The surrealist artist Rene Magritte once drew a picture of a pipe and wrote a declaration underneath it, saying “This is not a pipe”. [[Ryan Seacrest]] opens the first live show of [[American Idol (2010 Series)|American Idol’s eighth season]] by declaring “This is not a stage”. Hmmm, I’m alienating the readers already…
It’s the Top 12 girls of the competition tonight, a treat for the eyes – if not the ears – if our stateside correspondent, Mr Kane is to be believed.
[[Paige Miles]], (24, from Naples Florida, Preschool Teacher) – sings All Right Now by Free. She tries to warble her way through the tune – which isn’t right for a straightforward rock song. Such a good voice in her audition footage, but this totally lacked excitement.
Simon: I think out of all the girls, you have the best voice. Having said that, I wouldn’t have chosen that song. I think it’s a wedding singer song, it’s a cheap type of song. Tonight you could’ve come out with something much more original, made a huge impression, because you can really sing. I think you’re gonna be fine, but you’ve got to be really careful in your song selections. Kara: I disagree. I think the song was actually brilliant. You got to really put your soul into it and you’ve got a lot of soul and you slayed those verses. My only criticism would have been the chorus. Randy: I think the song wasn’t right for you because it’s a group song, it’s a sing along chorus. That’s why she didn’t do great in the chorus. You showed that you’ve got a powerful big voice. Ellen: You were so present, you have such a great look and you sounded fantastic. You pulled it off.
[[Ashley Rodriguez]], (22, from Chelsea, Mass. Student.) Interesting to watch Simon Cowell criticising a Ryan Tedder song – Jordan Sparks’ Battlefield. Ashley sticks in the same vein by singing Leona Lewis’ Happy. Again, the vocals are weaker than we’ve heard to date – she’s not quite meeting Miss Lewis’ high standards. But signs of promise are there…
Kara: Big song to take on. There were some nice moments there, but there were moments that weren’t great. I wanna see you take on songs that we wouldn’t expect you to sing and do something different with them. Randy: Kara’s absolutely correct – great big vocal, but the problem is you’re always going to be compared to those big singers. Ellen: I’d like to see you step out and do something that’s a whole different vibe that we would be shocked by. You’re here, you’re good, you’re beautiful – just take a risk, do something that’s not safe. Simon: I thought your version was clumsy, I didn’t like the arrangement, and I think you’re going backwards. I don’t feel you as a contemporary recording artist.
[[Janell Wheeler]], (24, from Orlando, Florida, a wine sales rep) didn’t get a great verdict from the Cowell on her first audition. She won his respect during Hollywood week, but can she keep the quality up?
Singing a Heart song, What About Love?, Janell starts out quite well, but the barely audible backing track/band doesn’t help matters – is that what’s exposing the weakness in the vocals tonight?
Randy: Wasn’t my favourite song choice. I like your voice, but the song choice didn’t work for me. I’ve still got vibes from you though. Ellen: I actually did like the song choice. I love that song and I thought you sang it well. You moved well on stage, you tried to get into it and let go of the nerves. Simon: You gave it 100% effort and probably delivered 65%. It started off OK, but when you got excited and you thought it was going well for you, you started going off key. There were moments in the song where I do like your voice. Kara: I have to agree, the song was way too big for you. When you do a song like that, you take everything that’s distinct about your voice and you lose it.
[[Lilly Scott]], (20, from Denver Colorado) claims to have been formerly homeless, making Idol the ONE BIG SHOT for her. She chooses The Beatles’ Fixing A Hole. Oooh, and she’s playing her guitar too! Fresh! Nice to hear this song being trotted out – it’s not your average Idol song. I admire her for originality, but I don’t particularly like her voice.
Ellen: I think that’s what we’re talking about – it’s such a random song choice and you did such a great job with it. And you have such a distinctive voice, you’re not like everyone else and you have such a unique voice. Simon: Definitely the best we’ve had so far. Mainly because I felt you liked the song and you felt it portrayed you as an artist, rather than choosing something because you think it’s gonna get you through to the next round. I’m still not feeling much star power from you. That may be because of nerves. Kara: You’re believable. I think the best thing you can do as an artist is busk for survival. I could feel you were comfortable on the stage and that came through in your performance. Randy: I love that you’re a real kind of indie artist in that you don’t care what everyone else is thinking, what’s fashionable, whatever. I love the honesty, I thought it was great.
[[Katelyn Epperly]] (19, a college student from West Des Moines, Iowa) – singing Oh Darling, she impresses with a smoky voice – a strong performance.
Simon: Even though there were elements of that where you actually started to scream that song, I actually like you. You’re kind of quirky, interesting, good choice of song, brave. But you’re going to need a lot of work, but I like you a lot. Kara: You know your voice very well. You know exactly what you’re doing up there, and I can tell you’ve been singing a long time. I wouldn’t have picked that song for you, but you did it in a very unique way. I don’t think the makeover is working for you – I liked you a little more natural. Randy: I feel that everyone today is concerned with doing runs, but you pay attention to the tone and the melody. I just like your whole vibe. I like the makeup thing, but don’t box yourself in. Ellen: I couldn’t tell at first if you were pushing too hard, if you were working too hard or if that was really just natural for you. It was interesting to me, and it made me want to pay attention to you. You have an amazing voice.
High school student [[Haeley Vaughn]] (16 years old) sings the third Beatles song of the night I Want To Hold Your Hand. Another guitar player, Haeley’s changed the melody of the song, showing off an impressive voice and some serious musical confidence. I like this a lot.
Kara: From a technical standpoint, there were some issues with that performance. But every time your take that stage, you come on and have fun, and everyone around you feels that. You’re very pure, and that’s why people want to hear you. You’ve got to work on technical abilities. Randy: What I love about you is the unpredictability. First time we saw you, you had this whole country thing going on, now you’re giving us Beatles songs with the guitar. The top of the vocals, when you hit those high notes, the sound is not quite as pleasing as it could be – maybe dropping the key a little lower. Ellen: The fact that you’re 16 and you have so much presence on stage – you just shine. As someone who just likes music, I enjoyed it. Simon: If I’m being honest with you, it was bordering on terrible. For me, it was a complete and utter mess. It wasn’t very good.
Fiery redhead [[Lacey Brown]] grabs my attention straight away. Lacey, 24, is an event coordinator from Amarillo, Texas. She’s singing Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. I’ve never heard it before, but she sings it beautifully. Isn’t it nice to hear some older/more unfamiliar songs every once in a while? Lovely voice.
Randy: It’s an amazing song, but I just don’t think it was the right song for you Lacey. It was pitchy, it was terrible. Ellen: I’m sorry, I think you’re better than that. There were some moments where you kind of got lost – I felt myself pulling for you. Simon: I actually thought it was quite depressing. Worse than that, it was kind of indulgent and I get the feeling with you that you’re trying to work out who you are as an artist. Kara: Normally when you hit those notes with such ease. It felt more forced, and I do think it was the song. I do hope America gives you one more shot, because you’ve got more to give.
(I have to point out that when Seacrest was reading out the telephone numbers, Lacey mouthed ‘seven’ at the camera and held up…eight fingers! Ooops!)
Curly haired [[Michelle Delamor]] is 22, and is a clothing store assistant from Miami, Florida. She’s singing Falling by Alicia Keys for us. She looks hot in black top and jeans, the song suits her voice rather well and she’s smoky and soulful in places. Maybe not the best ending, but I enjoyed it.
Ellen: That was fantastic. The only thing I’d say is that it was safe, because it seemed so easy for you. I know that you can do better than that, but I thought it was amazing. Simon: You did very well, you’re a very professional singer, that’s what you do. You sounded close to the original, not as good as the original. There wasn’t one moment where I thought WOW. It’s just trying to do something with you that makes you different. You look fantastic, by the way. Kara: You’re very professional looking, and when you hit it right it sounds great, but there were moments when it wasn’t great. You are the kind of person who’s going for that diva spot – every time you get up on that stage, it has to be technically immaculate. I think you have a lot of good things about you and you can get there. Randy: You got a great voice, you got a great look and everything about you is dope and hot and cool. But take some risks, jump out of that comfort zone. Show me something no-one’s shown me yet.
23 year old Knoxville, Tennessee ex-pat [[Didi Benami]] is currently a waitress. She’s the one who sang a [[Kara DioGuardi]] song and received high praise from her. Singing The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson, Didi has a cute grin on her face throughout. Cute might be the word that defines the performance – the vocals, her clothes, her whole look. She’s very pretty, but backs that up with a good voice. But is it unique enough for the judges?
Simon: I think you are a good singer. But here’s my problem tonight. There’s too many people trying to sound like Adele or Duffy. Shut your eyes, I could confuse you with three or four singers tonight. Again, a bit indulgent, I thought the song was dreary. What I’m missing is a spark here, something which excites me. I do like you and I think you’ve got a good voice. Kara: I think the song is good, it’s a singer/songwriter thing. But I think that while your voice has some derivative things, you at least made some changes to the original recording and that’s what’s showing that you’re creative. Randy: Where’s the star factor? There’s no outward oomph! The song is cool, I love the song, you sounded great singing it, but it was just so sleepy for me. Ellen: I think if you were, you know doing a show and this was one song in a set. But for a song on the first night for you to reach out and get millions of people to vote for you…it was just a little low-key. But you’re great.
Glass blower [[Siobhan Magnus]] (19, from Cape Cod, Mass) is one of the Top 24 who really slipped under our radar at auditions. But Simon calls her a dark horse. Siobhan is singing Wicked Game by Chris Isaak – which suits her extraordinarily low voice! If they thought Didi was dull, this is positively coma-inducing – the voice is great, but the song is suicidally boring.
Kara: Wouldn’t have picked it, but I kind of liked you on that song. What I like about you is that you’re really in the moment when you’re singing. And that’s what sets you apart from everybody else tonight. Randy: I remembered you singing Stevie Wonder, then you came in and sang this serious song. I would reach for bigger things as opposed to smaller like this song. Ellen: I loved it. I forgot for a minute we were in a singing competition. I loved how mysterious you were walking around the stage. I loved that song, how deep you started with it. Simon: You really are a funny little thing, aren’t you? I liked the song, I didn’t love the song. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the Stevie Wonder song you sang in the Hollywood round. I thought that set you apart. You looked more enthusiastic, more memorable.
24 year old [[Crystal Bowersox]] from Elliston Ohio is a full-time musician and mother. She sounds like she’s hated American Idol in the past, but she’s taking her chances to further her career rather than out of respect for the competition. She’s singing Alanis Morrisette’s Hand In My Pocket – I hate her harmonica solo! What was going through her head? Good version of a classic song though aside from that harmonica insanity. Crazy woman.
Randy: You’re one of my favourites and one of my favourites tonight for a bunch of reasons. I love your honesty. I’m not even sure this was the right song for you, but I like you. Ellen: We’re lucky that you decided to audition for Idol – you add something fresh to the show. If I’m at home, I’m voting, because I want to see more of you. Simon: Look, it was good, we like you. The truth is, there are thousands of you doing this outside subway stations every day. If I met you in real life, heard that, I wouldn’t say you were the most original singer I’ve ever heard in my life. I really really like you, and I think you’re refreshing Kara: You were good tonight, but I think you’ve got greatness in you. Don’t be just a coffee house performer – bring it out and use the stage.
17 year old [[Katie Stevens]] from Middlebury, CT – she’s the one whose grandmother has Alzheimer’s or something. Argh, it’s a Michael Buble song – Feeling Good. Oh, disappointment! I thought she’d be better than this. The voice doesn’t sound authentic at all, and the performance is boring.
Ellen: I feel like it was good, but you’re 17 and I felt it was very conservative. I want to see you play and be current and fresh and modern. It was a little old for you. Simon: It was like your mum and dad had dressed you and given you the song for this. I’ve heard this kind of performance before. You’ve got to become a young recording artist, not someone who’s singing at her mother’s birthday. Kara: I think it you’d killed the song we wouldn’t be hearing that – you were pitchy and all over the place. I vote that America gives you another shot. Randy: It was like you were pushing so hard all the notes were going sharp. You remind me of Jordin Sparks, but this song was just too old for you.