adept handling of the situation, as Charlie was pretty close to losing it by the end there.)
Pleasant but bland Nick Boddington was next and he delivered a reasonably solid but uneventful version of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” that had him manning the piano. Everyone rightfully felt the song choice reflected who he was as an artist well enough, but most agreed it was a bit shaky. Nicki surprisingly revealed it was one of her favorite songs of all time, but that she missed the melody. I think Nick isn’t long for this competition, either.
Thankfully, things picked up considerably from here on out, starting with Burnell Taylor, who took a risk in performing the song he auditioned with, “I’m Here,” from “The Color Purple” a second time. Though everyone was understandably concerned about the repeat song choice, all agreed that his performance of it was as solid as ever. I agree as well, and I think he should be alright, all things considered.
Paul Jolley was next, who you’ll recall split the judges down the middle previously, necessitating the only tie-breaker from Jimmy Iovine, who came down in his favor. He took on the behemoth that is Christina Aguilera’s “Just a Fool” and once again divided the judges. This was not helped by his declaration that he wants to be the male equivalent of Taylor Swift, and do pop-country type music, which this performance was decidedly not.
Still, the crowd seems to like him, and Keith takes a shine to him, so there may be hope for him yet, if he manages to squeak through. I’d say under normal circumstances, he just might, but I fear that others may outshine him in the end, even though the competition was spotty for the most part. If he does manage to make it to the next round, he better commit to whatever sound he’s aiming for, and quickly, or he’s not long for the show, either.
Lazaro Arbos took on another Aguilera favorite, “Feeling Good,” by Nina Simone, but this diva-tastic showstopper was a bit too much for him. The crowd adores him, as do the panel, and I like the guy as well, but this song is just too big for his voice. Though he does it competently enough, and manages to get through it just this side of straining, it’s still an unneeded risk. This guy has so much goodwill coming his way, he probably shouldn’t be tackling such bold material, but at least, as Randy is wont to say, he is “in it to win it.”
Remarkably, Mariah makes her second relatively valid comment of the night when she says the song is a bit too low for his voice, but in true MC fashion, she almost immediately backs down and reverses into high praise after the crowd boos. She’s not wrong. Stick to your wheelhouse, kid, and you’ll go far in this competition, I suspect.
I’ve been a little hard on Curtis Finch, Jr. for his ungodly egotistical shenanigans, but let it be said, the guy isn’t playing around. He did seem to recognize he’d pushed things a little too far into the direction of mean-spirited, and rebounded beautifully with an impressive rendition of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” which he appropriately and deftly refashioned into a gospel-style blow-out.
It was easily his best performance thus far, and, as noted by the judges, instantly raised the bar considerably for the guys. I still think he’s a bit full of himself, and that’s a huge turn-off this early in the competition, but if he keeps delivering the goods, he should be fine for now. However, he needs to rein in those bad tendencies sooner than later.
Much more humble was bilingual singer Devin Velez, who once again combined singing in English and Spanish in a take on, of all things, Perry Como’s “It’s Impossible.” I had to look up the song and I can’t imagine how he even knew it- gotta be his parents, right? – but it works for his particular approach, even if it’s hopelessly old-fashioned. He better watch it with the moldy oldies, though, or it could come back to bite him in the end.
Nicki hilariously compared him to a “Spanish Ken doll,” which is right on the money, and Randy said he was handsome “like I am,” which is not. (Sorry, dawg, you know I love you, but, no. Just… no.) It does indeed seem effortless to Devin, and that smooth tone might well ultimately end up securing him a career in the vein of a Clay Aiken, only with a Latin flair. A little too slick for my tastes, but the guy has the goods for his particular sound, so there’s something to be said for filling a niche that no one else really is at the moment that I’m aware of.
Last in line was Vincent Powell. I like Vincent a lot, and I thought his take on Boys II Men’s “End of the Road” was both a fitting end to the show, and one of my favorites. I was a little surprised that some felt it was the wrong song for him and was a bit uneven. I thought it was one of the better performances of the night, but I’ll allow he seemed a bit nervous. I hope he stays in the competition, because he’s one of the more likeable contestants, and I think he’ll have a moment sooner than later.
So, this one is a bit trickier to predict than the girls, as the performances were so uneven, but here goes. I’m gonna say that the top five will be Devin, Curtis, Burnell, Vincent, and either Lazaro, most likely, or maybe Cortez, if he’s lucky. I think there’s much more room for an upset here than with the girls, though, so I could be way off.
I think a lot of it will depend on how each individual guy is perceived by the audience, which is why I suspect Lazaro will slip into that final ten, as he has the most vulnerability. (That might have gone Charlie’s way had he not made the dreadful mistake of changing it up so radically.) As it stands, though, I still think this competition is the girls’ to lose.
What did you think of “American Idol” this week? Did you like the girls or the guys better? Do you have a favorite to win? Let me know in the comments!