American Idol 2, February 18: Group Dynamicsby Sting7 -- 02/19/2003
Group Three steps forward for their shot at the Top Ten. This group is perhaps the most lackluster of the four. As you know, I've been pegging certain performers as Picks to Click: the performers who, I believe, have a legitimate shot at being the second American Idol. There is not a single Pick To Click among this group. If you think I'm troubled, you should hear the judges.
And... I would love to tell you exactly what the judges said. Unfortunately, due to a operational misprocess (my trusted VCR decided to snack on the tape!), I am not able to accurately requote their comments to you. So, rather than be incorrect, and have Yahoo warn me about the size of my mailbox (because I know, as a RNO staffer, the most minute inaccuracy will have me deluged by folks who are willing and eager to correct me), we'll skip that part this week. I apologize for the inconvenience. But frankly, you aren't missing much anyway because most of the comments went like this: Randy and Simon - "That was okay. Good. Not great. Just okay." Paula - "Oh, that was great!"
Ryan welcomes us back. (And it can be said: he is better without Dunkleman.) Says nothing relevant, patter patter with the judges, on with the performance.
Kimberly Kelsey, "All Coming Back To Me" - The story on Kimberly is that she is big on the Celine Dion tunes. In the brief glimpses we've had of her before, she handled them fairly well. Tonight, she chose one of the lesser Celine songs, and gives a lesser performance. There are pitch problems and she goes places that only Celine should go vocally. The judges are lukewarm at best.
Jordan Segundo, "For Your Love" - Jordan is a pleasant surprise for me. When he strolled out, I thought, "here comes an O-Town number," but Jordan gave us Stevie Wonder. He is surprisingly soulful, and his voice is strong, but a bit inconsistent. I think it's nerves. In the last chorus, Stevie Wonder himself was on the pitch tightrope, Jordan might have wanted to step a little closer to that wire, but took the conservative route. The judges again are lukewarm.
Vanessa Olivarez, "On My Own" - I've wondered why no one has used this "Fame" nugget before. It is dead-on perfect for American Idol. Vanessa is not quite dead-on though. Her delivery of the song seems a half-beat slow. I don't know whether that was stylizing or the limitations of the piano player, but it's distracting to me. Vocally, Vanessa has a warm, easy voice, that belies her wild Japanimation look. But, she stands out. That could make the difference. Judges are moderately pleased, though Simon makes a comment indicating she could stand to lose a few pounds and this sets her off on a response that includes shaking her butt around to show that it's okay.
Rickey Smith, "One Last Cry" - Our friend 'Hercules, Hercules' gives this Brian McKnight song a twirl and, for the most part, nails it. There are a few moments where his voice sounded just a bit out of tune, but he always blithely corrects himself. Nerves again. He doesn't pack the wallop that his buddy, Ruben Studdard, does, but it is a respectable performance. The judges seem pleased, Simon says, 'good. Not jumping out of my chair, but good.' Rickey asks what was bad about it. Simon only repeats, 'good' arms flayed like, "what do you want from me?" Rickey, that was almost arguing. Stop it.
Samantha Cohen, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" - Colorado's own Samantha Cohen aims for the Aretha Franklin version, as opposed to the En Vogue one. Aretha is lofty heights, but if you can claim it, you could go a long way. Last year, we heard Kelly Clarkson nail a couple of Aretha Franklin numbers and look where she ended up. Samantha is not as impressive as Kelly vocally, but there is no question that Samantha has nice pipes. Another case of bad song choice. Samantha likes to roll her neck, but she is very comfortable with the camera and can emote. What is most impressive is after the judges' comments, Samantha's mother greets her at the door with a hug. This gives Samantha a chance to show a winning personality. She's very likeable. The judges comments are warm with traces of annoyance. Simon and Randy in particular say that she was good, but no one is blowing them away. Simon says that she was 'polished and professional' but, clearly, he wants more than that.
Lou Gazzara "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?" - Lou Gazzara of the twinkling blue eyes and the cheerleading kicks (oy vey) makes me drop my Coke when he begins belting out this Michael Bolton hit. Again, pleasantly surprised and pleased with a performance that I was ready to dislike. His vocals are strong and the vibrato is beautiful, yet it was somehow passionless. It just didn't ignite like Bolton's did. No one is expecting him to be Bolton, but when you are waiting for the fire and it doesn't come, it kills the whole performance. He tries a James Ingram-esque ending that makes me wince. Paula is pleased, Randy is so-so, Simon calls Lou "this year's RJ" (ouch!) and gives his famous 'so what?' Lou says he disagrees. Simon dismisses this disagreement.
When will they learn?
Equoia "The Way We Were" - Lovely Equoia, with the dazzling smile, gives an amazingly soulful reading of Barbara Streisand's classic. Her voice is a smooth smolder and she is a born performer. This is clearly a woman who has darkened a few boards! I am thoroughly impressed. Randy seems impressed as well, calling it the most passionate performance of the night, though he wasn't fond of the song choice. Paula says she could see Equoia was 'feeling it.' Simon again says polished and professional. Equoia accepts her notices and decides to challenge the judges, claiming the best group is Group 3 and they do have personality and the judges shouldn't say anything else. She takes that dazzling smile and scoots off stage to the admiration of her group mates.
What was the point of that? I guess their minds are changed now.
George Trice, "Unchained Melody" - George has to deal with the stigma of being a replacement, so you wonder if the pressure is greater on him. If so, he doesn't show it. He tackles one of Simon's favorite songs (more pressure) and gives a dazzling performance. His vocal control is excellent, he's smart enough to ease past some of the cheesier high notes and manages to put some of his own personality in. Beyond a doubt, the most surprising performance of the night. Paula is overjoyed with the performance, Randy gives a begrudging approval, though he says as a record producer, he wouldn't know what to do with George's vocal style, and Simon is just not thrilled. Paula tries to convince him he is, claiming he had goosebumps. Then molests him to try to make the goosebumps - on his chest! Silly Paula. George accepts the feedback with a smile that is damned charming.
Simon's annoyance is overflowing now. He claims that this week was full of polished, professional singers, no sparks, and a lot of bad song choices. He makes two guarantees: 1) Group 4 will blow Group 3 away and, 2) the Wildcard round (which I've already started to handicap) will be the best of the groups all season long.
Overall, this group is a difficult call. No one really blew any of the others away. So, making to the Top Ten will not be about singing skill, but who did you like. All of the eight gave very respectable performances, and I think all of the eight could have had a decent run in the Top Ten last year. This is the hardest decision I've had to make all year. Here goes:
Who I think should advance:
2. George Trice
And, who I think will advance:
1. George Trice
2. Samantha Cohen
I think Vanessa Olivarez will join them in the top three. That's my call, I have to live with it. By next week, I will have a new VCR and we can do it like we normally do it then! Thanks for the understanding, my friends!
Be sure to check out David Bloomberg's thoughts on this group over at Foxes On Idol!
Sting7 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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