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The NGH Report - American Idol 18's Top 20: "Idol From Home!"


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That happened.


Let's be honest: This wasn't American Idol. Not really... but with all things considered, I think the American Idol team over at ABC actually accomplished something quite impressive. The audio quality was good (too good - a lot of it sounded canned and auto-tuned) and the editing was flashier than I expected. I think my worries certainly came to pass as many of the contestants were able to create a more polished background to sing in front of than others. I felt horrible for Olivia Ximines as the camera seemed to love showing us a messy living room and cluttered kitchen. Of course Dillon James had a rustic tiny house in his backyard. Of COURSE he did. Oh, also, can anyone explain to me what the hell was going on with the fully decorated and lit Christmas tree in DeWayne's house? It's almost May. 


So, yes, inequities abounded, but for the overwhelming most part - American Idol achieved something pretty special last night. They made do with what they had and the show went on. 


It's still unfair to these contestants. It's still unfair to the show's viewers. It's still not American Idol. But, you know what? Life is really unfair right now, so bless them for keeping this train on the tracks.


Here we go!


20. Aliana Jester - Aliana sang well enough, but the performance felt like someone playing dress up. It didn't feel sincere, memorable, or important enough to get people to vote. Also, Idol has definitely been trending towards a more modern vibe since it has moved to ABC and singers like Aliana who are good vocalists but are struggling with latching onto a musical identity have been suffering to break through. Sometimes it is worse to be forgettable and this is one of those moments. NOT SAFE.


19. Olivia Ximines - I think Olivia sounded strong and had a lot of great energy, but she was just utterly doomed by two factors. The first? Her home setup was rough, y'all, and really hit home the fact that she was a teenager playing superstar in her living room. It was just visually distracting. Secondly, as fun as "Bad Guy" is to hear, it didn't appear that Olivia had any idea what she was singing about. The lyrics were only vehicles to move from note to note. It was a scattered performance that never really clicked. NOT SAFE.


18. Jovin Webb - Was it just me or did it feel like Jovin was singing slightly under pitch in his upper register the entire song? It felt like he just wasn't hearing himself well enough. I know he can slay that song and he is lucky that he was an early frontrunner with a standalone blues sound, but man... that was some rough singing. So, what happens here? I think looking at the data we see that Jovin still has a good shot of sneaking into the Top 10, but he needs to work out those issues fast otherwise he won't be making it into the Top 5. NOT SAFE.


17. Grace Leer - Grace had a similar problem. The first half of her song was full of intonation issues. The lower register in the verse was doing her no favors and she is lucky that the second half of the song kicked it into high gear and may have erased the pitch issues from the audiences minds. She still has a shot of squeaking in as she is our lone female country singer in the competition, but man... there is just no excuse for singing that out of tune when you are being mixed with autotune software and pre-recorded. NOT SAFE.


16. Sam Diaz - I know I will likely be lit up for this one, but... this was just mediocre for him. I'm of the opinion that the only time this song should be sung is on the finale of American Idol Season 3. It's a terrible song with terrible lyrics and the only reason we put it on a pedestal is that Fantasia absolutely sung the crap out of it, leaving it all on the field, for an iconic Idol moment. But here? It was just a decently sung version of a crappy song from the early 2000s. Sam is in her element when she can really tell us a story with vivid lyrics and emotive text. This just wasn't that for me. I found it meh with a capital "M." Still, I was pleasantly surprised to see the statistics show us that it didn't seem to dent Sam's popularity in the slightly. I think she is a shoo-in for the Top 10. NEVER GOING HOME.


15. Nick Merico - This was Nick's best performance in my mind, but man... it just wasn't enough. It was pleasant and if he was performing for a group of girls at a party he'd likely get laid. I just don't think Idol audiences are going to be impressed here. Again... pretty boys/girls don't do well on this show. We want the contestants our grandparents are eager to vote for and Nick comes across as to glossy. Too ordinary. NOT SAFE.


14. Kimmy Gabriela - I was pleasantly surprised with the changes Kimmy made in her attitude and appearance. I think she took Katy's notes to heart and did everything she could to be remembered for her performance. For me? It worked. I'm not sure she deserves a spot in the Top 10 for it but it was a respectable performance that had a bit of vocal fire underneath. I think it's tough going first, but who knows? I'm just proud that she came back ready to fight and she should be proud if that was her last stand. NOT SAFE.


13. DeWayne Crocker Jr. - I love DeWayne's voice, but I was disappointed this week to realize he isn't as strategic as I thought he was. This was karaoke. Sure, he sounded great, but the vocals also sounded too clean... too processed. It fit with his vibe as a throwback soul singer, but I'm not sure that's going to be enough. I think the people that are going to sail into the Top 10 are the people who have a really clear and flagrant musical identity. DeWayne has yet to really lock that in. NOT SAFE.


12. Faith Becnel - The surprise of the night for me was Faith Becnel magically ending up in the middle of the pack. I am...uhh... not a fan of Faith's. I find her a bit "try hard" and inauthentic. And yet... here she is. She settled down and just sang the hell out of her song. The vibe of her backdrop was simple, but elegant, and she just appeared way more serious and constant. I don't think she should, nor will, move into the Top 10, but I liked this performance. It was strong and perhaps if the cut wasn't so drastic she'd have another chance at it. Alas... NOT SAFE.


11. Cyniah Elise - I mentioned in my last article that big voice belters really had to thread the needle in a "sing from home" competition. I think Cyniah sounded great, but I'm not sure she threaded said needle. I think I started to worry when she leapt into her second key change. It made the performance big and bold, when I would have preferred her to really have locked into the emotion and sold us a more intimate version of the story. Still... she's had a hell of a lot of screen time and a few other belters didn't do better. We shall see. NOT SAFE.


10. Dillon James - Rounding out my Top 10 is Dillon James. Dillon, with a fabulous backdrop, crooned a pretty, melody-free, Ray LaMontagne song. He did it well, it felt like a song he may write, and we immediately knew the lane he was taking in this competition. I think he has a strong enough fanbase and strong enough crossover appeal to make it to the next round. There's something about Dillon that has a haunting quality. I would have preferred he picked a more substantive song, but I think this was still strong enough to get him a spot. NEVER GOING HOME.


9. Francisco Martin - Francisco did everything he needed to do. He was a shoo-in before the votes even started, but he didn't screw up. He played a popular tune, flipped it a bit, and just let his demographics do the talking. Sometimes in American Idol... that's all you need to make it into the Top 10. I think there are a lot more crossover voters in the heartland that will dig Francisco than we may expect. I would say he is in. NEVER GOING HOME.


8. Makayla Phillips - This one is a bit sad to me. I think Makayla absolutely killed it. She's a bonafide pop star and her vocals are Lysol clean. And yet? I think it's a toss-up if she gets in. Will Idol voters be attracted to her? Is she too modern? Too hip? Too perfect? Too pretty? Etc etc. I think Makayla, unfairly or not, is going to come across to some as being someone that it is hard to root for in this competition. It could doom her. We shall see. NOT SAFE.


7. Franklin Boone - I just loved this performance and this song. There was something about the simplicity of it and how it just fit the times we are all living in. It was a nice tough to show his family dancing and singing along. Franklin can sometimes come across as too subtle, but I'd love to see him again. It's a toss-up if he makes it through, but I just feel like he did practically everything right tonight besides really blowing us away and making his case inarguable. NOT SAFE.


6. Sophia James - I have the feeling Sophia might be lower on a lot of people's rankings, but please keep in mind: my critiques are rooting in how I think contestants did to improve their case on winning the title. I think Sophia, seated at the piano, crooning a lyrical tune, in front of a fire place, is exactly the type of contestant she needs to strive to be. It's either her or Julia in this lane and she needs to make her claim. NOT SAFE.


5. Jonny West - In the same vein, I think Jonny did everything he needed to in this first round as well. Well, almost everything. I think we have all been missing a bit of that alternative flair we saw from Jonny in his initial audition. I think he makes the Top 10 and I would encourage him to get a bit more innovative this upcoming Sunday. His vocals are ready to record, he's got a great story, and his modesty is certainly his strength. I'm interested to see how America views him. NEVER GOING HOME.


4. Louis Knight - I thought Louis was one of the only contestants in this episode to really take advantage of what is happening out in the world. The eye contact, the serious emotional connection to the material, and the lyrics talking about the end of the world. There was a bit of magic in there for me. He wasn't vocally perfect, but it just didn't matter in that moment. It was truthful. It was honest. We believed it. I'm surprised the statistics aren't showing more strength for Louis, but I still think he sneaks in. NOT SAFE.


3. Arthur Gunn - Arthur Gunn will be in the Top 10. I didn't have a doubt of that going into last week and after seeing some of the numbers I really don't have a doubt of that going into Sunday. He's almost taking the Taylor Hicks route. He's a unique looking guy with a throwback soulful voice that is sure to connect to a lot of Idol voters out there. This performance was a little safer than I would have liked, but David Archuleta did a similar thing with "Shop Around" in Season 7 semi-finals and people really dug it. Strong performance, easy call. NEVER GOING HOME.


2. Lauren Spencer-Smith - There is something about Lauren that just screams Kelly Clarkson to me. She's got that girl next door vibe and she's got as big of a voice as any of the female contestants in the Top 20. I think the production quality was second to none which made the performance even more memorable. She looked great, her surroundings looked great, and she sang the absolute crap out of "Mama Knows Best." I think Lauren should get into the Top 10 and I think she more than deserves it. It's possible she could just continue to grow. NEVER GOING HOME.


1. Julia Gargano - Yeah, I just loved this. There's a bit of bias here in that Julia sings the type of singer/songwriter style I naturally gravitate towards, but I just felt like this was the most well-rounded performance of the episode. It showed us exactly who Julia would be as an artist, it showed fantastic vocal control, and she picked a song that really allowed her to tell us a story. I'm just worried that she just doesn't have a strong enough fanbase to make it to the end. In fact, I'm now pretty certain she doesn't. But will she make the Top 10? Toss-up. NOT SAFE.



Prediction Statistics


Okay. I started doing this last season and the results were fairly accurate. Obviously, at 20 contestants, the margin of error for most of these results is going to be large. The contestants below who are bolded are currently outside of the margin of error and are predicted as being "more likely than not" placed into the Top 10. So, where does that leave everyone else? Very much within the margin of error. So, this is predicting 6 out of 10, which means there are currently 4 contestants who are in the margin of error who would also graduate into the Top 10. Let's see how we do!


Arthur - 26.0%

Sam - 13.6%

Francisco - 8.1%

Dillon - 6.6%

Jonny - 5.8%

Lauren - 5.1%

Louis - 4.3%

Jovin - 4.3%

Aliana - 3.1%

Franklin - 2.9%

Sophia - 2.6%

Kimmy - 2.6%

Makayla - 2.3%

Julia - 2.0%

Grace - 2.0%

Olivia - 1.9%

DeWayne - 1.7%

Nick - 1.6%

Cyniah - 1.5%

Faith - 1.1%


Who should go home?


Aliana, Olivia, Jovin, Grace, Sam, Nick, Kimmy, DeWayne, Faith, and Cyniah


Who will go home?


Aliana, Olivia, Nick, Kimmy, DeWayne, Faith, Makayla, Sophia, Cyniah, and Franklin


See you next week!



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I understand why you ranked Just Sam’s song so low.  I’m a huge fan of hers and even I didn’t think it was not as good as Lauren’s or Kimmy’s songs, both of which I ranked above Just Sam.  I wouldn’t have put sixteenth, but you were ranking them based on how well they advanced their chances of winning, and this didn’t really do so.  Still good enough to move on though and hopefully she will improve.

Edited by CarmenSandiego
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I wouldn't have put julia, louis, sophia, jonny so high. all 4 had very similar performance that it sounded the same for me. and it was BORING. franklin should be in the bottom as the song did nothing to me but have you seen THAT house! he is not so miserable.. in that case jovin had better performance (and I liked the fact he actually built himself his own stage..) 

the only ones I think are safe to move to the top 10 are arthur, francisco and sam. 

Edited by blackfield
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Yeah, I disagreed with you heavily. I agree that what Aliana was doing was "wrong for Idol", but it was a damn good performance. But seriously, seeing what you had to say about Grace and then about Julia...really? Grace sang circles around Julia. Honestly, just about everyone did, even Franklin (whose performance I found to be rather bizarre). Not DeWayne, though, and not Jonny. I'm not really sure what Jonny was going for, but more importantly, I'm not sure why he was going for it. This was a huge cutdown, and he's going way out of his lane on an open theme. And it didn't work imo.

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