Lion King Mauls Competition in Zoanette’s Favor on American Idol

Zoanette’s (Good Lord!) Liberian Lion King New Schtick was enough to keep her in the running last night at the sad expense of one of several better singers and performers. Though Zoanette undoubtedly brought some unbeknownst and unforeseen chops to her rendition of Lion King, she could not, for the life of her, keep it consistent. Imagine the key of the song as the Lion King’s cub. While the audience thrills to the throaty roar, the baby is definitely dropped a few times. Yes, unfortunately, Zoanette grows on you, but antics alone won’t get her to the top. Aren’t we still looking for good SINGER/performers here? And why haven’t I heard this “I’m a native Liberian” backstory before?

But, she captured the lot of the judging panel, starting with Keith Urban’s, “Zoanette! Good Lord! I love that I have no clue what you’re going to do”. Nicki kept the ball in the air with, “You just served it. That song was just a smart choice”. Randy said she had the spirit of a lion, a champion. “We’re feeling something!” he said. Mariah followed through with another comment about the bigness of her spirit. Okay, folks, we’ll see. I’m feeling something here, but I don’t think Randy and I are on the same wavelength. But I do think the Liberian/Lion King performance was a REALLY smart move.

The rest of the evening was overrun with nerves, oversinging, undersinging, and lousy song choices. The first to come down with a bad case of nerves was the beautiful Melinda Ademi, followed by a great performance by Candice Glover. Randy said Candice has “a star” in her voice, and Mariah called her a bona fide singer. But though the nerves skipped Candice, they landed right on Juliana Chahayed, whom Keith said was “struggling with pitch”, but loved the purity of her voice, which Mariah called “angelic” and “celestial”. Jett Hermano’s “breathy falsetto” was a little too slow and understated to get her a place with the top five, and one of my favorites, Christabel Clack, totally oversang her song. Keith told her she had a “fantastic, croaky, cool thing” going with her voice, and had “crazy potential”. Nicki loved the singer’s throaty rasp but called it “out of control”. Christabel didn’t make it.

Aubrey Cleland, a 19-year-old student from Westland, Oregon, caused an argument between Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj, but they both agreed on her great performance of Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”. Keith loved her “balance of poise and fire”. Nicki loved the “rich texture” of her voice, and, of course, was “obsessed by her”, causing Randy to comment that he was obsessed with “me and you”. Randy said she was “a great commercial artist” and “had the whole package”. Mariah called her “limitless”. She looked the part of a star in her sleek short dress, and if Zoanette could channel the Lion King, Aubrey looked like the reincarnation of King Tut’s girlfriend.

However, the very first singer that got my blood pumping and made me holler for the first time in the evening, was Rachel Hale, country singer from Prescott, Arkansas. Apparently, Rachel had not won her spurs with the judges before, prompting Keith to say he had not “seen that side” of her before, but added that the song “got on top of you in spots”. Nicki asked, “Where did that burst of confidence come from? You came alive!!” Randy was happy that she chose an up-tempo song, but Mariah said she heard her more in other performances. When it came down to the wire, however, Rachel was beaten out by the other country singer, Janelle Arthur, though the judges comments were not all that favorable toward her performance. Keith told her the “melody kept pulling her down”, and Nicki said it sounded “a bit disconnected” and that it “fell a little bit flat”. She was Randy’s favorite country singer of the competition, but, though Mariah claimed to definitely be a fan, said it was not the best song choice for her. Janelle had chosen Lady Antebellum’s “Just A Kiss”, which was not written for a solo singer.

The judges were excited about the performance of Breanna Steer, an 18-year-old Louisiana native who has a very unique quality to her voice. Keith said he didn’t know the song, but loved it. Nicki said she had “her own swag to it” and could get a record deal right now. Randy felt like she had represented his native Louisiana in a great way since day one and that she had “brought us drama”. Mariah said she was sometimes glad that contestants got to choose their own songs, I suppose meaning that Mariah was quite happy with Breanna’s performance of an unhappy girlfriend singing “Bust Your Windows.” Keith was quite taken with it.

Congratulations to American Idols’ second set of top five girls: Zoanette Johnson, Aubrey Cleland, Candice Glover, Breanna Steer, and Janelle Arthur.