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The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 24 Group One: "You have a gift."


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The NGH Report - American Idol 19's Top 24 Group One: "You have a gift."




Well. That was 48 performances in four hours. 


I feel like American Idol maybe doesn't realize I am 16 years older now than when I first started writing these reviews.


That's right. I started writing this report in, like, 2004/2005. So, maybe they can throw me a bone here and not pile on FORTY-EIGHT performances that I need to somehow comment on in a pithy and immature way. I'm halfway through my 30s, y'all, and I have THINGS TO DO. 


Still, I enjoyed the semi-finals this year. A ridiculous cornucopia of talent which will only make these eliminations unpredictable with the result of absolutely no one being happy. But, alas, those are the breaks!


As always, I've ranked the contestants based off of how successful I thought they were on the night of, and I broke up my rankings into the two groups (though I think we can all agree that Group 1 was stronger overall than Group 2). Today is Group One!


Here we go!


Group One


12. Cecil Ray - "Paint Me a Birmingham" / "Freedom Was a Highway"


First of all... I don't know this song, but that being said, I am 100% certain it wasn't mean to be sung like this. I have no @#$%ing clue what happened to Cecil here, but the only explanations is that nerves completely took over his body and locked him up. Cecil has (had?) probably the best country tone in the competition. Yes, he is green and needs serious growth, but the tone was there. But tonight? The pitch suffered and he sang everything in this weird nasal register that completely ruined his voice. The duet was an improvement, but maybe just barely. He was just eaten up by that stage. On a night where we saw solid and great performances, Cecil stood out as the only one that was actively, vocally, not up for this. NOT SAFE.


11. Alana Sherman - "Blow Your Mind" / "Back At One"


I don't think Alana did anything wrong, necessarily, but when you are the only outright cannon fodder contestant in the round, you have to be memorable with a capital "M" and I don't think she achieved that here. In fact, I forgot about her literally after the next performance. She's talented, but we know very little about her and the Idol producers apparently couldn't find any room in the show edits to give us said information. Also, I was struck by how I was way more interested in watching Brian McKnight during their duet than literally anything she sang. That's not a great sign. I think Alana is the most obvious elimination of the week. NOT SAFE.


10. Andrea Valles - "Lo Vas A Olvidar" / "Careless Whisper"


I appreciate that Andrea took a risk right out of the gate by singing a Spanish solo, but I'm not exactly certain it will do her any favors with the Idol audience. Sure, we all know that Katy Perry loses her mind every time she discovers someone is bilingual, or is "conversationally" bilingual, or took Spanish class in high school, or once ate a burrito, or can roll their "r"s, or knows how to type an "enye" using an American keyboard... BUT, I don't know how helpful this will be to actually introducing her to most Idol viewers. The duet was fine, but again... why am I way more interested in watching Brian McKnight?! The one unknown to me is... how is that awesome eyepatch going to play? Because, if you were to ask someone up to this point to describe Andrea Valles... I think they'd have issues, but ask them if they remembered the "eyepatch girl?" Boom. Instant. Identity. NOT SAFE.


9. Alyssa Wray - "Something in the Water" / "I'm Your Baby Tonight"


Every year there is a contestant like Alyssa Wray. Big voice, big capability, big potential - yet undeniably unsure of who they are as an artist. It all feels a bit "dress up" or "put on" or "pretend." Alyssa is a hell of a vocalist, but I have no idea who she wants to be as a performer other than "the girl who can sing-growl real loud." I think she would do great in musical theatre as she has a big talent for emoting through a song and can definitely deliver the theatrics. But, I'm not certain, after seeing all of this talent in a row... that she really has a great claim to why she should win this show. NOT SAFE.


8. Alanis Sophia - "Alive" / "Shallow"


On the other side of that coin is Alanis. This is a contestant who has consistently been improving and finding herself on my radar. I thought her solo was vocally impressive and I really feel like she knows who she is as a singer and what type of music she wants to focus on moving forward. I found the duet solid, but lacking emotionally. There are things she still needs to work on, but I fully believe she should find her way into the Top 12. So, why ranked so low? Well, there was a lot of talent tonight... and Alanis opened the show. It's hard to be memorable for the section of the audience that waits until the end of the show to vote. NOT SAFE.


7. Deshawn Goncalves - "Forever Young" / "I Lived"


I fully expect Deshawn to go home next week. I think he's great, but he's too musical. He takes choices that are impressive on a technical level, but really don't seem grounded in popular approval. He focuses on short falsetto moments instead of glory notes. He understands what is beautiful and ethereal about the songs he picks and contorts, but he doesn't seem to understand what America really wants to watch. I love the guy, but I would be shocked to see him move forward. NOT SAFE.


6. Graham DeFranco - "Raye" / "Love Like This"


I was pretty ready to rank Graham in my Bottom 4 until his duet performance. "Raye" was fine, but inconsequential, but "Love Like This?" It was a beautiful storytelling moment and displayed Graham at his best. I think he surprised me tonight and potentially a few voters. He's got a great personality, even if his voice isn't terribly diverse. Still, a heartwarming performance like that duet is what you would expect to bring an also-ran shockingly into the Top 16. Still a bit of a climb! NOT SAFE.


5. Wyatt Pike - "Rubberband" / "Brand New"


The first completely cooked contestant of the night, Wyatt knows who he is. He delivered two very solid performances that showcased someone who was ready to make a record and compete on the charts tomorrow. He was already a continuously featured contestant, and he proved himself worthy of a slot in the Top 16 with his steadiness and dependability tonight. Honestly, it was wild to me how well his duet blended. I couldn't tell where his voice began and Ben Rector's ended. NEVER GOING HOME.


4. Cassandra Coleman - "Find Me" / "Apologize"


Cassandra is definitely the "indie princess" of the competition. I do wonder if there is space for both her and Ava August, but luckily, even if their styles are somewhat similar, their voices are considerably different. Cassandra still feels like a niche contestant (adored by many, but not grasped by most), and those contestants typically make the Finals, but they don't win the show (yes, it has happened in the past). She knows who she is and if she can settle down and have some bigger, show stopping moments, she could survive some of these big cuts. I feel like she has enough gas in the tank to make the Top 16. NEVER GOING HOME.


3. Anilee List - "My Future" / "Tell Me Something Good"


Anilee was the biggest surprise of the night. I knew Willie and Grace would be great, but I wasn't expecting a previously eliminated contestant to command the stage and lay down some of the most impressive vocals of the evening. Sure, there were some "too cute by half" choices, but if I were an audience member watching Anilee for the first time I would be very impressed by what she achieved. I remember her and that goes a long way. Still... will that be enough to overcome a bit of a lack of screen time in a year where so many of these contestants have already gone viral? Not sure. NOT SAFE.


2. Grace Kinstler - "Queen" / "Midnight Train to Georgia"


While I wasn't really interested in Grace's "I am woman, hear me roar" solo performance (I prefer a bit more subtlety?), it was really hard to argue with the fact that she is just an exceptional singer that has done more than enough (and then some) to make it into the next round. The duet was magical and Grace continues her campaign of shock and awe as she effortlessly sings circles around the contestants of this show. See you next week, Grace! NEVER GOING HOME.


1. Willie Spence - "Wind Beneath My Wings" / "The Prayer"


I mentioned this in my last article, but again... it's very possible this whole competition is already over and Willie Spence is this year's winner. He consistently goes viral, his performances are spread far and wide, and his story has touched the heart of Idol viewers. He's Ruben 2.0, and Ruben had very similar treatment early on. He could do no wrong! Still. I think he made a mistake with leaning into his Studdard-ness and singing "Wind Beneath My Wings." That song was dated in the early 2000s, when Ruben performed it, and it's practically ancient almost 20 years later. Willie's voice is doing the work, and perhaps that's all it will take... after all, Samantha Diaz won with a strong backstory and a voice full of emotion. We know it can still be done. "The Prayer" has literally shown up in my Facebook newsfeed no less than 20 times from friends of mine who stopped watching this show years ago. Again... this could already be over. Who will be the Clay of Season 19? NEVER GOING HOME.


Who should go home?


Cecil, Alana, Andrea, and Alyssa


Who will go home?


Deshawn, Alana, Andrea, and Anilee


See you in a few days for Group 2!



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