American Idol Season 15: February 10, 2016

Top 12 Night #1 - February 10, 2016

My first Idol blog post in quite a while but I had to blog about the Final Season!

Tonight's show showed half of the Top 24 performing solo songs, while tomorrow night they will take the stage with a former American Idol contestant.

Stephany Negret – “Mama Knows Best” (Jessie J)
Stephany looks so much like Nicole Scherzinger, former lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. They both have a similar style, voice, and appearance. Nicole has never been able to make it big as a solo artist in the US though, and I think Stephany might follow in her footsteps. While she is a beautiful girl with a big voice, there is something I feel I can’t put my finger on – it’s that I don’t feel a connection between her and the lyrics of the song. To be fair, I am exhausted of hearing “Mama Knows Best” on reality TV singing competitions. I’ve never even heard the original by Jessie J. But I’ve heard dozens of covers, and none of them have ever really made me like the song.

Mackenzie Bourg – “Say Something” (A Great Big World)
Mackenzie could go on to have a solid singer-songwriter career, in the vein of Kris Allen. He really reminds me of the Season 8 American Idol winner. Maybe it’s the glasses. I love how Mackenzie changed the pace of the song, as well as the melody. Don’t underestimate Mackenzie. I’m predicting smooth sailing to the Top 12.

Jeneve Rose Mitchell – “Angel” (Sarah McLachlan)
There is something entirely captivating about Jeneve. It’s like she is not of this world. 15 years old and so much soul, heart ripped bare, in her voice. I hang on Jeneve’s every note. This girl is a genius musically. I worry about Jeneve because it seems that her “off-the-grid” life works against her, rather than for her, in the American Idol universe. J. Lo has suggested as much. Jeneve is my favorite contestant this season and it will be a true shame if she goes home this week.

Jenna Renae – “My Church” (Maren Morris)
Is it a smart or foolish move for Jenna to pick a relatively unknown song? In this case, it seems like it paid off as the American public won’t be voting in this round and it’s clear Keith Urban loves the song. Sadly, a less-popularly known song can be the kiss of death in a singing competition unless the singer is top-notch & unique. Jenna can’t be classified as top-notch, but she performed the song with a lot of spirit and enthusiasm. She was energetic and fun to watch, but I don’t know that she’ll make it through to the next round.

James VIII – “Love Lockdown” (Kanye West)
If Kanye West met Sly & The Family Stone, we’d have this cover by James VIII. While the judges panned it as nicely as possible, I thought it was cool. No vocal acrobatics, but some pretty solid guitar playing and the ability to take risks with an out-of-left-field song choice. This drew some instant and inevitable comparisons in my mind to Kris Allen’s arguably Idol-winning performance of “Heartless” back in Season 8, before I realized although both those Kanye songs are from the same album, these 2 performances couldn’t be more different. I hope James VIII sticks around because I’d like to see what he can do.

Sonika Vaid – “Safe & Sound” (Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars)
I didn’t realize that I was making the titled head, “listening dog” face until the cameras cut to Keith Urban doing the exact same thing. Sonika vocally wipes the floor with the other contestants. I wonder how “current” she is, knowing that balladeers only make the radio if their name is Adele. Sonika has an absolutely gorgeous voice and is one of my favorites in this competiton. However, she’ll need to connect more with her lyrics and prove she is more than just a beautiful voice.

Gianna Isabella – “I Put A Spell On You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
There is no doubt in my mind that Gianna would not have made it this far in the Idol experience if not for her mother, 80’s singer Brenda K. Starr. I first heard of Brenda when Mariah Carey’s #1s record came out in 1997. Mariah covered Brenda’s “I Still Believe” as a tribute to Brenda, since Mariah got her career start singing backup for Brenda. Gianna’s voice has never done it for me. There is something vaguely unpleasant about it in my mind. I think her chances of Top 12 are good though due to her “story”.

Emily Brooke – “I Am Invicible” (Cassadee Pope)
Shocked that Idol allowed the most successful winner of The Voice to be sung on this show! Sarcasm aside, this was the worst performance of the night so far. The song was pitched way too low for Emily’s voice. It was the absolutely wrong song choice and by far her worst on Idol in 2 seasons. I think Emily has the talent to make it through this wrong, but she may have just shot herself in the foot in a way she won’t recover from.

Avalon Young – “Love Yourself” (Justin Bieber)
Avalon’s chill style can come off a little too laissez-faire. Turning her back to the audience and opening the song by sitting on the staircase took me out of her performance. I started wondering, ‘can most of the audience even see her?’ I love how real Avalon is and I don’t want the Idol machine to change her in any way. It takes more guts to come out on stage in yoga pants and high-top sneakers than in high heels. She could easily be overshadowed by bigger personalities though. She has a great voice and I see her in today’s musical landscape.

Jordan Sasser – “All By Myself” (Celine Dion)
Abysmal. Jordan is no Celine and Harry Connick Jr. is right that this performance came off as showboating. I’d add “self-indulgent” and “the farthest thing from current there is”. I didn’t like Jordan from his audition on Day 1 and I already know he’s never going to be my cup of tea. I don’t think he should advance in the competition. And I’ll leave you with these words from Randy Jackson: “It was mad pitchy, dawg. It was all over the place. For me for you, it wasn’t your best.”

Thomas Stringfellow – “Creep” (Radiohead)
Thomas comes off as very affected, although his “indie accent” is something he’s learned from Shawn Mendes. There were moments of “Creep” that were beautiful, particularly the way he chose to end the song, showing something quite different from any cover I’d heard before. But he faded into the background tonight.

LaPorscha Renae – “Proud Mary” (Tina Turner)
LaPorscha is this season’s powerhouse vocalist, who also has the stage presence to match. It’s clear why the producers showed her performance last. (With these episodes being taped in advance, it’s hard to know who actually performed in what order.) There is no way on this earth she won’t get a hard-earned pass through to the Top 12 after this incredible performance.

Best of the night: Jeneve Rose Mitchell, LaPorscha Renae
Worst of the night: Emily Brooke, Jordan Sasser