Nerves got the best of the American Idol girls during Rush Week last night, in spite of the fact they had Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry, and Randy Jackson as voice coaches and direction for stage presence. Even a workshop for wardrobe and make-up.
Only one girl looked relaxed and sang beautifully, and that was M. K. Nobilette with her version of “All of Me”. She just got up there and sang it. “This song has to mean something to you,” said Randy Jackson in his new position as coach, “or it won’t mean anything to anyone else.” Well, she sang it like she meant it and the crowd went wild with a long, long standing ovation. Harry Connick, Jr. called it elegant and articulate, and for the first time M. K. did not a project a sad, defeatist attitude.
The second best singer of the night was Jessica Meuse with “Drink A Beer”. Though nerves nipped at some of her song, it was definitely better than the other eight. Jennifer Lopez called her country tone appealing, and Keith Urban said he just had to root for someone from Slapout, Alabama. Before she went onstage, Daughtry said her voice was better than her guitar playing, and that she should step away from it and go with her singing voice. She, like many of the others, ignored the advice of her coach. After her performance, Harry said she tended to go sharp, and that he wanted her to feel what she was singing. “I feel like there was a wall between you and me,” he said. Keith echoed that when he said she “disconnected” when she smiled while singing the line, “I can’t believe you’re gone.”
The first girl out of the chute was Magesty Rose, whose tutor was Adam Lambert. Another who coached her on her stage performance told her the guitar was too much. Majesty disagreed and kept the guitar, which she barely used. It looked like she was hiding behind it, and when not playing, using it as a prop. She was only okay and so-so. I’ve heard much better from Majesty before.
Though I loved Kristen O’Connor’s early performances, her bundle of nerves bungled her version of “Turning Tables”, Even though Randy advised her to “emote outward”, she sounded breathy and Jennifer said her timing was off with the band. Connick said she had a powerful voice and was proud of her. Keith blamed the performance on nerves, while Jennifer still loved her special tone, and still averred that Kristen could record tomorrow. Was Connick just being kind?
Jennifer called Briana Oakley a young Whitney Houston. Before her performance of “Warrior”, Randy Jackson cautioned Briana about coming across as too professional. Harry Connick said the emotion in her voice was there, but it didn’t come across in her eyes, [keeping her distanced from her audience]. Keith said she took a few moments to settle in, but found her stride toward the end. Jennifer said she looked scared and needed “performance quality”. Harry told her to beware of her high notes. “They are not triple axles,” he said, referring to the Olympic skaters. “High notes can be a trap.” Connick also quipped that nobody was watching the Olympics while American Idol was on.
JEEEna not JINNa (Jena Irene) sang “Paint It Black”, prompting Harry to quiz her on what the song was about. “I’m not sure what you were singing about,” he said. In other words, vocals are great, but it’s only a singing exercise if you don’t make your audience feel and understand what you’re singing about. Before her performance, Daughtry told her she needed to “lock it in”, and “work on her confidence”. Jennifer said she “pulled it out at the end”, and Keith praised her poise, calm, and cool balance as well as having the vocals to back it up.
Harry Connick, Jr., got the first boo of the season when he told Bria Anai (Wrong Side of a Love Song) that there was a difference between being passionate and shouting. But Keith backed him up by advising her not to “overshoot the runway”. Jennifer told her she had “star” written all over her, but advised her not to run before she sang next time. All the girls who were picked were naturally excited and ran down the long hallway between exuberant fans, leaving them a little breathless at the end.
When Adam Lambert listened to Marrielle Sellars sing “Roar”, he advised her to slow it down, take her time, and “stick to what you know”. Keith called it “not the best song, and too karaoke. Jennifer praised her poise after she had a “shoe incident” onstage. Harry said she needed to stay in tune; in the pocket. “I didn’t see a superstar tonight,” he said. “It was over performed.”
Though many voices advised Emily Piriz against singing “Paris La La”, she dug in her heels. So Adam Lambert did the best he could and told her the chorus was the punchline. “Contrast it,” he said. “It’ll only work if you sing it like a rock star.” When Harry Connick asked Emily what the first lines of the song were, she said something about a man and her on the floor. (I don’t know the song). “You’re 18 years old now, is this really what you want to be singing about?” Keith called it a “touchy subject”, and Harry quipped, “Literally.” After Emily said she practiced her songs in front of a mirror, Harry advised her to concentrate more on her song, not “standing in front of a mirror trying to be something you’re not. Connick went on to say, “In Hollywood you bared your soul. You were an expressive artist.” The remarks later inspired Ryan Seacrest to say, “Harry kicked it into daddy mode.”
Though Daughtry was impressed with Malaya Watson’s vocals in practice on her song “Hard Times”, her performance was the last and the worst of the lot, screeching off-key loudly. I’m sure it was her young age (16) that prompted the judges to give her a lot of slack, Jennifer calling her a “powerhouse”, Harry Connick saying he looked forward to seeing her settle into her space. Only Keith dared squeak a little bit about the elephant in the living room saying she was “a little over the top”.
And last but not least — Ben Briley won the vote-off between him and Nico Starr. (And, honest, I don’t know where I got the idea that Ben was from Alabama. He’s from Tennessee. My bad). But I must say I loved Nico, too. Especially his smile, style, and great personality as well as his singing. Good luck for your future, Nico. Love ya. And don’t forget there will be three wild cards picked this season.
I’m also left wondering if the five girls not picked should have been.