No, this isn’t the circus, although the fact could certainly be argued during auditions rounds. Those were the words uttered by Paula Abdul after a particular performance tonight, and it followed her saying, “I love my job.” I have to admit, it is better than a lot of jobs out there. But, she does have to sit by Simon Cowell.
Ryan Seacrest wants to know from Simon how he’s handling the criticisms this year, but Simon claims he hasn’t had any. He says he was actually defending Ryan, as people say he’s a little obnoxious. Paula is called out by Ryan for being tougher this year, but she doesn’t think she has been. She claims the audience is filled with critics who now know what it means to be pitchy. Randy is asked if a guy or girl will win this year, and he thinks it’s the guys’ to lose.
Tonight all twelve semi-finalist girls are singing. Mandisa Hurley, 29, is up first. She says she was so happy with what the judges said to her in the auditions until she watched it at home, and saw the nasty comments Simon made about her size. In Hollywood she put her game face on, and in the Final 24 announcement, Mandisa got her chance to speak her peace. She believes she now has an understanding with Simon.
Mandisa sings, Never by Heart, wanting to show that sisters can rock too. She definitely rocks it out, and although it’s a little “ehh” for me, she picks it up in the end. Randy likes it as a way to start off the show, and calls it a good choice that showed her personality. Paula calls it phenomenal and says to take on Heart is pretty challenging, noting Carrie Underwood tried it as well last year. Paula doesn’t say as much, but it sounds like she’s giving the edge to Mandisa over Carrie in this one. Simon calls it not perfect, but agrees with Randy that Mandisa showed per personality. He believes she threw down the gauntlet to the other girls. He sees her all the way to final 12.
Quite different from Mandisa, Kellie Pickler has often been compared to Carrie Underwood too. At 19, she says sharing her difficult family story in auditions was hard. Kellie says nerves got the best of her in Hollywood. She tells Ryan her Grandpa has become a celebrity. After hearing him say he’d like a sandwich during the auditions, women are coming up to him, saying, “Clyde, I’ll make you a sandwich.”
Kellie is singing How Far by Martina McBride, saying it reminds her of her relationship with her father who has been in and out of prison. She still is showing some nerves, but she does quite well with the chorus. Randy calls it good, but not the best they have seen from Kellie, and believes her nerves were showing again. Paula says what they like about Kellie is she is unpretentious, not a diva, and has likability. Paula says Kellie sang her heart out in the chorus, but needs to do the same with the verses. Simon also notes Kellie’s likability, and says he felt the performance was heartfelt and sincere, and that’s what they always liked about her, that she’s not some type of stage school monster.
Becky O’Donohue, 25, remembers that Simon didn’t like her, but Paula fought to keep her during auditions. In Hollywood, she was determined to not let Paula down. Her best moment was after the group auditions in Hollywood, when her whole group made it through.
Remembering she got the CD for Christmas when she young, Becky sings Because The Night by Patti Smith. I have to say, like Mandisa, she’s rockin’ it out, but the last note is a little rough. Randy says he loved the performance, but notes there were some missed notes. He likes that Becky realizes she doesn’t have the best voice, but gets into what she’s doing anyway. Paula says from the beginning, Becky’s charm has been her magic. Paula also notes the missed notes, and blames it on nerves. Simon says it’s slightly better than he would have expected. Visually he ranks her a 10, but her voice, a 6.5. He doesn’t think she’s good enough to crack the top five or six of the girls.
Ayla Brown, 17, says she’s balancing basketball, school and American Idol pretty well. She notes her basketball team has been 1-1 without her. She also figures she owes it to basketball for teaching her how to handle criticism. She was surprised Simon called her robotic in the auditions, but used his words to motivate her in Hollywood.
Tonight Ayla chooses to sing Reflection by Christina Aguillera from the Mulan soundtrack. She relates to Mulan trying to make it in a guys’ world, as she played football on a boys’ team for three years. Listening to her, it’s the best I have ever heard her, although there are a couple of clinkers. It has to take guts to take on a Christina Aguillera song.
Randy, too, has to admit he didn’t expect her to be that good on this song. He noticed the little cracks too, but likes how Ayla ended with the falsetto. Paula didn’t expect this out of Ayla either. She enjoyed how Ayla made it her own, and liked seeing her vulnerability. Simon calls Ayla a hard worker, and believes she’s limited as to where her voice will go. He likes that she was finally able to show some emotion. Amen!
Famous lineage has propelled Paris Bennett through, along with a great voice. She’s singing Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight And The Pips. Paris thinks she and Gladys have similar raspy voices. She has some definite Gladys-like hair going on as well. She is amazing on this, and it continues to be puzzling how she moves back and forth between a peepy little talking voice, and a deep, rich tone in her singing voice.
Randy tells America we got a hot one. “Check it out.” He says knowing Gladys, both from appearing on American Idol and other projects, Paris surprised him, like she has been doing it all her life. Umm, isn’t that the point with that famous lineage of hers? Paula says her hat is off to Paris. She calls Paris her idol, and notes that she avoided a wardrobe malfunction. I’m not sure, but I think it had to do with the way she was bouncing in a strapless top. Simon agrees with the other judges. He believes at 17, Paris showed the others what to do. She didn’t play it safe, and as they compare her to Fantasia, she has great likability. They note the song even got Kevin Corvais in Randy’s Dawg Pound dancing.
Stevie Scott, 19, feels she stands out some from the others, being trained in opera, and able to sing it in five different languages. In her auditions she tried to infuse opera with pop, but only confused the judges. She wanted to prove in Hollywood she could do both. Tonight she is singing To Where You Are by Josh Groban, an opera song. She wants to be the girl version of Josh.
Stevie has definite range, I’ll give her that. But I’m not sure about the vocals on the song. Something is missing or not right. Randy calls it really different, liking her falsetto and the way she split both pop and opera, yet he found himself daydreaming. He calls it soft and non-emotional. Paula disagrees, thinking it was brave to take on this one. She found it intimate, and thinks Stevie did the right thing to make her listen. Simon could not disagree more with Paula. He thinks Stevie completely utterly messed it up, and makes one of his famous analogies – some horrible Sunday lunch where a child gets up to sing very out of tune. With basketball player Ayla, and now a very tall Stevie, Ryan wants it known he is taller than Tom Cruise. Towering over him, Stevie tells Ryan he might have a chance with her. I didn’t like her song, but I do like her personality.
The always posing Brenna Gethers, 25, says she became known as the drama queen in Hollywood, and found out in the final 24 announcement that Simon was really feeling her. Tonight she wants to show her softer side, singing Stevie Wonder’s You Are The Sunshine Of My Life. She is dedicating it to her mother, whom she called Mema, because they were very poor growing up, and never had enough food, and they only had each other.
There seems to be a weird tone to Brenna’s voice when she attempts the softer side. Somewhat disconcerting tonight is that the other eleven girls are all shown dancing upstairs in the background to all the songs. It just seems … odd. I hope they don’t make the guys do this tomorrow night. Randy thinks Brenna lost her attitude, and thinks she needs that part of her. He calls the song safe, and says it wasn’t enough for him. He wants her to be who she is. She says she will, no matter who doesn’t like it. Paula thinks the song showed some humility, and feels it was like a serving of humble pie. She thinks Brenna redeemed herself after the earlier criticism. Simon doesn’t think she needs to eat any humble piece. He calls it horrible, and says the audience can boo, but it sounded like putting gloves, a hat, and a coat on a wild cat. Brenna says if everyone wants to see her claws, they will come back out. Ryan notes that both Brenna and Simon share the same birthday, October 2nd, although Ryan notes it’s different centuries. Haha Ryan.
Heather Cox, 22, was sick with laryngitis and the stomach flu in Hollywood, but was passed on through to final 24, as the judges felt she was capable of so much more. Tonight she sings When You Tell Me That You Love Me, sung last year by the American Idol finalists, and later by Vonzell Solomon. She’s dedicating the performance to her parents, remembering how she made her dad go out and buy her the CD. She was 21 last year, and was making her dad go out and buy her a CD?
I have to say, I think singing this song is quite pretentious, already aligning yourself with final 12 and a top 3 finalist. And Heather doesn’t sing it nearly as well as Vonzell. Her first note was a definite clunker. Randy says he would have thought since she had laryngitis last time they heard her, she would have come out and slayed them tonight, but that wasn’t what happened. He calls it kind of boring. Paula agrees with Randy, saying she was more impressed with Heather when she had laryngitis. Simon calls this forgettable, and says it was sung like an elocution lesson. He feels her personality evaporated. Paula wants Heather to know people will remember how beautiful she is. Okay. Asked if she’s feeling well tonight, Heather says she is, and Simon says that’s the wrong response. She should take the excuse, and say she’s not feeling well.
Melissa McGhee, 21, has been in beauty pageants, and feels there was much more cattiness there than on American Idol, saying they’re all like a big family. Seeing her audition for the first time (this is actually the first time we will hear her sing), she was blonde and bubbly. Simon had graded her then a 6 out of 10, making Melissa’s goal to win Simon over. When he called her group the best in Hollywood, she felt she’d done just that.
Singing Faith Hill’s When The Lights Go Down, I have to admit to thinking ‘no wonder we didn’t hear Melissa earlier’. There were some really bad glory notes there. She was trying way too hard. Randy tells Melissa she started a little rocky, but he liked how she rocked it out. Paula calls it a shining moment for her, liking her sexy, sultry voice. If that was her shining moment, no wonder why we haven’t heard her before. She feels Melissa made the song her own. Simon says he just would never have remembered her from before, and Melissa points out here that this is the first time she was shown singing on TV. He thinks she was maybe a bit overshadowed in earlier rounds by the other personalities, saying she’s a bit lifeless when she sings.
Lisa Tucker, 16, had been told she was the best 16-year-old ever on the show at her audition. She knew there were high expectations for her, but feels it went well for her in Hollywood. Tonight she is singing I Am Changing by Jennifer Holliday. She likes the message of the song, that the past doesn’t matter, and you should look to the future.
This is the first time this season I have gotten chills. Will Makar is pumping his fist afterwards while giving a standing O in the Dawg Pound. Randy says Lisa probably chose one of the biggest, most ambitious songs. He says she had a rough start, but she worked it out. He gives her props. Paula calls her a precious little gift, and believes she has lit a fire inside her heart. Paula calls Lisa a gift from start to finish, and calls her a star. Simon says things are going her way tonight, and says she made girls five or six years older look ordinary. Simon thinks she has a lot of potential. Ryan looks out in the audience, and asks if Lisa’s mom is going to make it.
When Simon first heard Kinnick Sky, 28, he told her she was capable of the wow factor. Tonight she’s singing Get Here by Aleta Adams, feeling she can identify with a heavy raspy voice like Aleta’s. There is a wow factor here. I thought I heard a few squeaks, but that was actually one of my airedales playing with a dog toy. Randy says it’s hard to choose a stylized song and not be compared with the original. He calls the middle of the song rough, but says she brought it in the end. Paula disagrees, believes Kinnick looks stunning, and says there were a few sharp notes. Yet, she feels the performance was powerful, and thinks her showmanship was on point. Simon says the problem wasn’t with being sharp or not; the problem is that they have seen one or two young girls that could blow her away. At 28, she is regal and elegant, yet very cabaret. Kinnick says she’s willing to learn from the babies. I know she was trying, but that wasn’t a real good comment.
Katharine McPhee, 21, had been told that her audition was the best vocal so far. She is singing Since I Fell For You by Barbra Streisand tonight, and says with her mom being a vocal coach, there were always students in and out of their house, and this was always a popular song for them to try and emulate. She does great. She is comfortable up on the stage, and sounds wonderful.
I’m calling Katharine the best of the night. Randy calls it another hot one, and gets the Dawg Pound to agree with him. He says he loves her voice, and calls her a natural talent, great and amazing. This is where Paula says she loves her job, and calls this the greatest show on earth. She says this was a great performance, and thinks Katharine gave it her all. She believes she’ll go all the way. Simon says there were four really good vocalists tonight, and Katharine was the best of all of them. Wow, Simon agrees with me. Katharine has such a cute personality, as she asks the people sitting behind her if they have been staring at her butt the whole time. She then wants to kiss Ryan, since she kissed all three judges when she made it to final 24. Ryan makes the excuse that he had onions.
Hey, I’m with Paula. This is the greatest show on earth. I’m not sure if we heard the greatest singer tonight, but we can always hope. Plus, we still have all 12 guys to see tomorrow night. I’m expecting some surprises. The one I really can’t wait to hear, because he’s always surprising, is Taylor Hicks. Don’t disappoint me, Taylor!
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