'IDOL' WATCH: The Top 12 Women
In a year where "Idol" is clearly pushing for a female winner, the first performances by the top twelve women was quite a letdown. Even the judges seemed to notice a rather lackluster group of performances from each of the twelve female finalists, with Simon seemingly growing more and more frustrated as the night went on. There were few bright spots in the evening that should have been a step up from the final performance in Hollywood, but none of the contestants progressed, with many of them taking a step backward on the first night.
Several of the contestants felt they had to change it up tonight, offering a selection different from what "Idol" audiences had already seen. Week one in audience voting is the wrong place to showcase a different side and many contestants had to learn that the hard way.
Paige Miles began the night with an upbeat performance of All Right Now by Rod Stewart and was able to bring her Aretha Franklin-like style to the song. Miles seemed to be a bit uncomfortable in her first time in front of an audience, performing a few tired moves, such as getting the audience to clap along, but the performance will come with experience. Overall, she received a fairly positive response from the judges, including Simon, who told her she has the best voice out of all the girls. It will be interesting to see what type of dynamic Miles is capable of.
Ashley Rodriguez delivered a typical performance of What About Love by Heart, showing almost no personality and doing little to impress the judges. Though she seemed into the song, the song choice left her performing a fairly unoriginal version with little to make her stand out. Randy made the excellent observation that, with that type of song, Rodriguez will always be compared to the bigger-voiced singers that perform it, calling her rendition a "good emulation...but not you."
Another poor song choice came from Janell Wheeler, the 24-year-old with the usually interesting voice. Tonight, however, her voice was not interesting, nor unique. The song made Wheeler sound rather thin and didn't showcase the talent she had shown in Hollywood. Ellen, however, said she enjoyed the song, and noted her ability to move well on stage. Wheeler is likable, which may keep her in the competition for next week, but that will only take her so far.
A refreshing point in the night was Lilly Scott, singing the lesser-known Fixin' a Hole by The Beatles. Simon called her "the best of the first four", because she chose a song that she liked, not one that allowed her to imitate what she liked. Scott's song was actually quite an unusual one for "American Idol," but it kept me interested throughout. Her ability to change the song in a way that fit her style was a high point of the evening and will likely propel her through Thursday night's voting.
Performing the second Beatles song of the night was Katelyn Epperly, dressed in leather and sporting a look unlike ones we had seen from her thus far in the competition. Epperly sang Oh, Darlin' and showed a kind of soft rock feel that was new from her. Kara pointed out that she "knows her voice very well," but was unimpressed with the new look. For this performance, it was nice to see a different side of Epperly, but she would do well in returning to her more authentic style in the future.
Haeley Vaughn always seems as though everything around her is surreal. At 16-years-old, Vaughn's talent is impressive and her in-awe-personality always allows her to have fun and be herself onstage. Vaughn sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand, for the third Beatles song in a row (why would the producers line it up that way?) and gave a very fun performance. Ellen said the song let her personality shine through which made it thoroughly enjoyable. Simon, on the other hand, said it was "verging on terrible" and "a mess," to which Ellen responded, "If it was a mess, it was a hot mess." Vaughn will need to work on technique should she move on, but doesn't seem likely to go home this week.
Lacey Brown performed Landslide by Fleetwood Mac and showed little progress from her weeks in HollywooD. Brown's voice seemed strained and failed to show off its remarkable qualities in this utterly forgettable performance. The usually positive Randy called the song "terrible" and "pitchy" and said it was the completely wrong choice. Simon was equally disappointed, telling Brown, "After about fifteen seconds I was wondering how much longer we would have to listen." A rough start for Brown, who may have made her last appearance on "Idol."
Many of the performers picked songs that allowed them to imitate the original, but none did so as successfully as Michelle Delamor. Delamor sang Fallin' by Alicia Keys and, although the choice was a rather safe one, she sang it well and was able to showcase her talents. For picking a tough song, Delamor did a good job of sounding like Keys, though that was all she did. The song lacked originality, but should be enough to keep her around another week.
Didi Benami's unique voice worked well for The Way I Am by Ingrid MIchaelson and I was impressed with her phrasing throughout the song. However, it was, again, much too boring a choice for the first performance in front of America. Randy called the song "sleepy" and Ellen said the performance was "too low key". Benami is a good singer and must pick songs that will allow her to stand out, as she did in her first audition in Hollywood.