Duets with Pop Stars, Round 2

Given the choice between watching real music stars or hoping-to-be music stars, America chose real over reality show and the American Country Music Awards sent Idol’s ratings to an all-time low Sunday night. ACM viewers did get to see ex-Idolist My Girl LaurenAlaina win the award for New Female Vocalist of the Year. And the word is that she gave two sterling performances, too.

With that reporting out of the way (and with a promise to keep tabs on the ratings), we can turn to tonight’s duets. Again, what the Missing Mean Judge is looking for is: Who sounds like they belong up there as a peer? Who can hold their own and not be overshadowed by the presence or ability of the star? Who can seamlessly work together with their partner but also find the right spot(s) in the song to take their own opportunity to stand out?

And behold! The Missing Mean Judge was very satisfied tonight and handed out no less than six A grades. But alas, two Idolists so graded failed to make the judges’ final cut.

Best of the Night and Into the Final Fourteen

  • Marcio Donaldson/Allen Stone (What’s Goin’ On) This was supposed to be a duet with Toni Braxton which could have been impossibly wonderful. Technically, what Marcio and Allen did was more two guys taking turns singing rather than a complementary duet but when somebody can sing like Marcio, it worked for me. A-
  • Jurnee/My Girl Lea Michele (Run to You) Wow!!! What a voice Jurnee has. Wow!! She was right there as a peer with a gifted vocal powerhouse on a song that requires both a fierceness and tenderness. Unlike her prior performances, Jurnee was totally connected, and as Katy noted, there was a synchronicity and flow to her and Lea’s performance. A++
  • Mara Justine/Rachel Platten (Fight Song) Rachel did this girl a huge favor by rearranging her own massively popular hit song in a stripped-down way that allowed Mara to shine. She was poised and polished and put her remarkable voice on display. She’s impressive. A+
  • Ada Vox/My Girl Lea Michele (Defying Gravity) Lea was a perfect partner for Ada as she has a big enough voice to allow Ada to sing big like she does so well but she also helped her stay under better control. A-

 Here’s who also survived – no (big) surprises here

  • Maddie Pope/Colbie Caillat (Bubbly) In contrast to the judges, I thought Maddie sounded nervous and not relaxed. This affected her breathing and she never really pushed her vocal or went for a moment. Still, she blended with Colbie very well which shows she has singing skills. B
  • Caleb Lee Hutchinson/Bebe Rexha (Meant to Be) I know they sang the song Bebe did with Florida Georgia Line but that’s still too pop for Caleb’s lane. Their duet wasn’t bad but it wasn’t very compelling, either. B-
  • Garrett Jacobs/Colbie Caillat (Lucky) Pleasant but dull. If he had been cut, I would not have been disappointed or surprised. C+

 Here’s who was rightly eliminated (based on their total body of work).

  • Effie Pasero/Cam (Diane) This was supposed to be a duet with Jessie J but I think Effie got lucky with a singer and song that fit her voice much better and also better than last night’s Barracuda. A
  • Amelia Hammer Harris/Bebe Rexha (Me, Myself and I) She was competent enough to hold her own with Bebe and is always competent enough but I just don’t feel anything when she sings. B
  • Shannon O’Hara/Cam (Burning House) Yes, Luke, this duet was mesmerizing. At least she went out on a high note (no pun intended). A+
  • Ron Bultongez/Banners (Someone to You) Unfortunately, this was never going to work vocally as both of them are too unique sounding. But their stage energy was lively and fun. C+
  • Alyssa Raghu/Banners (Yellow, Coldplay) This was a horrible song for her and Banners was not a good duet partner for her, either. Alyssa has talent, attitude and pop star cuteness. At 15, she just needs to mature and as Lionel suggested, she needs to figure out her identity as a singer. C-

I’m happy that tonight’s show featured two Idol failures in Colbie Caillat and Bebe Rexha. There are a number of Idol “failures” who have gone on to great success in the music business – and by the business I mean the industry – despite very early exits. I’m sure that had to be encouraging to those that didn’t move on after tonight.

As to next week, I’m quite excited. There is so much talent already that it feels like we are much later in the season. While I’m tempted to prognosticate some real contenders – I deleted observations about a few – I’m going to wait until I see the Final Fourteen together next week to see who’s in it to win it.

Until then, I hope you get to listen to some good music. I know I will.

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