After a somewhat lackluster season last year, American Idol decided to change it up a little bit. Simon had been forever bitching about not liking the younger contestants, and last year there seemed to be an overabundance of the teen scene. The show decided to lengthen the age limit to twenty-eight, to broaden that talent pool.
The other big change was restructuring the semi-finals process. Instead of being broken into four mixed gender groups, they are separated into two large gender-based groups. Instead of two people being voted in from each group, two people are voted out each week. Gone is the wildcard round. True, Clay Aiken was a wildcard, but I think the thought here is no good performers will be voted out based on one bad performance. There should be no need for a second chance.
Many, many, many people have complained, as people are prone to do when there is big change around. I was glad there was a change, not because I felt it was needed, but because it keeps it fresh. Yet not all of the performers tonight kept it exciting.
The first guy up tonight is Nikko Smith, previously auditioning as Osbourne Smith, and who is the son of baseball player, Ozzie Smith. He sings our first Stevie Wonder hit of the night, Part Time Lover. He sounds great, but doesn’t look too comfortable. Randy Jackson says he would do Stevie Wonder proud, as it was one of the best boy performances ever. Paul Abdul adds that it’s definitely difficult to be the first one out, but he came out strong. Simon Cowell says it was okay, but feels by the end of the night this performance will be forgotten. I have to say, by the end of the show, Simon was right. I no longer remembered Nikko singing.
I still love the way Scott Savol emotes. He sings a very smooth version of You Are My Lady, originally by Freddie Jackson. Randy says it wasn’t Scott’s best and he didn’t like the song on him. Paula feels it was interesting as people wouldn’t expect him to sing that song. Simon tells Scott once again that he doesn’t look like an American Idol, but has a nice voice. Randy points out that Ruben and Clay didn’t look like American Idols either. I have to say Simon’s been harping on this since Scott first auditioned. Simon, you made him part of the final twenty-four despite all that. Let it go already.
Anthony Federov sings Hold On To The Night by Richard Marx, and while he sounds great, his grandiose arm gestures are extremely annoying. Randy says it was good, but a little boring and safe. Paula echoes this, saying they have heard such great vocals from Anthony, they need more. Simon says it is dull as dishwater and predictable. Leave it to Simon to pinpoint it for us.
Up next is the first rocker of the night, Bo Bice, the “other” rocker of this year’s American Idols. He sings one of my favorites, Drift Away, originally by Dobie Gray and more recently by Uncle Kracker. This is the only song I have ever karaoked to (and even that took three or four rum and diet cokes first). He blows me away. Randy says he loved it as Bo knows who he is. Paula says Bo’s voice feels good like a great fitting pari of jeans. Even Simon said Bo had a great recording voice and that he did everything right. And Simon usually hates the rockers.
Travis Tucker sings the second Stevie Wonder song of the night, My Cherie Amour. He is obviously very nervous as his voice cracks a few times. Randy says quick, plain and simple, he’s bored. Paula says before he had something so magical, but now it’s gone, and as she says gone she makes some type of strangling pantomime. Simon says it was out of tune and not good enough for a hotel lobby.
Constantine Maroulis is up and is as cool as ever. This guy just oozes cool. He shows some of his range, singing Kiss From a Rose by Seal. Those eyes draw me into his performances every time. Randy says it was definitely out of tune, but a good song choice. Paula says what she likes about him is he has his own style and is so comfortable on stage. Simon says he has to place Constantine and Bo in the same bracket, but feels Bo has a better voice and Constantine has more charisma. I have to agree with Simon here. Might I add, too, that had Constantine sung Drift Away, there would be no review for you to read. I would be passed out on the floor somewhere.
David Brown sings Never Can Say Goodbye by Michael Jackson, and something about him just … fits. Not like the comfy pair of jeans Paula talked about though. Randy says he is a fan of David’s voice, but this was safe and pitchy. Paula adds she feels like they’re being extra hard on the guys tonight, but they expect more from this talented group. Simon agrees, saying they had such high hopes, and feels if David watched a tape of his performance, he’d agree he could have done better.
Jared Yates sings a song I have never heard of, and is the epitome of pitchy. Randy says it was really boring and below average. Paula is wishing the guys had picked some of the same songs they had won the judges over with at the auditions. Simon doesn’t feel the need to make excuses for Jared. He likens it to a ghastly audition for a boy band.
Anwar Robinson, with a smile that won’t quit, comes out and sings Moon River by Andy Williams, of all things. What a risk, but he totally pulls it off! Randy agrees; it was an odd choice, but he sang it! Paula gives a standing ovation, and says she wants to buy the recording, as it was beautiful. Simon is just glad he didn’t fall into a bad impersonation of Stevie Wonder, as we all are.
Judd Harris, known for being able to excite the crowd, sings Playin’ In A Travelin’ Band by Credence Clearwater Revival – yet another risk – and the crowd loves it! Randy says, “Wow, man. Odd choice, but fun.” Paula believes he has found his niche as a crowd pleaser. Simon sees this one comin’; he’s a great entertainer and the girls are going to love him. I would have disagreed with him before, but not tonight, especially as I find myself singing the song during a commercial break.
Joseph Murena comes out singing – UGH! Another ballad! – How Am I Supposed To Live Without You by Michael Bolton. Oh man, hitting a new low here. Randy calls it safe, but says he can definitely sing. Paula thinks it was one of the best with a beautiful tone. Simon has nothing more to add, and neither do I.
Mario Vazquez sings quite a different song, Do I Do, which is yet another Stevie Wonder song. It’s not safe and not a ballad. Randy thinks he was the best tonight, and da bomb. Paula gives her second standing ovation, and calls it a touchdown. Simon says it wasn’t the best vocally of the night, but it was the best performance. I don’t think I agree with Simon this time; I don’t think it was the best in either area.
On Tuesday we’ll hear all twelve women sing, and if tonight was any indication, anyone singing Whitney, Celine or Mariah should be worried. Wednesday we’ll get the results, and two girls and two guys will be voted out. Not sure who will be leaving, but I’m pretty sure it will be two balladeers. Yeah, change is good.
I welcome all questions and comments at LauraBelle@realityshack.com