Apparently that isn’t the way they think on American Idol.
Because tonight, we’re going to meet some ladies who are pretty much strangers.
Hollie Cavanagh. Chelsea Sorrell. Haley Johnsen. Jessica Sanchez.
If you found yourself wondering “who” after reading any of those names, I’m not surprised.
The only good thing is that means more unpredictability in tonight’s show than we had 24 hours ago, when early favorites Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet, Colton Dixon and Heejun Han all turned in performances solid enough to comfortably land in next week’s finals.
Meanwhile, unlike the Idol judges, I’m not afraid to critique, so I’ll be grading each performance during the live show, then posting another recap about an hour after it ends.
Now, it’s time to get down to singing. Editor’s Note: Go here for a photo gallery from tonight’s show.
Chelsea Sorrell: We start off with one of the women we’ve barely seen, Chelsea Sorrell singing “Cowboy Casanova.” Not sure I like the song choice. She’s immediately going to be compared to one of the best Idols of them all, and isn’t likely to come off well in comparison. Hey, though, hot outfit Chelsea. She got the glory note down right, seemed to have fun on stage. What’s that? A little criticism from Randy Jackson. And from Jennifer Lopez. Wow. A new night, America? Randy didn’t like the song choice either. Jennifer actually said Chelsea sounded a little nasal. Decent performance, but not one likely to be remembered two hours from now when the voting begins. Grade: C.
Erika Van Pelt: The traveling deejay performs next. She has benefited from more screen time than most of the Idol ladies. And now we’re meeting all of the Van Pelt family. Erika says she wants to be “electric” and “rock really hard.” So she’ll sing “What About Love.” That’s rocking? Not sure this is electric, but it was better than the opening number. She displayed her powerful voice and squeezed more than one glory note into that performance. Trivia: Erika is 26; only one lady that old has made the Idol finals since Season 6. Grade: B-
Jen Hirsh: This California gal is one of the most promising ladies. She should have been in the semifinals back in Season 9. Hmm, apparently her family owns a vineyard. She’ll perform “One and Only.” Hey, I already like this. Very nice opening. Sounds likes she’s going just a little sharp and screechy on the chorus though. All in all, a solid performance. I predict Jen Hirsh is finals bound. Randy calls her one of the “greatest singers in the competition.” Grade: B
Brielle Von Hugel: Now we meet cheerleader Brielle, and there’s her mom again. Idol made both seem really annoying during Hollywood week, so she has that to overcome as she launches into “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” And she gets to start her song sitting among the Idol guys. She’d best ramp up the energy level, because this is starting off rather sleepy. Now she launches into it, but I’m just not a big fan of her voice, annoying or not. Well, the Idol vocal coaches drove home one point well — end big. Brielle did, but that was my least favorite performance so far. Grade: C-
Hallie Day: She’s a former waitress in Baltimore, who credits her marriage for helping turn her life around. And she says she wants to let loose on stage. She’ll sing “Feeling Good.” Oh, no. She’s going to be compared to Jennifer Hudson, who slays this song. But, that said, really nice start by Hallie. Nigel keeps comparing Hallie to Marilyn Monroe. Parts of that were very good. Parts of that … well, she just needed more power in her voice on a song that begged for power. Not surprisingly, Steven thinks she’s “beautiful.” Randy asks a good question: What kind of artist does Hallie want to be? Hallie says she wants to put soul into whatever she does. Grade: B.
Skylar Laine: I’m expecting a fun performance from this country gal who’s into four-wheeling and hunting and wants to sing gritty country. But, hey, Idol, we already heard the store story. She’s singing “Stay With Me.” Lots of energy, but this was absolutely not the right song to put her gritty country into. The beginning of the song was barely recognizable. Expect for the big glory note at the end, that was mostly style over substance. Oh, I wish Skylar had performed something else. The judges applaud her on her energy. But how about the vocals, judges? Grade: C+
Baylie Brown: Now we meet another cheerleader, Baylie from Krum, Texas, who lives on a farm with some horses, some lambs, some cats and some steers. She’s going to sing “Amaze.” Baylie is gorgeous, but I was worried she’d go ballad, and not sure it’s a wise move, following such a high-energy performance by Skylar and a fun performance by the other country gal, Chelsea. And, honestly, that was the weakest vocal of the night. But Baylie has a solid fan base, so maybe they’ll help her slip through to the finals. Grade: D+
Hollie Cavanagh: I’m rooting for Hollie. The gal from Texas, via England, has gotten unbelievably shortchanged to this point in terms of screen time. Love her accent. She’s going to sing “Reflection.” Very shaky opening. But she starts to show off a big voice for such a small girl when she hits the chorus. Not thrilled with this song selection. But did that big note just come out of that little teenager. Steven calls it just beautiful. She gets rave reviews from Jennifer, too. Hey, guys, if she’s that great, why haven’t we seen more from her to this point. Grade: C+
Haley Johnsen: Here’s Haley, showing us the lovely outdoors of Oregon and her pink and yellow room and the coffee shop where she used to work. Wow, check out that flip. She’s going to sing “Sweet Dreams.” Loving the opening to this song. It got a little shaky there in the middle, and she’s moaning more than she’s singing, but it was an interesting performance. One of the more interesting of the night. Perhaps that will help her stand out from the crowd of Idol blondes. Randy called it more of a nightmare than a sweet dream. Haley strikes me as sorta quirky, sorta like Megan Joy from a couple of years ago. I’d put that in the same category as Skylar — the performance was better than the vocal, though the vocal clicked in spots. Grade: C.
Shannon Magrane: This 16-year-old was one of the most impressive performers throughout the early rounds. Like the fact that this teen seems fearless on the Idol stage, less affected by the moment and the pressure than many of the older contestants. She had a couple of off moments during that song, but she also had some of the best vocal moments we’ve heard all night. And she poured heart and soul into that performance. Jennifer says Shannon gave her goosebumps for the first time tonight. I’d say we need this youngster in the finals. Grade: B+
Jessica Sanchez: She says she’s been dreaming of this moment since age 5. Apparently, she’s had some problems with her vocal cords this week, but is hoping she can pull off her performance. She was brilliant on group night in Vegas. She’s going to sing “Love You, I Do.” Her voice disappeared a in a couple of spots early in the song, but I think she is undoubtedly one of the most talented female singers. She absolutely belted out the end of that song. The performance of the night so far. Gotta say, I’m not surprised. Randy calls it one of the best of either night. Grade: A-
Elise Testone: So, the gal from Charleston, S.C., gets the pimp spot. Interesting. Again, there isn’t a history of success among older female contestants on this show. She’s going to sing “One and Only.” This is going to be good. Sitting behind the piano, she’s very impressive on the opening of this song. Now I understand why she had the pimp spot. She’s singing the heck out of an Adele song. Wow, Idol sure saved the best for the end of this show. Brilliant, brilliant job by Elise. Loved her performance and her explanation of the flowers in her hair. Grade: A.
That’s a wrap.
Be back soon with a recap.