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thenghreport

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  1. Kelly Clarkson Taylor Hicks David Cook Ruben Studdard Fantasia Barrino Phillip Phillips Carrie Underwood Scotty McCreery Maddie Poppe Kris Allen Chayce Beckham Candice Glover Lee Dewyze Jordin Sparks Laine Hardy Caleb Johnson Trent Harmon Nick Fradiani Sam Diaz
  2. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 4: "Your voice is going to save someone's life." When we get to the Top 4, it's less about who was the "best singer" of the week than it is about who delivered the "best set." This was a bit of an odd evening since Idol had to scramble after the shock disqualification of Caleb Kennedy. They added duets, guest artists, etc. It felt a bit chaotic and pieced together, but that didn't prevent the final four contestants from each having a very strong night. When I look at my rankings for this week, it feels a bit odd. Obviously, as you can see, I ranked Chayce last... but it doesn't feel right to me. On average, I think Chayce had a slightly worse night than the others, but I still feel like he had the best "Winner's Single" and had a very nice duet moment. So, while it all adds up to me on paper, it doesn't quite feel right in practice. Either way, let's dig in. Let's first discuss our eliminated finalist: Casey Bishop - Big fan of Casey. She's got a hell of a voice and a big future ahead of her. So, what happened? I will admit I was pulling for her to make the Finale. I think she earned it, but when you have a Top 4 this well-regarded, anything can happen. I actually think Casey did herself a bit of a disservice tonight by bringing back "Livewire." I think the Idol audience is more impressed with Casey's instrument on more classical material than they are on watching her head bang on stage. It kind of reminds me of Constantine Maroulis' run back in Season 4. He was one of the "rockers" of the season, but after a while... he merged into a completely new lane. He started singing less rock and more emotionally resonant music. It felt like he was really finding his niche, and then... one week he decided to go back and sing another gritty rock tune, and BAM! Gone! So, I think either Casey's new fanbase was less impressed with the rock than her initial group of supporters, or the "wish u were gay" number didn't particularly land with those in middle America. Or, it's just a tough year and there will be moments like this (ha) along the way. On to the rankings! 4. Chayce Beckham - "Colder Weather"/ "23"/ "You Should Probably Leave" This was a better week for Chayce than last. I thought "Colder Weather" was a bit dull, but he had a very solid rest of the show, with the highlight being his self-penned Idol single, "23." It's the best tune of the bunch and people ate it up on iTunes. So, will Chayce be the last man standing next week? If you look at Idol statistics, you'd feel pretty comfortable saying "yes." He's the "Idol type." But, if you're using the iTunes chart success as the reason why you think Beckham is going to take the crown... I'd caution you that iTunes purchases aren't necessarily a great piece of data. What does iTunes really tell you? It tells you that of the people who buy music on iTunes AND watch American Idol, Chayce came out on top. But, who are these people? Do they vote? In what numbers? Are they a microcosm of the actual voting population of Idol? We just don't know. Willie Spence had the worst performing single on iTunes, but Willie's style isn't traditionally known to top the charts, so the folks who may want to vote for someone like Willie perhaps aren't the people who purchase their music on iTunes. I'm not saying Chayce can't win... I'm saying if you are looking at iTunes as the evidence that Chayce is unbeatable... I don't necessarily think that's true. But, could he win? Oh, hell yeah, in a walk. 3. Casey Bishop - "wish u were gay"/ "Love Me Leave Me"/ "Livewire" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 2. Grace Kinstler - "A Moment Like This"/ "Love Someone"/ "Father" It was a bad choice to sing "A Moment Like This." It always is. The only person who can make that song work is Kelly Clarkson. Note: I didn't say the only person who can sing that song is Kelly Clarkson, I said she is the only who can make it work. It's a bit of a dull song and it only works as a piece of musical theatre. It only worked for Kelly because it perfectly captured the moment. It was our very first Idol coronation moment and it was a perfect fit. 20 years later? It can't be reproduced. So, odd choice for Grace there. I think her single was fine. It's not great, it's not terrible. We got about 30 seconds of it. But "Father?" Man, that @#$% was transcendental. She killed that. It was touching and honest and focused and one of the best things Grace has done all season. So, can she win next week? Honestly, out of the Top 3... she's the one I'm least confident about... One thing she has going for her is that she is the only female contestant remaining and, typically, that can help with votes. Some folks out there really prefer a woman's voice to a man's. So, they really only have one option. We shall see! 1. Willie Spence - "Glory"/ "Never Be Alone"/ "I Was Here" I thought Willie had a hell of a week. "Never Be Alone," his new single, was adequate, but his other two numbers were fire. It was Willie at his finest. I'm not sure what else can be said about Willie Spence. It just feels like he has been the story of the season. But, if you are an Idol fanatic, you know that the "story of the season" contestants don't always win. Adam Lambert didn't win! Sometimes a contestant can sneak up and take it at the very end. It's what makes this show rather exciting at times. After everything I've seen this season, though, I do feel like he has done enough to deserve this win. But will he? Let's see how it all shakes out in a few days! Until next time! NGH
  3. I absolutely think Chayce could win this season... ...but I think using his #1 iTunes placement as the reason why is not great data journalism. It's an interesting data point, to be sure, but it's not necessarily predictive. It does tell us one thing: out of the people who watch Idol AND buy music on iTunes... Chayce is the big winner with these folks. What it doesn't tell us: out of the people who watch Idol and DON'T buy music on iTunes... who knows? Now, I ask you... based off of the show's demographics... which of those pools do you think is bigger? So, all in all, I'd say who the hell knows?
  4. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 7: "Mama Said" Almost forgot to write this one! Yikes. I've been doing this article for over 15 years without missing an episode so that would have been a hell of a thing. Anyway, this week was pretty crazy. Two eliminations AND a dismissal leaves us heading into the Top 4 tonight! Now, let's first discuss our eliminated finalists: Hunter Metts - I think plenty of us saw this one coming. Hunter needed to have a great night in order to break through the noise, and while he delivered some solid performances, he didn't get that "wow" moment that he desperately needed. He had a great run and likely has good odds at being picked up by an indie label. We shall see! Honestly, I'm not terribly interested in talking about Hunter this week as it just felt so inconsequential to where the end of this season is headed. Arthur Gunn - Ah! Now that's more like it! What did I tell y'all? What did I literally tell y'all last week? It didn't matter. Arthur wasn't going to be a spoiler this season. He would top out at Top 7 or Top 5. Can we all just take a deep collective breath now and realize how silly we were to react to this dude coming back for a couple of weeks to expand his fanbase? He delivered two very "Arthury" numbers which his fans loved and then he exited the arena. I will say though... after hearing the Idol singles they recorded and will be performing in the Top 4... it felt like Arthur had one of the best ones. Probably the most contemporary and marketable I have heard him. Caleb Kennedy - Well, Caleb Kennedy WOULD have been in the Top 5 (and deservingly so with the entry of his stirring original, "Mama Said") but, alas, a photo came out with him sitting next to a guy in a Ku Klux Klan mask. You know... just one of those totally normal things we can all relate to. "Mama Said" that he was just a big fan of The StrangersI sequel, which is a guaranteed lie because no one is a fan of The Strangers sequel. But, even if he was? What's the defense? They wore masks in the movie so Caleb also wanted to play around with masks and the only mask they had lying around was someones Klan robes?! How is that better?! Look, I get that Caleb was 12... but what is happening in your life where you just have a friend with a KKK mask on hand? Why did they have that? Whose father or uncle owned it? What's going on?! It's just a very bad, very dark, very sinister picture, and yes, it may have been an innocent moment, but it's 2021... and we just aren't shrugging off emblems of racial murder and hate crimes. Caleb will be FINE. He's a very talented songwriter who has amassed plenty of fans, and most of his conservative ones are going to rally to his defense thinking he has been "cancelled." So, he will have a record deal within a month or so. On to the rankings! 7. Chayce Beckham - "Magic"/ "Mama" I thought this was Chayce at his dullest. Very simple arrangements. Very paint by numbers. He was really just allowing his style to do the work for him and I don't think it did him any favors. He still made the Top 5, but did he gain new friends with those numbers? Eh. Maybe? I thought "Mama" was sweet, but it wasn't a well-written song. So, in my opinion, it just kind of showed me some of his weaknesses. Still, he's got his people! 6. Casey Bishop - "Paradise"/ "Ironic" This was a step back for Casey. The past few weeks she has really been picking the right tunes and creating mini-moments for herself. These two numbers were fun and light, but didn't have enough gravitas to actually make them memorable. I'm also incredibly confused why "Ironic" was her Mother's Day number, but sure. Still, Casey soared on through! She remains the dark horse in this competition and if she can fix her mistake next week by picking some really relevant and deep tunes, she could find herself in the Finale. 5. Caleb Kennedy - "Violet Hill"/ "Mama Said" Please see my comments above. 4. Arthur Gunn - "In My Place"/ "Simple Man" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 3. Hunter Metts - "Everglow"/ "The River" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 2. Willie Spence - "Yellow"/ "You Are So Beautiful" Willie is trucking along. Still! He just gets how to play this game. These two songs may not have been the most creative set list you've ever seen on Idol, but they are big, popular numbers that we will remember. Willie is consistent and that consistency is his greatest weapon. Every week he manages to deliver at least one performance that gets people talking and sharing his social media links. It's working. He's a bright guy. Still very much in this thing as a frontrunner. 1. Grace Kinstler - "Fix You"/ "When We Were Young" Grace REALLY needed this week. She was my pick for a shock elimination in Top 7, but, luckily for her, she managed to break through the fog and realize she was in a competition. She couldn't just pick songs that spoke to her, she had to pick songs that she could use to connect with the viewers at home. She just blew the others away tonight. It wasn't even close. She won both rounds by connecting with the lyrics, telling a story, and singing her face off. If she does this next week, she may be able to upset Willie for the crown. She's got the momentum again. Until next time! NGH
  5. Caleb won't suffer because of this disqualification. If anything, it will make him MORE LIKELY to get a record deal in the near future. The kid is going to be fine. He's talented, young, and, hopefully, will learn and grow from all of this. But the excuse his mother gave is.... a yikes. Let me get this straight... the claim is that Caleb was a big fan of The Strangers: Prey At Night which is why he and his friend had that mask? That's the excuse?! A. It's a Klan mask. It's obviously a Klan mask. There is no Klan mask in that movie. Even if the idea was just to put on a white mask... why did they have a Klan mask lying around to make that video?! B. Being a fan of The Strangers: Prey At Night is reason enough for disqualification from the competition. It's a bad sequel.
  6. Eh. I dunno. My theory there was based on how that episode went for the two of them (Sophia and Makayla), but yea, no one knows.
  7. I think this is true for SOME seasons over others. For instance, there were certain seasons, where the frontrunner was SO well-established and obvious that no one else even had a chance. I'm thinking of Season 12 where Candice was just killing it week after week. I wouldn't blame some Season 12 alumni who wanted to come back and give it another go.
  8. The thing with so many of the past finalists is that VERY FEW of them were actually contenders to win. Like, maybe two or three each season? The rest of the finalists always just felt like "also rans" that could serve as a spoiler or potentially a surprise runner-up. Many of them never screamed winner.
  9. I figured for smaller labels with less strict contracts, they could probably just part ways if they viewed getting back on Idol as a big enough opportunity.
  10. Yep, good work. Man, I would love to see the following people again: Jessica Sanchez Angie Miller Jena Irene Alex Preston
  11. lol! I just did this myself as a separate topic! Feel like I wasted a lot of time now; great job
  12. I was feeling bored and wanted a reminder of the unrelenting force that is time, so here is a list of former Idol finalists that are now eligible to re-audition for American Idol Season 20. Aaron Kelly (Season 9, 5th Place) Lauren Alaina (Season 10, 2nd Place) Thia Megia (Season 10, 10th Place) Jessica Sanchez (Season 11, 2nd Place) Hollie Cavanagh (Season 11, 4th Place) Skylar Laine (Season 11, 5th Place) DeAndre Brackensick (Season 11, 8th Place) Shannon Magrane (Season 11, 11th Place) Angie Miller (Season 12, 3rd Place) Amber Holcomb (Season 12, 4th Place) Burnell Taylor (Season 12, 7th Place) Devin Velez (Season 12, 8th Place) Jena Irene (Season 13, 2nd Place) Alex Preston (Season 13, 3rd Place) Sam Woolf (Season 13, 5th Place) Malaya Watson (Season 13, 8th Place) MK Nobilette (Season 13, 10th Place) Emily Piriz (Season 13, 12th Place) Jax (Season 14, 3rd Place) Tyanna Jones (Season 14, 5th Place) Quentin Alexander (Season 14, 6th Place) Qaasim Middleton (Season 14, 8th Place) Daniel Seavey (Season 14, 9th Place) Adanna Duru (Season 14, 10th Place) Maddie Walker (Season 14, 10th Place) Sarina-Joi Crowe (Season 14, 12th Place) La'Porsha Renae (Season 15, 2nd Place) Dalton Rapattoni (Season 15, 3rd Place) Sonika Vaid (Season 15, 5th Place) Tristan McIntosh (Season 15, 6th Place) Lee Jean (Season 15, 7th Place) Avalon Young (Season 15, 8th Place) Gianna Isabella (Season 15, 9th Place) Olivia Rox (Season 15, 10th Place) Caleb Lee Hutchinson (Season 16, 2nd Place) Cade Foehner (Season 16, 4th Place) Michael Woodard (Season 16, 5th Place) Catie Turner (Season 16, 6th Place) Jurnee (Season 16, 7th Place) Ada Vox (Season 16, 8th Place) Michelle Sussett (Season 16, 9th Place) Alejandro Aranda (Season 17, 2nd Place) Madison VanDenburg (Season 17, 3rd Place) Laci Kaye Booth (Season 17, 4th Place) Walker Burroughs (Season 17, 7th Place) Alyssa Raghu (Season 17, 8th Place) Uche (Season 17, 9th Place) Arthur Gunn (Season 18&19, 2nd & 6th Place) Francisco Martin (Season 18, 3rd Place) Dillon James (Season 18, 4th Place) Jonny West (Season 18, 5th Place) Louis Knight (Season 18, 6th Place) Julia Gargano (Season 18, 7th Place) Makayla Phillips (Season 18th, 8th Place) Sophia James (Season 18, 9th Place) *Does not include any Season 19 Contestants **Some final rankings are inferred guesses due to elimination patterns ***Many of these contestants are signed with labels which may make it impossible for them to compete.
  13. I'm sorry, where did you say that? If you said that, I'm happy to apologize for my dryness in my response. There was a lot of dialogue about Arthur misinterpreting a song last week so I thought this was in the same vein as those critiques. Hence, the emoji. I just don't see where you corrected yourself otherwise I never would have posted. My bad.
  14. The song starts out: "Mama told me when I was young Come sit beside me, my only son And listen closely to what I say And if you do this it'll help you Some sunny day." The song is LITERALLY about a mother telling her son how he should handle life.
  15. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 10: "Peter Panning Out For You" Top 10 night AND Disney night! I have to say... we've been doing Disney night for a number of years now and this felt like the best one. None of the performances were flops. They were all above average to excellent and many were personal bests for a lot of the contestants. We began the evening by adding our Comeback Performance winner to the Top 9 and, surprise surprise, that winner was Arthur Gunn. Can I just say... man, you people are salty about literally anything Arthur Gunn says, does, or is. It's not just here, either, there is a lot of salt going around about this. People upset about the twist, people upset about his performance, just... people upset. Like, don't we all have better things to do with our time? Here are the reasons I just flat out don't care about this drama: 1. It ain't Arthur Gunn's fault they invited him back on this television show! Who amongst you who have been like, "Another chance at making it? Nah. Passing on that, bruh." Literally none of you. It's like being mad at someone for accepting free money. "Hey man, want $100? The company wants me to offer it to you." "What's the catch?" "No catch at all! Enjoy the free money!" "Great, thanks!" All of you: "I'M SO ANGRY HE ACCEPTED THAT MONEY!" Bonkers, y'all. Bonkers. 2. He's not going to win! Will he push people out before their time? Sure, maybe. Will he win the whole thing? No. Let me get this straight... you think other people's fanbases are going to start voting for Arthur Gunn-- the guy who they apparently "blame" for their contestant getting kicked out? No. Arthur will likely be eliminated this week or the next and we will likely end up with the same Top 3 we always were going to end up with. Breathe. 3. I like Arthur Gunn. Dude's baller. Now, let's first discuss our eliminated finalists: Deshawn Goncalves - I actually thought this elimination was completely warranted. "When You Wish Upon A Star" BUT JAZZY was an odd arrangement for me. Sucked the soaring nature out of the song and turned it into an elevator tune. Pleasant, sure, but no way enough to drive votes. Deshawn made it so far, though, based on very little buzz. He's a great musician and even he looked like he expected this to be the end of the road. Alyssa Wray - Oddly enough, though I've consisted put Alyssa at the bottom of my rankings, I thought tonight was a personal best for her and she should have made it another week if we were judging it on this one performance alone. If I'm judging it on the season? Ehh... it was time. Alyssa is a common Idol trope -- a talented vocalist who has no idea what kind of artist they want to be. She's got a big voice and a dramatic way of interpreting music, but seems very uncertain about how she wants to package it all. I'm not sure if she is a strong actor, but if she is-- I'd recommend Broadway. Cassandra Coleman - This was the biggest heart wrench for me of the evening. Cassandra was one of my, if not the, favorites in this competition. I love her voice. It gives me goosebumps almost every time she sings. She's got a voice that was truly unique in this competition and I am sad we won't be able to hear it next week. But, am I surprised? I'm not. There was something about Cassandra that just wasn't connecting with the majority of voters. I'm not sure if was her indie stylings or the way she appeared on camera, but I could tell, weeks ago, that she was going to peak around Top 10/Top 7. So, sad to see it, but definitely not shocked. On to the rankings! 10. Deshawn Goncalves - "When You Wish Upon A Star" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 9. Caleb Kennedy - "Real Gone" A Caleb Kennedy best! This number was a bop. He came alive with a band behind him! It was energetic, well-structured, and he sounded more confident than he has in weeks. Honestly, it was the first time in a long time that it felt like Caleb was truly enjoying himself. Also, these types of performances are catnip to country voters. They love them. They can't get enough of them. All Caleb needs to do to stay in this thing next week is just play to his strengths -- truly stereotypical countrified tunes. Twang up everything. Is there a cello in the song? Nope! Cut that @#$% out. More twang instruments. Are we going along at like 80bpm? Nope! Ratchet it up to 120bpm and add fire. It's really his only shot. 8. Chayce Beckham - "Baby Mine" This bored me, Chayce. It was a cool vibe, but I was bored. Here's the thing about WGWG contestants: there's usually at least one moment where they deliver something kind of magical. Chayce just hasn't done that yet. He keeps delivering solid, stable performances where he sounds a bit like Bruce Springsteen, but he's going to need to shift into turbo next week if he wants to keep Arthur Gunn at bay. He doesn't have this gruff-singing troubadour lane to himself anymore. Arthur is now here... and he's got fans. Chayce is going to need to recognize that if he wants to continue on. 7. Hunter Metts - "You'll Be In My Heart" This was a bit of a step down from the last two weeks, but Hunter still delivered a very solid and nuanced performance of this Disney classic. The last fifteen seconds or so of the song were more like it and if he had found a way to build a bit more gradually I think, musically, he would have been in better shape. I honestly don't know how Hunter is faring in the votes this week. I wouldn't even wager a guess. But, I think he's definitely got some people, and they love seeing this tender side of him. 6. Alyssa Wray - "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 5. Cassandra Coleman - "Go The Distance" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 4. Arthur Gunn - "Remember Me" The reaction to Arthur deciding to flip "Remember Me" into something slightly brighter was a @#$%ing ridiculous sundae. Y'all. It's not sacrilege to flip a song on Idol. We've literally been doing it for years. "But he changed the entire meaning of the song!!!" How?! By making it less depressing? I mean, sure, some of the pathos was dropped, but... people grieve in different ways. You ever been to an Irish funeral? It's a friggin party. There are plenty of people that celebrate life in the process of grief. The idea of remembering someone can't be joyful?! Get the @#$% out of here. How was the performance, though? It was solid. It was Arthur Gunn. He's a known quantity. He can make an album now. He comes off as someone who is musical and knows the type of artist they want to be. It's why he does well on this show. 3. Casey Bishop - "When She Loved Me" Beautifully, nuanced performance from young Casey Bishop. Casey is my (and many others) underdog winner for this season. If she makes it to Top 3 against Willie and has a great night? Could be! She packs a wallop with her voice and seems to have a good head for all of this. I do wish this number had one moment where she could have really soared a bit more. It was grounded and refined, but I did want a little bit of fireworks. 2. Willie Spence - "Circle Of Life" Willie is trucking along. You may start to get bored of him, but I guarantee you most won't. He's consistently great. He knows what he needs to do and he is getting more and more buzz. It all feels very Ruben Season 2. Ruben's performance all started to seem really stable and repeated and we all thought, "I bet voters are getting tired of this!" But... they didn't. He won. Now, he didn't win big that final night... so, could someone still upset Willie? Sure, but if that happens... it will likely happen at the very end of this thing. 1. Grace Kinstler - "Into The Unknown" This song was ridiculous. It was clearly written just to let Idina Menzel flex. It's a vocal talent show number. Like, the structure of this song was ridiculous and the melody was practically non-existent. But, Grace needed this tonight. After several weeks of bonkers song choices, she needed to remind America why she was in this thing: she has a phenomenal voice. It's a voice that turns heads and moves mountains. So, Grace took the biggest step forward tonight in actually improving her chances to win this thing. Until next time! NGH
  16. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 12: "Perfection is an illusion." Big week of Idol! We had our first night of the Finals followed by a never-before-done comeback performance twist. I'll speak a bit more on the twist at the end of the article, but for now let's focus on this Top 12. Clearly, we have a lot of strong singers this season. Like... a disgusting amount of strong singers. So, the articles this season will be, more likely than not, focusing on performance and strategic choices, since these contestants are singing at such a high level. Obviously, you can be a great singer but play this game terribly, and I think we saw a few folks eliminated already for that very reason. Let's first discuss our eliminated finalists: Beane Hepler - Oh, Beane! Why did you get up from that stool? When I first heard that he was going to be singing the song from Dirty Dancing I was like... huh... dumb. Then he sat on stage, with a guitar, and started to flip it to something new and interesting and I was like... huh... smart. Then, he stopped doing that and started to get up and karaoke up the place and I was like... huh... dumb. This was my thought process that night because I was absolutely exhausted. Don't judge me. The point stands though! If you were just saved by the judges you have to go big and bold and make an impression! This wasn't it, so it was no surprise to see him eliminated. Madison Watkins - I actually thought, as per my rankings below, that Madison did the best out of the eliminated contestants. I don't think she really made a strategic mistake. She graced us with a mature, dependable, Idol performance. Nothing wrong with it. So, why was she eliminated? She just didn't have people! She's been an underdog throughout the competition, was luckily saved last week, and returned only to be eliminated. I think we all saw it coming. She should be proud to leave on two strong performances. Ava August - This one pissed me off. No, not because I believe it wasn't warranted; it was. Ava made a class Idol error... she fell for her own press. She had a standout week in the semi-finals where she delivered a one-two punch of "Driver's License" and the Groban duet and then she proceeded to try to build on that press by delivering two very ethereal and divisive performances. Did she sound lovely? Yes. Was she inviting? No. I think a lot of the general audiences just weren't grabbed by the indie pop princess vibe. Ava's fantastic and will be fine, but it was frustrating to watch her fall prey to a pretty obvious trap. On to the rankings! 12. Alyssa Wray - "This Is Me" I'm pretty much done with this song. The Greatest Showman isn't a great musical and this song is incredibly emotionally manipulative. Look, I suppose it was a good choice for Alyssa! She's a dramatic singer performing an overwrought melodramatic tune! I just feel like Alyssa now stands out to me as the most confused contestant remaining. She's just... a lot. The only thing I want to see from Alyssa for the next few weeks is to prove that she can actually do something subtle. She's got a top-notch voice, made for musical theatre, but there has to be something else there otherwise I grow bored very quickly. It's all a bit too paint by numbers. 11. Grace Kinstler - "Happy" Why the hell are we singing "Happy" as a competition song? Grace is, let's put this nicely, not great at song selection. She is very lucky she has one of the strongest voices in this thing because she is not great strategically. It's why I'm way more confident than most that Grace could be a shock elimination in the next week or so. I mean... "Happy?!" This is a contestant whose voice can move mountains and we are picking this type of material? Dumbfounding. 10. Beane Hepler - "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 9. Ava August - "City of Stars" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 8. Caleb Kennedy - "On The Road Again" We've now reached the "just fine" stage of this weeks rankings. These are the folks who did themselves no harm and maybe even attracted a handful of new fans. Caleb's performance was simple, lacking any real difficulty, but it was solid. This is who he is. He's an authentic country presence and this was a very popular song. He stood there and sang a very respectable karaoke version. No changes, no risks, just enough to move on in the competition. 7. Chayce Beckham - "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" Very similar to Caleb's comments above. Just fine! Solid! No real risks, but no real mistakes! Chayce is sailing through so far because there is, and will always be, a strong component of Idol voters who want to vote for a grit-infused vocal served over the tones of an acoustic guitar. It's an Idol story as old as time! I think Chayce will likely make the Top 5 based on his stability alone, but... there's a potential sign of trouble ahead of him... which we will discuss later on in the article. 6. Madison Watkins - "Run To You" ELIMINATED Please see my comments above. 5. Deshawn Goncalves - "The Way We Were" Deshawn is continuously surprised that he keeps advancing in this competition and it is endearing as @#$%. He's a really talented vocalist! So much musicality! He is also deceptively good at playing this game. Week after week he trots out some trick or vocal shiny object to get enough of the Idol voters to rally around him and take him to the next round, and... it's been working! Oh, what's that? I'm the underdog? Boom - acapella opening! Still the underdog? Boom - watch me sing acapella BUT NOW WITH A PIANO! Still not a frontrunner? Boom. Streisand classic topped off with ONE SINGLE TEAR DOWN MY CHEEK. He's a player of the game and I respect it. 4. Cassandra Coleman - "Writing's On The Wall" First of all - just an epic Bond tune. Second of all - probably my favorite Cassandra performance in weeks. It was confident, it was more precise than usual, and there was legitimate emotion shining through. She was really fighting for it this week and you could tell. There was a point in the middle of her song where she lost herself and went up a whole new level. It was pretty great to watch as I've always been a fan of the tone of her voice. Ava's elimination could pay dividends for Cassandra. We shall see. 3. Hunter Metts - "Falling Slowly" Hunter made an oopsie and I was like, "Huh. Wonder if anyone will notice that." Then, he completely fell apart on stage and broke literally every heart in America, and I was like, "Oh. So he's definitely getting the most votes tonight, huh?" It was a television moment you would pray for as an Idol contestant. "You're telling me I can deliver a pitch perfect performance for 99% of my time up there and make a barely noticeable lyric flub in the last three seconds, start sobbing, and immediately get sympathy from millions? Yeah... uh... I'd like to do that, please." Hunter has been on an upward swing lately and this moment will only help him moving forward. Great work, Hunter. 2. Casey Bishop - "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" We always say, "Oh that person's voice really soars!" But, y'all, Casey Bishop's voice soars higher than any voice in recent memory. The clarity of her upper register and the control of her vibrato is otherworldly. Do I think, for a minute, this fifteen year old has the depth of maturity to deliver standards like this in the way they are meant to? No. Not really. But do I think she can fool the majority of America by singing the song like she wrote it? Yes. Yes I do. Casey's voice is a very powerful weapon. I have yet to see it reach its limit. It's not the same style as Grace Kinstler's, but Casey's range is just as impressive. 1. Willie Spence - "Stand Up" Willie continues to be a triple threat in this competition: he picks the right music, he sings very well, and he is very easy to root for. So, do I still think this is your likely winner? Yes, I do. Saying that... Disney Idol has been... let's say... unpredictable? So, something could always surprise us or change our mind, but it's hard not to look at the amount of chatter about Willie and not assume that he the likely heir to Samantha Diaz. The Comeback Performances I could have gone with or without this twist. It's fine, I suppose. Like, I'm not angry, but I also just don't care very much. The only contestants we saw that have a shot at getting into the competition are Makayla Phillips, Louis Knight, and Arthur Gunn. So, let's briefly talk about what effect they may have in the competition if they are announced as the contestant rounding out the Top 10. Makayla Phillips - Very little effect. She was eliminated in the Top 11 last season and I just don't know if she has enough strength to contend with the current set of finalists we've been watching for the past few months. I think, like Madison Watkins, she would likely enter the top 10... and then immediately leave the Top 10. Louis Knight - Some effect. Louis made it a week further than Makayla and is still a fan favorite these days. He writes original tunes and has a lane that would directly compete against Hunter Metts. So, could Louis deliver a great performance in the Top 10 and survive? Yes, I think he could. Could he win the competition? No, I think that would be rather improbable. Arthur Gunn - Great effect. Look, if anyone has a shot at coming back and doing well this season, you would think it would be last season's runner-up. He proved he could get votes. He's got a lot of fans out there, and while he may not have enough to win against Willie, Casey, and a few others, he could definitely make life difficult for one frontrunner: Chayce Beckham. Chayce has really had his own lane lately, and Arthur Gunn could mean trouble for him if he made it into the Top 10. Arthur is that same gritty, Americana vibe... except, he's familiar to us and he almost won last year. So, let's see what unfolds! Until next time! NGH
  17. If I'm looking at the folks in the Top 12 who have a shot at this thing, it's: Willie Grace Casey Chayce Ava If Arthur Gunn is the returnee, I'd add him as well. I'd rank the odds of those folks winning at around this: 1. Willie 2. Chayce 3. Arthur 4. Casey 5. Grace 6. Ava
  18. ...basic pop music? Like, she's not my favorite, but I think it's pretty obvious what type of record she would make. It's not like she's going to cut a Gospel album or drop an Alt-Rock EP.
  19. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 16: "Instant Identity." What are we calling this round? Semi-Finals Week 2? Man, I miss the good old days of the Top 24 being whittled down by 4 contestants each week until we have a Top 12. What a fantastic format that was! Alas, we just don't have the episodes for that anymore, so we are left with this format which asks contestants to sit, nervous as hell, waiting for the results and then being asked to sing immediately after hearing their fate. I mean, look at how great some of the performances were tonight and... imagine how much better they could have been if the show allowed the contestants a bit more time to center and focus. Still, there were quite a few good performances in the Top 16 and now we are left with another cut of 4! Let's take a look! 16. Alyssa Wray - "Killing Me Softly With His Song" I thought this was a bit of a mess, honestly. The lower register in the verse was plagued by intonation issues and, stylistically, Alyssa is still a scattered contestant. She has this big instrument, but it's becoming more and more apparent (thanks to such a strong group of finalists) that she has no idea what she wants to do with it. There's no consistent them or an attempt to build a post-Idol career. It's without a strategy and I think that just is a terrible way to go about this competition. I think if she gets in the Top 12, which she easily could, it has more to do with her constant exposure on the show. Screen time is such a powerful ally. NOT SAFE. 15. Caleb Kennedy - "Midnight Train To Memphis" Look, this was a bit of a lame performance. It was lazy, but... it was fine. Country singers in this competition are just judged on a way easier standard. The music is easier, the fanbase is more loyal, and now that Caleb is the only country game in town, I would be shocked if that fanbase didn't pull him over the line, but... who knows? Perhaps that fan base is weakening? This wasn't really my jam, but Caleb is clearly going to do his thing and that authenticity is his most powerful weapon in his arsenal. NOT SAFE. 14. Colin Jameison - "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" Well, this was disappointing. I had a strong feeling Colin surprised enough voters to sneak into the Top 16, but I was hoping he'd keep that momentum going a bit longer. This was not it. This was an appetizer. There's not enough meat on the bones of this song to really make a meal from and Colin will likely see his Idol dream stop right before the Finals. Honestly, he should be happy he made the last cut. It's something to be proud of, but I think this was just the wrong song choice. NOT SAFE. 13. Graham DeFranco - "That's Life" This was a clever song choice for Graham. It's reworked to be in his style: a full on Mraz-vibe. I think Graham has a fabulous tone to his voice. It's pleasant to listen to and it really grooves, but I'm always hoping he can kick it into a higher gear, but it's just not there. I end up having to turn up my volume for Graham's performance since they just don't pierce the veil of sound in that studio. Graham is perpetually needing to do more. I think his stability and personality have got him this far, but I'm not sure, in a group as strong as this, he will be able to do what he needs to to make the Top 12. NOT SAFE. 12. Beane Hepler - "Searching For A Feeling" I don't really know what this was. It felt like half of a performance. It had about half of everything I would want from a Beane performance. It was halfway interesting, it was halfway magical, it was halfway dynamic. It just felt watered down and I think this could absolutely lead to Beane's elimination. I think he's got a fairly strong group of people in his corner, but was this performance exciting enough to drive voters to pick up their phones? It wasn't for me. NOT SAFE. 11. Deshawn Goncalves - "Feelin Good" Deshawn knows he has to dig in to pull this out. He is definitely a potential elimination tomorrow, so he's getting rid of all of the stops. He's tacking on yet another falsetto opening, he's playing the keys with flair, and he's doing everything he can to mimic an "Idol Moment." There's just one major problem... Deshawn doesn't really have that extra gear in his voice that allows him to melt the roof off of the place. He relies on a strong falsetto whistle note at the end, but it masks some vocal inability. So, what wins out here in viewers minds? The style of the substance? NOT SAFE. 10. Ava August - "2002" Ava needs to be careful here. It's only the Top 16! It's not time to break out incredibly unknown songs. We still need to get to know you a bit more and one great week shouldn't give you this much confidence to experiment. Establish a foundation and grow from that, but I think a lot of fans Ava made last week are going to be lukewarm and confused about this one. I dug it. I thought it was contemporary and chic and very on brand, but do I think it was a smart strategic choice? Absolutely not. I hope she has enough good will to get her past it. NOT SAFE. 9. Grace Kinstler - "Elastic Heart" For the most part, Grace is a first class singer, but she does have this one tendency to go sharp on notes in the middle of her register and this tendency was on display in this Sia song. I'd give it a B+, but those moments definitely showed this vocal powerhouse has some weaker areas that could be improved upon. I think the song choice was fairly smart, but Grace, like Willie, will be better served by picking more classic songs. Her path to winning this competition is in overpowering every other contestant vocally. So, to do that, you want to make sure you pick songs that have an emotional resonance with the audience, and I'm certain she could have picked something better here. Still, it's Grace, she's a guaranteed Finalist. NEVER GOING HOME. 8. Wyatt Pike - "Use Somebody" When they announced he was singing this song I was immediately confused, but they way he reworked the famous tune made it unique, interesting, and fresh. Wyatt is one of the contestants in this competition that can really get by with doing way less than others since his voice and style are just so synonymous with who he is. We know what we are getting. The judges gave him a very good critique. Wyatt needs to deliver a "Volcano"-esque performance next week to find some new ground to tread. I feel fairly confident he makes the Top 12, but not enough to call it. NOT SAFE. 7. Alanis Sophia - "The Story" Alanis knows her strategy. She's going to continue to pick haunting, belting-friendly pop songs that really serve as great competition pieces. Her song selection has really been on point and, since reaching the live rounds, her vocals have soared. The story of the season for Alanis has always been: who will the audience rally around? Casey Bishop or Alanis Sophia? The lanes are similar and I'm curious to see who finally breaks through. Still, this performance certainly makes an argument for her deserving to make the Finals. NOT SAFE. 6. Chayce Beckham - "Wait In Vain" This is a textbook example of a middle of the road performance. It was safe, but solid. It was authentic, but predictable. It was identifiable, but obvious. Chayce's voice is so easy to pick out that he can get away with just delivering solid covers, but I was hoping for a lyric with a bit more substance. I think it's quite obvious that Chayce is going to get through to the Finals. He closed the night out with a very authentic performance and I think plenty of voters will eat it up. I just want him to stretch a bit more. NEVER GOING HOME. 5. Cassandra Coleman - "Wicked Game" Perfect song choice for Cassandra. It's an older, but quite popular tune, and the dark, haunting qualities in her voice match up nicely here. This was also Cassandra's strongest emotive performance. She dug in, shed a lot of those nerves, and delivered the story of the song in a way she hasn't really done before. I think Cassandra has done enough to be voted into the Finals and I expect that to happen. NEVER GOING HOME. 4. Hunter Metts - "Skinny Love" Okay, Hunter! As those reading these may remember, my biggest critique of Hunter was that he has come off as consistently one-note, but this performance is more like it. The judges are right; he found a new level here. This new gear really allowed him to dig in and find more emotion in the material and it translated beautifully. What a fantastic cover of this song! His voice soars with it and, while it wasn't very original, it was incredibly solid and I think he's done himself a favor here. We shall see, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him sneak in with this one. NOT SAFE. 3. Willie Spence - "Set Fire To The Rain" Again... is this thing already over? I'm watching the metrics online of viewer count, how many folks are sharing performances, etc, and Willie is just dominating. He's broken through as one of the most viral sensations of this season. So, with the new truncated seasons, is there actually any time for anyone other than one or two contestants to make an attempt at overtaking him? I'm really not betting on it. Until I see evidence that shows me otherwise... I'm assuming this season is a race for 2nd place. NEVER GOING HOME. 2. Casey Bishop - "Black Hole Sun" I'm a little salty about this because "Black Hole Sun" was always going to be my go-to semi-final performance if I ever made the voting rounds. It's a brilliant song. Haunting, powerful, and leaves room for some pretty compelling orchestrations. So, I have to tip my hat to young Casey Bishop here. It was everything I hoped it would be and Casey continues to be an absolutely compelling singer with a voice that is large enough to compete with Willie and Grace. We shall see, but I think she's done enough to make the Finals. NEVER GOING HOME. 1. Madison Watkins - "Gravity" I am incredibly relieved that my prediction was inaccurate and that Madison made the Top 16. She is more special than her last performance made her seem and I thought she was fabulous tonight. Vocally, she was strong, but more than that... there was magic on the stage. My background is in musical theatre, so I am partial to watching singers really really connect to the lyrical material of a song and Madison did this more than anyone else in this episode. Hell, she was fighting back tears at the end. It all just felt special to me. Still, I just don't have a great grasp of how Idol viewers are responding to Madison and she is certainly still at risk of leaving the competition. NOT SAFE. Who should go home? Alyssa, Caleb, Colin, Graham Who will go home? Graham, Beane, Colin, Madison See you next time! NGH
  20. The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 24 Group Two: "Magic." After spending the week ruminating on (and rewatching) these semi-final performances, I am really missing the Top 24/20/16 elongated semifinals of yesteryear. It was such a better way to whittle down to our finalists as it allowed for growth and unknown contestants to find a foot hold. This elimination setting is so brutal. We are cutting 8 people in one week. It's just a lot. I am certain of SIX contestants who will make the Top 16: Willie Spence Grace Kinstler Ava August Chayce Beckham Caleb Kennedy Casey Bishop After that, I think folks like Alyssa Wray, Cassandra Coleman, and Wyatt Pike are also likely in, but the remaining 7 contestants will probably be a dogfight. Country contestants like Hannah Everhart and Cecil Ray both had an inordinate amount of screen time and were well-received by audiences, but... they sucked. It was easily their worst performance, and while the Country vote is popular, I'm not certain it can perform miracles. But we shall see. Other contestants who impressed in the past, but were either lukewarm or letdowns this week like Madison Watkins, Liahona Olayan, and Hunter Metts are definitely up in the air. Colin Jamieson, Anilee List, Mary Jo Young, and Graham DeFranco either did very well vocally, or completely surprised with their performances, so they are definitely wildcards in all of this. So, we shall see! As always, I've ranked the contestants based off of how successful I thought they were on the night of, and I broke up my rankings into the two groups (though I think we can all agree that Group 1 was stronger overall than Group 2). Today is Group Two! Here we go! Group Two 12. Hannah Everhart - "I Was Wrong" / "She's Country" It was so strange that both groups mirrored each other in that the worst performance of the night went to the young, green, Country singer. Cecil and Hannah were, without a doubt, the worst of the bunch this week. I don't know if it was the inexperience of being on a stage that loud, but they consistently were having pitch issues. They both performed better with their uptempo duets, as well. It was wild. It was like a parallel universe opened up and we saw the same performance... just with different people. Hannah has received a lot of screen time up until now... but can it get past that? Yikes. NOT SAFE. 11. Madison Watkins - "Holy" / "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" Every season we see this happen. A contestant hits the live stage and decides they are going to abandon literally everything that has worked for them before in order to transform into what they think of as a "pop star." They pick super contemporary music and focus on their "image" or "vibe" over all else. Madison fell into that trap this year. She's a phenomenally talented contestant, but you wouldn't have known it from these two performances. They were ordinary and forgettable, and I think she cost herself a spot in the Finals. NOT SAFE. 10. Liahona Olayan - "Just Friends" / "Say So" Liahona is kind of in the same situation. Now, she is a pop singer. She started out as a very contemporary performer, but this large stage magnified some of her rough edges, and her first performance was just not adventurous enough for her brand. The duet, on the other hand, was actually full of some very nice vocals and really compelling R&B harmonies, but together... it was an uneven night. I thought Liahona gave one of the strongest initial auditions, but I think she's been trending down since then, and I don't know if the audience has it in them to save her. NOT SAFE. 9. Hunter Metts - "Chandelier" / "Who Will Save Your Soul" This may be unpopular, but... I just find Hunter's performance one-note and very limited. He looks lost on that stage. Sure, the songs sounded pretty, and the "Chandelier" cover was clever, but I feel like we've just seen it all, and I don't think he has much left to give. I wonder if Hunter may be one who falls through the cracks because he isn't vocally exciting enough in comparison with this crop of singers. NOT SAFE. 8. Jason Warrior - "Call Out My Name" / "How Deep Is Your Love" Jason had a solid night. Both of his performances had great vocals and great connection. So, why ranked at 8th? I think he didn't do quite enough to make himself memorable enough to survive this cut. He went first, he scored a solid triple, and then he just faded away. Traditionally, that hasn't worked out for contestants in this new age of Idol. NOT SAFE. 7. Beane Hepler - "Don't Start Now" / "Angels" Beane's solo, once again, fell into that live stage "pop star" trap. The song was fine, but it went nowhere and I forgot it immediately. It wasn't powerful and it didn't resonate. It was just a pop hit sung on a karaoke show. That's it. Luckily, "Angels" was way closer to Beane's speed. It was actually a sensational bit of singing and Josh Groban definitely won MVP for this episodes celebrity guests. The song had meaning and really hit home. If Beane makes it into the Top 16, he will have that duet to thank for it. NOT SAFE. 6. Mary Jo Young - "Castle On The Hill" / "Foolish Games" I was half-expecting Mary Jo Young to fall apart when she hit the live rounds, but... she didn't. She's having a blast and her style is infectious. Every time she opens her mouth to sing it feels complete infused with emotion. There's this beautiful cry in her voice that I can't get enough of and I am wondering how the audience will respond. Two solid performances with very few missteps and she lands a solid, respectable, middle of the road ranking. NOT SAFE. 5. Chayce Beckham - "Afterglow" / "Drive" In similar fashion to Wyatt Pike from Group One, Chayce knows who he is and what type of musician he will be. The two songs worked together like a miniature set list, and while he didn't exactly push himself with the material, the vocals were dead on and unique. He really has his own lane here and I think, knowing how Idol has responded to gruff-singing guitar players in the past, he has done plenty to make the next stage of the competition. NEVER GOING HOME. 4. Caleb Kennedy - "Midnight Rider" / "Flyover States" If there is one Country singer I am certain will make the Finals... it's Caleb Kennedy. He's authentic, talented, and ready for this. He hasn't really faltered nor has he compromised. It's become very hard to argue that he isn't the best Country contestant of the year, and, those contestants typically make the Finals. His shadow-eyed performances aren't spectacular, but they hit the sweet spot for what he does and what his audience demands. NEVER GOING HOME. 3. Casey Bishop - "Decode" / "Wish You Were Here" I feel fairly certain about Casey making it to the next round since she closed out the show with two very above average performances. She faded a bit during the Hollywood rounds, and some likely forgot how big her voice is, but these two numbers were right in her lane and she didn't disappoint. She finished singing and I just wanted more. Her voice booms and demands to be paid attention to and I think that's going to be enough for her to make it into the Top 16. NEVER GOING HOME. 2. Colin Jamieson - "Locked Out Of Heaven" / "Hollow" Colin Jamieson was, easily, the surprise of the evening for me. Where did this guy come from?! He was middle of the pack, at best, for the previous rounds, but today he owned the stage better than anyone else in the Top 24 and his vocals weren't just passable, they were downright good. The range, the harmonies, the texture. It was all there. It was just a fantastic set. Uptempo pop number mixed with an emotional duet of "Hollow?" He was matching Tori Kelly vocally. Pretty impressive for a guy I assumed would be eliminated this week. He may still be... but not for lack of trying. Damn, Colin. NOT SAFE. 1. Ava August - "Drivers License" / "Both Sides Now" This was my favorite performer of the week. Willie and Grace were great, sure, but I think Ava August made the best argument for success after Idol. There is a magic to her voice and she is the youngest contestant out there. Typically, if those contestants get some running room... they improve... quickly. I've been struck by how smart she is as a picker of songs, and her ability to really carry home a story. Easily my favorite moment of this week was watching this young contestant lay down a claim for being qualified to win this show. Great stuff. NEVER GOING HOME. Who should go home? Hannah, Madison, Liahona, and Hunter Who will go home? Madison, Liahona, Jason, and Hunter See you next week! NGH
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