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muse273

Clinging To The Tightrope 5/6 

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Posted (edited)

Alright, Quarantine Idol Round 2.  The novelty has worn off, the contestants have adjusted to the new routine and so has the audience.  So how did the episode go?

 

I actually thought it was a shockingly good episode.  Several contestants I hadn’t cared for gave performances I actually quite liked, and one I hadn’t been totally sold on gave possibly my favorite performance of the season.  I didn’t really think anyone was actually completely irredeemably terrible, although a few people had their struggles.  Interestingly, two of those people were among this season’s frontrunners, and while I’m not sure it knocked them out of the top tier altogether, it did make things a bit more uncertain.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that almost any of the contestants could potentially advance this week, and most of them could potentially go home as well.  It will be a fascinating set of results to see.

 

That being said, I notice that reactions to the episode were ALL OVER THE PLACE.  Some loved it, some hated it, and nobody seemed to agree which performances made it so good or bad.  It was especially odd how many people (myself included) seemed the finally like a performance by someone they’d previously had no time for, and simultaneously been disappointed by a performance of prior favorites.  Did we slip through into the mirror dimension?  Quick, someone check, do I have a beard in this reality.

 

(Trick question, I have a beard in all realities.  In quarantine, it’s become gigantic and taken on a mind of its own.  It’s actually typing this writeup.)

 

With so much disagreement and uncertainty, I think the stage is potentially set for a “who saw that coming” performance which really turns the competition on its head going into the Finale.  Normally the penultimate week would be too late to really change the game (with the possible exception of Idol’s all-time legendary clutch performance, Heartless, and even that wouldn’t have done the job without other factors). This year, things are so abrupt and people so divided that a contestant who could really unite a substantial portion of the audience behind one performance could ride it to victory. The potential is even greater with next week’s Mother’s Day theme, which was highly emotionally charged in S16 and likely to be especially resonant with the contestants being home with their families (or for poor Sam, alone). Disney might not be so charged, but it’s a theme with a lot of well-loved songs.  If the contestants can manage to steer clear of some of the overplayed options, it could contribute to a positive atmosphere.  

 

Maybe it can’t happen.  Maybe the effect of these small-scale performances is too muted, maybe people’s emotions are too fraught from the miserable state of the world, maybe we’re just too divided. But I think there’s a chance.

 

Between that possibility of something game changing, and how volatile the potential for elimination feels, this week’s ranking is weighted more heavily towards who I think could not just advance, but WIN.  Nearly all of them could go home, nearly all could stay, but their ability to capitalize on that last possible chance varies.

 

Before I move on though, a word for our eliminated contestants.  Their lovely parting gifts are… new iPhones? Sound equipment? The chance to get a warm reception if they return next year maybe.  I won’t really give lessons for each one.  There were too many factors with this crazy format, and frankly there are too damn many for me to talk about all of them.  Besides which, most of them weren’t surprises.  They made terrible choices (DeWayne), never really seemed to have gathered any traction (Kimmy, Aliana, Faith), or just lacked that spark which motivated people (Franklin, Cyniah sadly).  Or in the case of Nick, they apparently ran over all of the producers’ dogs in a mass mastiff massacre. 

 

The only mild shock was Lauren, and I’m not really all that sold on that being a shock either. Lauren was a prodigiously gifted vocalist, especially for her age.  Some people argued that she was reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson, and I can see a bit of it around the edges. But almost as much as her amazing voice, Kelly won Idol on the basis of her relatability and easy-going charm which made audiences fall in love. I don’t think Lauren had that.  Quite the opposite, everything about her seemed designed to deter audience connection.  The viral video background, the semi-final song choice which has no opportunity for emotional depth.  Underneath it all, I don’t feel like I really know a thing about Lauren as a person, just that she has a good voice.  And that she’s Canadian. While several contestants who went through aren’t American by birth, they’re also long-time residents of the US, while Lauren was actually appearing from Canada.  Is it fair that she might have lost points for that?  Maybe, maybe not, but either way it seems likely, especially with the format emphasizing the hometown support aspect.  Although, it’s kind of funny that California and New York, areas which traditionally haven’t shown much support for their Idols, account for the majority of the Top 11, and others come from similarly poor-track record states like Pennsylvania and Florida.  The only people from Idol strongholds are Louisiana’s Jovin, a black man (consistently the least well supported demographic), and the guy from Nepal currently living in Kansas.  Maybe in a longer season, Lauren could have found a way to open up her personality to the audience, and combine that with her vocal prowess to find a path to victory.  But in this truncated season, there was no time to wait.

 

Do I actually think any of the Top 20-12 will come back?  Most of them no.  The reasons they didn’t go through in many cases wont change, and I don’t really see the show being starved for another round of Kimmy or DeWayne.  The one person I could see pulling a Laine (or at least an Alyssa) is Olivia.  She’s young enough that she could sell a growth arc, and she was one of the contestants who was most undermined by the circumstances.  While someone like Franklin or Cyniah isn’t likely to deliver that different of a performance on the big stage, Olivia could potentially break out on a return appearance. And since it seems very unlikely that Idol is going to get the teen belter winner (or at least Finale member) that the casting directors seemed to be aiming for, Olivia could give them a second shot next year.  

 

On to the rankings.  Last week wasn’t strictly ranked, but it was close enough to accurate that I think I can provide a more or less accurate order to move on from.

 

Pre-Semifinal Rankings

Top 20 Rankings

 

1. Samantha Diaz (Previous Round 3) “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers 

 

I remain convinced that if anyone's going to give the kind of transformative performance that brings together a wide range of voters to sweep to victory, it's going to be Sam.  I recently watched the mini-documentary about Sam prior to Idol, and something struck me.  At one point they're talking about how they present themselves when they're busking, and mention dressing in their shabbier clothes, their most beat-up shoes, etc, because when people think they're more in need they give more money.  That's a bit cynical, but it's also smart. I think Sam is applying that kind of logic process to song choices on Idol, trying to find that right combination of story and appeal and vocal fit that can make for a Moment. They just haven't quite hit the target yet. This song fit them vocally, and smartly hit elements of her back story like Grandma and Jesus.  It was just too laid back and static a song to musically build to an emotional climax.  Right thinking but wrong choice like last week, but with a more targeted sense of what might be right.  If there were 10 more weeks to go, I'd all but guarantee Sam would be able to coast through on back story combined with charisma and voice until landing on that perfect song, but it's not 100% with basically 1 song left to go.  Still, they're tantalizingly close.  

 

What makes things more interesting is that next week might be a major opportunity to get there, due to the themes.  We've seen two rounds of Disney songs, one of which was a pretty significant hit and one of which was a flop.  I think the big difference is that S16's cast was younger and less polished than 17, and were a little more comfortable throwing themselves into the childhood memories of Disney without artifice.  It's notable that Catie and Michael, who dominated 16's round, were among the most young-at-heart and emotionally open contestants ever on Idol. Among this ypear's group, some are very polished and might not be able to fully let themselves go and run with the theme, but I think Sam has the potential to really dig into a song.  One of their greatest assets is the emotional sincerity they bring to each song, and if they can do that on a Disney number it could be a strong setup.  More than Disney though, I'm very curious to see what happens in the Mother's Day round.  While living with Grandma has been a major element of Sam's backstory, there hasn't been much mention of other family members as far as I recall on the show.  The documentary goes into a lot more depth, essentially suggesting that Sam and their mom don't have any contact, that no contact is wanted, and that there's a pretty painful history as to why. It kind of alludes to a time when they had performed near their mom's workplace in a way which suggests there had been some kind of confrontation.  And of course, the next scene is them singing Motherless Child on the subway.  This has a little potential for disaster, either due to them being uncomfortable with the subject and withdrawing emotionally, or choosing something painful which is off-putting in contrast to the feel-good stories most people will probably have.  However, if Sam uses it as an opportunity to really go all-out on the emotion, either delving fully into the relationship, or just explaining it and then putting the focus on the relationship with their grandma, it could reduce everyone to tears and votes.  

 

If that doesn't happen, will Sam advance?  I think there's a solid chance, they still do bring both vocal ability and compelling story to the table, and I think they have substantial backing.  I'm not sure it'll be enough to power through to victory though without the final push of the song, but if nobody else brings that dominating performance it's not out of the question.  It'll be a very interesting song.

 

2. Francisco Martin (Previous Round 4) “Falling Like The Stars” by James Arthur

 

I'm kind of surprised by how quickly Francisco's grown in my estimation of his chances.  From originally not even seeming like he was going to make the live rounds, through several weak Hollywood performances, it was a rocky road.  But he's really blossomed in recent weeks, and that kind of growth arc is a hugely powerful thing on Idol.  If he continues growing, it could be his path to victory.

 

It helps that, like Sam, he brings an intense emotional sincerity to his performances.  It's an interesting study in contrasts between them, as they kind of provide similar impacts in very different ways.  Sam's emotional honesty feels very internal, like they're living through a journey in their own head, and we're just being given the opportunity to watch and experience it with them.  Francisco on the other hand is very extroverted with his emotions, very confessional.  It's all raw nerves and heart on sleeve, and while that was an obstacle in the early rounds where there were so many other stresses to cope with, in the safer environment of home it's turned into pure asset.  If anything, it aligns even more with Francisco's selling points than Sam's, because so much of his story is tied up in his struggles with anxiety, while Sam's are more about struggles with more tangible issues. 

 

Where Francisco falls behind is that I'm not really sure he has the killer instinct to choose a song which lets him fully weaponize that emotional power and turn it into a grippingly memorable moment. He's been choosing his songs SMARTLY in recent rounds, but not in a way which is really targeted at the bubble of Idol. Instead, he's presenting a very clear, consistent portrait of the kind of artist he would be after Idol, mainstream pop presented with singer-songwriter inflections.  This is a hard package to quantify, pop hasn't had a good track record on Idol, but it usually comes in the form of young teen girls belting their faces off instead of sad cute boys with their feelings. The WGWG style DOES have a strong pedigree, but usually goes in a more gritty or ironic direction and Francisco's sincere sweet style. So hard to guess the results, but a lot of potential.  I think the sincerity makes him another good fit for Disney.  The Mother's Day round might be perilous with his mother right there, but does tie in to what he said about her being a nurse, which could be a very voter-uniting factor in the current times, if he can hold himself together.  I'm not sure he has the vocal weight to quite pull off the impact of a Moment.  They almost always have some element of pure vocal dazzle, and the ones which are less vocally pristine tend to involve dramatic rearrangement or staging which might just not be available at the moment.  But there's at least the potential for a very strong performance which provides further momentum, assuming nobody else produces something greater.

 

Between the growth, the emotional connection, the tidbits of family story, and the cute-boy factor, I think Francisco has strong potential to be the default winner if nobody capitalizes on the moment next week, as long as he continues doing fairly well.  He'd also be one of the more marketable potential winners, though who knows how much Hollywood cares at this point.  I'd be surprised if he doesn't make the Finale at least, barring a terrible collapse next week.

 

3. Dillon James (Previous Round 1) “Yesterday” by The Beatles

 

Dillon's kind of frustrating.  He kind of parallels Sam, in that I can see the way his brain is trying to find its way to the kind of song choice which gives that big hit of resonance with him and the circumstances to really win over the audience.  He just hasn't managed to stick the landing, and this week that was an issue of both the technical and the emotional. Let It Be Me was smart in that it was targeted directly at the audience as an almost naked plea for support, but it was emotionally reserved, a bit low-impact.  Nice and functional as an introductory song choice, but not the killer move that really makes a difference. Yesterday on the other hand was more on point and specifically.  The currents of regret and longing for a happier time have a lot of resonance with Dillon's story, and that kind of vulnerability could really grab voters if he tied them together.  But the performance didn't work.  Superficially, the easy reason is that the sped up tempo drained the impact out of the song and didn't allow enough opportunity to linger over the angst and get the audience invested.  And that's kind of true.  Here's the thing though: Dillon wasn't that much faster the original.  A lot of covers of the song slow it down and go super-ballady on it, but it's marked Moderato, and the original is 98-99 bpm.  It's not really a maudlin weepy song like how some people perform it.  The problem was that Dillon didn't really invest himself into the emotion, he just went through the motions.  I think what people were perceiving as being sped up was the fact that he delivered the song in a very strict rhythmic manner, with no rubato (the give and take of tempo which helps give a song emotional inflection).  It was very precise, as was his diction, and that made it come across as unemotional.  A good example is the little descending melisma he did several times, which was completely even in tempo and didn't really have any shape to it.

 

I kind of wonder if Dillon's uncomfortable with really opening up those vulnerable emotional parts of himself, especially the ones connected to his back story.  While something like Francisco's anxiety or Sam's family struggles are certainly painful in a way, and could even provoke feelings of shame in them, I don't think they're as dark and infused with guilt and regret as a past as an addict, and I'm not sure you could really say they really FOUGHT them in the way he did.  That's a lot of very heavy emotion to deal with, and not one many people are going to want to weaponize for a singing show.  Dillon seems to be on the fence.  Most of his prior songs have kind of avoided too much darkness and angst, in favor of a more stoic or spiritual feel. Yesterday was his first step in a different direction, and stopping halfway didn't do him any favors.  He's either going to have to commit and really dig into his pain, which could go very wrong (maybe even more so than for Francisco) but could be the breakthrough that makes him unbeatable, or shy away and just stick with what was working for him.  That would be safer, but would risk leaving him vulnerable to someone else who did have that breakthrough.  I don't think he's all that well suited to Disney, although it could be an opportunity for something clever to provide counterpoint to a more emotional second song.  It's going to come down to Mom, with her there and having talked about his recovery before.  Will he go for it? I honestly don't know.

 

If he doesn't, there's still a strong chance he wins.  If he steps back to the style of song he was doing before, I don't think he's that likely to really flop on a performance, and he still has a lot of the demographics backing him. While he doesn't have Arthur's level of response online, he's also appealing to groups (country fans, motherly women I think) who aren't necessarily all that vocal online, but DO vote. However, it puts him in much closer competition with Arthur, and both are endangered by Francisco's rise.  Likely Finale member regardless, but I'm feeling a lot less confident about my early speculation that he'd win.

 

4. Arthur Gunn (Previous Round 2) “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver

 

I don't think Arthur's going to deliver a knockout performance.  I'm just going to say that up front.  It just doesn't seem to be his style, and he feels like a contestant who has no intention of really conforming to the competition instead of delivering what he feels like. A lot of that shows in his rearrangements, which strike me as kind of self-indulgent.  It seemed almost spitefully contrarian to take a song with "country" in the title, and turn it into paint-by-numbers reggae.  I've always found reggae arrangements of other genres kind of boring and lazy, because it's so easy to simulate with some basic instrumentation and beat.  But maybe that's just me.  I didn't really care for his Hollywood arrangement of Have You Ever Seen The Rain either, and it also kind of gave me the impression that he was just rearranging it for his own enjoyment instead of trying to serve the song, which I think should be the real goal.  I know the Idolsphere loses its mind any time someone rearranges a song, but these haven't worked for me.  It didn't help that the song brought out an intrusive vibrato in his voice which was offputting to me, but that's more likely to be personal taste.  I will say that he performed more comfortably than last week.

 

What will he do next week?  I don't really know.  Probably rearrange his Disney song into something awkward, which may hurt him a bit since those are so familiar to the audience.  It's possible that the semi-enforced emotional weight of a Mother's Day dedication will discourage him from playing around with the song too much, and bring out more sincerity to his performance.  That could win over some of the audience which isn't currently in his corner, but I'm not sure it makes a huge difference.  Arthur seems like he's just going to do Arthur, which reaches fun and maybe even imaginative, but doesn't seem to extend to emotional.  It is what it is.

 

Arthur's chances of victory are strong just on the basis of his apparently huge fanbase, the core voters more than the undecided casuals.  If everyone's defaulting and nobody really unites the casuals, nobody else may be able to beat him.  But Alejandro had just as huge a lead in vocal fanbase, and still lost (despite what the show tries to tell us), even with the benefit of a late-season surge while other people were faltering.  Your core fans can only constitute so much of the voters.  Will it be enough?  It'll depend on next week.

 

5. Julia Gargano (Previous Round 5) “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel

 

This was a weird week for me with Julia, who was arguably my favorite contestant this season (although you could make arguments for Sam or Jovin).  Last week I thought she clearly gave the best performance of the night, though many people felt otherwise.  This week a lot of those people seemed to do a 180 on her and put her on top, while for me it fell a bit a flat.  She kind of had the opposite problem from Dillon: Where he painted too strictly within the lines of his song and didn't apply many inflections to the melody, Julia inflected everything.  Almost every line had a rhythmic twist or personal inflection, and she delivered it with her usual vocal prowess.  But it almost felt like too much, like there were were so many twists that none of them could really land before we were on to the next one. It felt like it detracted from the emotional connection with the song, because we and she were giving all our attention to where the melody was going. It also suffered because she didn't quite mesh with the accompaniment, which was a little too straightforward and couldn't give and take with her vocals.  In person that probably wouldn't have been an issue, but you can't get that interplay with a pre-recorded track.  This was really a song that cried out for just her and her own piano playing, where she could've been much more flexible.  Maybe she thought (or was told) it was unwise to play two weeks in a row. If so, she'd be wise to go back to it next week, at least for one performance.

 

I'm not sure next week does her any favors.  She has an advantage as probably the most vocally and musically consistent contestant, which is always an asset the first time they're called on to prepare multiple songs in one week. But looking at those past Disney episodes, she feels much more like S17 than 16: polished, mature, and unlikely to really throw herself wholeheartedly into the guileless nature of Disney songs. The best she can probably hope for is something on par with Jurnee or Jeremiah's performances, solid but uninspiring.  Mother's Day, I don't really know.  She'll probably sing it sublimely, and might choose something interesting.  The general undercurrent of emotional charge in these kind of family-dedication rounds could add emotional weight to even a song which doesn't itself have that much connection, which could supplement a strategy of pure vocal skill.  But I'm not really anticipating a big shift from her performances next week.

 

I think, given that most people received this week's performance well, she's safe to go through, and I don't think that it's totally out of the question that she could sneak into the Finale, especially if it's 4 people instead of 3, even more so if one or more people really flop with the introduction of multiple songs.  But I'm having a hard time seeing how she translates that into actual victory. I wouldn't be mad about it by any means, but I don't see it. In a way, Julia feels more like a Voice contestant than an Idol contestant.  More polished, with her own well developed style, ready for a career, but without that scrappy still-in-progress feeling which Idol seems to favor and root for.  She kind of reminds me of Maelyn.  Maybe she should hope for everyone else to suck horribly like Maelyn's competitors did?

 

6. Sophia James (Previous Round 12) “In My Room” by The Beach Boys

 

This is by far the most questionable of my rankings this week, I freely admit that.  I don't think Sophia has really been in the top tier of competitors this season, and I haven't always been a fan of her performances.  She definitely has an uphill climb to advance this week, to say nothing of next week.  BUT, I absolutely loved this performance.  It was not only my favorite of the night by a wide margin, but maybe my favorite of the season. This was as drastic a rearrangement as Arthur's but unlike his I thought this completely worked with the song instead of being imposed on it.  It's a funny thing, The Beach Boys have a popular image as laid back surf-rockers singing good time music about girls and cars, without a lot of depth or complexity.  A lot of that comes from their early, most familiar songs, and from the later era when death and mental collapse took the Wilson brothers out of the picture and left Mike Love in charge, who favored an unambitious easy listening appeal.  Really though, the driving force behind the Beach Boys was Brian Wilson, and he was a genius who was among the first to bring grandiosity to American pop music, the guy who loved weird instrument and drove himself insane trying to create a "teenage symphony to God." While In My Room comes from earlier in their career, it already had the kind of harmonic lushness and complexity which would later evolve into bigger things.  Sophia's arrangement, which built from a dreamy restraint into a bombastic climax and then receded back into a softer conclusion made total sense with this song, which itself is a kind of reverie.  She also delivered it with vocal skill, with only some moderate vocal strain on the big note in the middle to mar the overall effect, and a kind of blissed out affect which was a perfect fit for the song.  I absolutely loved it.

 

Maybe 1/4 of people agreed with me, and everyone else seemed to just go "meh" and move on.  Which doesn't really fill me with a lot of hope that she'll advance, given that her support doesn't seem to have been that strong coming into this round (she was a mild surprise to get voted through), but I'm holding onto what hope there is.  A lot of that is because if she can get through, she's shown that she has the ability to deliver Moment material, even if this wasn't the performance that people took to.  There's also the question of themes.  While I think she's likely in a similar boat to Julia for Disney, unlikely to flop or excel, Mother's Day is a different matter.  A ton of Sophia's backstory has been about her mother's death and her emotions around it.  More than anyone other than maybe Sam, this is a theme with the potential to cut straight to her heart and add a ton of emotional resonance to what will probably be a strong and inventive performance. If she can just get there.  Enough to win?  Maybe not.  But it could be thrilling.

 

I really wonder what this would have been like on the full stage.  A lot of the performances that suffered from isolation were the energetic ones, but this one is also in "what could have been" territory.  The grandeur of the arrangement begs for a full on-stage orchestra and dramatic lighting, and I think a more present in-person accompaniment would've smoothed out the edges of that one vocal snag.  It also could've gone a completely different direction.  This is a song which begs for an a cappella arrangement, and that's Sophia's background.  Could she have tried to deliver it with just the backup singers? Could've been interesting.  Thanks COVID.

 

7. Jonny West (Previous Round 6) “Faithfully” by Journey

 

Jonny's kind of in a nebulous spot this week.  In a lot of ways, he seems similar to Arthur.  He seems very dedicated to his own musical style, and unlikely to really bend it to fit the Idol audience.  It's a style which I enjoy more than Arthur's and which I think is more unique to him, but the likelihood of really calculating his choices to win votes feels similarly low. That's won him supporters, and there's a good chance they get him through to the next round.  But I'm not really sure he can gather more voters into his corner.  At this point, we've seen what Jonny does, and either you like it or you don't.  On the one hand, that style does focus on a kind of gently confessional emotiveness, which could gain some traction with the charged Mother's Day theme, but I don't know that there's any specific resonance there for him, and I don't think he's likely to force one onto an unrelated song.  The other hand is that he's not the most vocally aggressive singer, and that could make it hard for him to stand out in the high stakes of next week. While I liked parts of this performance, it didn't really stick with me much.  If anything, the moment when he tried to get bigger with it was the worst part, because it felt less authentic than the rest of the performance.

 

I'm not really sure what else to say.  I think he's a solid contender for 6th or 7th, because the people below him have their own struggles and it seems unlikely that both Julia and Sophia make it.  But I don't know where he goes from there. I have NO idea what he does with Disney, which could either be fascinating or a disaster.  I'm interested to see it, but I don't think it will get him to the Finale.  

 

8. Grace Leer (Previous Round 😎 “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen

 

I actually liked the countryfied arrangement of Over the Rainbow Grace used here, which had definite stylistic touches but wasn't TOO over the top with the cornpone.  Standards have such solid musical bones that they can fairly easily be tailored into something more unique without losing their quality.  I also liked that Grace was putting a lot of gusto into the vocal, and it seemed like she's really fighting for her spot.  But I think it was just too forceful to be used from beginning to end, it worked against the dreamy nature of the song. While you could make a similar argument about Sophia's performance, I feel like that had elements which worked more closely with the song than Grace's did, and it also brought more dynamic variety to the song overall. Grace just ended up feeling a little desperate.

 

It's probably unfair, but another strike against her was that I couldn't help wondering what Lauren M would have done with the same song and arrangement.  While she couldn't really deliver the power that Grace did, she had a lot more finesse, and I think it really would have suited her.  I wonder how many country fans feel the same, and have never gotten behind Grace because she was in direct opposition to the country contestant they preferred.  Idol really did no favors to either of them with the faceoff, which remains baffling given how overloaded other archetypes ended up.  For me, the contrast left Grace feeling more generic, like an Idol blueprint of a country singer instead of a naturally developed one.  It just makes it hard for me to really click with her, and I feel like she's going to struggle to break through that mold to form a more unique connection.  I also don't see any really advantage to either of the themes for her.

 

It's never wise to completely write off a country singer, but it's also iffy to assume that they can fly through just on the basis of genre alone.  If voters weren't motivated to get behind anyone else, she could sneak into the next round by default, but I don't think default can get her to the Finale.  She'd have to pull out something huge, and I don't really see it.  But hey, I've been surprised before.

 

9. Jovin Webb (Previous Round 9) “Voodoo” by Allen Stone

 

I've said before, and I'll say again, that I really like Jovin.  His style is one which appeals to me, and I think he's a charismatic performer and solid singer.  Which makes me sad, because he really just does not work in this format.  He needs audience energy to feed off, and a big space to work, and he's not going to get it.  Like Jonny and Arthur, I think he has his style which he sticks with, and isn't able or willing to break from that to try to adapt to the circumstances.  In a regular season, he might not have to, he'd be a pretty good fit for the kind of performance which works on the Idol stage.  But in his garage, it doesn't work.  I liked this performance reasonably well, but it felt like it underdelivered.  Even in better circumstances, it has some of the same static quality as Sam's song, too much laid back relaxation to really hit the audience hard.  He might have been able to compensate, but I don't think he'd be able to really turn it into a killer performance.

 

I can't fully write him off.  He's the only clearly Southern contestant left (Grace is unclear but I thought they said she's in California), which can be a powerful advantage.  He's in a well-liked genre, which he basically has to himself, and hasn't really done anything that would clearly put fans of that off the way some might have been by Arthur's reggae Denver. I'd like to see him go another round, mostly because I like him and he'd probably choose a song I like.  He also, if he went through, has emotional resonance with his back story of his mother's death the way Sophia does.  But it feels like a slim chance.

 

10. Makayla Phillips (Previous Round 13) “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert

 

Would you believe this was one of my favorite performances of the night?  I haven't had any interest in the pop belting Makayla has given us thus far, I've never felt any connection to her, and while I would in some ways consider myself a country fan it's not usually for this brand of country.  But I thought this just worked.  She steered clear of all the pointlessly showy flourishes, and and delivered a sweet, straightforward performance of a good song.  Without the burden of all the flash, she showed a precision to her phrasing that I found far more impressive, and you could still see evidence that she's a technically skilled singer without being smacked in the face by it. It's funny, she's kind of a mirror universe of Gabby, who was a proficient pop-R&B belter who was for some reason compelled to keep chasing after country.  I feel like if Makayla had been going down the pop country route from the beginning, we'd all be resigning ourselves to her preordained victory while most of the Idolsphere grumbled about the country Mafia.  But, alternate realities abound this season.

 

It's on the strength of this one performance that I rate her chance higher than the typical doomed outcome of the Save.  It's probably not enough to get through another huge cut, but if this were a singleton elimination I think she'd have an excellent chance of lasting at least one more round.  It probably doesn't help her that all of the pop girls were cut at once, which makes it more unlikely that any of her potential pickup voters were willing to transfer over to her, and switching genre probably doesn't help.  It seems like the most likely impact is she siphons off some halfhearted voters from Grace and they both go home.  But I'll always wonder what the season would've been like if she took a different direction.

 

11. Louis Knight (Previous Round 11) “In My Place” by Coldplay. 

 

In keeping with the bizarro-Idol nature of this week, this was actually Louis' best performance I think.  It's clearly the kind of music which he'd make after Idol, and he delivered about as good a vocal as he can.  For someone who's been a C- performer all season, this was a solid B-.  So hey, props to Louis for that.

 

I just don't think he has any way of exceeding that.  He doesn't have greater vocal resources as far as I can tell, he's not much of a performer, and his emotional limit seems to be "moist eyed puppy." It's not impossible for him to get through to the next round.  The last spot or two are so close that they're likely to come down to the details, and being a cute non-threatening boy has a solid track record of being the detail that puts otherwise mediocre people through.  But I don't see a way of him turning that into a Finale spot, much less a win.  Maybe if Francisco had flopped, but right now Francisco is stomping all over Louis in terms of both arc and quality, and it'd take a big collapse on his part to reverse that.  At most, I think Louis just limps into that 6th-9th spot where outmatched young things like Sanjaya, Seavey, Lazaro, etc finally get dropped.  He takes a couple spots from people who were more deserving but also unlikely to win, and then scampers off.  Meh.

 

(Damnit curse, stay back.)

 

Edited by muse273
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Updated with full comments, just in time for spoilers.  Woo.  I'll possibly maybe come back with song choices for Sunday, but if you're spoiler averse you might want to steer clear.

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I just read your analysis.  Here’s my comments:

 

As a big fan of Just Sam, I’m glad you put her in first this week.  Maybe her song choice wasn’t the greatest, but at least she made a better choice than last week, and she has a chance to deliver a knockout performance next week.

 

 I wouldn’t be upset if Francisco won, but you may be right in thinking that he doesn’t have the killer instinct needed on the show.  Still, he’s the best of the guys.

 

I have to agree that Dillon stumbled with “Yesterday” by failing to get into the emotional connection, and that Disney songs will probably hurt him.

 

I think that Arthur will get into the Final 3 ahead of Dillon, but I agree with you that his performance wasn’t great at all and that he’s too inflexible to win the show.

 

Julia made a great improvement over last week but I feel that she won’t make it to the finale.  She’s consistently very good but not quite great.

 

 I wish that Sophia had made the next round instead of Louis, but I think that her performance wasn’t viewed as good as that of Julia, her closest competition, and she was in the middle of the pack, which is especially dangerous for women on this show for some reason.

 

I also think that Jonny won’t make the finale.  He’s too laid-back to get there.

 

Grace failed to make the Top 7 because of the factors that you mentioned, plus the fact that Dillon also did country.  The country voters may have gravitated more to him and that left Grace out in the cold.

 

Jovin was hurt by the coronavirus forcing him to perform in a more intimate setting that affected his performance skills.

 

 Makayla was doomed by the fact that she couldn’t stand out from the other teenage divas in time.

 

Louis is now the one who’s doomed.  Like you said, he’s outmatched, and while being a cute unthreatening boy got him into the Top 7, it won’t help him reach the finale.  He’s just not good enough.

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Thank you so much Muse for providing your power rankings again. I really enjoyed reading them. I, too, really enjoyed Sophia's performance this past weekend, especially since I am actually familiar with that song. I thought she did a great job! I also didn't care too much for Arthur's performance or Dillon's performance. Both had major problems, at least as far as I'm concerned. I thought Just Sam was better this past week than the previous week and agree that Francisco is really positioning himself well, although I still find him to be just a tad bit too cute for my liking. I enjoyed Julia once again, but I, too, wish she had connected a little bit more emotionally with the song. I didn't enjoy Louis that much, once again. And while Makayla, Jovin and Grace all sang well, they just really didn't move me at all. Anyway, I certainly would be interested in reading your song suggestions for the contestants since once again, you really know your stuff and always seem to make good suggestions. Now if only the contestants were willing to take your advice.

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37 minutes ago, Winterfan said:

Thank you so much Muse for providing your power rankings again. I really enjoyed reading them. I, too, really enjoyed Sophia's performance this past weekend, especially since I am actually familiar with that song. I thought she did a great job! I also didn't care too much for Arthur's performance or Dillon's performance. Both had major problems, at least as far as I'm concerned. I thought Just Sam was better this past week than the previous week and agree that Francisco is really positioning himself well, although I still find him to be just a tad bit too cute for my liking. I enjoyed Julia once again, but I, too, wish she had connected a little bit more emotionally with the song. I didn't enjoy Louis that much, once again. And while Makayla, Jovin and Grace all sang well, they just really didn't move me at all. Anyway, I certainly would be interested in reading your song suggestions for the contestants since once again, you really know your stuff and always seem to make good suggestions. Now if only the contestants were willing to take your advice.


I’d also like to read song suggestions, especially for Just Sam.  She’s my girl!

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thanks for the mini documentary about sam!!

 

and everything you said about arthur is spot on, very self-indulgent 

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4 hours ago, holinessss said:

thanks for the mini documentary about sam!!

 

and everything you said about arthur is spot on, very self-indulgent 


Yeah, thanks for the mini documentary.  I’m watching it now and I’m getting a look at Just Sam’s family situation.  Apparently her grandma adopted her, much like Simone’s grandparents adopted her.

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Posted (edited)

Alejandro had the disadvantage of being from CA, who never had a winner.  Same with NY.  Laine was from die hard Idol Country.   12 of the Idol winners are from Southern States.

 

Francisco, Jonny, Dillon are from CA.  Julia and Sam NY.  Louis from PA.  Also, Dillon and Sam have sob stories and those never win.

 

Arthur is from a mid-west State.  The season's too short.  It's about who has the rabid fan bases.

 

 

 

Edited by mytake1

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Posted (edited)

A few quick Disney song suggestions.  Mother's Day is too personally linked to really suggest for.  I've intentionally tried to avoid all the songs we've heard a bunch of times and are damn sick of, though I'm sure at least one or two will turn up. 

 

Sam-  "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog

This taps into the motivating elements of Sam's backstory, both the hardships she's faced and her drive to overcome them.  It's also a more upbeat, energetic than most of the performances she's given, which would be a good contrast to a heartfelt Mother's Day ballad.

 

Francisco- "So Close" from Enchanted 

While it's not one of the first movies which leaps to mind for Disney, this is one of the best of the more pop-oriented songs which fit the theme, and it lands firmly in the "cute boyfriend" appeal which is a strong point for Francisco, while also being a vocal showcase.  It's also one of several songs I have in mind which really resonate with the feelings of isolation a lot of us are feeling right now.

 

Dillon- "I See The Light" from Tangled 

Even though this HAS been done, I feel like it deserves a better attempt than Laci's shaky version last year.  It's a smooth ballad, which I think would work better for Dillon than something kind of hokey like other country-inclined contestants have done, and the arrangement would be easily imagined.  Something sincere and simple might get him to connect more openly.

 

Arthur- "You're Welcome" from Moana

It's hard to imagine Arthur picking a ballad, which doesn't seem like his vocal forte, and there are a lot of fun numbers he could choose which could go badly.  This, on the other hand, takes some of the same energetic delivery as other possibilities, and gives it more of bragging edge which cuts through the saccharine.  It would be good to see Arthur put a bit of a sting into his somewhat easygoing performances.

 

Julia"When You Wish Upon A Star" from Pinnochio 

It's kind of funny that this, the Disniest Disney song which ever Disneyed has never turned up in the 20 previous Disney-theme performances+past choices.  While many associate it with the more childlike Disney of past years, it's actually a pretty sophisticated tune and lyrics.  Julia's natural restraint would be admirably suited, and she has the vocal prowess to really deliver the melody. 

 

Sophia- "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules 

In comparison to Julia, Sophia seems a bit more of a drama queen, and has more bite to her persona.  This is may be the least romantic of all the Disney heroine ballads, but the emotional complexity would be a good fit for Sophia's drama-kid delivery, and like my choice for Sam it would be a good contrast to a more heartrending Mother's Day song.

 

Jonny- "Go The Distance" from Hercules

On the surface, this seems like it would be a tough song for Jonny, as the big bombastic ballad ending would be a bigger hurdle than his somewhat fragile voice would fit.  However, the majority of the song is more of an introspective I Want song, and I think Jonny could filter it through his own style into something which brought that intimate earlier section to a satisfying conclusion.

 

Grace- "Something That I Want" from Tangled

To be honest, this would probably be a song choice that would work better on a full stage than in a back yard, and it's a bit repetitive in its full version.  But that makes it easier to turn into a truncated Idol-appropriate version, and it would bring Grace back to the more energetic territory which seems like her stronger suit than her recent ballads.  It would also be kind of funny to see a song from Grace Potter, one of the few Disney-movie songs who's actually signed to Hollywood.

 

Jovin- "Immortals" from Big Hero 6

Again, this would be a better fit for full-stage Idol, but there aren't a ton of Disney songs which really seem like a good fit for Jovin (though Ma Belle Evangeline crossed my mind).  This is a darker, more intense piece than the average Disney song, and a different kind of rock from Jovin's style, but it could make for a fascinating combination.

 

Makayla- "For The First Time In Forever" from Frozen

While last week's song gave us a view of more restrained Makayla, it would also be nice to see her give a performance which actually felt authentic coming from a teenager, instead of various shades of posing as an adult.  This is an exuberant song which could give us a different side of her vocally as well, and I think the vocal polish she has could help her maintain that energy without getting off the rails.

 

Louis- "Out There" from Hunchback of Notre Dame

If there was ever a Disney song made for our current times, it's this one.  Locked up and lonely, but hopeful for the future.  Hunchback is an underrated film, simultaneously the darkest Disney movie and a surprisingly touching one.  I'm not sure Louis has the vocal polish to pull it off, but like Jonny I feel like a surprisingly good version could come out of attempting to make it fit him.

 

I really wish choosing a villain song wasn't probably a terrible idea from an voter perspective.  C'mon, someone do Hellfire in a full priest outfit! Re-enact Be Prepared with your stuffed animals.  Steal Katy's outfit from last year and do Poor Unfortunate Souls... I'm really sad I couldn't find a version of Poor Unfortunate Souls with Patrick Page singing.

 

 

Edited by muse273

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5 minutes ago, muse273 said:

A few quick Disney song suggestions.  Mother's Day is too personally linked to really suggest for.  I've intentionally tried to avoid all the songs we've heard a bunch of times and are damn sick of, though I'm sure at least one or two will turn up. 

 

Sam-  "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog

This taps into the motivating elements of Sam's backstory, both the hardships she's faced and her drive to overcome them.  It's also a more upbeat, energetic than most of the performances she's given, which would be a good contrast to a heartfelt Mother's Day ballad.

 

Francisco- "So Close" from Enchanted 

While it's not one of the first movies which leaps to mind for Disney, this is one of the best of the more pop-oriented songs which fit the theme, and it lands firmly in the "cute boyfriend" appeal which is a strong point for Francisco, while also being a vocal showcase.  It's also one of several songs I have in mind which really resonate with the feelings of isolation a lot of us are feeling right now.

 

Dillon- "I See The Light" from Tangled 

Even though this HAS been done, I feel like it deserves a better attempt than Laci's shaky version last year.  It's a smooth ballad, which I think would work better for Dillon than something kind of hokey like other country-inclined contestants have done, and the arrangement would be easily imagined.  Something sincere and simple might get him to connect more openly.

 

Arthur- "You're Welcome" from Moana

It's hard to imagine Arthur picking a ballad, which doesn't seem like his vocal forte, and there are a lot of fun numbers he could choose which could go badly.  This, on the other hand, takes some of the same energetic delivery as other possibilities, and gives it more of bragging edge which cuts through the saccharine.  It would be good to see Arthur put a bit of a sting into his somewhat easygoing performances.

 

Julia"When You Wish Upon A Star" from Pinnochio 

It's kind of funny that this, the Disniest Disney song which ever Disneyed has never turned up in the 20 previous Disney-theme performances+past choices.  While many associate it with the more childlike Disney of past years, it's actually a pretty sophisticated tune and lyrics.  Julia's natural restraint would be admirably suited, and she has the vocal prowess to really deliver the melody. 

 

Sophia- "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules 

In comparison to Julia, Sophia seems a bit more of a drama queen, and has more bite to her persona.  This is may be the least romantic of all the Disney heroine ballads, but the emotional complexity would be a good fit for Sophia's drama-kid delivery, and like my choice for Sam it would be a good contrast to a more heartrending Mother's Day song.

 

Jonny- "Go The Distance" from Hercules

On the surface, this seems like it would be a tough song for Jonny, as the big bombastic ballad ending would be a bigger hurdle than his somewhat fragile voice would fit.  However, the majority of the song is more of an introspective I Want song, and I think Jonny could filter it through his own style into something which brought that intimate earlier section to a satisfying conclusion.

 

Grace- "Something That I Want" from Tangled

To be honest, this would probably be a song choice that would work better on a full stage than in a back yard, and it's a bit repetitive in its full version.  But that makes it easier to turn into a truncated Idol-appropriate version, and it would bring Grace back to the more energetic territory which seems like her stronger suit than her recent ballads.  It would also be kind of funny to see a song from Grace Potter, one of the few Disney-movie songs who's actually signed to Hollywood.

 

Jovin- "Immortals" from Big Hero 6

Again, this would be a better fit for full-stage Idol, but there aren't a ton of Disney songs which really seem like a good fit for Jovin (though Ma Belle Evangeline crossed my mind).  This is a darker, more intense piece than the average Disney song, and a different kind of rock from Jovin's style, but it could make for a fascinating combination.

 

Makayla- "For The First Time In Forever" from Frozen

While last week's song gave us a view of more restrained Makayla, it would also be nice to see her give a performance which actually felt authentic coming from a teenager, instead of various shades of posing as an adult.  This is an exuberant song which could give us a different side of her vocally as well, and I think the vocal polish she has could help her maintain that energy without getting off the rails.

 

Louis- "Out There" from Hunchback of Notre Dame

If there was ever a Disney song made for our current times, it's this one.  Locked up and lonely, but hopeful for the future.  Hunchback is an underrated film, simultaneously the darkest Disney movie and a surprisingly touching one.  I'm not sure Louis has the vocal polish to pull it off, but like Jonny I feel like a surprisingly good version could come out of attempting to make it fit him.

 

I really wish choosing a villain song wasn't probably a terrible idea from an voter perspective.  C'mon, someone do Hellfire in a full priest outfit! Re-enact Be Prepared with your stuffed animals.  Steal Katy's outfit from last year and do Poor Unfortunate Souls.

 

 


Very good choices!

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if sam does the spanish version of go the distance, no importa la distancia by Ricky Martin, which is better than the english one, she could secure her place in the top 3. 

 

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