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muse273

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Everything posted by muse273

  1. He really wasn't. I'm sorry, but this is just delusion, I don't know what to say. Scotty was even more unstoppable than Carrie, James was singing an incredibly niche genre, with a fraction of the fanbase of Country and a super-divisive vocal style.
  2. I know that you predicted Maddie after the actual Finale performances, but I was referring to the comparable timeframe to where we are now (before and after Top 5). At that point I'm pretty sure I was the only one among the vague pundit-class calling Maddie as the winner, or at least one of very few. The gulf in performance quality between Maddie and the other two was so gargantuan that it sealed the deal, at which point a lot of people suddenly agreed she'd win, but I was pretty confident prior to that based on a bunch of other factors. I'm pretty sure you acknowledging that I'd been backing her from early on and proven correct was one of our relatively rare conversations. If we have a similar "Contestant X just obliterates the others in the Finale" situation, that contestant probably would also win without it being a surprise. I don't really think it'll happen though. Even if any of the current contestants really had the capacity to pull it off (which seems unlikely), I don't think the at-home format would really allow it. It just seems to narrow everything down into a homogeneous mass of ok. Top 10 is kind of a weird place for comparison, given it was the middle of Alejandro's worst stretch of performances, and came after Laine's best. It is very irritating that we don't have the others to look at, because I would be interested to see them. But there are many irritations from the crash.
  3. That does not remotely square with my recollection, which was that Alejandro consistently beat everyone else on social media, but unfortunately thanks to the site crash I have no access to contemporary. Maybe you have saved records of your posts? I'm skeptical of numbers from looking at platforms now, given that most of Facebook's videos show fewer views on performances from a year ago than ones from 2 weeks ago and most of the Youtube videos have been taken down. I know for a fact that Facebook has had multiple versions of the same video with wildly different numbers, because it was driving me nuts trying to compare the audition numbers for this year's contestants. The few Youtube videos which are still up have Alejandro in the lead for most rounds.
  4. While it can't really be proven thanks to the sitepocalypse, people were calling Phillip from his audition, and assuming that Candice would get Melinda'd by Angie right up until Top 3, at which point a substantial number of people assumed country would push Kree past her. And at most, we're looking back as far as Scotty, who was the most obvious winner who ever obvioused.
  5. You could have said the same about Alejandro, on a similar basis. and Maddie was predicted by most to come in third, after being predicted to not make the Finale at all. ABC Idol has take some unexpected turns. For that matter, Trent was a distant 3rd or 4th on social media most of his season, and both Clark and Sam were almost universally assumed to be winning 14/13 until months into their seasons. Even Candice was hardly pre-ordained. The last obvious winner who actually won was Phillip, close to a decade ago. Of course, most of those earlier assumptions had become less popular by the week of the Finale of their seasons. But that was with 10 weeks of lead in, not 2. And without a 5 person Finale. I think I made clear I’m not saying Arthur can’t win. My gut just says otherwise.
  6. Wow this is super late, but this week has been a continual series of work disasters so I haven't really had the time or energy to write. Then again, I can't beat the spoilers at this point, so it doesn't matter that much. While these were written after the fact, the ranking is what I would've given before hand, so let's just all maintain a little suspension of disbelief. Although I've been pretty positive on the previous from-home episodes, this one was a disappointment. The first round especially had a lot of clunkers, and the tone of the night just felt depressed. I think both the contestants and the audience are kind of exhausted at this point, but what was the exact culprit? There are a couple possibilities. First off, it was a multi-song episode, and those almost always wreak havoc on the contestants. Whether it's difficulties with creating a varied set, lower amounts of rehearsal time, or just the added stress, the first two-song episode has resulted in the worst performances from some of Idol's most polished and consistent contestants: Melinda, Adam, Crystal, Clark, Trent, not to mention weak efforts from an endless list of more inconsistent competitors. Yet some of the most unexpected people have blossomed under the pressure. The most iconic example has to be Season 1's Top 4: both Kelly and Tamyra giving their worst, Tamyra in particularly cataclysmic style, Nikki pulling her absolute best out of some unknown orifice to buy herself another week, and Justin giving both his best and worst performances (as well as the best and worst performances of the episode per WNTS, 4 seasons before anyone had heard of McPhee). Or last year's Top 6, when both Wade and Alejandro pulled massive comebacks while everyone else declined. In both cases, shocking results occurred. You could also argue that the repeated Disney theme is proving to be a failed innovation of ABC Idol. This one I think is a bit debatable. It wasn't actually THAT repetitive an episode in the long view, three out of seven performances were new to the show, and the other four had only had one performance apiece. While that might not be very impressive given a catalog with 300+ songs, it’s not bad by Idol standards, given we could’ve had the umpteenth versions of Circle of Life, Let It Go, Reflection, etc. Maybe you could blame the fairly unvaried nature of the most popular Disney ballads which contestants gravitate to, but Disney also has a variety of excellent uptempo options, starting with all of the great villain songs. A somewhat more fair accusation is that the familiarity of the Disney canon is a double edged sword, as you’re likely to either be a boring copy of the original, or a poorly received rearrangement, we certainly got examples of both. But the best performance of the round was also the most obscure, and neatly dodged that issue. At the end of the day, while I’m not a big fan of Disney’s continual cross-marketing barrage, I’m not sure you can really label the Disney theme as radioactive. S16 did a perfectly fine job with it after all. Sure it’s a minefield for contestants, but so are many other themes (Queen for starters). I think the main thing is we’re just seeing the limits of the at-home format, especially as the goodwill of “bless, they’re doing their best” starts to wear off and the awkwardly high eliminations rack up, and it kind of exacerbated all the previously mentioned issues. The diminished rehearsal time for multiple songs can only be worse when everything is being conducted by Zoom, which undoubtedly contributed to the janky arrangements. Because the circumstances really limit the functionality of bigger, more energetic performances, it was that much harder to get a varied set of performances out of the contestants, especially with those sorely missed uptempo Disney songs falling firmly into the “Not going to work in your bedroom” category. That also applies to the longer-term impression of the contestants, since it’s hard to avoid a been-there-done-that feeling when there’s only one performance mode that works. While some contestants I think are suffering more than others from the lack of really quality guidance under these circumstances, I think all of them are giving us less quality than they might have in a real Idol season. So with all that in mind, whose performances overcame the obstacles enough to put them into potential victory territory? It’s an interesting dichotomy. At this point, I think four out of seven are out of the running. I just can’t really imagine them pulling anything out of their pocket on Sunday which would do enough to get them over the finish line. Yet the other three are surprisingly close after this week, and I think there will legitimately be some uncertainty as to who takes the slightly tarnished crown. Of all the ABC Idol Innovations, I think the 3-person Finale has been one of the best ones, but a 5 person Finale is kind of ridiculous. Especially since it’ll be even more “Lucky just to be here” than before. We’ll see what happens. Pre-Semifinal Rankings Top 20 Rankings Top 11 Rankings 1. Dillon James (Previous Round 3) “Our Town” from Cars and “Hang On, Hang On” by Amos Lee. If anyone was the McKibbin “who knew they had it in them” contestant of this episode, it was Dillon, who was arguably the only person to give good performances in both rounds. Really though, that doesn’t give enough credit to either performance even out of context. Our Town was an absolutely brilliant song choice, not only because it fell squarely into his vocal comfort zone and finally pulled some emotional commitment out of his performance, but because it resonated with both his target audience and the moment of the performance. For a country contestant, a song about small town life is practically cliche, but the song also has subtext of economic anxiety, and longing for a former lifestyle which seems to have disappeared in the blink of an eye. I think we’re all feeling some of that right now. It almost felt like KLC’s God Bless The USA, just… less gross. James Taylor is an interesting artist for Dillon to cover. While his public image is one of a gentle troubadour strumming quiet reflections, Taylor’s personal life has a lot more darkness running through it, especially as a result of his long history of heroin addiction. Maybe a kinship to that was what made Dillon connect more to this song. As a funny bonus, early in his career Taylor had a style described as “Cowboy Jesus.” Sound familiar? If Dillon found subtext relevant to his story in his first performance, that story was front and center in his second one. While the Mother’s Day/Dedication themes have brought emotional weight out of almost all of the contestants in the last few seasons, Dillon really weaponized it in both his performance and especially the pre-performance video. After spending most of the season mentioning his dark past but not really digging into it, he and his mother fully grappled with it on-screen, and it was an affecting moment. While it would’ve been easy to go for a mournful song in those circumstances, he very smartly went for something more positive and upbeat, avoiding the whole thing becoming too maudlin. Overall, just a smart handling of the Idol game across the board. While it can’t guarantee a victory, this episode was well timed to give Dillon a lead going into the Finale. While some of the past contestants who blossomed in the multi-song rounds were stragglers like Nikki and Wade who were only able to translate that surge into one more week, Dillon was already a formidable threat, and one week of goodwill is all he needs. A better comparison might be Kris or Lee, both of whom hit the two-song stage only one week before their Finales (not counting duets), and both of whom benefited from their more consistent rivals fumbling at the same time. Although it has to be said, Dillon has actually been one of the more consistent contestants this season. Not always thrilling, but usually solid (with the moderate exception of last week’s lackluster Beatles cover, which doesn’t look so bad after some of this week’s performances). It’s also notable that I noticed quite a few Idolsphere commenters saying things along the lines of “I haven’t liked him up until this point, but he was the best one this week” or even “I kind of want him to win now.” Add that to the usually silent mass of country voters, and the other contestants are going to need something big to beat him in the Finale. 2. Francisco Martin (Previous Round 2) “You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan and “River” by Leon Bridges Francisco had a mixed bag of a week, in that he made his most compelling argument for why he should be the final victor of the season, but also gave us a reminder of what might hold him back from the crown. His second performance was probably the best of the night, and arguably the best of the season, although Dillon and Arthur gave him some competition on the former, and Julia among others on the latter. It was the strongest vocal we’ve ever heard from him (staggeringly stronger than his first song in fact), on a great song choice, delivered with tons of passion, and given extra emotional weight by the context with his mother being there. It had all the components which make for a great Idol performance, aside from an impactful arrangement, and even that wasn’t bad. If undecided voters are going to be moved to get behind someone, and remember long enough for it to impact the votes in the Finale, Francisco may be their most likely beneficiary. It also fit comfortably into his growth arc, as the judges explicitly mentioned in their comments, and that’s a powerful factor on Idol. On the other hand, his first performance was weak, not only in comparison to his second but also to his last few performances. While it was a reasonably good song choice, solidly in the nonthreatening-boyfriend core of his appeal, he just did not deliver it well vocally. At best it was uninspiring, and at times it verged on ragged. He also was the worst hit by the bizarre “lets splice them into the movie” effects which need to never happen again. While it didn’t quite have the reek of debacle as a couple other performances, it undermined some of the benefits of his second performance. It also raises questions about how he’ll handle the increased pressure of the Finale. While his closest competitors have made some mistakes of strategy and song choice, I’m not sure either really raises concerns about their vocals failing in the way Francisco’s could. At the same time, while his discussion with his mother about his struggles with mental health was touching, it was also a reminder that his nerves have gotten the better of him in previous rounds. While Dillon seems to be at a point of having overcome his difficulties, Francisco is still working through them. It’s entirely possible that he delivers another River level performance on Sunday which gives him the final push he needs to win, but he could just as easily fall apart. It’s hard to put him in the lead with that uncertainty hanging over him. 3. Arthur Gunn (Previous Round 4) “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid and “Hey Ma” by Bon Iver This week was actually the most I’ve liked Arthur all season, which makes the fact that I still have reservations about his victory chances kind of funny. While his first performance wasn’t anything I’d go crazy over usually, it was solid, which was more than most performances that round could say. The song choice fit comfortably into his easy-going style, and the arrangement struck a good balance of respect for the original song and innovation. The main difficulty is that the rasp and rapid vibrato in Arthur’s voice often feel at odds with the kind of relaxed music he’s been choosing. It’s almost a jarring sound cutting through those jam band arrangements On the other hand, with the right song it does produce that instantly impactful effect which makes you take notice. His second performance was that kind of song. Against the darker, more contemplative background of a song like that, his tone adds emotional weight and draws you in. Bon Iver are very stylized, sometimes verging on intentionally opaque, and covering them effectively in this kind of show is a serious challenge, but I think he managed it. The challenging nature of the song might make it hard for voters to get behind it, but I was impressed. I can’t really put my finger on what leaves me unconvinced that Arthur will win, despite his commanding lead on social media. Maybe it’s the memory of Alejandro’s similar lead failing to earn him a win, even with the benefit of a late surge in performance quality. I think Alejandro was too love-or-hate a contestant in the end to overcome a broader appeal, no matter how enthusiastic those who love him, and it feels like Arthur occupies a similar space. Maybe it’s that Idol victories rarely seem to go to the obvious winner, with a spare handful of exceptions (and those mostly in the country realm, which Arthur only slightly resembles), and my gut just says that Arthur will be another shock runner-up. He’s certainly out of the running, it’s going to be a close fight regardless of the outcome. His most likely path to victory seems to be based on the potential fumbles of his competitors. If Dillon performs on par with Yesterday, and Francisco with You’ll Be In My Heart, Arthur’s larger committed base could easily take him to victory even if his own performance is a bit lackluster. But if one of them performs at their peak level from this week, it may not work out for him. 4. Sam Diaz (Previous Round 1) “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” from Cinderella and “I Turn To You” by Christina Aguilera From here on down, I don’t feel like we’re discussing chances of victory. Like I said previously, while the Top 3 are in a close race, the others feel like they’re miles behind. At this point, we’re just talking about their chances of making the Finale and making the most of their last chance at the spotlight. And it’s depressing to put Sam there, given their Hollywood performances were some of my favorite of the season. But it can’t be avoided. I’ve been rating their chances highly in large part because they had such potential to pull out a season-changing performance, but it hasn’t happened. While past weeks’ song choices had hints of the right idea but didn’t quite get there, this week’s were just poor choices period. Their Disney performance was blandly impactful, without any complete failures, but also without much in the way of vocal interest or emotional weight. It’s bizarre to me that Almost There was performed on the episode, but not by Sam despite being a perfect fit. Maybe they just didn’t fight for it? Meanwhile, their Christina song choice was not only generic in a way which completely fails to capture what makes Sam an interesting artist, but the sped up arrangement sucked away all possibility of making an impact either vocally or emotionally. From any contestant, these two performances would be a disappointing fizzle, but even more from someone I thought had the potential for greatness. I can’t help but feeling that, more than anyone, Sam is a victim of the coronavirus-induced changes in Idol. It seems like, stuck in a rented apartment with no support network, Sam has struggled to open up and be fully vulnerable, which was their potential secret weapon. Letting your emotions pour out in a way that walks right up to a breakdown without falling over the edge is the path to the kind of performance that punches you in the gut. And it’s a hard thing to do, even when you have people to pull you back and ground you if you get too close to the brink. How much harder must it be when you’re completely alone in a strange place. With a coaching staff to help negotiate that challenge, Sam might have pulled something amazing out, especially since the show would undoubtedly have tried to get Grandma into the audience at some point. But in isolation, it just couldn’t happen. It’s not out of the question that, with nothing left to lose, Sam could find that killer performance in the Finale, and I think their track record thus far plus a still-affecting story is enough to secure a spot there. But at that point, it just seems too late to really win over enough voters to make the difference. And that’s a shame. I’ll always wonder what might have been in a different situation. 5. Jonny West (Previous Round 7) “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog and “Amazing Grace” by… errr, Jonny West I guess I honestly have no idea what will happen with Jonny. He seems like as love-or-hate a contestant as there’s ever been. For me, this week was a bit of both. I didn’t think his version of Almost There worked at all. Tiana is an unusual character. In a canon full of Disney princesses who are flighty dreamers, she’s striking for being a pragmatist with no time to waste on fairy godmother nonsense. That’s the entire point of the song. Jonny’s introverted slacker vibe is a terrible fit for that kind of character, and the lackadaisical spin he put on the song just amplified a feeling of laziness, especially when combined with a vocal ability which can’t really deliver a powerhouse Disney ballad sound, and just ends up sounding like it’s giving up. Others may disagree, but it did nothing for me. The real question mark though was his second song. Take one of the most beloved songs of traditional American music, and a religious one at that, and turn it into something only vaguely related? That runs a huge risk of driving people away, even if they were previously fans. It could also win people over by virtue of its creativity and uniqueness, and it obviously had emotional importance to him. But I feel like that positive impact is somewhat muted by again being a very low-key, internalized performance. It doesn’t really grab your attention, it more waves gently and then goes back to what it was doing. I didn’t really dislike it, even though Amazing Grace is an important song to me, but it didn’t really motivate me either. I could be the exception. A bunch of people could see Jonny in a new light, and be motivated to vote for him now. His fans were onboard thus far, so maybe these performances wont lose him a substantial number of votes. He could easily be in the Finale. But I can’t really imagine him getting a large enough portion of the audience to vote for him, given the lack of power voting. He’s just too specific a taste to have broad appeal, and I doubt he does anything in the last round to change that. For better or worse, Jonny’s going to do Jonny. Kind of admirable, but not enough for the victory. 6. Julia Gargano (Previous Round 5) “Beauty and the Beast” from duh, “Sweetest Devotion” by Adele As disappointing in the long term as Sam’s failure this week was, Julia’s collapse was a much more immediate and painful sting. When was the last time a previously strong contestant took such a massive tumble? Majesty maybe, ironically on another Disney tune, but there were warning signs of what undid Majesty, that weak spot in her voice. Could we have seen what went wrong with Julia coming? Well… maybe, at least in retrospect. If she had delivered Beauty and the Beast in a style close to the original, this could’ve worked very well. Instead, we got this lukewarm lounge-arrangement, which nullified the beauty of the song and just sounded cheesy and awkward. The issues went beyond the arrangement though. Vocally, Julia sounded like she was fighting with the song from beginning to end, and she wasn’t winning. All of the ad libs sounded forced and contrary to the rhythm of the melody, and because she couldn’t get her feet under her, her breath support was a mess. This, I had definitely noticed signs of before. Julia seems to have a hard time just leaving a melody alone without over embellishing it, and it detracts from the performances, which was part of what held New York State of Mind from really impressing me. This was much more pronounced. I feel like this reflects a bigger issue for Julia in the competition: She seems like she’s trying too hard to give Idol what it wants. There’s a danger zone for contestants who have some experience, but not a ton. True amateurs only know how to do things one way, and stick to that. Very experienced performers are confident in their self-knowledge, and it shows in their delivery. They might make strategic choices in their song picks and arrangements, but usually they’ve built up their instincts enough for their choices in how they actually perform the songs. But there’s a certain level where contestants start thinking too much about “I need to do X to impress the audience, I need more high notes somewhere, I need to show I can do this differently,” and it doesn’t flow organically into the performance. It just becomes awkward. Something tells me Julia’s in that place. Her Adele performance was ok out of context, but it still felt like she couldn’t relax into the song and let it flow smoothly, and it didn’t make much contrast to her first song. She would’ve needed something completely outstanding to cancel out her first performance, and this was just decent. It also seemed to lack the emotional weight of some of the other Mother’s Day performances. While it could be enough to motivate her fans to keep voting, Julia’s in a dangerous position. In all those rocky multi-song rounds where former frontrunners took a tumble, the sudden drop frequently resulted in a swift elimination. Fans feel complacent because they’ve been strong previously and don’t vote, while more casual voters lose interest. Not a good sign. 7. Louis Knight (Previous Round 11) “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” from The Lion King and “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King/James Taylor Is it James Taylor week and I don’t know it? He was just on The Voice, and now two songs on Idol (although YGAF will always be a Carole King song to me). Is Louis also a former heroin addict? I just don’t have much to say about Louis. His Disney performance had arguably as bad an arrangement as Julia’s with an awkward attempt at a Coldplay-esque climax that didn’t go anywhere, and nowhere close to enough vocal power to fill it out, but it wasn’t as much of a shock because he’s been mediocre thus far. His second song wasn’t as egregious, but it was still bland and underpowered. He’s just… not that good. Even in a boyband, he’d be the one they never let sing solos. They’d just have him sway in the background, and maybe tell people he had an incurable illness. I’m going to say consumption, for that old-school Bohemian flair. Stranger things than Louis going through to Top 5 have happened. Scott Savol was a thing at one point. But this is about where the outclassed cute-boys usually go home, so it’s appropriate for history to repeat. I’ll be back next week to contemplate where Idol goes from here, because the times they are a changin’. Yay renewal, but there’s no way we don’t get major changes next season.
  7. It’s kinda overshadowed by all the other debaclery of that episode. He even proto-McPhee’d the episode, but nobody remembers because of Tamyra, Nikki, maybe Kelly’s worst performance (which I’d actually say was I Surrender)
  8. S1- Justin (Tamyra came within 2 points) S2- Clay S3- Jasmine S4- Nobody S5- Katharine S6- Jordin (Blake came within 2 points)) S7- Jason, Brooke (Archie came within 2 points) S8- Nobody (Matt came within 1 point) S9- Nobody (Top 10 was almost all Crystal) S10- Jacob S11- Joshua, Jessica (to be fair, Joshua's was a duet and Jessica's low was 24, which is way above the 10th worst of most seasons) S12- Nobody (Top 10 was almost all Candice) S13- Caleb, Jessica (Jessica's was a duet) S14- Nobody (Kinda hard when Seavey took half the Bottom spots by himself, Clark was within 3 points) S15- Nobody (Top 10 was La'Trent with one Sonika performance) S16- Catie (Caleb and Cade were within 1 point at the top) S17- Alejandro (on a duet, Laci came within 3 points) S18- Julia (Both her high and low wouldn't make the lists in most seasons though) Jacob and Jasmine are the only ones on both the all-time Top and Bottom 100. Jacob's the only person to ever score both a single digit and a 90+ (7 and 90 on the dot). Look at all those Top 3 finishers. Kinda funny
  9. Julia has I believe the 6th largest drop in score between consecutive performances at 58 points, behind Tamyra (Top 5-4, 73 points), Jasmine (Top 12-11, 66 points), Justin (Top 4 round 1-2, 65), Jordin (Top 6i-6ii, 65 points), and Blake (Top 6ii-4, 64 points). With the adjustment, there's a good chance she ends up at the second highest drop ever, since they're the second highest and lowest performances of the season. Probably nobody will ever beat Tamyra. You could throw James Durbin in there at 67. It kinda doesn't count, since the second performance was a duet, but it WAS in the same episode like Justin.
  10. Nick mentioned that it felt like an original song which happened to use parts of Amazing Grace, so I think they'll treat it as such. Also it has an sd of 24 but Louis' second song is higher, and Francisco's second song will be over 80. Which is basically like a 90+ this year.
  11. At the moment Amazing Grace doesn't have an age listed. They might not have decided how to handle it either it seems. I was going to reference Swing Low Sweet Chariot (although it doesn't have the semi-original factor), but I notice that's not actually the oldest song. It Had To Be You is 2 years older.
  12. In descending order of certainty Almost There- Sam A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes- Julia (second guess Arthur doing the Shakey Graves cover, which would be unlikely but awesome) Our Town- Dillon (second guess Jonny) Kiss The Girl- Arthur (second guess Dillon) Beauty and the Beast- Francisco (second guess Julia) You'll Be In My Heart- Jonny (second guess Louis) Can You Feel The Love Tonight- Louis (second guess Francisco)
  13. A few quick Disney song suggestions. Mother's Day is too personally linked to really suggest for. I've intentionally tried to avoid all the songs we've heard a bunch of times and are damn sick of, though I'm sure at least one or two will turn up. Sam- "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog This taps into the motivating elements of Sam's backstory, both the hardships she's faced and her drive to overcome them. It's also a more upbeat, energetic than most of the performances she's given, which would be a good contrast to a heartfelt Mother's Day ballad. Francisco- "So Close" from Enchanted While it's not one of the first movies which leaps to mind for Disney, this is one of the best of the more pop-oriented songs which fit the theme, and it lands firmly in the "cute boyfriend" appeal which is a strong point for Francisco, while also being a vocal showcase. It's also one of several songs I have in mind which really resonate with the feelings of isolation a lot of us are feeling right now. Dillon- "I See The Light" from Tangled Even though this HAS been done, I feel like it deserves a better attempt than Laci's shaky version last year. It's a smooth ballad, which I think would work better for Dillon than something kind of hokey like other country-inclined contestants have done, and the arrangement would be easily imagined. Something sincere and simple might get him to connect more openly. Arthur- "You're Welcome" from Moana It's hard to imagine Arthur picking a ballad, which doesn't seem like his vocal forte, and there are a lot of fun numbers he could choose which could go badly. This, on the other hand, takes some of the same energetic delivery as other possibilities, and gives it more of bragging edge which cuts through the saccharine. It would be good to see Arthur put a bit of a sting into his somewhat easygoing performances. Julia- "When You Wish Upon A Star" from Pinnochio It's kind of funny that this, the Disniest Disney song which ever Disneyed has never turned up in the 20 previous Disney-theme performances+past choices. While many associate it with the more childlike Disney of past years, it's actually a pretty sophisticated tune and lyrics. Julia's natural restraint would be admirably suited, and she has the vocal prowess to really deliver the melody. Sophia- "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules In comparison to Julia, Sophia seems a bit more of a drama queen, and has more bite to her persona. This is may be the least romantic of all the Disney heroine ballads, but the emotional complexity would be a good fit for Sophia's drama-kid delivery, and like my choice for Sam it would be a good contrast to a more heartrending Mother's Day song. Jonny- "Go The Distance" from Hercules On the surface, this seems like it would be a tough song for Jonny, as the big bombastic ballad ending would be a bigger hurdle than his somewhat fragile voice would fit. However, the majority of the song is more of an introspective I Want song, and I think Jonny could filter it through his own style into something which brought that intimate earlier section to a satisfying conclusion. Grace- "Something That I Want" from Tangled To be honest, this would probably be a song choice that would work better on a full stage than in a back yard, and it's a bit repetitive in its full version. But that makes it easier to turn into a truncated Idol-appropriate version, and it would bring Grace back to the more energetic territory which seems like her stronger suit than her recent ballads. It would also be kind of funny to see a song from Grace Potter, one of the few Disney-movie songs who's actually signed to Hollywood. Jovin- "Immortals" from Big Hero 6 Again, this would be a better fit for full-stage Idol, but there aren't a ton of Disney songs which really seem like a good fit for Jovin (though Ma Belle Evangeline crossed my mind). This is a darker, more intense piece than the average Disney song, and a different kind of rock from Jovin's style, but it could make for a fascinating combination. Makayla- "For The First Time In Forever" from Frozen While last week's song gave us a view of more restrained Makayla, it would also be nice to see her give a performance which actually felt authentic coming from a teenager, instead of various shades of posing as an adult. This is an exuberant song which could give us a different side of her vocally as well, and I think the vocal polish she has could help her maintain that energy without getting off the rails. Louis- "Out There" from Hunchback of Notre Dame If there was ever a Disney song made for our current times, it's this one. Locked up and lonely, but hopeful for the future. Hunchback is an underrated film, simultaneously the darkest Disney movie and a surprisingly touching one. I'm not sure Louis has the vocal polish to pull it off, but like Jonny I feel like a surprisingly good version could come out of attempting to make it fit him. I really wish choosing a villain song wasn't probably a terrible idea from an voter perspective. C'mon, someone do Hellfire in a full priest outfit! Re-enact Be Prepared with your stuffed animals. Steal Katy's outfit from last year and do Poor Unfortunate Souls... I'm really sad I couldn't find a version of Poor Unfortunate Souls with Patrick Page singing.
  14. Updated with full comments, just in time for spoilers. Woo. I'll possibly maybe come back with song choices for Sunday, but if you're spoiler averse you might want to steer clear.
  15. Alright, Quarantine Idol Round 2. The novelty has worn off, the contestants have adjusted to the new routine and so has the audience. So how did the episode go? I actually thought it was a shockingly good episode. Several contestants I hadn’t cared for gave performances I actually quite liked, and one I hadn’t been totally sold on gave possibly my favorite performance of the season. I didn’t really think anyone was actually completely irredeemably terrible, although a few people had their struggles. Interestingly, two of those people were among this season’s frontrunners, and while I’m not sure it knocked them out of the top tier altogether, it did make things a bit more uncertain. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that almost any of the contestants could potentially advance this week, and most of them could potentially go home as well. It will be a fascinating set of results to see. That being said, I notice that reactions to the episode were ALL OVER THE PLACE. Some loved it, some hated it, and nobody seemed to agree which performances made it so good or bad. It was especially odd how many people (myself included) seemed the finally like a performance by someone they’d previously had no time for, and simultaneously been disappointed by a performance of prior favorites. Did we slip through into the mirror dimension? Quick, someone check, do I have a beard in this reality. (Trick question, I have a beard in all realities. In quarantine, it’s become gigantic and taken on a mind of its own. It’s actually typing this writeup.) With so much disagreement and uncertainty, I think the stage is potentially set for a “who saw that coming” performance which really turns the competition on its head going into the Finale. Normally the penultimate week would be too late to really change the game (with the possible exception of Idol’s all-time legendary clutch performance, Heartless, and even that wouldn’t have done the job without other factors). This year, things are so abrupt and people so divided that a contestant who could really unite a substantial portion of the audience behind one performance could ride it to victory. The potential is even greater with next week’s Mother’s Day theme, which was highly emotionally charged in S16 and likely to be especially resonant with the contestants being home with their families (or for poor Sam, alone). Disney might not be so charged, but it’s a theme with a lot of well-loved songs. If the contestants can manage to steer clear of some of the overplayed options, it could contribute to a positive atmosphere. Maybe it can’t happen. Maybe the effect of these small-scale performances is too muted, maybe people’s emotions are too fraught from the miserable state of the world, maybe we’re just too divided. But I think there’s a chance. Between that possibility of something game changing, and how volatile the potential for elimination feels, this week’s ranking is weighted more heavily towards who I think could not just advance, but WIN. Nearly all of them could go home, nearly all could stay, but their ability to capitalize on that last possible chance varies. Before I move on though, a word for our eliminated contestants. Their lovely parting gifts are… new iPhones? Sound equipment? The chance to get a warm reception if they return next year maybe. I won’t really give lessons for each one. There were too many factors with this crazy format, and frankly there are too damn many for me to talk about all of them. Besides which, most of them weren’t surprises. They made terrible choices (DeWayne), never really seemed to have gathered any traction (Kimmy, Aliana, Faith), or just lacked that spark which motivated people (Franklin, Cyniah sadly). Or in the case of Nick, they apparently ran over all of the producers’ dogs in a mass mastiff massacre. The only mild shock was Lauren, and I’m not really all that sold on that being a shock either. Lauren was a prodigiously gifted vocalist, especially for her age. Some people argued that she was reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson, and I can see a bit of it around the edges. But almost as much as her amazing voice, Kelly won Idol on the basis of her relatability and easy-going charm which made audiences fall in love. I don’t think Lauren had that. Quite the opposite, everything about her seemed designed to deter audience connection. The viral video background, the semi-final song choice which has no opportunity for emotional depth. Underneath it all, I don’t feel like I really know a thing about Lauren as a person, just that she has a good voice. And that she’s Canadian. While several contestants who went through aren’t American by birth, they’re also long-time residents of the US, while Lauren was actually appearing from Canada. Is it fair that she might have lost points for that? Maybe, maybe not, but either way it seems likely, especially with the format emphasizing the hometown support aspect. Although, it’s kind of funny that California and New York, areas which traditionally haven’t shown much support for their Idols, account for the majority of the Top 11, and others come from similarly poor-track record states like Pennsylvania and Florida. The only people from Idol strongholds are Louisiana’s Jovin, a black man (consistently the least well supported demographic), and the guy from Nepal currently living in Kansas. Maybe in a longer season, Lauren could have found a way to open up her personality to the audience, and combine that with her vocal prowess to find a path to victory. But in this truncated season, there was no time to wait. Do I actually think any of the Top 20-12 will come back? Most of them no. The reasons they didn’t go through in many cases wont change, and I don’t really see the show being starved for another round of Kimmy or DeWayne. The one person I could see pulling a Laine (or at least an Alyssa) is Olivia. She’s young enough that she could sell a growth arc, and she was one of the contestants who was most undermined by the circumstances. While someone like Franklin or Cyniah isn’t likely to deliver that different of a performance on the big stage, Olivia could potentially break out on a return appearance. And since it seems very unlikely that Idol is going to get the teen belter winner (or at least Finale member) that the casting directors seemed to be aiming for, Olivia could give them a second shot next year. On to the rankings. Last week wasn’t strictly ranked, but it was close enough to accurate that I think I can provide a more or less accurate order to move on from. Pre-Semifinal Rankings Top 20 Rankings 1. Samantha Diaz (Previous Round 3) “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers I remain convinced that if anyone's going to give the kind of transformative performance that brings together a wide range of voters to sweep to victory, it's going to be Sam. I recently watched the mini-documentary about Sam prior to Idol, and something struck me. At one point they're talking about how they present themselves when they're busking, and mention dressing in their shabbier clothes, their most beat-up shoes, etc, because when people think they're more in need they give more money. That's a bit cynical, but it's also smart. I think Sam is applying that kind of logic process to song choices on Idol, trying to find that right combination of story and appeal and vocal fit that can make for a Moment. They just haven't quite hit the target yet. This song fit them vocally, and smartly hit elements of her back story like Grandma and Jesus. It was just too laid back and static a song to musically build to an emotional climax. Right thinking but wrong choice like last week, but with a more targeted sense of what might be right. If there were 10 more weeks to go, I'd all but guarantee Sam would be able to coast through on back story combined with charisma and voice until landing on that perfect song, but it's not 100% with basically 1 song left to go. Still, they're tantalizingly close. What makes things more interesting is that next week might be a major opportunity to get there, due to the themes. We've seen two rounds of Disney songs, one of which was a pretty significant hit and one of which was a flop. I think the big difference is that S16's cast was younger and less polished than 17, and were a little more comfortable throwing themselves into the childhood memories of Disney without artifice. It's notable that Catie and Michael, who dominated 16's round, were among the most young-at-heart and emotionally open contestants ever on Idol. Among this ypear's group, some are very polished and might not be able to fully let themselves go and run with the theme, but I think Sam has the potential to really dig into a song. One of their greatest assets is the emotional sincerity they bring to each song, and if they can do that on a Disney number it could be a strong setup. More than Disney though, I'm very curious to see what happens in the Mother's Day round. While living with Grandma has been a major element of Sam's backstory, there hasn't been much mention of other family members as far as I recall on the show. The documentary goes into a lot more depth, essentially suggesting that Sam and their mom don't have any contact, that no contact is wanted, and that there's a pretty painful history as to why. It kind of alludes to a time when they had performed near their mom's workplace in a way which suggests there had been some kind of confrontation. And of course, the next scene is them singing Motherless Child on the subway. This has a little potential for disaster, either due to them being uncomfortable with the subject and withdrawing emotionally, or choosing something painful which is off-putting in contrast to the feel-good stories most people will probably have. However, if Sam uses it as an opportunity to really go all-out on the emotion, either delving fully into the relationship, or just explaining it and then putting the focus on the relationship with their grandma, it could reduce everyone to tears and votes. If that doesn't happen, will Sam advance? I think there's a solid chance, they still do bring both vocal ability and compelling story to the table, and I think they have substantial backing. I'm not sure it'll be enough to power through to victory though without the final push of the song, but if nobody else brings that dominating performance it's not out of the question. It'll be a very interesting song. 2. Francisco Martin (Previous Round 4) “Falling Like The Stars” by James Arthur I'm kind of surprised by how quickly Francisco's grown in my estimation of his chances. From originally not even seeming like he was going to make the live rounds, through several weak Hollywood performances, it was a rocky road. But he's really blossomed in recent weeks, and that kind of growth arc is a hugely powerful thing on Idol. If he continues growing, it could be his path to victory. It helps that, like Sam, he brings an intense emotional sincerity to his performances. It's an interesting study in contrasts between them, as they kind of provide similar impacts in very different ways. Sam's emotional honesty feels very internal, like they're living through a journey in their own head, and we're just being given the opportunity to watch and experience it with them. Francisco on the other hand is very extroverted with his emotions, very confessional. It's all raw nerves and heart on sleeve, and while that was an obstacle in the early rounds where there were so many other stresses to cope with, in the safer environment of home it's turned into pure asset. If anything, it aligns even more with Francisco's selling points than Sam's, because so much of his story is tied up in his struggles with anxiety, while Sam's are more about struggles with more tangible issues. Where Francisco falls behind is that I'm not really sure he has the killer instinct to choose a song which lets him fully weaponize that emotional power and turn it into a grippingly memorable moment. He's been choosing his songs SMARTLY in recent rounds, but not in a way which is really targeted at the bubble of Idol. Instead, he's presenting a very clear, consistent portrait of the kind of artist he would be after Idol, mainstream pop presented with singer-songwriter inflections. This is a hard package to quantify, pop hasn't had a good track record on Idol, but it usually comes in the form of young teen girls belting their faces off instead of sad cute boys with their feelings. The WGWG style DOES have a strong pedigree, but usually goes in a more gritty or ironic direction and Francisco's sincere sweet style. So hard to guess the results, but a lot of potential. I think the sincerity makes him another good fit for Disney. The Mother's Day round might be perilous with his mother right there, but does tie in to what he said about her being a nurse, which could be a very voter-uniting factor in the current times, if he can hold himself together. I'm not sure he has the vocal weight to quite pull off the impact of a Moment. They almost always have some element of pure vocal dazzle, and the ones which are less vocally pristine tend to involve dramatic rearrangement or staging which might just not be available at the moment. But there's at least the potential for a very strong performance which provides further momentum, assuming nobody else produces something greater. Between the growth, the emotional connection, the tidbits of family story, and the cute-boy factor, I think Francisco has strong potential to be the default winner if nobody capitalizes on the moment next week, as long as he continues doing fairly well. He'd also be one of the more marketable potential winners, though who knows how much Hollywood cares at this point. I'd be surprised if he doesn't make the Finale at least, barring a terrible collapse next week. 3. Dillon James (Previous Round 1) “Yesterday” by The Beatles Dillon's kind of frustrating. He kind of parallels Sam, in that I can see the way his brain is trying to find its way to the kind of song choice which gives that big hit of resonance with him and the circumstances to really win over the audience. He just hasn't managed to stick the landing, and this week that was an issue of both the technical and the emotional. Let It Be Me was smart in that it was targeted directly at the audience as an almost naked plea for support, but it was emotionally reserved, a bit low-impact. Nice and functional as an introductory song choice, but not the killer move that really makes a difference. Yesterday on the other hand was more on point and specifically. The currents of regret and longing for a happier time have a lot of resonance with Dillon's story, and that kind of vulnerability could really grab voters if he tied them together. But the performance didn't work. Superficially, the easy reason is that the sped up tempo drained the impact out of the song and didn't allow enough opportunity to linger over the angst and get the audience invested. And that's kind of true. Here's the thing though: Dillon wasn't that much faster the original. A lot of covers of the song slow it down and go super-ballady on it, but it's marked Moderato, and the original is 98-99 bpm. It's not really a maudlin weepy song like how some people perform it. The problem was that Dillon didn't really invest himself into the emotion, he just went through the motions. I think what people were perceiving as being sped up was the fact that he delivered the song in a very strict rhythmic manner, with no rubato (the give and take of tempo which helps give a song emotional inflection). It was very precise, as was his diction, and that made it come across as unemotional. A good example is the little descending melisma he did several times, which was completely even in tempo and didn't really have any shape to it. I kind of wonder if Dillon's uncomfortable with really opening up those vulnerable emotional parts of himself, especially the ones connected to his back story. While something like Francisco's anxiety or Sam's family struggles are certainly painful in a way, and could even provoke feelings of shame in them, I don't think they're as dark and infused with guilt and regret as a past as an addict, and I'm not sure you could really say they really FOUGHT them in the way he did. That's a lot of very heavy emotion to deal with, and not one many people are going to want to weaponize for a singing show. Dillon seems to be on the fence. Most of his prior songs have kind of avoided too much darkness and angst, in favor of a more stoic or spiritual feel. Yesterday was his first step in a different direction, and stopping halfway didn't do him any favors. He's either going to have to commit and really dig into his pain, which could go very wrong (maybe even more so than for Francisco) but could be the breakthrough that makes him unbeatable, or shy away and just stick with what was working for him. That would be safer, but would risk leaving him vulnerable to someone else who did have that breakthrough. I don't think he's all that well suited to Disney, although it could be an opportunity for something clever to provide counterpoint to a more emotional second song. It's going to come down to Mom, with her there and having talked about his recovery before. Will he go for it? I honestly don't know. If he doesn't, there's still a strong chance he wins. If he steps back to the style of song he was doing before, I don't think he's that likely to really flop on a performance, and he still has a lot of the demographics backing him. While he doesn't have Arthur's level of response online, he's also appealing to groups (country fans, motherly women I think) who aren't necessarily all that vocal online, but DO vote. However, it puts him in much closer competition with Arthur, and both are endangered by Francisco's rise. Likely Finale member regardless, but I'm feeling a lot less confident about my early speculation that he'd win. 4. Arthur Gunn (Previous Round 2) “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver I don't think Arthur's going to deliver a knockout performance. I'm just going to say that up front. It just doesn't seem to be his style, and he feels like a contestant who has no intention of really conforming to the competition instead of delivering what he feels like. A lot of that shows in his rearrangements, which strike me as kind of self-indulgent. It seemed almost spitefully contrarian to take a song with "country" in the title, and turn it into paint-by-numbers reggae. I've always found reggae arrangements of other genres kind of boring and lazy, because it's so easy to simulate with some basic instrumentation and beat. But maybe that's just me. I didn't really care for his Hollywood arrangement of Have You Ever Seen The Rain either, and it also kind of gave me the impression that he was just rearranging it for his own enjoyment instead of trying to serve the song, which I think should be the real goal. I know the Idolsphere loses its mind any time someone rearranges a song, but these haven't worked for me. It didn't help that the song brought out an intrusive vibrato in his voice which was offputting to me, but that's more likely to be personal taste. I will say that he performed more comfortably than last week. What will he do next week? I don't really know. Probably rearrange his Disney song into something awkward, which may hurt him a bit since those are so familiar to the audience. It's possible that the semi-enforced emotional weight of a Mother's Day dedication will discourage him from playing around with the song too much, and bring out more sincerity to his performance. That could win over some of the audience which isn't currently in his corner, but I'm not sure it makes a huge difference. Arthur seems like he's just going to do Arthur, which reaches fun and maybe even imaginative, but doesn't seem to extend to emotional. It is what it is. Arthur's chances of victory are strong just on the basis of his apparently huge fanbase, the core voters more than the undecided casuals. If everyone's defaulting and nobody really unites the casuals, nobody else may be able to beat him. But Alejandro had just as huge a lead in vocal fanbase, and still lost (despite what the show tries to tell us), even with the benefit of a late-season surge while other people were faltering. Your core fans can only constitute so much of the voters. Will it be enough? It'll depend on next week. 5. Julia Gargano (Previous Round 5) “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel This was a weird week for me with Julia, who was arguably my favorite contestant this season (although you could make arguments for Sam or Jovin). Last week I thought she clearly gave the best performance of the night, though many people felt otherwise. This week a lot of those people seemed to do a 180 on her and put her on top, while for me it fell a bit a flat. She kind of had the opposite problem from Dillon: Where he painted too strictly within the lines of his song and didn't apply many inflections to the melody, Julia inflected everything. Almost every line had a rhythmic twist or personal inflection, and she delivered it with her usual vocal prowess. But it almost felt like too much, like there were were so many twists that none of them could really land before we were on to the next one. It felt like it detracted from the emotional connection with the song, because we and she were giving all our attention to where the melody was going. It also suffered because she didn't quite mesh with the accompaniment, which was a little too straightforward and couldn't give and take with her vocals. In person that probably wouldn't have been an issue, but you can't get that interplay with a pre-recorded track. This was really a song that cried out for just her and her own piano playing, where she could've been much more flexible. Maybe she thought (or was told) it was unwise to play two weeks in a row. If so, she'd be wise to go back to it next week, at least for one performance. I'm not sure next week does her any favors. She has an advantage as probably the most vocally and musically consistent contestant, which is always an asset the first time they're called on to prepare multiple songs in one week. But looking at those past Disney episodes, she feels much more like S17 than 16: polished, mature, and unlikely to really throw herself wholeheartedly into the guileless nature of Disney songs. The best she can probably hope for is something on par with Jurnee or Jeremiah's performances, solid but uninspiring. Mother's Day, I don't really know. She'll probably sing it sublimely, and might choose something interesting. The general undercurrent of emotional charge in these kind of family-dedication rounds could add emotional weight to even a song which doesn't itself have that much connection, which could supplement a strategy of pure vocal skill. But I'm not really anticipating a big shift from her performances next week. I think, given that most people received this week's performance well, she's safe to go through, and I don't think that it's totally out of the question that she could sneak into the Finale, especially if it's 4 people instead of 3, even more so if one or more people really flop with the introduction of multiple songs. But I'm having a hard time seeing how she translates that into actual victory. I wouldn't be mad about it by any means, but I don't see it. In a way, Julia feels more like a Voice contestant than an Idol contestant. More polished, with her own well developed style, ready for a career, but without that scrappy still-in-progress feeling which Idol seems to favor and root for. She kind of reminds me of Maelyn. Maybe she should hope for everyone else to suck horribly like Maelyn's competitors did? 6. Sophia James (Previous Round 12) “In My Room” by The Beach Boys This is by far the most questionable of my rankings this week, I freely admit that. I don't think Sophia has really been in the top tier of competitors this season, and I haven't always been a fan of her performances. She definitely has an uphill climb to advance this week, to say nothing of next week. BUT, I absolutely loved this performance. It was not only my favorite of the night by a wide margin, but maybe my favorite of the season. This was as drastic a rearrangement as Arthur's but unlike his I thought this completely worked with the song instead of being imposed on it. It's a funny thing, The Beach Boys have a popular image as laid back surf-rockers singing good time music about girls and cars, without a lot of depth or complexity. A lot of that comes from their early, most familiar songs, and from the later era when death and mental collapse took the Wilson brothers out of the picture and left Mike Love in charge, who favored an unambitious easy listening appeal. Really though, the driving force behind the Beach Boys was Brian Wilson, and he was a genius who was among the first to bring grandiosity to American pop music, the guy who loved weird instrument and drove himself insane trying to create a "teenage symphony to God." While In My Room comes from earlier in their career, it already had the kind of harmonic lushness and complexity which would later evolve into bigger things. Sophia's arrangement, which built from a dreamy restraint into a bombastic climax and then receded back into a softer conclusion made total sense with this song, which itself is a kind of reverie. She also delivered it with vocal skill, with only some moderate vocal strain on the big note in the middle to mar the overall effect, and a kind of blissed out affect which was a perfect fit for the song. I absolutely loved it. Maybe 1/4 of people agreed with me, and everyone else seemed to just go "meh" and move on. Which doesn't really fill me with a lot of hope that she'll advance, given that her support doesn't seem to have been that strong coming into this round (she was a mild surprise to get voted through), but I'm holding onto what hope there is. A lot of that is because if she can get through, she's shown that she has the ability to deliver Moment material, even if this wasn't the performance that people took to. There's also the question of themes. While I think she's likely in a similar boat to Julia for Disney, unlikely to flop or excel, Mother's Day is a different matter. A ton of Sophia's backstory has been about her mother's death and her emotions around it. More than anyone other than maybe Sam, this is a theme with the potential to cut straight to her heart and add a ton of emotional resonance to what will probably be a strong and inventive performance. If she can just get there. Enough to win? Maybe not. But it could be thrilling. I really wonder what this would have been like on the full stage. A lot of the performances that suffered from isolation were the energetic ones, but this one is also in "what could have been" territory. The grandeur of the arrangement begs for a full on-stage orchestra and dramatic lighting, and I think a more present in-person accompaniment would've smoothed out the edges of that one vocal snag. It also could've gone a completely different direction. This is a song which begs for an a cappella arrangement, and that's Sophia's background. Could she have tried to deliver it with just the backup singers? Could've been interesting. Thanks COVID. 7. Jonny West (Previous Round 6) “Faithfully” by Journey Jonny's kind of in a nebulous spot this week. In a lot of ways, he seems similar to Arthur. He seems very dedicated to his own musical style, and unlikely to really bend it to fit the Idol audience. It's a style which I enjoy more than Arthur's and which I think is more unique to him, but the likelihood of really calculating his choices to win votes feels similarly low. That's won him supporters, and there's a good chance they get him through to the next round. But I'm not really sure he can gather more voters into his corner. At this point, we've seen what Jonny does, and either you like it or you don't. On the one hand, that style does focus on a kind of gently confessional emotiveness, which could gain some traction with the charged Mother's Day theme, but I don't know that there's any specific resonance there for him, and I don't think he's likely to force one onto an unrelated song. The other hand is that he's not the most vocally aggressive singer, and that could make it hard for him to stand out in the high stakes of next week. While I liked parts of this performance, it didn't really stick with me much. If anything, the moment when he tried to get bigger with it was the worst part, because it felt less authentic than the rest of the performance. I'm not really sure what else to say. I think he's a solid contender for 6th or 7th, because the people below him have their own struggles and it seems unlikely that both Julia and Sophia make it. But I don't know where he goes from there. I have NO idea what he does with Disney, which could either be fascinating or a disaster. I'm interested to see it, but I don't think it will get him to the Finale. 8. Grace Leer (Previous Round “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen I actually liked the countryfied arrangement of Over the Rainbow Grace used here, which had definite stylistic touches but wasn't TOO over the top with the cornpone. Standards have such solid musical bones that they can fairly easily be tailored into something more unique without losing their quality. I also liked that Grace was putting a lot of gusto into the vocal, and it seemed like she's really fighting for her spot. But I think it was just too forceful to be used from beginning to end, it worked against the dreamy nature of the song. While you could make a similar argument about Sophia's performance, I feel like that had elements which worked more closely with the song than Grace's did, and it also brought more dynamic variety to the song overall. Grace just ended up feeling a little desperate. It's probably unfair, but another strike against her was that I couldn't help wondering what Lauren M would have done with the same song and arrangement. While she couldn't really deliver the power that Grace did, she had a lot more finesse, and I think it really would have suited her. I wonder how many country fans feel the same, and have never gotten behind Grace because she was in direct opposition to the country contestant they preferred. Idol really did no favors to either of them with the faceoff, which remains baffling given how overloaded other archetypes ended up. For me, the contrast left Grace feeling more generic, like an Idol blueprint of a country singer instead of a naturally developed one. It just makes it hard for me to really click with her, and I feel like she's going to struggle to break through that mold to form a more unique connection. I also don't see any really advantage to either of the themes for her. It's never wise to completely write off a country singer, but it's also iffy to assume that they can fly through just on the basis of genre alone. If voters weren't motivated to get behind anyone else, she could sneak into the next round by default, but I don't think default can get her to the Finale. She'd have to pull out something huge, and I don't really see it. But hey, I've been surprised before. 9. Jovin Webb (Previous Round 9) “Voodoo” by Allen Stone I've said before, and I'll say again, that I really like Jovin. His style is one which appeals to me, and I think he's a charismatic performer and solid singer. Which makes me sad, because he really just does not work in this format. He needs audience energy to feed off, and a big space to work, and he's not going to get it. Like Jonny and Arthur, I think he has his style which he sticks with, and isn't able or willing to break from that to try to adapt to the circumstances. In a regular season, he might not have to, he'd be a pretty good fit for the kind of performance which works on the Idol stage. But in his garage, it doesn't work. I liked this performance reasonably well, but it felt like it underdelivered. Even in better circumstances, it has some of the same static quality as Sam's song, too much laid back relaxation to really hit the audience hard. He might have been able to compensate, but I don't think he'd be able to really turn it into a killer performance. I can't fully write him off. He's the only clearly Southern contestant left (Grace is unclear but I thought they said she's in California), which can be a powerful advantage. He's in a well-liked genre, which he basically has to himself, and hasn't really done anything that would clearly put fans of that off the way some might have been by Arthur's reggae Denver. I'd like to see him go another round, mostly because I like him and he'd probably choose a song I like. He also, if he went through, has emotional resonance with his back story of his mother's death the way Sophia does. But it feels like a slim chance. 10. Makayla Phillips (Previous Round 13) “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert Would you believe this was one of my favorite performances of the night? I haven't had any interest in the pop belting Makayla has given us thus far, I've never felt any connection to her, and while I would in some ways consider myself a country fan it's not usually for this brand of country. But I thought this just worked. She steered clear of all the pointlessly showy flourishes, and and delivered a sweet, straightforward performance of a good song. Without the burden of all the flash, she showed a precision to her phrasing that I found far more impressive, and you could still see evidence that she's a technically skilled singer without being smacked in the face by it. It's funny, she's kind of a mirror universe of Gabby, who was a proficient pop-R&B belter who was for some reason compelled to keep chasing after country. I feel like if Makayla had been going down the pop country route from the beginning, we'd all be resigning ourselves to her preordained victory while most of the Idolsphere grumbled about the country Mafia. But, alternate realities abound this season. It's on the strength of this one performance that I rate her chance higher than the typical doomed outcome of the Save. It's probably not enough to get through another huge cut, but if this were a singleton elimination I think she'd have an excellent chance of lasting at least one more round. It probably doesn't help her that all of the pop girls were cut at once, which makes it more unlikely that any of her potential pickup voters were willing to transfer over to her, and switching genre probably doesn't help. It seems like the most likely impact is she siphons off some halfhearted voters from Grace and they both go home. But I'll always wonder what the season would've been like if she took a different direction. 11. Louis Knight (Previous Round 11) “In My Place” by Coldplay. In keeping with the bizarro-Idol nature of this week, this was actually Louis' best performance I think. It's clearly the kind of music which he'd make after Idol, and he delivered about as good a vocal as he can. For someone who's been a C- performer all season, this was a solid B-. So hey, props to Louis for that. I just don't think he has any way of exceeding that. He doesn't have greater vocal resources as far as I can tell, he's not much of a performer, and his emotional limit seems to be "moist eyed puppy." It's not impossible for him to get through to the next round. The last spot or two are so close that they're likely to come down to the details, and being a cute non-threatening boy has a solid track record of being the detail that puts otherwise mediocre people through. But I don't see a way of him turning that into a Finale spot, much less a win. Maybe if Francisco had flopped, but right now Francisco is stomping all over Louis in terms of both arc and quality, and it'd take a big collapse on his part to reverse that. At most, I think Louis just limps into that 6th-9th spot where outmatched young things like Sanjaya, Seavey, Lazaro, etc finally get dropped. He takes a couple spots from people who were more deserving but also unlikely to win, and then scampers off. Meh. (Damnit curse, stay back.)
  16. They've said they're not counting anyone as a perfect game this season. Equating it to "perfect because the game was cancelled due to rain"
  17. This week is off to a better start than last week. And they've done a better job of making the "Home" song choices actually feel relevant to their homes instead of just being "Song I Wanted To Sing With Some Ridiculous Excuse"
  18. Well, this was probably one of the most anxious weeks since Idol first made its debut. There were so many unanswerable questions as to how the remote performances would go, how the contestants would cope, what ridiculous costume Katy would wear. Overall, the answers were… ok. Graded on the massive curve of completely new circumstances and high difficulty, both the show and contestants did about as well as they could. Not amazing (well, Katy’s costume was amazingly ridiculous), but nowhere near as bad as it could have gone. While some of the performances were deeply mediocre, but the long history of Idol trainwrecks there were no true disasters, and most of the weak performances were not the result of the format. Most were a matter of poor song choice, which has been the perpetual Idol boogeyman through every possible format. I thought the presentation, with the mixed visual angles, guest appearances by backup singers and band members, and most of the settings the contestants arranged, were pretty good, and the sound quality was actually better than many early-season performances. Which is still to say, nowhere near as good as a major tv show’s sound budget should be, but hey, low expectations. The one major failure was how heavily the show was backloaded, with almost all of the better performances coming in the later half of the show. ABC Idol has been consistently awful with how it paces episodes, and it’s exacerbated by a show like this where they’re coming in rapid succession and fairly homogenous. At the same time, none of the performances were truly GREAT. It remains to be seen if this was just due to adjustment to circumstances for both the audience and the performers, or nerves, and that future performances will deliver more thrilling results; or whether it’s just not possible to create a Moment in your living room. There are a lot of elements which go into an electrifying performance: superlative vocals or stagecraft, the element of the unexpected, a deep emotional connection, those we could still get. On the other hand, the adrenaline rush of uncertainty as to how a performance will land, the tricks of lighting and set and camera that add to the drama, the drama of an expansive arrangement (or the contrast of a scaled back intimacy), those aren’t really available. I still think it’ll come down to finding that elusive of-the-moment resonance between song and situation, but these are hard times to judge what that would be. Because there was such a relatively narrow range of quality between the performances, and they didn’t top out that high, I’m not sure they will have much impact beyond the current round of cuts. I don’t think any of the performances really made a big enough impact to permanently win over a large chunk of the voters, and if one of the weaker ones does slip through, I don’t know that anyone was bad enough to really be unredeemable. There’s also a lot of uncertainty as to how the cuts will play out. 20 people in a single vote are the largest potential elimination pool in the show’s history, and one of the largest single cuts (group rounds like 1-3 and 8 cut a higher percentage of the group at once, but with a known wildcard and, and with smaller absolute numbers). That adds a lot of uncertainty to the results even without the weird circumstances, and we could see some strange things happen. Beyond that, will we see everyone perform, since they’ll already be recorded and they’ve shown they can fill 2 hours fairly smoothly with 20 performances? Possibly, and if it carries over then they could do a double round of the Top 10/5, but it seems like the transition into the Finale would be weird (it will be regardless, but still). There’s talk of the judges having a save, but what does that mean. A wildcard? A single “nope, you’re not going home”? It seems strange to technically eliminate an even higher number/percentage, then give some of them a second chance, but given that high uncertainty I can see the producers being afraid of losing half their favored contenders in one swoop. It’s a big question mark. Given all of that, I’m not confident of exact rankings, and many of them would be more or less a repeat of last time. Instead, I’m going to put people in groups of their likelihood of advancing. Assuming a narrower field and wider range of quality, I’ll go back to normal next time. Top 20 Ranking Safe to Advance Dillon James (Previous Round 1) “Let It Be Me” by Ray LaMontagne Arthur Gunn (Previous Round 2) “Lovin’ Machine” by Wynonie Harris Samantha Diaz (Previous Round 5) “I Believe” by Fantasia Francisco Martin (Previous Round 7) “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry I would be very surprised if any of this group failed to make the cut, although they came into the round in somewhat different directions. If somehow one of them looked poised to be eliminated, I think the producers would bend over backwards to make sure the format allowed for them being saved. Dillon and Arthur came in as frontrunners, and neither of them did poorly enough to sabotage what I think are sizable and loyal fanbases. Dillon, I think, did a better job overall with his performance, maybe the best of the week in selling himself to his likely voters. The setting was on brand, the song choice was in character but not too overdone, and he performed well. While it may not have been so explosive or inventive as to win over many people who weren’t already well disposed to him, I think it probably locked in a fair number who were leaning his way. Arthur, on the other hand, didn’t do so well. I’ll give him credit for one thing: he chose a song I’d never heard, by an artist I’d never heard of, and that’s pretty rare on Idol. It’s a pretty standard blues song, but hey I appreciate some variety. I’m not sure it did him many favors though. The focus was on the energetic performance, and that’s not really Arthur’s strong point. He’s kind of an awkward performer really, and the close up camera (and probably the nerves) exacerbated his uncomfortable eye contact issues. That being said, he had presumably the largest fanbase coming in, and it wasn’t so bad as to put them off, so he should still be very secure. Francisco and Sam, on the other hand, were a bit more uncertain coming in, but they’re probably the two biggest examples this season of the kind of underdog/growth arc/feel-good contestant Idol and its audience love. People are going to want to get behind them, and that should be more than enough for this round. Again though, the details were different. Francisco, more than maybe anyone else, overperformed expectations. The possibility that the lower pressure situation would calm his nerves did pay off, as he seemed comfortable and smooth. While it wasn’t my favorite performance of the night (it was a bit Glee), I think it was aimed squarely at the audience for his classic shy-nonthreatening-cute-boy base, and he delivered it well for them. I’m not so sold on his being able to advance on that quality level to really push past his competitors as things get higher stakes (it kind of reminds me of Sam in S13), but it should be more than enough right now. Sam, on the other hand, underdelivered, especially given how compelling several of her previous perfomances were. It wasn’t a result of my previous concerns, her nerves didn’t seem to particularly strike, and since she doesn’t seem to have gone back to NYC the setting wasn’t awkward. But it was a troublesome song choice. Choosing to reprise past Idols songs is always iffy, and choosing a coronation song borders on self-destructive. That the usual coronation of choice is I Believe, which is an absolutely terrible song somehow elevated 100x beyond its quality by Fantasia’s commitment, is all the weirder. Sam lost some of the uniqueness which makes her so compelling, especially with throwing on a pageanty gown in contrast to her previous style. And yet… there are two things to consider. One is that, despite the shift and persona and the awful song choice, she ALMOST pulled it off. She still is compelling, and she mostly avoided the temptation many past Idols have felt to turn the song into a vocal showoff piece, which really wasn’t how Fantasia made it work. Like Arthur, I doubt it was bad enough to put off what was a sizable pre-existing fanbase. And beyond that, I can see a hint of what she was thinking with the choice (if not the gown). Fantasia was the prototypical hard luck contestant overcoming her struggles and winning the audience, and one of the first Idols to really sell a distinct style rather than fitting easily into a pre-existing box. Those are things Sam is very much following in the footsteps of, and while Summertime is undoubtedly the performance which most contributed to Fantasia winning, I Believe was the performance which really encapsulated HOW she won. As someone trying to win on a similar basis, choosing it hints at Sam having that elusive killer instinct which leads to someone finding the perfect choice for an Idol Moment. This choice didn’t come close to delivering one, but the potential is still there. If anyone delivers that game changing performance in the coming rounds, I still think it’ll be her. Strong Contenders Julia Gargano (tinaPrevious Round 3) “Human” by Christina Perri Jonny West (Previous Round 4) “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong Lauren Spencer-Smith (Previous Round “Mama Knows Best” by Jessie J Grace Leer (Previous Round 9) “Cry” by Faith Hill All of these contestants had fairly strong potential for success coming in, and delivered well enough that they could very easily advance. I rank them a bit lower for a couple reasons, though you could argue that in this round they did better than some of those above them. I think they came in with fanbases which, while substantial, were not quite as sizable as those above. I also suspect that they are a bit less vital to the producers’ plans for the season, and while in the case of a wildcard pick they would be likely candidates, I doubt one would be created just to get them through. Again, we’ve kind of got a pair of pairs going on. Julia’s performance was my favorite of the night, and paid off my expectations of her suitability to the format. It was a solid song choice, arranged suitably, and delivered with vocal prowess. I appreciate that Julia has a consistent and distinct musical style and point of view. While she may not be everyone’s type, her performances don’t feel like carbon copies of someone else. It’s a quality a few other people share (Jonny, Sam, Dillon), and could help them cut through the crowd in getting attention. That said, delivering performances which are strong but untroubled, without really reaching superlative levels, has been a dangerous place for contestants in the past, especially women. Jonny was an even more love-or-hate performance. He’s a very stylized performer, and it’s a pretty low-key style at that. However, this was the performance of the night which most resonated with the situation. “What A Wonderful World” is a sentiment a lot of people would very dearly like to believe right now, and I think that impacted why it closed out the night more than the performance itself. The performance was characteristic to Jonny, but very gentle, which could mute the impact somewhat. Still, I think people are likely to remember it, and next week might require something more substantial. It’s going to be tricky for Jonny to find a way to make his style impactful enough to stand out without the help of placement. The other two are less unique performers, but fill well supported Idol niches. Out of a large field of kind of generic belter teens, Lauren gave the most generically capable performance of the night. Which is not to take too much away from her. Mama Knows Best is a song which exists purely to be difficult to sing, and Lauren handled it capably. There are definitely Idol voters whose primary criterion is who belts the longest and loudest, and Lauren probably wrapped up a significant chunk of them. That being said, it’s not a song which does anything else, and Lauren didn’t really manage to infuse it with anything on her own. It should make a strong push for getting through this week, but I’m not so certain it can make a winning campaign without something for more of the audience to get emotionally behind. Grace is the opposite. Of the top 8 candidates, I think this was maybe the weakest performance (possibly Arthur, but it would be close). She did adapt fairly well to the situation, choosing a song that focused more on her vocals than a performance aspect she couldn’t really capitalize on in the circumstances. Cry is kind of a country version of Mama Knows Best, where it’s just kind of spitefully written to be difficult to sing, and Grace pulled it off fairly well. However, I don’t think she really delivered a knockout pure vocal to the same extent Lauren did, and didn’t add much more in the way of emotional punch or unique flourishes. However, she has a lot less competition to overcome than Lauren, so it may be enough to put her through. It’s going to come down to how much the country fanbase checks in, and how much might get siphoned off by Dillon. Usually, those fans are a powerhouse, but they’re not a guarantee of success. Last year, many people assumed Riley would make the Top 10 despite her weakness, just on the basis of being a country girl, and that didn’t pan out. You could argue that Laci ate up those votes, but Laci was an AGGRESSIVELY un-country country girl (she only performed a single non-duet country song, and even that wasn’t her choice), so it’s murky. Grace has a good chance, but I wouldn’t be 100% surprised to see her miss the cut. On The Edge Jovin Webb (Previous Round 6) “With A Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles Cyniah Elise (Previous Round 11) “Warrior” by Demi Lovato Louis Knight (Previous Round 13) “If The World Was Ending” by JP Saxe feat. Julia Michaels Sophia James (Previous Round 14) “Burning” by Maggie Rogers This is a big mixed bag of uncertainty, and they don’t necessarily have a ton in common as to how they got here. A lot of it comes down to what the audience is motivated by, and possibly what the judges are looking for depending on the format. Those last two spots (maybe three if one of the people above is shockingly cut) are going to be hard to predict. Jovin, disappointingly, was the contestant who suffered most from the circumstances, and took a big tumble in his chances. With a live band and an audience to play off of, and more opportunity to put the focus on his performance instead of the vocals, this could have been decently passable, though not outstanding. However, playing out in his garage it just seemed uncomfortable, and the vocals were rougher than they’d ever previously been. On the basis of this performance, he probably should be cut even though he’s one of my favorites. BUT, he’s kind of occupying a space which could have its supporters, on the basis of potential if not the current round. Since so few people went for a showmanship focused performance, he stood out of the crowd, and not everyone is terribly critical of vocal quality. Given that DeWayne was even more of a catastrophe, anyone who prefers their soul performances coming from a male contestant could lean towards Jovin. These aren’t GOOD chances, but they’re more than a lot of other people have. He’d need to get back to his previous performance quality stat if he wanted to make it past the next round though. I actually enjoyed Cyniah’s performance the best out of the belter blob, although she wasn’t as vocally pristine as Lauren. It was still a fairly strong vocal, and had significantly more depth to it than the generic belting of Mama Knows Best. Warrior may not be a timeless meditation on the human condition, but it has some kind of emotion. That being said, it was a less overtly attention grabbing performance than Lauren’s and came immediately after, which may dilute the impact, and there are lots of other contestants siphoning off votes from the same audience. It might be tough for Cyniah to make it through. Louis’ performance did nothing for me. It’s a terrible, weirdly choppy song, exposed his vocal weakness, and didn’t really go anywhere, though it wasn’t an overt trainwreck. He didn’t really bring anything to the table except the cute-approachable-boy factor. BUT, that factor has put many contestants through to the next round in the past despite weak performances. If Francisco hadn’t done as well as he’d done, I think Louis might have a stronger chance, but he can’t be entirely counted out. In a round where the performances were relatively even, demographics can be powerful, and those could be on Louis’ side. The judges also seem infatuated with his “potential,” so a wildcard could also go his way, though it would be dependent on who else might be in contention for it. Sophia’s in a strange place. I thought it was one of the better performances, it was an interesting song choice, she didn’t seem like she was boiling with hyperactivity as I thought she might be. There’s not that much competition in her niche, though her closest competitor’s chances of advancement are better than hers. She seems like she’d be worthy of a spot in the Top 10, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see her there. I’m just… not sure if she makes it. She ended up in the middle of most of the night’s stronger performances, and it may have made it difficult for her to stand out. Not really sure which way this goes. Unlikely But Not Impossible Makayla Phillips (Previous Round 10) “Greedy” by Ariana Grande Kimmy Gabriela (Previous Round 15) “Leave Me Lonely” by Ariana Grande Nick Merico (Previous Round 19) “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s This is kind of a limbo of people who I don’t think are LIKELY to go through, but can’t 100% write off. Two are somewhat interchangeable even by the belter blob standards, and one would just be… really funny. Kimmy overperformed a bit compared to prior expectations, but was saddled with the first spot of the night, and wasn’t really memorable enough to extend past that narrow window before other people came along to snatch the attention. Makayla was actually kind of vocally shaky, especially since her main thing prior was being technically solid, but had the slightly better Ariana song. I kind of wanted Valentina to appear in a dramatic mask behind her and vogue awkwardly till it ended. At least it would have livened things up. In either case, Lauren likely stole most of their voters, or at least the attention. While some Idol fans just go for whoever belts the most, it’s a more vocal part of the Idolsphere than of the actual voting population. One of them could take Cyniah’s place, but chances seem just as high of none of the three making it through, and more than one seems unlikely. As for Nick, haven’t I said previously that he had no chance? Absolutely. He probably still doesn’t, even though the second half of his performance was probably the best he’s been all season. He’s been a villain all season, and will undoubtedly be a villain till the end. But you know, more than half of the people this week only gave the most tepid reasons for going through, and there’s some small Vote For The Worst Remainder out there that might love a villain. Probably not gonna happen, but it would honestly be hilarious, so I’m going to imagine there’s a chance. Pack Your Bags… Um. Wait DeWayne Crocker Jr. (Previous Round 12) “I Feel Good” by James Brown Olivia Ximines (Previous Round 16) “bad guy” by Billie Eilish Franklin Boone (Previous Round 17) “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears Aliana Jester (Previous Round 18) “Run To You” by Whitney Houston Faith Becnel (Previous Round 20) “River” by Bishop Briggs You know, never say never. Weird things happen. I have mystical powers which guarantee the worst possible contestant advances, so one of these stragglers has a guaranteed spot. But yeah, the other four are out of luck. Four out of the five were already longshots to advance, and none of them did enough to get through. Olivia’s song choice was the kind of gamble which can build momentum if it works, but just played out as awkward and unwise. Franklin’s song was strangely arranged in a way which felt off kilter, and did nothing to counteract his sleepiness. Aliana went as generic as possible, and then sang badly at the end. Faith is also present. The only chance any of them have is my terrible curse. DeWayne though deserves special attention for just… tanking. I didn’t know it was possible to sing James Brown with that little passion, grit, or sense of the style. How do you make the Godfather of Soul that soulless? Did the Christmas tree steal his soul and replace it with holiday jingles? If you look at one of the ornaments really close, can you see a tiny DeWayne trying to escape and begging for help? These are the questions that keep me up at night. Which is why these writeups are dropping at midnight now. Welcome to the new normal boys and girls. I haven't read spoilers yet, so lets see how fast I get proven wrong.
  19. I'm touched to know I can improve your day during these blah times.
  20. Clinging to the Tightrope 4/25 Look, if I try tapdancing right now, my downstairs neighbors are going to murder me. We’re all on the edge, any tiny annoyance could blow things up. But even aside from that… I’m having a reaaaaalll hard time building any enthusiasm for the rest of the season. It’s been very up and down all season to be honest. The auditions were as pointless as they’ve been for a decade at this point, with a side order of really astoundingly terrible editing. Then, as has been the case in the ABC era, the season won back a lot of ground with Hollywood. I was starting to feel hopeful for how things would turn out… then quarantine hit. I was actually still feeling hopeful at that point, because I thought surely they would postpone the season till the fall. It would be an opportunity for the show to make structural changes to itself which have been DESPERATELY needed for years. Maybe they could even use the hiatus to build more episodes into the season, and capitalize on people’s need for a feel good story. This was the time for Idol to rebuild itself… but no, we’re going forward remotely. And I just don’t see this being anything other than a desperation tactic which at best maintains the tenuous status quo, and at worst sinks the show. It doesn’t help that the Hawai’i episodes were mediocre, with few standout performances and many terrible judging choices, or that the clip shows did nothing to maintain my interest in the cast. But… here we are. Given there are only 4? Episodes left to go, it won’t be long before it’s time to voice my thoughts on Idol’s future, so I won’t do so here. So, in all of that, what is the impact of the current format on how things are going to play out? I can see a couple factors. Fanbases rule the roost. With only a handful of episodes, it’s going to be very difficult to gradually accumulate fans the way some past champions have. Fans who have already been built up over the pre-voting rounds are likely to just keep supporting their favorites, rather than fluctuating over time. The “vote immediately” format already encouraged this, so it may be very hard for the stragglers to rise. One performance could turn it all around… to a point. This might seem like a contradiction of the previous point, but WHEN to have your shining moment on Idol has always been a tricky question. Stand out too early, and you can easily go far but lose steam in the final rounds to someone who slowly and steadily grew over time. Well, with so few weeks, any big starmaking moment is going to still-fresh when the end of the season comes… if you can produce one in your living room. And can survive long enough to get the chance. Performance will be limited. The circumstances of these performances aren’t going to allow much chance to put on a show. No camera work, no band or other people to play off and interact with, not much space to move around in. For the most part, people are going to be planted in one place doing their best. On the one hand, a couple of people who had an advantage in their stage energy are going to struggle to stand out on other factors. On the other hand, we’re probably going to be getting even MORE balladry than usual, which is going to make people blend together. If someone can find a way to deliver intensity without having to put on a full scale show, that might make a big impact. Big vocals are a big question mark. What kind of recording quality are they going to have? Did the show send them high quality equipment, or are they basically singing into an iPhone? If there’s not much soundwork available, a big belter moment could easily go badly. If your voice is big enough (and I can say this from personal experience), sometimes the recording device just can’t take it. If they’ve got some polished recording, then big vocals could make a big difference when there’s not much else to make a strategy of. Although, even then, the lack of a live band could make things weird. Sometimes you really need the dramatic backing to sell the dramatic voice. Going crazy powerhouse with a piano and an acoustic guitar CAN work, but it’s tricky. Contestants whose performance style is already geared towards the intimate might have it easier. So, where does that leave everyone as we go into… whatever is about to happen? These rankings are going to be pretty rough since so much is up in the air, but we’ll see where it goes. Full disclosure, I haven’t done an in-depth rewatch of the performances in a while as I normally would. But neither will most of the audience. In the name of finding drama where we can, lets do a countdown. 20. Faith Becnel Who? I honestly have no idea what Faith’s selling point is, or why the judges kept her without a question and left Grace/Lauren to a showdown. She’s had little screentime, doesn’t stand out as a vocalist or a performer, and hasn’t made any interesting choices thus far. Beyond that, there’s something hollow to her, like she’s doing an imitation of what she thinks a singer is supposed to be instead of being one. It really showed when she was next to Jovin, who reads as a natural to the core. I can’t see her making it past the first cut. Which, if past seasons have shown anything, means she’ll probably get a Wild Card. My curse continues. 19. Nick Merico Nick got an early villain edit which rarely goes hand in hand with someone making the voting rounds. Usually those types get mined for Hollywood drama, and then vanish, possibly with the benefit of a criminal record. Instead, Nick just kinda mediocred his way through Hollywood and Hawaii, which would also usually signal an unlamented cut. But here he is, in the Top 20. In a longer season, Nick could actually maaaaaybe have a chance at a mid-pack finish. Idol audiences love a redemption story, and if he actually started delivering some decent performances, he could potentially ride that for a while before his not-that-impressive abilities petered out. But I don’t think there’s time for it. He doesn’t have the good-will to make it through a brutal early cut, and because Hollywood was pretty boring instead of delivering more villainy there’s not even a memorability factor. His one possible advantage is given his acting past, he might have more money/equipment than most, so if that’s a factor he could look a little better. That’s going to be a stretch though. 18. Aliana Jester In a season with a lot of similar competitors going head-to-head, the biggest morass of clones is the “teenage belters fighting for attention,” and they’re also some of the contestants most impacted by some of the difficulties inherent in the format. So, many of them are likely to fall by the wayside. Of the group, Aliana’s solidly the weakest. She’s a passable singer, but her closest competition have attracted a lot more attention for their vocals. The only one of her performances I can really remember is her duet, which I mostly remember for the awkward flirtation. Aside from vocals, she’s not serving much of anything. Not much performance energy, no notable song choices. While her competition are kind of grouped tightly enough that she could jump some steps, there are a lot of steps till she hits Top 10, and not much of a path to navigate them. 17. Franklin Boone I like Franklin. He’s chill, he’s got a nice tone, he makes some interesting choices with his songs. On a season with some space to breathe, I could see him navigating a path towards somewhere in the midcard, although I don’t think he has quite enough star quality to really dominate the season. Unfortunately, nice and chill have a hard time when we’re in as cutthroat an elimination process as this is going to be, and the enforced intimacy we’re likely to get is going to make it harder for him to stand out with his style. He does seem like a seasoned professional, so if people are struggling to adapt to the situation he could pull it together, but given a fairly limited amount of screentime prior that seems like it’s more likely to get him to agonizingly close but no cigar, rather than fully triumphant. 16. Olivia Ximenes Olivia’s another teen belter fighting for limited space, and she faces a big obstacle. Vocally she’s decent, but not as powerful as her competitors. Her main advantage was being the performer among the bunch, the one who could put on show to narrow the gap, and potentially even slide past the stronger vocalists who canceled each other out. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an option here. Is there a way to infuse that energy into her performance without choreographing a full-on routine? Maybe. If she chooses her song carefully to go uptempo while still staying more or less in place, and her competition mostly chooses to belt their little hearts out, she could advance. But it feels unlikely. 15. Kimmy Gabriella Shock, another of the teens appears out of the crowd! Kimmy’s a better technical vocalist than Olivia or Aliana. In terms of just pure “look at this high note I can hit, listen to these runs” vocal equippage, she might outdo some of the other belters. But, bluntly, Kimmy is boring. The judges have called her on it before. She’s a vocalist, more than a singer, and it’s hard to make that memorable. Kimmy’s got a good voice, but not THAT good. To be honest, this is kind of a placement selected by default. While I don’t see a particularly huge obstacle in her way like the people below her, I just don’t see much of a way for Kimmy to stand out. In normal circumstances, I’d probably have put her below Olivia at least. But for the moment, she’s just kind of here, hoping a lot of people above her mess up. 14. Sophia James Now we’re getting into the territory where I’m not so confident of placements. The next couple of people could easily place higher, but the gap between them and the potential Top 10 could be a crack, or a canyon. Sophia’s gone up and down in my opinion over the various rounds. I liked her reasonably well pre-show, her audition was kind of a mess but part of that was bad editing. She had some ups and downs in Hollywood, but I liked her Hawai’i performance fairly well. She’s a solid vocalist, while not feeling like she blends in too much with the belter pack, and might have some interesting choices in her. The main problem I see is that Sophia reads kind of… desperate to me. She’s that a cappella/theater girl who’s constantly mugging and begging for attention. Which can work, when you’re in a group trying to stand out for the 15 seconds needed to be remembered. It can even work on Idol, where you don’t have long to work with and the show will be moving on before you can get too manic. But it feels like, in these enclosed performance circumstances, she’s just going to be bouncing off the walls like Flubber on uppers. While other contestants seem like they’re going to have issues with their actual performances, Sophia’s the one who seems most likely to just struggle due to her personality. If she could rein it in, she’s probably the first person in this list I could actually see making it to Top 10. But that’s a big question mark right now. 13. Louis Knight There are two forces at work with Louis. One is his audition, which did what it needed to. Sad back story, good original song, no blatant missteps vocally, high praise from the judges. That could give him a good start on the fan base, and cute inoffensive white boys already have a certain advantage there. The other side is everything after his audition, which (aside from one Hollywood performance) has been mediocre to awful. If people have been paying solid attention since the auditions, I think he struggles to get anywhere near the Top 10. So which wins out? Idol common knowledge would say demographics and first impression I think. If it were a longer season, I could see those pushing him through to Top whatever, and maybe outlasting some better people. But in the current circumstances, I don’t think Louis has enough oomph to really make people sit up and pay attention, and I’m not sure he was able to steadily build a fanbase through those Hollywood mishaps. He mainly ranks above some stronger competitors because everyone’s going to be under a lot of pressure, and some are going to flop. When that happens, demographics become a deciding factor. Look at the outcomes of the past two seasons Top 14’s. Most likely though, he goes home. He’s already home. Man, writing about this season’s weird. 12. DeWayne Crocker, Jr. I’ve gone back and forth on DeWayne a lot. Less based on my personal impression of him, and more based on how I think he fits into the meta-competition of Idol, the interplay of “who’s got a lane to themselves, who’s going head to head, what portions of the Idol fanbase are going to turn out?” That’s been hard to judge. Dewayne’s main advantage is he’s the only male contestant really going in on R&B, which while not the strongest archetype on Idol, usually has someone go at least a few rounds. Even the girls in similar niches seem like they’re leaning more towards the pop side than real old-school soul. So DeWayne could have some audience all to himself. Beyond that advantage though, he’s not that strong. He’s a solid vocalist, but not as in-your-face impressive as some past exemplars like Joshua or Jacob. If he were up against direct competition, I’d rate his chances fairly low. But he’s what R&B fans have got to work with. How will that niche factor play out in these circumstances though? That’s a huge unanswered question. The performances across the board are likely to be compressed into more similar space, just due to the unavailability of different styles of presentation. So, anything which makes someone stand out could be a plus. But will it be enough to overcome the hard cuts ahead? I’m not sure, especially because bloc voting in the current “cast up to X for however many people” has weird results. I’m not sure DeWayne can make it just on his on power. But he’s got a potential leg up, though I doubt enough to take him past Top 10 to Top… 5? What’s the next step? He’s also potentially in trouble if Jovin decides to go more in a soul direction, but there’s more to be said on that later. 11. Cyniah Elise I want Cyniah to do well. I think she has the potential to be the most interesting of the teen belters by far, and I find her likable as a person. Pre-show, she was one of the contestants who most attracted my attention, and I liked her audition. However, Cyniah has a big problem. She’s not really a belter. I really think that her voice is not strong enough for the stereotypical Whitney/Patti style vocals that she’s been giving in the later stages of the competition, especially when compared to her close competitors who are more proficient. I’ve seen that as her potentially fatal flaw from the beginning, knowing how Idol tends to push black women into a single box, and it seems like it’s been playing out as expected. In a way, that makes these quarantine performances potentially a huge boon to Cyniah, in a couple different ways. Just being forced into a smaller scale performance might be the encouragement she needs to go for more fascinating choices, both in song rep and in delivery. If she recognizes that the setting isn’t conducive to a Whitney moment, and chooses something else, she could suddenly stand out. And if I’m correct that the Idol staff have been nudging her in the wrong direction, being away from their influence (even if they’re still conferring from a distance) could help her get on the right track. All of this rests on a young person making smart choices, which is… kind of a risky bet. As much as I’d be happy to see her slip past a couple of the people above her, she could very well fall just short while they continue on default paths that get them farther. But there’s hope! 10. Makayla Phillips To be honest, I don’t really like Makayla. The pop belter is one of my personal least favorite Idol types, I have little patience for teens still working out their artistic instincts, and Makayla specifically I don’t find to be very interesting. But with all that said, I acknowledge that she has a solid technical voice, without doing TOO much pointless showing off compared to some of her rivals. Having already been through the reality show wringer, she’s probably more prepared for the stress than most of the contestants. And the show’s clearly in her corner to some degree. Of the belters, I’d say she came out of Hollywood the best (though maybe not Hawaii). Of course, that only gets her to Top 10. I have very few ideas as to how she manages to stand out enough to make Top 5 over more interesting and strongly supported contestants. Is it possible? Sure. But she’s going to need some out of the box thinking to manage it. 9. Grace Leer Grace has some unique advantages going forward in the competition, which could get her some traction despite a kind of middling early presentation. She’s now the only fully country contestant among the women, which is alway a hefty advantage, and while Dillon and maybe Jovin are in that same territory, neither is as clearly in the Idol Country Cube as Grace. She also has a strong boost in terms of fan activation, as the only person who people have voted for already. That’s gotten iffy competitors through a few rounds in the past (Ben Briley, Jermaine Jones), and combined with the country factor it gives her a solid chance of making Top 10. She’s also had some fairly solid performances thus far, so she doesn’t seem like she’s necessarily going to fall on her face and mess things up. However, I’m not sure the format is going to do well by her abilities. She’s a decent vocalist, but seems more like a performance-oriented contestant, and there’s not going to be much opportunity. To be fair, I think she has a better chance in her repertoire of translating that energy into the performance without having to run all over the place than Olivia has. But she’s at a disadvantage if we’re just going on vocals and interpretation, and I’m not sure the early voting benefit will carry through past the next round. A lot is going to come down to how activated the country audience is. 8. Lauren Spencer-Smith Well, Lauren has one big benefit to recent events: We no longer have to specify WHICH Lauren we’re talking about. Maybe that’s more of a benefit to me, but don’t I deserve something good? Like a lot of people in this middle muddle of maybe Top-10ers, Lauren’s had a bumpy ride. Coming into the show, she seemed like a plant: Juno nomination, viral video, precocious teen singer. That meant expectations were high, but also that opinions could potentially turn against her (like they have against past ringers like Joanna Paciti, or even ones who got on the show like Carly). Then she auditioned and it was… meh. Not helped by another awful editing job, but nothing that impressive in what we heard. Hollywood was ok, but I was writing her off as another of the teen belter blob who’d likely struggle to make headway, especially with the plant problem. Her Hawai’i performance though was one of the best, with the benefit of being strong in the middle of a generally unthrilling round. She delivered one of the best vocals thus far, and about 100 times more personality than we’d seen up to that point. So she’s burst out of the blob to be the belter who might beat the belles. Help, I think I’m stuck in a loop. Will she be able to translate that into more than Top 10? I’m not sure. She could be poised for the kind of breakout performance that puts her into the finale. But there’s ground to make up, and that plant issue is always lurking in the background. Plus, where IS she, given that she’s Canadian? I’m not sure that makes that much difference to voters, at least without a long competition to build resentment. But it is a little odd if she’s coming to us from British Columbia. 7. Francisco Martin Francisco is frustrating. He’s got a good voice, he’s passionate. He’s got good taste in music. But he’s been SUCH an emotional mess that it’s hard to get invested in him. I know Idol audiences love a growth arc, and kind of love a mess who becomes not a mess. I don’t really. I like to see competent people doing their thing. But hey, what do I know. In light of that, the isolation of this format might be a blessing for Francisco. It’s weird and high pressure, but maybe the security of being at home will let him focus and overcome his nerves to give performances at full power. If that’s the case, people could unite behind him and push him deep in the competition. Or he might crumble under the pressure without guidance. It’s a big question mark. More than anything else about him, it’s going to be what determines his fate. 6. Jovin Webb Jovin is probably my favorite contestant of the season. He’s distinctive, charismatic, a real joy to watch as a performer. I appreciate the intensity he brings to his vocals without making me terrified that he’s going to fall apart. He also has a gift for crossing a lot of genre lines, without coming across as scattered. I’d really like to see him in at least the Top 5. I’m not sure I can put him there yet though. It mostly comes down to storyline. While he had a strongly received audition, with an emotional story backed up by a great performance, it’s been a while since then. He was strong in every Hollywood round, and solid in Hawaii, but didn’t necessarily get a ton of focus in any given round. It feels like, while he’s not in danger per se, he could have an issue overcoming the built up fanbases of his closer competitors. That genre versatility also makes it a bit tricky to triangulate who he should be courting. Does he stick with the Southern rock/blues vibe of his audition, where he basically has the field to himself? Try to dip more into country or old school soul, where he basically only has one competitor? Trying to cover too many bases is risky, especially with so little time to do it in, but if he could combine two of those bases, it would be potent. Especially since he seems self-assured, and ready to deal with the challenges of this format. I hope he can grab the attention needed. 5. Samantha Diaz Prior to the change in format, I don’t think I would’ve put Sam lower than 3rd. She’s one of the contestants who’s received the most attention to the show, with a ton of focus on her story and background. She was strong in several rounds, with a great first Hollywood performance, unexpected but fun Hawaii song, and a solo performance of I’m Here which was maybe the best performance of the season. After that I looked at my husband and said “She just gets it. Most of these contestants don’t even know what ‘it’ is, but she understands it at her core.” It’s that depth of feeling and connection that sells a song, that you can’t teach someone who doesn’t feel it. It makes her a serious contender for the win, especially with the kind of story Idol loves. BUT, I can’t critique Francisco’s nerves without also remembering that her audition was an almost uncomfortable struggle with nerves, and on a couple of occasions she’s needed security blankets to keep her going. She’s been more consistently strong than he has, but it’s still a cause for concern. Especially because, while Francisco seems like his nerves are from the pressure of expectations and can find focus in more private efforts, Sam feels like she feeds off a crowd. Just performing in her living room might not give her the feedback she needs to really lock into a performance. The other question is that story. Given her background of struggles, what kind of situation is she going to be in for recording these performances? It doesn’t seem like there will be much space for her to work with. At the same time, this could go both ways. While she might be working with limited resources, it could be a reminder of her story which amps up the emotional impact of her efforts and puts people in her corner. If she becomes the image of what Idol is supposed to be in a time like this, and she can keep tapping into her emotional resources, she could go all the way. 4. Jonny West This is a BIG leap from where I would’ve put Jonny for most of the season, and maybe the biggest uncertainty I have about a placement. Jonny impressed me a lot pre-season, both as a songwriter and a singer, and his audition was good. But his audition was also yoked to a storyline with Margie, in which he kind of seemed like the less focused-on sidekick. While his Hollywood performances weren’t (aside from the duet) TERRIBLE, they weren’t really that impressive. Most of the attention was on his relationship with Margie, and it was getting old. Once she was eliminated though, he seemed to blossom in Hawaii. It was best vocal thus far, and he sold the song a lot more strongly than previous efforts. It also kind of turned the storyline into something more palatable, just a note in his background. That gives him some momentum coming into this round. The main factor in this placement though is that Jonny just feels like the kind of performer who would benefit from these constrained performance circumstances. He comes across as very internal and introspective, very self-contained. He’s maybe the most suited to just playing in his living room, and the momentum could open the door for him to really impress doing so. I’m not confident exactly, but I’m interested to see what happens. 3. Julia Gargano Julia’s another favorite of mine, just in terms of the kind of singer I like and who I’d personally pick to vote for. She was the person who really grabbed my attention before the show, with a really distinct voice and some great original songs. Her audition was also very strong, and her Hawaii performance was great, although some of the rounds in between weren’t so impressive. While I don’t really believe it’s a factor in who DOES win, she’s probably the contestant who would have the best chance of making a successful career with Hollywood Records (although how good a chance that is would still be hard to say). I could see the show getting behind her. I also think, like Jonny, she’s well suited to these performance circumstances. While she’s not as in her own head as he is, she seems comfortable just delivering what she has to offer on her own with a piano and an intimate atmosphere. My biggest worry about her previously, that she might be pushed for more aggressive vocals than she’s capable of, doesn’t seem likely to happen at this point. She could be formidable. Is she going to suffer from not getting that much focus on her personal life and story? Maybe. While she’s been good, I’m not sure if she’s gotten enough attention to be secure. While I feel like she’s strong enough to make Top 10, she can’t afford to slip for even a moment if she’s going to overcome other contestants’ back stories. But there’s a chance here. 2. Arthur Gunn Arthur, at this point, is probably the presumed winner. He’s singing a popular style of music well, and has a memorable story as an immigrant trying to make it big. There’s also something charming about him which people have latched onto. He’s been consistently raking in much higher social media numbers than anyone else. The show is clearly in his corner, since he’s received a ton of attention in most rounds. He’s the one in front right now. Presumed winners rarely win on Idol though. Not NEVER (Carrie, Scotty, cough). But it’s difficult to maintain that level of support beginning to end through a season. People start taking you for granted, and start uniting behind someone else. The short, awkward season might work in Arthur’s favor though. There’s not much time for anyone else to build the momentum to challenge him, or for people to start getting bored of him. He could easily ride his current wave to the end. I’m not sure about Arthur. There’s something which I kind of miss in his performances, though it’s hard to put my finger on it. While he performs well, I’m not sure he’s particularly unique, which makes me tune out a bit. It’s honestly a bit frustrating that I can’t articulate more clearly why I’m not fully behind him. He’s not as clearly content to just deliver average performances straight till the end as Laine was. But he does somewhat feel like Laine in that I have a hard time imagining him doing something which really blows me away. It could happen. And if it doesn’t happen, he could still win. I wouldn’t hate it, but I’m not sure I’d love it. 1. Dillon James While Arthur is the presumed frontrunner right now, there’s something which just says to me Dillon’s going to take it. He’s also grabbed a ton of attention, both for his performances and his story, but stayed a bit in Arthur’s shadow, as well as some of the other drama bombs happening around him in Hollywood. Never quite in the center spotlight, but always on the edge, jumping out to more prominence in the Hawaii episode. He also delivers a lot of things which are vote getters on Idol: country-adjacent, good looking white guy, sad backstory which he’s overcome. On paper, he seems like a major threat for the Idol crown, despite hanging back a bit. I think what sets him apart though is that all those standard traits are a bit… twisted. A bit askew. He’s in the vague region of country, but he’s not at all a standard Nashville country type. He’s almost a throwback to the “Western” part of Country and Western, the lonely cowboy prairie song thing that doesn’t hit the mainstream anymore. The good looking guy has a giant chest tattoo, and kind of looks like a cult leader. Kind of has a cult leader air about him in general. That backstory is a lot darker than the average Idol sob story. It kind of makes you do a double take. And when you need people to remember you, and remember to vote, that can be potent. He also has the same benefit that Julia and Jonny have, of feeling like the kind of performer who would be happy just singing in his own world, and letting people tune in as they choose. It kind of goes hand in hand with that off-kilter vibe, like you’re getting a glimpse of something you weren’t expecting to see, but you want to watch more. I wouldn’t put money on ANY outcome in this weird format. But my gut says Dillon takes it. We’ll see what happens. Less than a day till the weirdness kicks off!
  21. I haven't decided. TBH, losing the last 5 years of writing when the site rebooted killed a lot of the joy. We'll see how the new crop does getting me interested
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