Who’s In It to Win the Voters?

I had a moment of self-awareness tonight[1]. I’ve typically thought of my Idol viewing as filling two wannabe roles: music biz professional looking to sign hitmaking pop talent and music critic. And I’ve typically thought of myself as filling those roles quite exceptionally. 🙂

But tonight, I realized I’ve long played a third role that typically begins when the voting rounds start – producer. This is the role in the business – and by the business I mean the industry – that helps to shape artist’s songs into the best possible final product. Tonight, I more consciously found myself thinking about some Idolists from all three perspectives which I find necessary as I try to ascertain who is just good at karaoke and who has a defined identity as an artist.

And with that as background, here are the grades in order of performance.

Laine Hardy (That’s Alright Mama Elvis) Safe song choice that neither helped nor hurt him. Vocally adequate but without any of Elvis’s Elvis-ness B-

Evelyn Cormier (The Middle Jimmy Eat World) While I generally agree with Katy that you keep the audience engaged by not being too predictable, I didn’t think this was a good song for Evelyn’s very (in my opinion) song-specific voice. But it did get the Bobby Bones Twitter Seal of Approval. B-

Alyssa Raghu (She Used to Be Mine Sara Bareilles) Good song choice and a pretty, very controlled performance. Where she needs to grow is to learn how to do things to maintain interest during the entire song. She can’t just catch our attention at the start and finish. She needs to learn how to add some dynamism in the middle (she just needs a good producer!). B+

Eddie Island (Bennie and the Jets Elton John) Awful beyond words. F

Riley Thompson (Suds in the Bucket Sara Evans) She needs to actually hit her notes. This was so pitchy all over the place, it was hard for me to listen. F

Wade Cota (Trouble Ray Lamontagne) This should have been a good song choice for the ex-metalhead (who knew?) but despite his soulful voice, his performance lacked soul for me. Technically, it was fine. But it never engaged me. C

Dimitrius (Perfect Ed Sheeran) This started too sleepy for me but then Dimitrius woke it up. I agree with Katy that he has great vocal ability (despite a few wonky notes tonight) and artistry but now he needs to learn how to perform on a stage to create greater audience engagement. I did like the R&B spin he put on the song. B

Madison Vandenburg (Fallin’ Alicia Keys) Yes, Luke, that was quite a statement. Perfect song choice for her big and soulful voice and she finally got the right blend of each – for most of the song. I could have done with fewer of the big, high notes at the end for her to have totally nailed the landing. Her voice has a variety of wonderful sounds but she hasn’t quite figured out how and when to use them yet (she just needs a good producer!). If and when she does, she could be really good.  A-

Jeremiah (We All Fall in Love Sometimes Elton John) Well if Madison made a statement, Jeremiah just made the whole speech. I had written “Freddie Mercury-esque” in my notes before Lionel invoked the comparison. It wasn’t just his Freddie-like tone and vocal range but the poignancy of his voice that Jeremiah conjured up on the song he was making distinctly his own. He also earned the coveted Bobby Bones Twitter Seal of Approval. A

Uche´ (Finesse Bruno Mars) Uche´s performance needed more/some/any of its title – finesse. Way too much stage swag this time, so much so that I couldn’t find the song. He should watch Bruno Mars in concert to learn how to put on a show that showcases both attitude and music. C-

Alejandro (One Dance Drake feat. WizKid, Kyla) Hmmmm. He’s quite the artist. He’s quite creative. He has a diverse range of talent. But . . . while the range of songs is impressively wide, his interpretations are starting to have a fundamental sameness to them: slow down the melody; sing with airy falsetto. It’s a desirable thing to have a distinctive style and sound but I think Katy is feeling like me when she encouraged him to stay true to himself but to continue to grow in his artistry. Alejandro also sounded a little nervous tonight at the start of his performance. He bears watching to see if my data points become a concerning trend. Plus he’s so unIdol-like, what are the voters thinking? B+

Ashley Hess (Fix You Coldplay) A safe song choice for her and given the high level of the best performers, maybe too safe. Her voice is pretty but this song badly needed her to have a dose of Jeremiah’s poignancy to sell it. B-

Laci Kaye (I Miss You Blink-182). Katy: “You are the definition of Idol.” This is why I keep saying that she could win this. She took a Blink-182 song and turned it into something totally other and, frankly, superior to the original. Laci Kaye owned her moments on stage with subtlety and sounded like a seasoned professional artist. She was spectacular in her unspectacular competence. And she got the Bobby Bones Seal of Twitter Approval. A+

Walker Burroughs (Climb Every Mountain) He seems like a nice guy but this is a music competition. It was way too high school musical or college glee club[2] for me. C

The Judges They had nary a critical word for anybody. D

So now it’s all up to the voters. While I still struggle with the best of all-time designation for this group, I’ll agree with Bobby Bones’ assessment that it’s the most different in terms of styles. And therefore, it will be interesting to see how the voters react to these styles.

Monday we’ll start finding out.


[1] I know. People wish I would have more of them.

[2] I’m not throwing shade. I’m just looking for a pop star not a second tenor in a choir.

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