AMERICAN IDOL Recap: Life Outside the Fast Pass

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It’s a final season of firsts and we got another last night.
With only an hour of airtime and an odd 14 contestants left – the judges introduced another new feature this year – The Fast Pass. That means that four of the top 14 automatically got to go through to the top ten and didn’t even have to sing last night.

The lucky four? Olivia, La’Porsha, Dalton and Trent. Supposedly these four were unanimous among the judges. I find Olivia an odd choice over Jenn, Gianna or Sonika, but the rest make perfect sense considering their first few performances.

As for the rest? They sang! Let’s break it down.

Manny Torres Sang “Master Blaster” by Stevie Wonder
Keith Said: I don’t know if that was the right song for you.
The Verdict:
Manny oddly goes all reggae on this version of Wonder’s hit and he barely even sung. It was like he was just talking through it as he displayed absolutely no range and no real vocal ability.
I don’t understand why you’d pick this song or give this performance when it’s the only shot you have to make it through to the final, especially considering how lifeless his performance was. That couldn’t have resonated with the voters, particularly not in the first slot.
Grade: D+

Gianna Isabella Sang “I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
J-Lo Said: There are the beginning of an amazing artist and performance.
The Verdict:
An immensely confident and commanding performance from Gianna here. She came out with a tigress look in her eye and vocally pounced all over this song as she killed it in the best possible way.
Gianna is one of the most polished performers in this competition and her poise and stage presence showed that on this rendition. Plus her vocals are just so damn impressive and overpowering. Great stuff.
Grade: A-

Thomas Stringfellow Sang “Story of My Life” by One Direction
Harry Said: You have to stop cracking every note at the end. It gets annoying.
The Verdict:
I cannot stand this kid. I cannot stand his clipped phrasing. I cannot stand his whole preening little pretty boy Derek Zoolander persona. Particularly I cannot stand the stupid hat he was wearing last night.
That being said, I have to give it up to a pretty solid vocal and competent stage performance from Stringfellow on his first live show. His phrasing wasn’t as annoying as usual and he proved he does have a solid voice when he can get out of his own way. I hope he stays there.
Grade: B-

Tristan McIntosh Sang “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts
Keith Said: A side of you we haven’t seen yet. Great job.
The Verdict:
Whoa! For a few weeks Tristan seemed like another little country girl who couldn’t sing. Then she digs into some Rascal Flatts, ditches the twang and lets her vocals absolutely rip apart this song in soaring beauty.
If this is the type of songs Tristan is going to choose and the performances she’s going to give, she’ll be very dangerous.
Grade: B+

Avalon Young “Yo Excuse Me Miss” by Chris Brown
J-Lo Said: Smooth like butter.
The Verdict:
Is there anything about Avalon that isn’t awesome? The effortless cool that just oozes out of her as she makes every performance feel like a lazy summer day on the front porch stoop that’s never going to end.
She can also sing really well when she needs to pull out the typical ‘Idol’ showstopper note, but that really doesn’t matter – Avalon is all about the flow and the vibe and hers are absolutely delightful every time she takes the stage.
Grade: B-

Jenn Blosil Sang “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper
Harry Said: I knew that you had it in you. That was a flawless lyric delivery.
The Verdict:
Chills. Absolute real chills as J-Blo finally chooses the perfect song and lives up the promise of her initial audition on a performance that’s both beautifully pure and totally broken in its vulnerability.
This is the J-Blo that I thought could win. Maybe she still can.
Grade: A-

Lee Jean Sang “Make It Rain” by Ed Sheeran
Keith Said: You had a lot of nerves, but I like what you’re doing.
The Verdict:
Can we put a moratorium on Ed Sheeran please? I feel like I automatically dock everybody a letter grade for choosing his boring nonsense.
That’s super-apparent with Lee on this performance. This kid has so much life and energy and it all just got strangled by his song choice here. What exactly is he supposed to do with this song choice? Come on, Lee!
He tries to make it a Stevie Ray Vaughun-esque Blues number but he’s playing acoustic and just doesn’t have the voice to pull that off. Lee’s brilliance lies in his mastery of rhythm and awesome energy – not in his raw vocal ability. He needs to shy away from songs that
Grade: C+

Sonika Vaid Sang “I Surrender” by Celine Dion
J-Lo Said: I got goosies on my face.
The Verdict:
If anybody’s going to tackle one of the Holy Trinity on this show this season, it’s going to be Sonika. She’s got the best voice in a classical “good singer” sense of anybody on the show this season and she showcased that flawlessly with a brilliant song choice and towering vocal.
She’s the type of person who sticks around for awhile on the strength of her vocals, but I’m not sure she has the extra it-factor to make it to the end.
Grade: B+

Jeneve Rose Mitchell “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Harry Said: Your talent is interesting and compelling, but it’s also polarizing.
The Verdict:
I don’t really have time for Jeneve. Especially when she isn’t playing one of her millions of instruments. This was sung like she was explaining the song and trying to work her way through the notes – totally rigid and frigid.
She isn’t ready for this show and I still cannot understand why the judges kept her around this long. Hopefully America doesn’t further their mistake.
Grade: C+

MacKenzie Bourg Sang “Roses” (original song)
Keith Said: You had the crowd going crazy.
The Verdict:
I think this is another first. I don’t think anybody’s ever sung an original song so deep into the show. I have to commend MacKenzie for that even if the song sounds like somebody who wants to be Jason Mraz – and it really is depressing that such a person might actually exist.
That aside, this is a pro level performance from MacKeznie. He didn’t so much sing as he just totally lived in the song in such a way that somebody can really only do with their own music. It’s almost unfair, but I guess everybody else could write their own song too.
Grade: A-

Prediction:
In a very solid first night from this year’s contestants, it’s super tough to pick the four people that America is going to send home.

I feel like the only absolute lock is MacKenzie – who closed the show in the exact genre that keeps winning this show in a really excellent way.
So that leaves nine that could potentially go home. The easiest choice is Manny who bombed out of the first slot – meaning it took people remembering him after a host of really good performances. That isn’t going to happen.
I think Lee and Jeneve are the next most logical choices behind him – Jeneve is not a good fit on this show and needs to go home and Lee’s awkwardness and shaky vocals probably won’t play with voters.

As for the final person to go home? I think it’s between a couple of ladies that I really like, so I won’t even mention them, lest I put ideas in somebody’s head.

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