Three Talented Teens and a Pastor’s Kid

[The following rant has been edited for length.]

TOO MANY SAD/INSPIRATIONAL STORIES!!! IT’S A SINGING COMPETITION (insert bad word here with an exclamation point!), NOT A HALLMARK CARD!


Thankfully, tonight’s auditions closed with a rush. I had noted a few decent Idolists early on – Laine Hardy[1], Nate Walker, Riley Tucker, Clay Page – and maybe any of them will turn out decent enough to move past Hollywood. But with one exception, the last half hour was where the action was.

First, the exception: Shawn Robinson, the garden products guy. His sweet, gentle, lilting voice was a standout. I agree with Lionel that he’ll need to find the right songs. As to Katy’s comments of wanting to see if he has “another gear” – I’ll come back to address that.

What eventually really got my attention were the 15 and 16-year olds. There is some real talent there:

Madison – YOU’RE GOING TO HOLLYWOOD!!talent there:
  • Mica Giaconi – 16-year old from San Diego with a cool, jazzy vibe.
  • Darian Baena – 15-year old from Orange, California that had me imagining if that’s what breakout pop stars like Alessia Cara and Dua Lipa sounded like when they were teens.
  • Madison Vandenburg – 16-year old from upstate NY. Whoa. This girl is good beyond her years both vocally and on piano. After being stunned speechless, the judges compared her to Kelly Clarkson. She really bears watching.

And then the show climaxed with yet another sad/inspirational story line in Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon. His original song was Rufus Wainwright vocals meets a Paul McCartney piano-driven song[2]. He was mesmerizing, increasingly so as the song went on. And this brings me back to the Katy “another gear” comment she made earlier in the show.

I’m feeling a real tension with several Idolists already this season in that they are quite talented but not in the usual Idol-winner way. Gardener Shawn and Pastor’s Kid Jeremiah were tonight’s cases in point. Wednesday night, Alejandro was an emphatic example of this tension. In spite of their talent, Idol’s history suggests that they can’t win.

And then there is the problem of Lionel’s songs that fit your style vs. Katy’s wanting to hear other gears. On this point, they are both right. Artists who have a unique voice or singing style MUST sing songs that put their singular talents in the best light especially in a competition. So, Lionel is right. But from Brick House to Three Time a Lady and I Feel Sanctified to Night Shift, Lionel’s Commodores changed gears a lot! His solo career, likewise, had many gears, as has Katy’s. So, Katy is right.

But I’m not sure the show is right, especially if the mandate is to find a popular music star and if the voters back Idolists that look and sound familiar to them. This is what has always been challenging for talented artists who are outside of Idol’s norms. The show played with this a bit last year with Ada Vox and Michael J. Woodward. How this tension plays out this season is something I’ll be interested in.

A stunned Lionel during Madison’s audition.

That’s what I got for you tonight, boys and girls. As always, evaluations come with the usual disclaimer that audition performances are not indicative of future results, especially with young teenagers. But Scotty McCreery and My Girl Lauren Alaina didn’t do too bad.

See you next week.


[1] Another rant – I was really upset that the judges (and producer scripting) focused almost exclusively on him rather than Ashton Gill whose audition it was. Yes, he was way better but she didn’t have to lose her moment in the sun.

[2] The Macca suggestion was from My Daughter Cassandra which she preceded with, “This may sound weird . . .” But I agreed with her right away.

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