Post 12: Lil Rounds = big successLast up: Producer favorite Lil Rounds. No suprise she gets the coveted spot of the night.
She takes on Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You." Predictably, she nails it -- offering some powerhouse belting that approaches the original version of song. She not only has indisputable talent, but some real charisma, too. A producer's dream.
I love her amended lyrics, too: "Call this show if you just can't be without me, baby."
Randy: "I think you're one of the best we've found this season."
Kara: "Good job."
Paula: "I have a sneaking suspicion we're going to see you for many more lil rounds."
Post 11: Jorge Nunez is a ray of sunshineHere's my Latin lover Jorge Nunez, singing "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."
The Puerto Rican singer goes into serious ballad mode here, and it's not the over-singing variety I remember him showcasing in Hollywood. I've never been a big Jorge Nunez fan, but tonight's performance seems to exude so much emotion that I can't help wanting him to stick around. He really does have some talent.
Paula: "I am so proud of you."
Simon: "You're actually a very, very good singer."
Randy: "This wasn't the perfect vocal, but it was really, really good."
Kara: "It comes from your heart, I really believe it."
Post 10: Girl talk with Kendall BeardTime for Texan Kendall Beard, who goes for "This One's For the Girls."
Glad to see she stuck with her country roots. The song isn't anything amazing vocally, but Kendall seems on pitch throughout most of it and her blonde looks and bright smile give her some serious commercial appeal. The best part? Clearly, she knows who she is as an artist. Even without any "wow" moments, she's better than the confused musical identites of Taylor Vaifanua and Arianna Afsar.
Kara: "You've got that personality that we saw that we really liked."
Paula: "I think you did a good job."
Simon: "I think you probably did the right thing tonight."
Randy: "I thought it was a good song choice."
Post 9: It's raining Scott MacIntyreHere's blind Scott MacIntyre, who takes the stage sans piano to sing "Mandolin Rain."
It's an odd song choice, one I think judges would normally criticize. It'll be interesting to see if they hold back at all. It's a nice performance of a ballad, and even though it borders the boring range at times, Scott has a nice tone to his voice. He doesn't go for any power notes, but the vocal control is nice -- even if he doesn't boast a ton of range.
Randy: "The parts that were great were really, really great for me."
Kara: "You move mountains when you step on that stage."
Paula; "I am just so happy and proud that you've made it."
Simon: "I wasn't crazy about the song...but I have to say, Scott, you're growing on me. You really are."
I love how Scott requests Seacrest's token high five. Ah, memories.
Post 8: Felicia Barton channels Alicia KeysHere comes Felicia Barton, the replacement for disqualified contestant Joanna Pacitti.
She sings Alicia Keys' "No One," and adds a little more of a rock edge to the original arrangement. It's nice -- probably one of the strongest female performances so far tonight. She definitely doesn't hold back on the high notes. For the most part, that adds to her appeal. But there moments when it seems like she's over-singing a bit.
Paula: "Your talent, your gift, is unbelievable."
Simon: "I think the first part of the song was better than the second half."
Randy: "I thought it was hot."
Kara: "I noticed you for the first time tonight."
Post 7: Nathaniel Marshall serves up some MeatloafTime for the always-dramatic Nathaniel Marshall, singing "I Would Do Anything for Love."
The song starts off a little rough, but Nathaniel proves he's not just a novelty contestant when he gets to the chorus. No joke -- he definitely has traces of vocal potential and can sure energize a crowd.
But the performance contains so much hip-shaking and jumping around -- not to mention Nathaniel's token headbands -- that fans on the fence might have a hard time taking him seriously.
Simon: "The majority, probably like me, thought it was verging on excruciating."
Randy: "You can definitely sing."
Kara: "If you make it through, you're going to want to pick a song that shows the more serious side of you."
Paula: "It was more of like the Boy George version of this song."
Post 6: Will Kristen McNamara stay here?Next up: karaoke host Kristen McNamara, singing "Give Me One Reason." She talks about how she ended up with purple hair before auditions.
The arrangement seems designed to draw on Kristen's country roots, but it ends up not doing too much to separate her from the pack. She does have some traces of stage presence, and I'm impressed when she successfully reaches the high notes toward the end of the piece.
I just wish she could opted for a little more edge, or that producers wouldn't have portrayed her as being so annoying in Hollywood.
Kara: "You are a great singer."
Paula: "Great vocals."
Simon: "I'm slightly puzzled about you."
Randy: "I'm not really sure who you are."
Post 5: Hey there Ju'Not JoynerHere's Ju'Not Joyer, singing "Hey There Delilah."
He makes a jazzy ballad arrangement out of it, something that sounds good in theory but comes off a little boring at first. Ju'Not redeems himself a bit midway through the song, serving up a few notes with serious traces of John Legend. He has a good quality to his voice, but seems to lack some stage presence.
The performance still lacks a bit of "oomph," but I guess it's better than over-singing.
Randy: "I loved it."
Kara: "I liked your spin on that song."
Paula: "Your liberties that you took paid off."
Simon: "That was actually better than I thought it was going to be."
Then, in perhaps this season's biggest TMI moment, Ju'Not randomly tells us he got a shot in the butt before going on stage.
Post 4: Is Arianna Afsar your winner?Next up: pageant girl Arianna Afsar singing the first ABBA song ever on AI. "Dancing Queen"? Nope. "Take a Chance on Me"? Nope.
Instead, she opts for "The Winner Takes It All," and I'm immediately sensing some song choice criticisms.
And they're warranted. It's a dark arrangement, and Arianna doesn't do much to brighten it up. Usually I'm not one for the "this song makes you look old" line, but I'll make an exception here. It reminds me a lot of Kady Malloy last season. The whole performance gives Arianna this somber vibe -- a stark contrast to how producers have built her up in our minds.
But man, when she gets to the belting part, she can really sing. Um, except for her shaky final note.
Simon: "It was absolutely terrible in most parts."
Randy: "It just wasn't the right song for you."
Kara: "It was dark, it was kind of depressing, and it's not who you are as a person."
Paula: "Sometimes it's better to just stick to the melody."
Post 3: Alex Wagner-Trugman gives Simon the bluesTime for nerdy Alex Wagner-Trugman, who resembles most of the guys I took to dances in high school. No joke. He tells us he's been going to gym to beef up.
He sings "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," a choice supposedly inspired by his long-distance relationship.
The song starts off fine enough, but a couple verses in, Alex takes up some gorilla-inspired noises between verses. Not especially appealing. I'm guessing he's appealing to judges' early Joe Cocker parallels, but Alex is in a zone of his own.
And it's a dangerous one, especially when he takes the cordless mike and knocks over the mike stand. It's an entertaining performance, but much too over-the-top to give him a serious shot at advancing.
Paula: "You are certainly the showman."
Simon: "We had fun watching you, just not listening to you...You're like a little hamster trying to be a tiger."
Randy: "It definitely was kind of crazy in a buck wild sort of way."
Kara: "At least you do you."
Post 2Here's teenager Taylor Vaifanua, also known as Jordin Sparks version 2.0. She opts for "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys.
Things start out a bit rough -- I'm not crazy about her on the lower notes, and she's visibly nervous on stage. Taylor redeems herself a bit once the song picks up, though. In all, no part of the performance can be labeled "bad," but Taylor falls into trap of many teenage AI contestants:
She doesn't herself well enough to sing a song that will get her votes, and opts for something a little safe. She's in tears -- tears of joy, she says -- once it's over.
Kara: "I want more of your personality to come through."
Paula: "This is a chance for you to show us something new and I wish you would have taken that chance."
Simon: "It was very generic...it was actually a bit bland."
Randy: "It was just kind of boring."
Post 1Here we go! First up, it's YouTube sensation Von Smith, singing "You're All I Need to Get By."
Remember, this is the guy who appalled many fans with his over-singing in Hollywood. So naturally, my expectations are kind of wavering.
But Von surprises me -- he's clearly fine-tuned the art of control since Hollywood, and offers vocals throughout the song and a pretty standout range as well. Going first will hurt him a bit, but if anything Von gained fans tonight. His take on Marvin Gaye is crowd-pleasing without being over-the-top.
Randy: "This is the way to kick off a show."
Kara: "You're coming into your own."
Paula: "America is going to remember you."
Simon: "You remind me of Clay Aiken."