Review >> ‘American Idol’ – Showcase #1

This is the only show that truly takes someone who’s undiscovered and turns them into a superstar.

This is what American Idol host Ryan Seacrest said to 12 of the Top 24 Idol hopefuls that were performing in the first of two showcases last night.

First things first, the statement is an obvious jab at their ratings rival The Voice as they have yet to really launch an artist like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. That being said, going through Idol’s machine doesn’t guarantee superstardom for the winner. Idol would be better off marketing themselves as a platform. The contestants get out of it what they put into it and if they want to be Kelly Clarkson, the work has only begun.

Moving on to the Top 14

There’s only one contestant that I can say is for sure going through to the Top 14, and that’s La’Porsha. Here’s how I summed up her performance last night:

La’Porsha’s performance of “Proud Mary” was above and beyond what the other 11 contestants put forward that night. It was smart that they saved her performance for last, because I don’t think any of the contestants are going to want to follow her. But yeah, she was amazing; every note and every run was on the money.

Also:

Queen Kelly has spoken y’all.

Other standouts for me included Stephany Negrete and her performance of Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best.” Stephany has a tremendous voice and a strong stage presence. I thought she selected a great song to showcase her voice and personality.

I also really liked James VIII’s performance of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown.” The judges didn’t seem to care for it, Harry Connick, Jr. called his version “super easy,” but Keith Urban like grabbed a nail gun and went at it when he commented that it veered into indulgent territory. “You can’t assume you’re going to be here for another song, so you have to kill it every time,” Urban said, as he shot the final nail in James’ direction, seeming to signify that the audience may not be seeing much of him anymore. I hope that’s not the case, because I actually enjoyed his performance. I think James has a fantastic soulful quality to his voice, and his performance was one of my favorites last night.

MacKenzie Bourg is another contestant that’s definitely on my radar. I really liked him when he was a contestant on The Voice, and I thought his performance of A Great Big World’s “Say Something” was a really solid song choice for his voice. And I like that I hear a lot of growth from him vocally and artistically, and I feel he’s made his case to move on to the Top 14.

Gianna Isabella shocked the heck out of me with her powerful performance of Annie Lennox’s “I Put A Spell On You.” Granted, there’s a lot of growth still to be had, but for being 15 years old with that powerful voice, I think she should get a shot at the Idol crown.

So, okay, Sonika Vaid can definitely sing. She  has an immense talent, but it’s time to show the ballads to the door. If you want to win Idol, you have to be a well-rounded artist that can move around the stage and entertain as well as give emotionally and vocally strong performances. I feel like the audience needs to see another side to her and soon, because you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t make yourself relatable and connect to the audience somehow, you won’t get far in this competition. To be honest, I feel like she will be this season’s shock elimination.

As much as I don’t care for the Biebs, I thought Avalon Young did a great job with “Love Yourself.” I like that she knows who she is and is confident. It shows in her stage presence. I really do like her voice, and picking a current song can be risky, but I thought she pulled it off without a hitch.

Going home

Up to this point, all of these contestants have shown a great amount of talent. As someone that hasn’t watched a full season since Phillip Phillips won, I would say this is up there as one of the best seasons of Idol. (Season seven forever!) However, the judges are sending five contestants home tonight and like Seacrest says, “Kieran, dim the lights, here we go!”

I was really surprised by Emily Brooke’s performance. The opening notes were rough. And granted, I don’t know any of Cassadee Pope’s music, but just based on what the band was playing, Emily needed to show more vocal aggressiveness and personality, and it just wasn’t there. She needed to nail this performance to move on, and I just don’t see her making the Top 14.

There’s been this phenomenon this season, where a lot of voices sound really affected in the singers’ attempts to sound unique and stand out, and frankly, I’m over it. I know the judges adored Thomas Stringfellow’s performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” (and we’ll get to the song choice in a second), but it didn’t work for me. Yes, at times, the performance came across as emotional, but I would have preferred to hear him sing it in a more natural, straightforward tone.

So now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Thomas’ song selection. I understand that the list of songs is slim, but I would think that the contestants have at least seen the audition rounds and would know that La’Porsha slayed “Creep” during her audition. I wouldn’t have gone near that song. No one else is going to sing that song as well as she did. Idol is about moments. Contestants need to know their Idol history, know what songs have been done and are standout moments for other contestants, past and present, and find a song that they can make their own and have their own moment. Thomas didn’t do that last night, but like I mentioned, the judges seem to adore him, so he’ll probably be in the Top 14.

To me last night, it sounded like the judges are ready to move on from Jordan Sasser, and I can get behind that decision. I’m over the Celine Dion power ballads. I feel like he’s got himself pigeonholed in the diva ballads, because that’s where he can show off his range. It’s his comfort zone, but to be successful on this show, you have to continue to evolve as an artist, and his performance didn’t show any growth from his initial audition in front of the judges.

I like Jenna Renae, she has a great energy about her, as she proved on stage last night. However, Harry was right when he said that her enthusiastic performance verged on being a bit shout-y. I absolutely agree, and for as much stage presence that she showcased, I think the lack of vocal control is going to cut her Idol run short.

So I am very torn about Jeneve Mitchell. She has a tremendous voice for being 15 years old. I don’t care about what Harry said about her playing the harp during performance of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” I thought her performance showed genuine emotion and was actually one of my favorites of the evening. I just worry about this show killing her spirit. Is that weird? I honestly could go either way. Jeneve has shown a lot of poise throughout the competition and being that this is the final season of Idol, I feel like she’s an actual undiscovered talent that could potentially go very far.

So tonight the Idol contestants are singing with previous winners and contestants, which I think is an awesome addition to the show. Not sure how or if these performances factor in on the judges’ decisions, but nevertheless, I’m looking forward to it.

Let me know what you thought about last night’s performances in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Michael Becker / FOX.

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Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an entertainment writer and editor from the SF Bay Area. Fan of live music, film, Shondaland dramas, and the San Jose Sharks. Follow her on Twitter: @KirsCoachman

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