American Idol 2, March 11: Make Me Motownby Sting7 -- 03/12/2003
The preliminaries are done. It is time to put up or shut-up. The Top 12, as chosen by America and/or judges, get their first opportunity to feed off a live audience who loved them, and ignore the judges, who may not. Some of them clearly sparkled, a few were blinded by the lights. But, what an incredible night of performances! Not a Nikki McKibbin among them.
Ryan Seacrest shows us the new sound stage, and there are lights! Oooh! Ryan also explains the rules... one of the 12 will be eliminated based on America's votes... yadda yadda... it's like explaining tic tac toe at this point, isn't it? Ryan reintroduces us to the Top 12 and announces tonight it is Motown night! And, all of the songs performed will be songs written by tonight's celebrity judge, the amazing Lamont Dozier! (I am a bit reluctant to embrace the idea of celebrity judges who will not say anything of importance or know the contestants well enough to know when they are performing at their best or not, but Lamont was respectful to the contestants, and only had one well-worded negative critique. If they all will be like him, if there are to be more, I can be okay with it.)
And now, on to the performances!
Let's get to know Kimberley Locke. She's from Gallatin, TN, population 20,000, from racially mixed parents, and says singing is an outlet for her. Her Mom says Kimberley watched The Wizard of Oz a gazillion times (we've heard her sing "Over the Rainbow" almost as many times). Kimberley says being on show is her Oz (not the prison show).
Kimberley Locke, "Heat Wave"
Randy - "hard to go 1st... good, but not the best we've heard from... song didn't allow riffs and runs... okay"
Paula - "look beautiful... did you know there were flames behind you, wasn't best performance, but had everyone on their feet"
Simon - "thought sung stunk (teasing Lamont Dozier)... flames made you like a Burger King commercial... it was okay"
Lamont- "great energy... looked like you were ready for business... good job"
Sting7- I angry with Randy that the song let her down. Not that there is anything wrong with Heat Wave, but it doesn't give a singer like Kimberley room to breathe and riff like she wants. She sounded trapped, but it wasn't her fault. "Heat Wave" is better suited to a weaker voice than hers.
Meet Joshua Gracin. He lives in Oceanside, CA, married father at 22, and is a Marine. Met his wife in high school. Lives on base, sergeant says on base his first name is "Lance Corporal" (oh, let up!).
Joshua Gracin, "Baby, I Need Your Lovin'"
Randy - "different kind of song for you... waiting for personality to come out, did good job with that... I ain't mad at you."
Paula - "consistency is key and raising the bar... you've been consistent... well done."
Simon - "you're a Marine, take that silly necklace off... you are consistent... not best I've heard you do... could lose a few pounds (what??). (Joshua challenged Simon to do some push-ups with him, did about seven crisp ones, one with clap - the mountains will crumble into the sea, the day I can do that - ... not a bead of sweat popped. Simon did none, just smirked.)
Lamont- "not Levi Stubbs... came with it... came with your heart... can't ask for more than that."
Sting7- Joshua genuinely surprised me. He showed much more range than I thought he would have. But, Motown is not for him; he must be very, very careful with song selection. It could make or break him, his voice is subtle, and could be overpowered easily.
Here's Charles Grigsby! From Oberlin, OH, baby of six children, says his mother is his strongest influence, sang first tenor in church choir before voice changed. He's known for singing while stocking shelves at grocery store job. I'm getting sick.
Charles Grigsby, "How Sweet It Is"
Randy - "it was alright... wasn't the best we've heard from you... didn't see any personality"
Paula - "amazing profile... welcome to competition... great job (She clearly didn't have the heart to say she didn't like it. He answered with a, "Aw, thank you, Paula!" that was so sweet, you had to shake your head.)
Lamont - "hard song to sing... even Marvin Gaye struggled with it... you got through it... it was good"
Simon - "Lamont said it best, you got through it... it was good (shrugs)."
Sting7- He's such a nice kid, you hate to disappoint him, but he had this awkward bounce he did throughout the whole song, stage presence was pretty awful, and vocally, he was washed out. Not a good showing, but I honestly don't know how he got there in the first place. It doesn't help that he did the song that did AJ Gil in, and AJ has a better voice.
Introducing Kimberly Caldwell. From Katy, TX, performed as a child (in those clips, she looked eerily like Jon-Benet Ramsey), Mom says she scares off boys from her little sister, may marry her truck, got call from Melissa Etheridge when she didn't advance.
Kimberly Caldwell, "Nowhere To Run"
Randy - "loved the attitude... loved your voice... tried to rock it out a little... I felt it"
Paula - "you looked comfortable... your whole vibe, you're there!"
Simon - "excellent... best so far tonight... well done"
Lamont- "you brought it to us!"
Sting7- This was the one that I was waiting for! Kimberly looked completely at ease, and hot, her voice was great, she had the whole package. I'm glad for her.
Say hello to Rickey Smith. Raised in Wichita, KS, going to school in King, TX. Oldest of three children, loves playing any kind of sports, works for music teacher, school paid for his trip to AI audition, mother says he sang all the time, about anything, is a "breath of fresh air," sister says he is a dork, Dean says he is the guy you want your daughter to marry.
Rickey Smith, "1-2-3"
Randy - "very good... felt personality... sang well... very impressed"
Paula - "perfect song for your voice... look good... felt it"
Simon - "definitely nicest guy in competition, motored halfway through (I think that means he was ahead of the track)"
Lamont- "very good, your voice was right on"
Sting7- Rickey astonished me, I never expected him to sound as good as he did, and he was great. Yes, a couple of times he rushed ahead of the track, but he recovered brilliantly, I have no complaints. Whew, I was worried about him.
Here's Julia DeMato. Raised in Connecticut, quiet and shy child. Sang when she was alone. Works in a hair salon, co-workers are convinced she's going to be a star, Mom says she is definitely All-American (wrong show, Mom).
Julia DeMato, "Where Did Our Love Go?"
Randy - "good, one of the favorite times I've heard you... good for me... didn't try to over-do it"
Paula - "best I've ever seen you look... look amazing... need to work on giving more onstage"
Simon - "look gorgeous... don't take any bows (she was wearing very low cut blouse and all that jiggle said no bra. Julia took offense to this and said, "Your opinion doesn't matter--" Simon cut her off by saying he is helping her... and he helped her keep from making an ass of herself. Or tried.) you missed the Supremes, but okay" (Julia then asked the crowd if they liked it - the Guarini. Justin came this close to getting the boot for pulling a similar stunt last season, and he apologized for it the next night, understanding how arrogant and pandering it looked.)
Lamont - "song was meant for you... just enough for your voice"
Sting7- I thought she performed well enough, and she looked sizzling, already got a couple of emails saying so. But, I got the impression that she didn't like the song, or was intimidated by it, which might explain why she was so highly strung with Simon. Her attitude took away from the performance, and her unnecessary jab at Simon took even more away.
Say hello to Clay Aiken. North Carolinian Clay was an energetic child, says Mom. Also "pretentious" (is that what you wanted to say?) and outgoing. (I think she meant precocious) Dad died last summer, hard on family, Clay is dedicated to YMCA, worked there for eight years, led to being a Special Ed major at UNC. Be it singing or teaching, he wants to make a difference.
Clay Aiken, "Can't Help Myself"
Randy - "you get standing O... brilliant baby brilliant!"
Paula - "you have this confidence... it's amazing... thank you!"
Simon - "thought you sounded good, but if I must be honest, it was Motown the Musical"
Lamont - "you look like you already arrived... like you been doing it for years... that's the look of a star"
Sting7 - I've run out of adjectives for Clay. Truly. He is clearly distancing himself from the pack. What can't he do? What?
Here's Vanessa Olivarez. Born and raised in the ATL (that's Atlanta for the un-hip), she was an energetic child, liked to sing and perform and be the center of attention (no! really?), Vanessa says she's very family-oriented, which belies her pink hair. Has a pot-belly pig named Bacon Bits, works as a hair colorist (the surprises just won't stop), likes vintage clothing, particularly '40s style dresses. She says they fit her perfectly.
Vanessa Olivarez, "You Keep Me Hangin' On"
Randy - "you did your thing... liked outfit... liked vibe... a bit pitchy... alright"
Paula - "a little pitchy.... fun... great personality"
Simon - "you're like Bette Midler... see you more as an entertainer than what we're look for in this competition"
Lamont - "good, very good"
Sting7- You know, Vanessa is very charming, but I still think she may be crazy. I agree that Vanessa is definitely a clown, which is sort of Simon was saying, but I don't see it as the drawback that he does. Part of Kelly Clarkson's charm is that she is so adorable and girl next door, and don't think for a minute that that didn't draw her a few extra votes. Vanessa is quite likeable, and every time Simon knocks her, she just rolls with it and keeps smiling. Julia could have learned a bit about that. Her performance, I think, was the best we'd seen from her. I thought Motown might rattle her, but she rolled with that, too. That flexibility shows she could be here a long time.
Meet Corey Clark. San Bernadino, CA's Corey Clark was an energetic child, joined ROTC, but doesn't know how Joshua can handle someone screaming in his face. Parents said they couldn't believe their eyes when they saw Corey's antics on that famous night when he should have been rehearsing. Corey says he thought he blew it, "it was close!" (Do you get the impression that Corey drew a lot more heat about that night than we were told about?) Loss of grandfather was devastating to Corey, seemed to signal a change in his life.
Corey Clark, "This Old Heart of Mine"
Randy - "you sing high dog!... didn't know you could do that (??)... good, not best, but alright"
Paula - "your voice makes you unique and refreshing... look great... excellent"
Simon - "did great... I like that you have a wild side... to be a pop star, you should have one... you look like a pop star"
Lamont - "you sound like a new and rising Smokey Robinson"
Sting7- Here in the halls of RNO, I've said that I am becoming a Corey Clark fan. I so admire those men have that upper range, which I do not! I thought I caught a teensy bit of pitchiness, but he showed flair, and his voice can be... can be... amazing when he tries hard.
It's Carmen Rasmussen! She's from Bountiful, UT, which has the best sunsets, she says. She's close to her family, Mom is her best friend, she plays piano and guitar (the guitar hurts her fingers), learned to yodel at a young age, tries to get good grades and is in the school choir. She's also VP of her dance company.
Carmen Rasmussen "You Can't Hurry Love"
Randy - "one of the best performances I've heard from you..."
Paula - "good job... definitely one of the best we've heard from you"
Simon - "justified my picking you"
Lamont- "very good, very good"
Sting7 - She was fine, I wasn't as impressed as the judges. Carmen's voice with that vibrato, may not translate as well over television, she did improve her stage presence, and she looked more confident. She told Ryan that she feels more comfortable, and that showed too. The jury is still out.
Here's Trenyce. She's from Memphis, TN, third of four girls. Mom says friends were saying since Trenyce was a toddler that she would be a star. Spent three years pursuing a nursing degree before dedicating herself to her singing career. Mom was a bit concerned about that. Al Green saw tape of her doing "Let's Stay Together" and said (a lot of it unintelligible, he was excited) "You have to have soul to the song the way it was supposed to be done... she won me over!"
Trenyce "Come See About Me"
Randy - "the most originality we'd seen all night"
Paula - "you're born 'with it'... remind me of a fresh and new Diana Ross"
Simon - "I hate to do this but I have to applaud Paula for championing you... outstanding"
Lamont - "you made that song yours... I'd like to thank you for your rendition... really great"
Sting7 - I pegged Trenyce to have the most to gain by being in front of an audience because she is such a natural performer. She loves being on stage and the stage loves her. The audience gets to join in on the love. Trenyce was fantastic, she took some chances with interpreting on her own, but she did it with charm, not endless riffs (Mariah). Curiously, Trenyce found, and made places to show her range, while Kimberley Locke conceded. Very, very nicely done.
Ruben, Ruben! He starting singing at three, sang all around the house. Brother Kevin said he had to beat Ruben up to make him stop (Ruben challenges that). Dad said Ruben is a blessing from God. Ruben says he will always represent Birmingham, AL. The governor made today Ruben Studdard day in Alabama. Ruben is "really crunk" about that.
Ruben Studdard "Baby I Need Your Lovin'"
Randy - "I got to stand up for you dawg... brilliant!"
Paula - "such a warm personality... voice is truly amazing"
Simon - "(pitched Kelly Clarkson's album, so shameless) such an amazing performance... you are what this competition is about"
Lamont - "I love when singers like you sing my songs!"
Sting7 - S.T.A.R. Like Clay, he is distancing himself from the pack, in fact, I will call it right now. Ruben or Clay will win this competition. I don't know how anyone , except maybe Clay in the right circumstances, can beat Ruben at this point. He is the only contestant to generate a standing ovation from the audience, and they were itching to give one to someone! He was outstanding, and the bad news for Joshua Gracin is that Ruben did the same song and did it immeasurably better, as good as Joshua was.
So, those were the performances. Tomorrow night, someone must go. What do you think? Who will it be? Here's how I ranked the performances.
5. Kimberly C.
Which means that I say Charles Grigsby should be the one to leave. He should be. However, I think there is enough bad blood about Carmen that she had to blow the roof off to prove she belonged there. She didn't do that (she could have belched like a toad and Simon would have said he was justified), she was only marginally better than Charles, but Charles has fans somewhere, somehow. This will be her undoing.
Am I right? We'll see tomorrow!
Meanwhile, take a look at what David Bloomberg thought of tonight, especially regarding Julia, over at Foxes On Idol!
Sting7 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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