By our guest blogger, Catherine Fuentes
I planned on starting this recap with this thought: I don’t think it’s fair that there have to be an equal number of guys and girls in this competition; I think the twelve best contestants should make it regardless of their gender. It took at least half the episode for me to see that the girls could be just as good, if not better, than the guys, who largely excelled the previous night.
My favorite last night was easily Pia Toscano, a girl who I have consistently been impressed week throughout Hollywood week. Her rendition of The Pretenders’ “I’ll Stand By You” visibly moved even competitors, and she was rewarded with the greatest fan compliment--the first standing ovation of the season. Her effortless singing sounded amazing, she looked stunning on stage, and she had a big finish. It was a perfect ‘Idol’ moment.
The youngest two girls of the competition, Thia Megia and Lauren Alaina, were the other best performances of the night. I don’t think there are two contestants as drastically different as the two young ones. Thia took a soft approach to her first performance on the big ‘Idol’ stage. She sang without much musical accompaniment and stood in the center of the dark stage and just sang. It was a small performance, but it was a powerful one, and it shows that she has one of the best voices of the entire competition.
Lauren Alaina on the other hand could probably never be soft and quiet, but I think that’s why she’s so well loved. She bopped and shimmied around the stage, working the crowd and winking at the judges throughout her entire fun and upbeat performance. The judges showered her with praise, saying that she’s a hybrid of the two most commercially successful ‘Idol’ winners, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and told her that she doesn’t even know how good she is, which is probably completely true. She’s really great.
When Karen Rodriguez started singing the opening notes of Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” I simply wrote “GUTSY” in my notes. It’s never a good idea for a contestant to sing such a big ballad on their first night (or ever, really), but somehow this was a great choice for her. She sang some lyrics in Spanish, which sounded better than the English line, but it also achieved what the judges want these contestants to do so desperately--she made the song her own. I loved it, I really like her, and I hope to see a lot more of her.
Even though neither Lauren Turner nor Haley Reinhart are among my favorites yet, I still really like the two of them. Both of these girls have big soulful voices and appropriately chose songs that would allow them to flex some vocal muscle. I think Lauren definitely has the edge in the competition based on tonight – her performance led Randy to say she could be a hybrid of Amy Winehouse and Florence and the Machine, which is a great compliment as far as talented vocalists go.
I was let down by Julie Zorrilla, someone I’ve been loving since her first audition, where Jennifer proclaimed “Winner!” (in a non-Charlie Sheen-like way). She sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” and instead of making the song her own, she failed at copying Kelly Clarkson. Normally she sounds so beautiful, and while this was still better than some performances, her poorly chosen song could really hurt her chances.
Ashthon Jones and Naima Adedapo both gave solidly good performances. While Naima hit every note on her rendition of “Summertime,” it was a bit too reminiscent of a lounge act, and not the best rendition in ‘Idol’ history. However, I think she’s been consistently strong, and while she’s never been among my favorites, people seem to generally like her. I really liked Kendra Chantelle’s performance, but she seems to be a bit too forgettable at this point. Every time I see her, I ask myself, “Who is this person?” only to realize I always ask that when it comes to her. She’s a great technical singer, and always comes across as sweet and likable, but I feel that both Ashthon and Naima are on the bubble
I thought Rachel Zevita’s caberet-take on Fiona Apple’s brilliant song “Criminal” was an ‘American Idol’ atrocity. She stripped out of a cloak into a tight dress, something Simon would’ve attacked her for, and turned the performance into a cheesy lounge act. She needs to go.
The worst of the night--Ta-Tynisa Wilson. Contestants, stop singing current mediocre radio hits. It doesn’t do you any favors.
My Top 5: Pia, Thia, Lauren Alaina, Karen Rodriguez, Lauren Turner. I think the wild card will go to Julie Zorrilla, who has consistently been one of the best, but gave her weakest performance to date. I feel the bubble contestants are Ashthon Jones and Kendra Chanelle.