We've now heard all the singers in American Idol's top 36 sing at least once, and I have to say, I'm not sure this season is blowing me away. A few favorites have emerged, but — maybe it's just because there are so many people — most of the singers seem stuck at the same level of mediocrity. Tuesday's performance from the third group of 12 continued that trend: A couple of performances stood out for being good, several others stood out for being terrible, and the rest was just one big, unwieldy glob.
One thing's for sure: The producers know at least a couple of folks they want in the finals. Nobody surprising has gotten to sing in the final "pimp spot" yet. First week: Danny. Second week: Adam. And this week, Lil Rounds, a judges' favorite from the early rounds. Hmm, think our hand is being guided there? Though honestly, I think they needn't have been so worried about America's voting, at least tonight — Lil was clearly in a class of her own. But I thought a couple of other singers could be worthy of joining her in the top 12. Vote here for the singers you think are going through, and for my rundown on the group's performances,
Von Smith: Singing first hasn't been a good luck charm this season — all three nights there's been a mid-level singer (Jasmine Murray, Jackie Tohn, now Von) who's been competent but forgettable. His "You're All I Need to Get By" puts him in that category, I think. Is it possible that he's more musical theater than Adam Lambert? The judges were mostly positive, though, with Kara saying he's coming into his own and Simon comparing him (favorably) to Clay Aiken.
Taylor Vaifanua: Taylor reminds me of Jordin Sparks, but she didn't make quite as big a splash with "I Ain't Got You." She hit her groove on the chorus, and I respect her for not letting the backup singers take over, but the verses were wobbly and sounded too low for her. Kara and Randy wanted more personality; Simon literally couldn't remember her name 30 minutes later.
Alex Wagner-Trugman: Wow, who told him the best idea would be to overcome his natural (adorable) dweebiness by growling "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues"? I mean, he made me smile — that's not nothing — but I can't say it was singing I ever want to hear again. Simon called him a hamster trying to be a tiger, and Kara said at least he's entertaining.
Arianna Afsar: Oh, choosing "The Winner Takes All" was not a good choice, because this performance was no winner. She was warbly, and seemed to be having trouble enunciating the words, and was all over the place on the notes — for someone they said had great control, we didn't see it. Simon said it was terrible and dreary; Kara said it was too dark for her.
Ju'Not Joyner: "Hey There Delilah" was what first got me to notice Ju'Not, so not a bad all to sing it again. He performs it as a stripped-down ballad almost the whole way through, and while hie doesn't get every note, he's also the first person of the night I'd like to hear again. Simon would have liked it even more stripped down, while Kara asked him to let loose next time.
Kristen McNamara: My boyfriend calls her a Kim Catrall character played by Anna Faris, and she's still a mess with her image, but if I just close my eyes and listen to her voice, I really like it. Her "Gimme One Reason" was pretty good (maybe a little karaoke), despite bombing a few of the final notes. Overall the judges said she should embrace who she is and sing more rock.
Nathaniel Marshall: You know, if I wanted campy, I'd bring back Normund Gentle. Nathaniel's "I Would Do Anything for Love" was total camp, and the actual vocals were just all over the map. Simon found it excruciating but said he's a fun guy; Paula called it the Boy George version of a Meat Loaf song. Also, the judges talked forever after this performance; he's definitely the night's winner on screen time.
Felicia Barton: Felicia has a new rock look since Hollywood Week, and it's working for her. I thought most of her "No One" was fine, but when she was off, she was way off. Overall, it was a little pedestrian, but I could see her coming back for the wild card at least. Paula was thrilled they brought her back, while Simon said it was a bit of a copycat performance.
Scott MacIntyre: I can't decide if it's good or bad that Scott had to perform without the piano. His voice has a great tone, and for the most part his "Mandolin Rain" sounded fine, though the high part of his range seemed to fall apart, but he's clearly more comfortable when he's playing piano. Randy and Paula loved his passion, and Simon said he liked Scott's new confidence.
Kendall Beard: Kendall's "This One for the Girls" wasn't necessarily terrible, but it just seemed completely flat and fairly boring, and by the end, she was just wailing. I thought she'd be able to work the country angle more. Kara liked her but not the singing, Simon just wanted it to end, and even Paula basically says she hoped Kendall enjoyed being on stage this one time.
Jorge Nunez: Jorge's version of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" is pleasant enough and decent enough and pretty enough, and it would clearly get him through to the next round in any normal year, but I'm not sure how it will fare in this voting system. Simon and Paula basically debated how much accent was OK for Jorge to have, while Kara just said he's born to sing.
Lil Rounds: I hadn't gotten all the fuss over Lil Rounds till now, but consider me on board. She was just miles beyond anyone else in this group, the only one I could see recording an album right now (and "Be Without You" could be on it). She's not the most original voice in Idol history, but this was a great performance. Nothing but praise from the judges.
Here are my guesses for who's going through tonight:
In the top 12: Lil's a lock for the girls' slot; I think Scott or Jorge will get the guys' spot, and the other might have a shot at the No. 3 position. But I also wouldn't count out Ju'Not, Felicia, or Kendall.
Potentially back for the wild card: I think the judges might want to see Nathaniel again, and Kristen's voice should get her a second chance even if they're not sold on her personally.
Photos courtesy of Fox