Okay, it's time for the 12 Ladies...
(My girl at TopIdolBlog wrote that this week was like hell week for AI bloggers, and boy was she right! 2 hours down, 4 more to go.. countless hours writing and discussing. Come on, Top 10!)
Judges Outfits: (excuse my outfit talk-- I'm a fashion blogger as well- at least I'm warning you in advance so you can avoid it). J Lo is wearing a ravishing silver dress, with silver or white thigh-high boots. Not sure if I love the combination. She always knows how to take a really really expensive look and make it look like it's on a hooker in the Bronx. But I digress. Randy Jackson has a typical Argyle sweater and funky glasses on and Steven Tyler has his usual "is he homeless or is he a rockstar?" vibe. Seacrest has his usual Jeffrey Winger suit vibe going.
If last night was the night for Steven Tyler to curse, tonight is the night for Randy Jackson to talk with inexplicable pauses between his sentences. Is he pausing for em-phas-is? Is he out of breath? I'm not really sure. I just know when he talks with dramatic pauses it reminds me of when Lil C on SYTYCD tries to use big words.
Top 12 Ladies Overview: All day long I've been chatting on Twitter with peeps about how the only girls we can remember are Lauren Alaina and Julie Zorrilla (can't wait to see what she's wearing), so I can't wait to see the 10 we forgot about already. Tatynisa Wilson, Naima Adedapo, Kendra Chauntelle, Rachel Zevida, Karen Rodgriguez, Lauren Turner, Ashton Jones, Julie Zorilla, Hailey Reinhart, Thia Megia, Lauren Alaina, Pia Toscano. Wow. Okay, the guys were so easily broken down. This is a little more difficult. Since the beauty of American Idol is America's opinions (the average every day person) and not the experienced record exec or blogger, I'm going to forget researching these guys again, and just give you what I know about them off the top of my head. That's likely what you remember too, right? (And hopefully you remember it from reading my blog!)
So, what I remember about them just from memory:
Tatynisa Wilson - consistently messing up lyrics, only one or two shining moments, otherwise blah
Naima Adedapo - stadium cleaner by day, Rasta superstar by night. Very unique & has a real shot. Not my cup of tea, but I'm sure she's someone's spoon of caviar. Or Red Stripe?
Kendra Chauntelle - pretty and sweet, soulful voice but utterly forgettable
Rachel Zevida - something about strict Jewish parents & a strict grandmother, has auditioned a bunch, really nerdy and used to dress strange.. that's all I remember
Karen Rodriguez - auditioned on Myspace, JLO really likes her & they keep making her sing J Lo songs
Lauren Turner - auditioned in New Orleans and never a standout to me but always surprises me somehow.. won't be the winner but don't count her out yet
Ashton Jones - the girl I call Tyra Banks, (she looks like her!) pretty with a superstar personality, and a pretty good singer but not by any means the best
Julie Zorrilla - fashion queen, went to Idyllwild Arts Academy & prom with Casey, one of more talented and memorable females, beautiful and plays great piano... one to watch
Hailey Reinhart - bubbly blonde girl, never really impressed me, don't remember that much else
Thia Megia - a 15 year old, unique vocals but seems to fold under pressure
Lauren Alaina - also 15, kind of the opposite, seems strong as a horse but kind of cookie cutter
Pia Toscano - really stood out in Hollywood group round, one of the older ones, don't remember much more about her-- she's also beautiful and Hispanic, which seems to be a trend here
I hate to say this, but with the boys I remembered douchebags, sweethearts, hotties, etc... the girls are different. They are all beautiful. They are all stylish (minus 1 or 2), they are all equally as memorable as the other ones. I do not believe in stereotypes but I will admit to you that I kind of refer to them as the bubbly blondes, the soul sisters, the Latinas, and the babies. You can figure out quite easily which contestant falls in what category.
Pre-singing cut opinon: Based on the above, it's tough, but if I had to pick 3 or 4 to definitely go, it would be Tatynisa, Kendra, Rachel, and Hailey. Let's see if I'm right.
Ta-tynisa Wilson - Only Girl in the World - a Rihanna song, really? It starts out really rough. She also looks like Pebbles from the Flintsones went to Prom in the 80s. Zebra strapless mini-dress with tulle flying out underneath and big white pearls around her neck. Complete with ankle socks with her stripper heels. Not a fan. After the backup singers came in and she got into the chorus, she got a little more comfortable, but it had really awful notes all the way through. And I didn't want to look at her because her left breast was really close to falling out. Awful awful awful awful.
My scores: Singing: 5 Outfit: 3 Stage Presence: 5
ST: song sang to you and you sang it beautifully, JL: she really brought it home. RJ: thought it was just okay. That's my boy, Randy! You and I usually don't agree but you are right on here. It paled in comparison and didn't bring anything different, and pitch issues. He also says she looks hot which makes me realize I'm dead on about her awful outfit.
Naima Adedapo - Seacrest loves her Big Bird dress, I have to say it's not my thing but it is great on her. I will not critique any of her fashions from here on out because she's just too original in that way- it's like trying to rate types of human food when you're a vampire. I love that she does her own thing. But I digress. She sings Summertime which is a pretty big Idol risk. The jazzy arrangement makes me really really nervous. But, she opens up and NAILS IT. I've never been a fan of hers, she's not my thing, but this was pleasantly surprising. She owned the stage, was comfortable, made jokes, even moved to the judges and around the stage. She did jazzy, she did scat, she even did some Reggae in the middle of it, and it all fit perfectly with the song. It was different. My only critiques of her in this moment would be that a) I have no idea what kind of record she would make and if it would sell to the AI crowd, and b) she seems a little over indulgent at some spots, but goodness... it was a ray of sunshine (pun intended).
My Scores: Vocals: 9 Outfit: 8 Stage Presence: 9
Judges: JL (ooh they are rotating judges now) - like an exotic flower in a rose garden (YEAH), RJ - it was a little loungy and not as good as Fantasia's (agreed) but he liked her stage presence (agreed), ST - like early Ella Fitzgerald, new old-timey, what America needs, unbelievable.
Kendra Chantelle - Impossible? Christina Aguilera? Wow, I realized she had a soulful voice before, but, damn, I'm telling you, it was like Jennifer Hudson's voice came out of Rachel Zoe's body. You know what I'm saying? I actually had to stop from typing to watch it, really watch it, because I was mesmerized. Her clothes were a little on the hooker/rocker side, which doesn't really mesh with the singing vibe-- it was a leather black/white bustier type thing with some chains, and black leather pants, but it wasn't that tacky or slutty per se, just not something I'd ever wear in public unless I planned on performing or dancing on a bar. Performance wise she didn't move much but she really engaged, and looked gorgeous. It got a little cheesy toward the middle-end, but her end notes were amazing and pretty memorable.
My Scores: Vocals: 9 Outfit: 6 Stage Presence: 7
Judges: RJ - loved the vibrato, reminds him of Lauryn Hill, a little spotty notes, but liked it. ST - always looks forward to her and she did it again, Style hot (which confirms what I said about HER outfit), JL - she belongs here, but there is more in her.
Rachel Zevita - Fiona Apple's Criminal - Whoa, has any girl EVER stripped clothing on AI? I have so much to process here! One, her ridiculous tie dye hippy one day / gothic corpse bride the next headpieces have completely disappeared. Two, her hair is beautiful and straight- a first. Three, she is in a gorgeous cocktail dress and heels. She looks stunning. Four, she is singing Fiona Apple as if she were in a lounge and she just TOOK OFF CLOTHING. What on EARTH is going on here? The theatricality is really getting to me, throwing the mic stand down, the Fosse broadway moves, and apparently it gets to her as well, because she actually almost drops an entire line of the lyrics. Watch it back if you don't believe me, it was clear as day. The pros: she looks gorgeous and made one of my favorite songs new again. The cons: There are other shows for Broadway singers, go find one. She looks like a grown up now, but still sings like a child. She was nasal and flat in some moments, but overall it was a strong performance. Audience loved it, and she succeeded in that people will talk about it tomorrow.
Scores: Vocals: 7 Outfit: 9 Stage Presence: 8 + 1 for daring to change a song , -1 for turning AI into a cabaret show
Judges: ST - too Broadway (yes!), that could be her niche, JL - how do you want America to see you? as a Broadway performer or as a recording artist? amazing range but wishes she would have seen more RJ - wasn't great, wasn't good, didn't work, didn't even know who that was or recognize the song.
*Final thoughts, she's clearly a drama queen but does a great job of not losing it and crying on stage.
Karen Rodriguez - Hero, Mariah Carey, risky decision to sing Mariah, especially on the first night, sheesh. Whoh, and she's singing it in Spanish now. Seriously? Haven't we had enough J Lo and Selena moments? I admire her differences but this is not Latin American Idol. I'm SURE she grabbed a great portion of the Latin American vote, maybe even stole a bunch from Julie Zorrilla. I wish her notes were amazing, but it's really just a karaoke version (note for note) to Mariah's. Just partly in Spanish. Her dress is a teal blue pageant gown that makes me feel like I'm watching Miss America. or Miss Universe, in this case, I guess.
Scores: Vocals: 5 Outfit: 6 Stage Presence: 6
Judges: JL - loves it, shocker, but she understood it all! Loves the bilingual and that she showed her flavor (or does she mean JL's flavor), RJ - liked that she made it her own (did she?), liked the Spanish better, ST - definitely one of a kind, thinks she should sing it with Jacob Lusk
Clearly I'm the only one who did not like this, but I just thought it wasn't that great at all.
Lauren Turner - ?? I never realized how much she sounds like Christina Aguilera until now. Once again she completely surprised me. She's not as pretty as some of the other girls, but she definitely looked the part and showed up. The song was some type of 50s or 60s song maybe, and she sang it really well. I have nothing to compare it to, but I was entertained throughout and she impressed me at more than a few places in it. It would have been nicer had she picked a more well known song so people could identify a little better with it and remember it, but it was a pretty solid performance. Dress was a little sparkly silver & black cocktail number with black tights and shoes. Perfect for this type of thing, it was very well suited for her as well.
Scores: Vocals: 8 Outfit: 8 Stage Presence: 8 (solid as a rock)
Judges: RJ - That's how you do it, loved the power, Amy Winehouse meets Florence & Machine, loves the bluesy soul, very nice, (**someone in the crowd at this moment yells WHO DAT and that makes me squeal with happiness, being from Louisiana myself. Awesome***) ST - spectacular, Lauren Turner meets Lauren Turner, finished the story. JL - Thought it was great but she could have really given it more, don't hold back, get in the camera's face
Ashton Jones - (her tape reminds me time and time again how she dresses like Tyra Banks ALWAYS, I hope this is no exception tonight!). Ooh, I'm right, she looks just like Tyra again! ?? Not a song I recognize? The outfit is a cute little denim bustier and black stretch pants. Not the greatest but she definitely looks like a star or a model. The song is an R&B song and it's pretty strong with some power but there are a lot of flat moments. A surprising amount of flat moments. And that's saying something because I don't even know the song. Crowd loved it (they appear to love everything).
Scores: Vocals: 6 Outfit: 7 Stage Presence: 9
Judges: ST - you go places with your smooth vocals, JL - you have all the makings of a diva... Body, hair, moves, confidence (- that's what I've been saying!) RJ - stage presence, great, not a good song (exactly! Why am I agreeing with ALL of the judges tonight? So weird). Ashton does a great impression of J Lo so she gets an extra +1 for that!
Julie Zorrilla - Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway - Always risky to take on Kelly. I'm quite surprised because Julie's strength to date has appeared to be in her quiet piano playing endeavors. Mixed feelings on this one, and I wanted so badly for her to continue to be my favorite. Let's start with the outfit. She's gorgeous, she's glamourous, she's freshly tanned, and she's wearing an absolutely beautiful light pink or cream strapless tulle cocktail dress with matching shoes. Style icon. This girl was born to be famous, and it's hard for me to imagine a Colombian refugee from looking at her Sex and the City ensembles. Now for the singing- it was really rough. I appreciate that she changed up the song and made it her own, and she made some great choices, but there were some pitch problems especially in the higher registers. It almost sounded like she was either out of range or recovering from illness. Had I just seen her somewhere singing I would have never said "you should go on American Idol'- I would have said something like "you should be on TV or in movies". Take that how you will.
(Gossip: if you notice NONE of the Idol girls stood up for her, they'd be standing for everyone... snub!)
Scores: Singing: 6 Outfit: 10 Stage Presence: 8
Judges: JL - liked it, not the best thing from her, not from the heart, RJ - loves the song, but she didn't bring anything different, not nearly as good as Kelly Clarkson's, didn't show herself in the best light, ST - wrong song for her, should be up a couple of keys (up?)
Haley Reinhart - like a Niki Taylor with a Bronx accent - Alicia Keys' Fallin' - Wow. Starts strong, ends strong, nails it in the middle. Perfect song for her-- she has a very soulful voice but there's a little rasp there that makes it just a tad different. The only thing I don't like about her is that she's so over indulgent sometimes and she does the strangest mouth movements and just odd things (Steven Tyler-esque, really) but I guess it works for her. It's just going to annoy me. She's also got the strangest nasally/accent/something. I also thought she was ready to bust out of her black strapless cocktail dress (with a gold glitter stripe down the side) and black pumps.
Overall, very memorable, awesome vocals, and I think she succeeded in standing out. Stage presence was great but at some point I thought maybe she was going to dry hump the mic stand.
Scores: Vocals: 9 Outfit: 8 Stage Presence: 9 -1 for being over-indulgent
RJ - great song but does nothing for her, karaoke-ish, misses the Janis kind of husky songs, ST - just the right about of style and sexy (he must have anticipated the mic-hump as well), JL - a lot of growl, and playing with notes, and very Haley, but maybe a little too... something.
Thia Megia - ?? - some loungy soulful song that talks about not fitting in and where do I belong. Probably really appropriate lyrics for a 15 year old, but the style or old-timey ness of it did not suit her at all. She also did an a capella opening that made me a little nervous because it went a little too long, in the dark... it took a little too long for the music to kick in and it just made me uncomfortable. It was like that moment in Coyote Ugly when Violet has to turn off the lights to get the nerve to start singing. I don't know. She also sounds a freaking LOT like Michael Jackson. (a good thing). Her dress is absolutely gorgeous, probably the best one of the night. I'd buy it now if I were presented with that option and will research that tonight-- tan on top, rhinestones at the middle, and pinkish peachish frills or feathers on the bottom. Unfortunately, that was the most exciting part about the entire performance for me. Thia's maturity surprises me but it makes me sad as well. It fell flat for me, both literally and figuratively. Gosh, close your eyes, though, and you'd swear it was MJ.
Scores: Vocals - 8 Outfit - 10 Stage Presence - 7
ST - very good pitch, so beautiful JL - perfect quiet moment, very still, captivating, really special RJ - Her tone reminds him of Michael Jackson as well (WOW, me and Randy are having a moment tonight!)
* Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on Thia- but she's the youngest contestant and chose the OLDEST sounding song. I'm just a little sad about that.
Lauren Alaina (which by the way is not her real name, they cut her last name, not sure why) - Turn on the Radio? - Not familiar with the song, it was country rock, but it was very well suited for her. This was another one I had to stop writing to look up at watch it. Absolutely mesmerizing. The vocal control, stage presence, and personality that this (now) 16 year old has, is just amazing. She reminds me of Kelly Clarkson. She will be famous someday, heck, she's already famous. I love that she's the only girl to wear jeans and boots and a t-shirt and jacket. She didn't look sloppy though-- it would be like if Carrie Underwood chose to wear a casual outfit to a concert. She has odd taste, borderline tacky sometimes, but it suits her. It reminds me of a young Gretchen Wilson, maybe. And her tone, is perfect. It's one of those voices where it would record perfectly, but she knows when to amp it up for live performances. She plays to her strengths and weaknesses so expertly and does it all so naturally you would swear she wasn't thinking about it at all. I'm a big big fan, and I think she'll go very far.
Scores: Vocals - 9 Outfit - 7 Stage Presence - 9 Props for being original, +1
Judges: JL - so beautiful, doesn't even have to try (yeah! what I said!), effortless (yeah!), natural, so so great to see and watch, Amazing. RJ - A natural gift, you can sing anything, I don't even believe you know how good you are, She reminds him of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (WHAT, didn't I SAY THAT? crazy!) ST - her voice goes from here to there, she is amazing
At the end Lauren points out that Seacrest's new name is Peaches, Peaches Seacrest, which makes me love her even more. +1 for that!
Pia Toscano - I'll Stand By You, The Pretenders, I love this song. Great recording voice. Wow, and she changes it up right away. It sounds like Carrie Underwood's version, only maybe even better. It's got a little country feel to it. It actually has the power and runs of Kelly Clarkson, with Carrie Underwood's tone. And maybe a little Celine Dion in there too. I'm a big fan. She's country, she's rock and roll, she's Italian or Latina also, right? She doesn't let that entirely define who she is. She's also gorgeous and looks a lot like the girl from New Orleans with the baby who got cut (her name escapes me right now but she looked a lot like Natalie Portman, and Pia looks like her. Her dress is a beautiful black beaded number, kind of flapper, but modern. Cocktail dress like all of the other girls, but it doesn't leave me feeling like I'm at a pageant or a prom. She looks gorgeous. The song is beautiful, she does some great things with it, I don't detect one bad note, it's slightly different (although she could have changed it up a little more), and the end is powerhouse. Very well done. I see why she's last now. Definitely one to watch.
Scores: Vocals: 10 Outfit: 9 Stage Presence: 8.5
Judges: Standing ovations from all 3 (and the crowd, and the contestants), RJ - First standing O, she just put herself in the top, that's how you do it, ST - WTF, it was unbelievable, over the top, Congrats, JL - knew she was a standout but feels a little tricked b/c she saved it for when it counts, was out of this world.
Pia Toscano: 27.5
Lauren Alaina: 27
Naima Adedapo: 26
Haley Reinhart: 25
Thia Megia: 25
Lauren Turner: 24
Rachel Zevida: 24
Julie Zorrilla: 24
Ashton Jones: 23
Kendra Chantelle: 22
Karen Rodriguez: 17
Tatynisa Wilson: 13
Who I think should be cut -- see my bottom 5 above and replace Julie Zorrilla with Haley Reinhart.
Who I think WILL be cut -- definitely Tatynisa Wilson, maybe even Rachel Zevida and Kendra Chantelle.
I'll post soon on who I think the Top 10 will be and the wild cards, also. Stay tuned!