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muse273

Clinging to the Tightrope 4/29

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Posted (edited)

 

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.

Edited by muse273

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11 hours ago, muse273 said:

 

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.

 

Well, there are no actual spoilers on who got to the Top 10 since the Top 10 have yet to perform, but there are power rankings based on stats, so that might help see if you're proven right or wrong.

 

Unlike you, I can't place Dillon in the front-runner category.  I have to place him in the second category, that of a strong contender to advance.  I just don't see his fan base being as strong as you think it is.  That said, I agree with you that Dillon did well enough to please his fan base.  The stats certainly indicate that he did well enough and while I placed him in eleventh, behind Franklin, that was based largely on my liking Franklin's song choice and Dillon not being one of my favorite guys (I prefer Arthur and Francisco to him).  But after reading your rankings and remembering that the arrangement of Franklin's song was rather weird, I'd have to put Dillon ahead of Franklin now, putting him in tenth and Franklin in eleventh.

 

In my rankings, I placed Arthur in eighth, and there's a reason for it.  His performance was his weakest so far.  I originally said that it was because Arthur's song wasn't my cup of tea, but now that I look at your rankings, I have to agree that Arthur's performance skills were also shaky.  I'd still put him ahead of Dillon, however, mainly since I still like him.

 

Moving onto Francisco, the remote setting certainly helped ease the pressure on him and calmed his nerves.  It was my second-favorite performance of the guys, and it clearly pleased the fans who would go for a shy, cute, non-threatening boy like him.  He'll get into the Top 10 easily.

 

Just Sam is my favorite, but there was a reason why I placed two other young women in front of her and placed her in third, and you hit the nail on the head as to why.  She sang "I Believe", and I would not have recommended it for her since it was a reprise of a past Idol song and a coronation single to boot!  That's probably why so many on WNTS dinged her for that performance.  However, you were right in thinking that she didn't do it badly enough to put off most of her fan base, as I still voted for her, and you may have something on her reasoning behind the song choice.  She's like Fantasia inasmuch as they're both hard-luck contestants who overcame their struggles and won over the audience and had LaToya London not been in Season 3, I might have voted for Fantasia.  And "I Believe" encapsulated why Fantasia won, and if Sam wins, it might do the same thing for her.

 

i put Jonny in fourth place, the highest of the guys, and the stats also put him in fourth, so he certainly is in great shape to make the Top 10 and maybe even the Top 5.  Also, he still has fans of Margie Mays.  But not only is he a stylized and low-key performer, he's got plenty of competition both as a cute non-threatening guy (Arthur and Francisco) and as a singer-songwriter (Julia).  This will probably hurt him when it comes time to get into the finale, but for now he's safe.

 

I put Julia in seventh, in front of Arthur, and I'm going to keep her in seventh.  The stats Sept390 collected placed her in ninth, and those that Haribobo used placed her in eighth, so she's probably moving on as well.  She has the consistent, distinct musical style and the unique quality to help her move on into the Top 10 but as you noted, she's consistent but not superlative and that will hurt her chances of making the Top 5.

 

I put Lauren in first, ahead of eeveryone else, and while Haribobo's collection of stats put her in ninth, Sept390's collection put her in seventh, so I think she's moving on.  She stood out the most amongst the belters and had I not made the unwise decison to vote for Olivia and Cyniah (as well as Just Sam, of course) before the show ended and only vote for those three, I would have voted for her.  That said, you're right in saying that she needs more in her arsenal than just being a really powerful belter to move onto the Top 5.  Candice from Season 12 was a belter, but she certainly had more than just that, after all.

 

I'm not so sure Grace will advance.  I ranked her performance in twelfth, and would still put in in twelfth.  Moreover, the stats that both Haribobo and Sept390 collected had her out of the Top 10.  And I fear Dillon will siphon off enough of the country fans that might otherwise vote for her.  Also, you had a point about Riley not getting into the Top 10 despite being a country girl.  The only thing going for her is that the Idolforums crowd put her in second.  She might squeak through, but I'm not so sure she will.

 

I had Sophia in sixth, just ahead of Julia, and the stats collected have her in the Top 10, so I think she's moving on.  But she needs to be more than just in the middle in order to have a chance at the Top 5.

 

While Louis's performance wasn't my favorite (I had him in ninth and now after you commented on his performance, I might have him in tenth, moving Dillon up to ninth.  The stats that Sept390 collected has him solidly in sixth, and while the stats that Haribobo collected has him in twelfth, that's mainly due to the Idolforums crowd placing him in 18th.  I think the demographics factor will help him out, but just barely.

 

Sorry, but I fear Cyniah will be out of luck this round.  The stats that both Sept390 and Haribobo collected do not have her anywhere near the Top 10, and I placed her in fourteenth.  I think the fact that she came right after Lauren hurt her, as Lauren simply outshone her.  Better luck next year.

 

Jovin has a better chance of making the Top 10 than Cyniah does.  The stats that Sept390 collected has him in a position where he could squeak into the Top 10, and you have a point about Jovin having a space which could have its supporters in terms of potential and especially in terms of being a male soul singer and being better than DeWayne, the other male soul singer in the Top 20.  However, the stats Haribobo collected do not have him in the Top 12, and I placed him in seventeenth.  I don't see him making it in, but he could surprise me.

 

I think one of the following two belters will get in instead of Jovin:  Makayla and Kimmy.  Of these two, I think Makayla is more likely to get in.  The stats collected by Sept390 and Haribobo both have her ahead of Kimmy, although I placed Makayla in fifteenth, behind Aliana (in thirteenth) and Cyniah, while I placed Kimmy in second behind only Lauren.  As you noted, Kimmy performed first and she may not have performed enough beyond expectations to secure the votes necessary to make it through.  I should have voted for her, but I thought she was doing "All I Ask", and I was wrong there.

 

As for Nick, he's not moving on.  The stats don't support his moving on.  Besides, I had him in last place.  I also agree that the ones you placed behind him have no chance of moving on as well.  And maybe I should have put DeWayne in last instead of Nick.  You were right in saying that he had too little grit for James Brown.

 

So, that's how I see things.  I hope Just Sam chooses a more compelling song this next round, as I'm sure she'll move on.

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13 hours ago, muse273 said:

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.

PERIOD!!!

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Muse,

 

Thank you so much for providing updated power rankings after Sunday's show. As I wrote the other day,  I really do greatly enjoy reading them and you providing them is honestly one of the main reasons why I continue to follow American Idol after all these years. Anyway, once again, while I like him, I just don't have nearly as much confidence as you do that Dillon is going to make it into the top 10. And that's because as I wrote the other day, Arthur, Francisco, Jonny and Louis all seem to be more popular than he is and unfortunately, I truly believe he's going to have a tough time cracking the top 10. I wouldn't even be shocked if Jovin ends up in the top 10 over him. I do agree with you about Just Sam, though, in regards to the song that she sung. I really hope she chooses a better song next time out. In fact, since the top 10 theme is supposedly songs that remind the contestants of home, I would really like to hear her sing Empire State of Mind. Because I think she could absolutely kill that song! I agree with you about Julia as well and really enjoy her style. However, I still am having a hard time trying to figure out why you're not higher on Lauren Spencer-Smith. Because I think she is fantastic and honestly thought you would like her more, especially since you were such a big fan of Madison last season. I agree with you that maybe she didn't make the best of song choices, either. But, she did so well with it and I really hope she can exhibit a little bit more artistry next time out.

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24 minutes ago, Winterfan said:

In fact, since the top 10 theme is supposedly songs that remind the contestants of home, I would really like to hear her sing Empire State of Mind. Because I think she could absolutely kill that song!

slay slay slayyyyyy (major points since it's not an overdone song, played once by jax in s14)

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1 hour ago, Winterfan said:

Muse,

 

Thank you so much for providing updated power rankings after Sunday's show. As I wrote the other day,  I really do greatly enjoy reading them and you providing them is honestly one of the main reasons why I continue to follow American Idol after all these years. Anyway, once again, while I like him, I just don't have nearly as much confidence as you do that Dillon is going to make it into the top 10. And that's because as I wrote the other day, Arthur, Francisco, Jonny and Louis all seem to be more popular than he is and unfortunately, I truly believe he's going to have a tough time cracking the top 10. I wouldn't even be shocked if Jovin ends up in the top 10 over him. I do agree with you about Just Sam, though, in regards to the song that she sung. I really hope she chooses a better song next time out. In fact, since the top 10 theme is supposedly songs that remind the contestants of home, I would really like to hear her sing Empire State of Mind. Because I think she could absolutely kill that song! I agree with you about Julia as well and really enjoy her style. However, I still am having a hard time trying to figure out why you're not higher on Lauren Spencer-Smith. Because I think she is fantastic and honestly thought you would like her more, especially since you were such a big fan of Madison last season. I agree with you that maybe she didn't make the best of song choices, either. But, she did so well with it and I really hope she can exhibit a little bit more artistry next time out.


Yeah, “Empire State of Mind” would certainly remind Just Sam of NYC, and she would probably kill it!

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Pretty good analysis. I agree completely that song choice was a huge bugaboo...but I think I disagree with you on who failed it. Namely, Jonny and Julia. Jonny chose a song that is nowhere near his musical identity, and I feel like he didn't really sing it that well. And then there's Julia...I called "disaster" as soon as I heard the song title announced, because that song just does not work with her voice. She's a contestant that impressed me early, but she's disappointed quite frequently and I think a lot of her problems come down to her trying to hit notes that she just can't hit. 

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No matter how well Just Sam sang I Believe, it is still an old coronation song from 16 years ago.  Not an inspiring choice.  It's such a short season and she may have opened the door for a possible 3 guy finale.

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