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American Juniors, June 17: Honest and Pureby Sting7 -- 06/18/2003
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This is the first of many big nights for the Juniors. The first chance to perform in front of judges, compete against each other, and see how they stack up against some adult-sized nerves.
Ryan Seacrest is back and welcomes us to the spanking new sparkling set! It’s nice, if not overly bright, but a great venue for a night that honestly, truly, sincerely, and deeply knocked me out. I don’t know how you or I are supposed to pick five from this group! Send your good vibes to David Bloomberg, but he’s gonna be up late posting this. It could take me awhile.
But, first, a disclaimer. I took this gig because I figured I could recap the show and give my honest thoughts about these kids without being all agog over their preciousness. I have no kids, don’t want any, but I can judge talent. I will not be swayed, have no paternal biases. So, I may be tougher than the judges on the show. In fact, I can guarantee it. If the show needs a Simon, it will probably be in the form of me. I will be tough, so if it bothers you that I can harsh on a ten-year-old, you may want to move on to the next article.
But, they are weakening me.
We get a brief recap of the audition process, focusing more on the humorous elements. Tonight is about the performances, and we have judges to give critique. Nice, polite critiques, but critiques. Ryan called them “this week’s celebrity judges,” which makes me wonder if this will be a revolving process. However, it turns out that two of them are in fact permanent and the other is a revolving guest judge.
Anyway, the judges tonight are Deborah (nee Debbie) Gibson (still the youngest artist to write and record a number one song), Justin Guarini (you may have heard of him), and the legendary Gladys Knight. Gibson and Knight are the permanent judges. And, the first to be judged is....
Morgan Burke, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
Deborah says he looks like he loves what he’s doing, he hit the money notes and that’s what counts. Justin says he was worried after seeing Morgan flipping around in his intro video, but Morgan focused his energy and was amazing. Gladys says that, back in the day, they used to say that kids that showed a lot of showbiz pizzazz were “born in a trunk.” And, she says, Morgan was born in a trunk! Ryan asks Morgan’s Mom if he was born in a trunk. She says, “it felt like it!” Good one, Mom!
I think Morgan looked like he was born to be on a stage! He is as natural up there as he is on a playground. It was an excellent choice of song as well, his voice does remind you of Frankie Lymon. It was up-tempo enough to let him use some of that natural energy in a bit of dancing, yet gave him room to show his impressive pipes. Excellent.
Kara Lieberman, “Hopelessly Devoted To You”
Deborah says she was adorable and real, but she needs to work on pitch and control and a teacher to help with that would be good. Justin acknowledges that she seems to be having fun, and control will come with age and some coaching. He hopes she’ll keep going. Gladys says she was so bubbly, and she makes us feel good. She also coaches Kara not to hold the mike so close because it blocks her “beautiful face,” and acknowledges those control issues.
There was definitely a problem with control, but I think it came from nerves. Gutsy Kara was visibly shaking, but she powered through it, and she’ll look back on this performance, hopefully, and learn from it. Song choice wasn’t the best either. Kara will have a low, bluesy kind of voice when it’s done growing, and Olivia Newton-John was definitely not that. The two elements together came off awkward.
Kristinia DeBarge, “Reflection”
Deborah loves the confidence that came from Kristinia’s intro-video, and that she seems to be a team-player which is important for a group. Then the singing brought goosebumps. It was soulful and classy. Justin says he can relate to the nerves when you first come on stage, but she came through in the end. Gladys says she senses Kristinia’s inner beauty besides the outer, her voice “is so crisp, so on it,” she loved the performance and the way Kristinia was dressed.
I am wondering how many times Kristinia has been on camera. There was a definite quiet confidence about her, she looked right into the camera and emoted with a voice that was, as Gladys said, so crisp and so pure. It was beautiful. Another excellent song choice (I wonder how much input the kids have, versus the parents and/or producers?); I feel like I know this young lady now. Very powerful.
A.J. Melendez, “Isn’t She Lovely”
Deborah wonders how he learned how to “work the ladies” so young? (There was squealing...), she says he’s going to be a star. Justin loves A.J.’s wild locks, A.J. acknowledges Justin’s, and Justin says A.J. did a great job. Gladys says he’s got the look, got the whole thing!
I think Fox pulled a swerve on us! Ryan called A.J. a dancer last week during auditions, and I immediately dismissed him. Then he opened his mouth and this excellent, controlled, measured voice comes booming out. A.J. worked the stage better than anyone else tonight, and with that voice, and his dancing ability. He. Is. A. Lock.
Grace Leer, “To Sir With Love”
Deborah says Grace’s Dad is about to burst! She says she’s sure he loved watching Grace. Justin says she is beautiful, her eyes sparkled, and her smile lit up the room, when she did. He got the feeling that she was really feeling the words. Gladys says she does her name proud; she is graceful, and there is a richness to her voice that is wonderful.
I am with Gladys tonight! Grace has a gorgeous richness to her voice, that, I think, wrestled with the song arrangement at times. That’s going to work against her. And the song, I still think, was a bit mature for her. But, in the end, she did herself proud.1 2 Next-->
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