Tonight, the final group of 12 performed on American Idol. All in all, it seemed like a stronger group, which is funny considering that this group seemed less competitive when the groupings were first announced. The contestants tonight, though, seemed to at least try to bring something to the table. Whether or not they were successful is up to America to decide.
1. Von Smith: I am not a fan of Von Smith. I find his shouty voice and messed up facial expressions while singing both distracting and laughable. Seriously, the dude looks like he is about two seconds away from inhaling the freakin' microphone when he sings! He was a little more subdued tonight with his "You're All I Need to Get By," but I just can't watch him when he sings.
2. Taylor Vaifanua: "If I Aint' Got You" is maybe a song that needs to be banned. It's been so overdone and there's really no topping Alicia Keys. And yet here was poor Taylor giving it her best with a competent but bland, generic performance that did her no favors. She did come across as a little old (not that that's a bad thing) and left no real impression.
3. Alex Wagner-Trubman: This guy is such a cute little nerdy guy. I'm sure his high school drama teacher loved him! His "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" was a bit silly with the weird growls and the odd twitchy dancing. He seems like a really sweet and earnest kid, but I suspect we won't be seeing much of Alex after tonight's results show.
4. Arianna Afsar: Talk about a sweet and earnest kid. This girl is adorable -- indeed "cute as a button" as she was labeled in her audition and reassured tonight by Kara that this was indeed a compliment. Arianna is also the one who runs an "adopt a grandparent" program, so there's a good heart behind that sweet face. Unfortunately, Arianna's performance tonight was just really, really not good. She chose "The Winner Takes It All," which is perhaps Abba's most overwrought song. Again, it was a song too old for her instrument. The angst and pain in that song is not something a 17 year old can really understand. (If she wanted Abba, why not a more upbeat selection like "Take a Chance on Me" which has a more youthful vibe.) On top of that, Arianna decided to "make the song her own" by, well, making up her own notes so that the song became unrecognizable at times. Very sad.
5. Ju'not Joyner: Finally a performance worth remembering! Ju'not's mellow, sexy take on "Hey There, Delilah" was so enjoyable. He didn't push and delve into histrionics like so many did before him. He just came out and sang a sweet, simple tune in a lovely, simple way that made the song his own while still respecting the integrity of the song. If Ju'not doesn't make it through tonight (and it's iffy for him considering his placement in the lineup and the performances that came later), he definitely deserves a wild card shot.
6. Kristen McNamara: I wasn't much of a fan of Kristen's leading into tonight. Her group performance drama just kind of turned me off. Her performance of "Gimme One Reason" tonight, though, wasn't bad. She has a strong voice and is slightly reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson without Kelly's power and presence. I found Kristen's performance, though, a little "clean" (this is kind of a dirty, gritty song) and she was done no favors by the laughable Broadway-esque arrangement provided by the band. (Seriously, what is up with them this season?) But again, she is likely a top wild card contender.
7. Nathaniel Marshall: Oh, Nathaniel. Within about 5 seconds of his performance of "I Would Do Anything for Love," my sis and I were rolling with laughter. She said it felt to her like a cheesy 70's variety show performance. With the cheesy dance moves (the pointing, oh, the pointing!) and the over-the-top song choice, Nathaniel gave a memorable performance, but not the one I'm sure he intended. And Nathaniel, when a judge compares your performance to Boy George, they're meaning that you're queer, dear.
8. Felicia Barton: For those of you that don't know, Felicia was not supposed to be performing last night. She was supposed to be home with her baby watching and seething and thinking how that coulda been her up there. But Felicia got lucky when the producers realized that letting a close friend of theirs (Joanna Pacitti) get through MIGHT be considered a conflict of interest. So Joanna (whose life is a string of near misses with fame -- seriously! Google that chick and see. If it was a made-for-Lifetime movie, you wouldn't believe it!) was sent packing and Felicia was brought back. Felicia performed Alicia Keys's "No One" and did a passable job even though it did sound pretty copycat to me. (Can Alicia Keys be added please to that list of "untouchable" artists?) I wouldn't be overly surprised to see Felicia sneak in if only because America might dig her "second chance at the dream" story, but she probably isn't as deserving as, say, Kristen.
9. Scott McIntyre: I have to start off by saying I really love Scott, and not just because he's blind. I like that folk-y sort of vibe he has. It was not overly shocking to see him select a Bruce Hornsby song, and I liked the mellow vibe he gave off. That sort of "folk dude" thing is gaining some popularity right now, so I could see Scott having a successful career. I would also suspect he's a top contender to make it through tonight. And if he doesn't, wild card for sure.
10. Kendall Beard: For a second there, I thought I'd switched the channel accidentally and ended up on "The Search for Elle Woods." And then I remembered that Legally Blonde closed months ago and I saw Paula Abdul and knew I was safe. Her choice of a country song made her stand out, but "This One's for the Girls" is kind of a ridiculous song and was not particularly well sung by cute little Kendall.
11. Jorge Nunez: I didn't have incredibly high expectations for Jorge, particularly after his intro video that made him seem like some sort of crazy Ricky Martin/Ricky Ricardo stereotype. He does have some weird, funky facial things he does when he sings, but if you close your eyes, he's really quite good. His performance of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" was lovely. His teary response to the praise he received may allow him to sneak past Scott and Ju'not for a spot on the silver stools of success, and it would be a deserved victory even if I do like Scott and Ju'not better.
12. Lil Rounds: Okay, I call shenanigans here. Like Danny Gokey, Lil has clearly been annointed by the producers as a "chosen one." To make that selection even more obvious, Lil got the "pimp spot" last night, pretty much assuring her spot on a silver stool, joining previous pimp spot holders Danny and Adam Lambert. Here's the thing -- none of these people probably needed that boost. Lil, especially, blew the rest of the women out of the water last night with her version of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You." That girl has presence, talent, and charisma and is PROBABLY the next American Idol. But can we just be trusted to realize that for ourselves without having her shoved down our throats?
So my pick for tonight's winners would be Lil for sure and then I think the other two spots will go to Jorge, Scott, or Ju'not. Kristen could sneak in there, but I think the three guys had the stronger performances.
Tomorrow night is the Wild Card show where the judges will select three more people to round out the top 12. Working under the assumption that they will pick an even number from each of the three groups, I predict they're going to bring back the following for one more shot at glory: Ricky Braddy, Anoop Desai, Ann Marie Boskovich, Stephen Fowler, Megan Corkery, Mishovanna Henson, Jessie Langseth, Jasmine Murray, and then from tonight Kristen McNamara, the loser of the Jorge-Scott-Ju'not standoff, Felicia Barton, and Von Smith.